We went in for our second ultrasound when I was 22 weeks pregnant. We knew we could find out if you were going to be a boy or a girl, but we wanted to be surprised. We were so excited to see the photos and make sure you were healthy – and you were. Every body part was accounted for. Then, the technician paused. She walked to the door and told us to wait. The doctor came in.
They saw something on the ultrasound that wasn’t right – it had to do with your brain. It might not mean anything – or, it might mean something serious.
When you go in for that appointment, all you think about is the sex of your baby – it’s the time those who want to know find out if they’re having a boy or a girl. Even if you don’t find out, the doctor and nurses know. No one thinks about the fact that other information could be revealed – and it might not be good information.
I went back to work and began teaching my afternoon class (I had scheduled the ultrasound on my lunch break). As I taught, the possibility of there being something wrong with you started to sink in. Was something wrong with my baby? I had the fuzzy black and white photos of your tiny feet and angelic profile in my backpack – your chin looked like mine. Your left hand rested up by your forehead. Was something wrong with my baby?
A 3D ultrasound a few weeks later confirmed what the technician thought she saw – there was fluid around your brain that could be an indicator of a number of problems; they ran the gamut from needing brain surgery after you were born, to being born completely brain dead. The options were bleak at best. My heart sinks to my stomach when I remember the nurse discussing abortion with me. I listened to her explain that we still had time – as if being in that window would bring me some relief. Quickly, before she could go on any longer, I waved my hand and shook my head – stop, it was not an option.
I could already feel you kicking and rolling over inside me. My stomach was stretched out over my feet which made it challenging to get my shoes off and on. I had listened to your heartbeat several times, and watched you suck your thumb on the monitor. I wanted to meet you.
As my pregnancy progressed, we met with a pediatric neurosurgeon – “This could be a normal abnormality.” (Say what??) “We won’t really know until we actually see the baby – whatever you do, don’t Google it.” I felt strangely comforted.
The human brain is understandably a complex and understudied organ. A baby’s brain before birth is even more mysterious and difficult to examine – obviously, because it’s inside another human being. I came to the conclusion that medical tests are useful. The ability to get information and plan accordingly is a modern convenience and, for the most part, a blessing. But I made the choice to move forward on faith, and the knowledge that there was nothing else I could do until you were in my arms. I remember resting my hand on my belly and assuring you, “Everything is going to be fine; I love you so much.”
When I delivered you, there were at least 20 people in the room – your Dad, my doctor, and probably everyone on staff at the NICU that day. After the final push, your dad yelled out, “It’s a Boy! It’s a Boy!” It sounds cliché, but that’s really what you say. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold you long – I had been alerted that they would take you straight to the NICU to be examined.
But then, something amazing happened. After putting that goop on your eyes and counting all your fingers and toes, the doctor handed you to me and said, “Your son can stay with you – there is nothing wrong with him.”
It’s impossible to explain the feeling, but I think it was overwhelming love, grace, and humbleness all at once. It felt spiritual and improbable. I squeezed you through my shaking and cried at the sight of you.
Today, watching you grow up in your perfect body, the entire experience seems pointless and unnecessary. Still, it could have gone another way, and for a lot of parents, it does. The experience did remind me of my faith, and it taught me to accept grace. After all, every baby is a miracle, and every time a mother sees her child for the first time, she feels that same love, grace, and humbleness all at once. Our experience was special, and at the same time, not special at all.
I love you, Mom