It is hard to talk about something as an experience when the outcome is what you wanted. Like sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t talk about my struggle to get pregnant, because here we are-2 and a half kids later. Or with this pregnancy, I shouldn’t talk about our medical concerns because they seem to have resolved. But I have learned that the experience is in the journey, not just the outcome. So while the outcome may be exactly the opposite of the struggle, there are still lessons learned and perspectives to share with others.
I have shared openly about this pregnancy, and the second trimester was really a difficult one for us. I didn’t spend that time enjoying my other two kids, or joyfully picking sweet baby girl things, dreaming about her. All I can remember about it was the worry and fear we felt.
My first trimester was pretty par for the course. Exhausted, nauseous, terrible skin and all. What I didn’t share was that I was bleeding through the first part of my pregnancy. I remember asking my sister to take a picture around 8 weeks because I thought it might be the only picture I would have with me and all three of my babies. Just writing that brings me to tears, and my heart truly goes out to anyone who has experienced a miscarriage. Luckily, my bleeding subsided, and my doctors determined I had a hemorrhage and a low lying placenta. Things to watch, but they reassured me it was very common and nothing to “worry” about.
Things moved along, and suddenly I was 16 weeks. We had already found out it was a girl, and the drive I felt to protect her, to keep her safe, to finally bring a girl to a family overwhelmed with little boys-it felt like a huge responsibility. When they couldn’t find her heartbeat via doppler, I had to have another ultrasound to confirm. I had just felt her move that morning. She had to be there. And thank God, another narrow miss, a heart still beating.
When 20 weeks rolled around, I had my routine ultrasound, and the doctor was concerned about an echogenic bowel. She made it seem like no big deal, but of course I was still concerned. Echogenic bowel can be nothing, just a random finding. It is also associated with Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, possible perinatal infection, or maybe just the baby swallowed some blood. I chose to put my hopes on the latter, knowing that I had some early bleeding in pregnancy and hoping that was the likely explanation. However the concern was always there, that it could be something more.
At my 24 week appointment and follow up ultrasound, my world turned upside down. I knew during my scan that something was wrong because she spent a lot of time looking at the baby’s brain. I even said to Jason while waiting to see the doctor that I felt like they looked at her head a lot. And there it was. The echogenic bowel was still there, but there was also a mass on her brain, she was measuring small, and a possible clubfoot. I burst in to tears as soon as she said it, confessing my worst fears, that I had this gut feeling through my whole pregnancy that something was wrong. God had been sending me signs, preparing my faith to be tested. Immediately, I started thinking of every syndrome possible. A healthy baby might have one of these things, but four. All four? I couldn’t bear the thought, and felt like this would have a significant outcome on her health and my pregnancy.
I was referred to a high risk specialist, and thankfully only had to wait about 10 days to see someone. At our ultrasound, they looked at everything my other doctors had been concerned about. It is standard to see a genetic specialist, but hearing “wait here while I go get the genetic specialist” doesn’t exactly calm your nerves. When she came in, she gave us the best news possible. No mass on her brain, no concerns about her growth, her feet looked perfectly normal, and the echogenic bowel was basically not significant enough to even really be considered echogenic. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even praying for complete healing, but rather had been praying for acceptance of God’s will for whatever little girl we might have.
I think even my doctor didn’t believe it because they asked to do another ultrasound at 28 weeks because they had all reviewed the 24 week scans and definitely felt there was a significant brain mass. The 28 week scan again came back all clear, and I just couldn’t believe it.
I felt fear and stress every moment of my second trimester. I felt angry and robbed of the joy of this, my last pregnancy. I still feel a bit resentful and bitter that so much of my energy was spent worrying and mourning. I felt a lot of “why me”. How could I raise a child with special needs? How could I add this to my plate, when I already felt so overwhelmed? But I also felt a lot of closeness to God. I connected with other moms who are going through a high risk or uncertain part of their pregnancy. I found comfort in moms going through difficult circumstances with grace and faith. I felt a voice in the back of my mind reminding me of the immense responsibility and reminding me of the child God created her to be.
I also learned a lot about my husband and who he is and about our relationship. Just like when we went through such a long period of trying to get pregnant with Everett, it strengthened our relationship and helped clarify our priorities and roles. We don’t process things the same, we don’t communicate about things the same, and we don’t always think about things the same. But we are a safe place for each other. To find space or closeness. To talk about our deepest fears and feelings without judgment. It changed the way we think about our kids and our roles as their parents, and helped us realize that nothing in our family is possible without our relationship being the foundation to build on.
We still have no guarantee she will be completely healthy. That is just life. We are so thankful for the miracle of modern medicine and the ability to check on her, but we also know that she is who she is, created by God, and we do not have control of that. This has been my most difficult and scary pregnancy by far. We still have 12ish weeks to go, but I am thankful for a few months with no ultrasounds, without the worry that there is something to watch, and without the stress of what we will do when she is born.