I got a text message, this morning, from a family member who’s expecting. They just found out the sex of their baby. I’m so excited for them. So happy!
As happy as I am for them, I can’t help thinking about the day that we found out about our baby girl. It was great news. We were so excited! And then we got the other news. We had already had some suspicions that there was something wrong, but we weren’t expecting what we heard. The day I first heard “Trisomy-18” will be etched in my memory until the Lord calls me home.
I’ve been praying, as I’m trying to establish this ministry, for families who are hearing what we heard (or any difficult prenatal news). Today, especially, they’re on my heart and mind. I am rejoicing for my family’s good news, grateful that they are not going to need any of the things I’m trying to establish here, and remembering what it was like to find out that we did.
Every pregnancy comes with tough choices. Naming a child is equivalent to labeling them for all of their natural lives. Are we going to breast-feed or go with bottles? Is it better to co-sleep or set up a separate bed for baby? How do we feel about vaccines? Are we favoring natural birth, homebirth, hospital birth with medical assistance…how do we feel about Caesarean birth? There are always choices and it complicates everything when we’re responsible for another person.
Prenatal diagnosis comes with a different set of choices, though. Even if the problems show up on ultrasound, there is the decision about amniocentesis, for confirmation. Then there are decisions about whether to terminate or carry to term – supposing that the baby even survives. And if carrying to term is chosen, how severe the complications are can affect the selection of birth facilities…
When my husband and I found out that Zoe wasn’t developing normally, we were offered the opportunity to have an amnio. Having been through 2 miscarriages the previous year, knowing the rates of inconclusive or false positive results, and being aware of the increased risk of miscarriage, we decided against it. We weren’t sure what purpose it would have served, anyway. We were already in love with our daughter, making her life infinitely more valuable than words can say. Termination was never on the table.
Even without those choices, though, we had difficult decisions to make. And we knew there was the possibility, however slim, that our daughter would be a survivor. Many parents of prenatal diagnosis aren’t so lucky. They know that their child is receiving a death sentence.
How do you face the decisions that come with the knowledge (usually a blindside, by the way) that your child (children, in some cases) has one or more serious physical problems? No matter what choices you make, you relive them thousands of times in the coming days, weeks, months, years…
I don’t have any answers for these questions. I don’t know how I faced those decisions. I know I spent a lot of time in prayer, allowing my faith to influence me. I know I had a great support system – in my husband, my church, my family, my friends, medical staff, total strangers – that helped a lot. I know that the decisions my husband and I made were the right ones for us – from the decision to carry Zoe to term to the decision to sign the DNR to the decision to hold her in our arms, surrounded by our family, while her beautiful soul flew home to eternity. But I don’t know what decision is right for anyone else. I know there isn’t a formula to help answer the questions.
Here’s what else I know. I know that God is Sovereign. He knows what’s going on and He chooses to allow it. That doesn’t mean it’s His plan, though. He never intended for death, fear, pain, or separation to be part of our existence. He made us to have eternal relationships, while we walked with Him in a world that was perfect. All of the pain was part of the curse, resulting from the Fall; it didn’t come until later and wasn’t part of the plan. I know that He can use the pain and loss (here I am!), but not because He intended it. I know that, no matter what, He loves us. I know it’s okay to be angry and feel betrayed. I also know that I will probably never understand. But I still choose to believe. And that’s been another difficult choice. It still is, sometimes. It’s a tough choice I have to make every day.
My prayers, as I wrap this up, are with those who are there now. I know what it’s like to face those choices. I’m still facing some of them, two and half years after Zoe’s death. I hope and pray that the Lord can use the choices that I made. Even if He does, though, there are still people making those tough choices right now. And they need help! I don’t know how much help I can be, but I’m out here. You’re not alone. My thoughts and prayers are with you today, and you’re always on my heart.