Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Before and After {February 7th, 2011}

I haven't written much about that day.
"Diagnosis Day," some call it.

The day everything was divided into before and after.

I can look at photographs now and tell you exactly when it was taken and whether it's before or after...

 In this one, we just didn't know yet.

How our lives were going to change forever. 

I've heard people describe some of lifes' events as an out of body experience. I could relate. When Wes proposed, saying my wedding vows, when Chase was born and placed on my chest. I knew what that meant. But until February 7th, 2011, I always associated it with happier memories and moments that you want to relive over and over again because when it happened it was just TOO good to be true.

I know now that those experiences can be not so great too.

Super Bowl Sunday last year is the last memory I have of a "normal" evening with friends. Hanging out and watching the game. The next morning was our anatomy scan, and I was 23 weeks pregnant with our second baby.
As we left for the appointment, Chase (about a week from turning two) in tow, we were beyond excited. Anxious is a more appropriate word. I remember not caring one way or the other if it were a boy or a girl. Wes and I knew how blessed we were to even be pregnant again. Going into that room that day I wasn't worried that something would be or could be wrong, I was excited!

The ultrasound technician noticed low amniotic fluid during the scan. Late in my pregnancy with Chase I had low fluid, so I wasn't immediately alarmed. We were sent in to our appointment with our doctor. I remember thinking, "Gosh, I may have to go on bedrest, how terrible!" I just didn't think it could be very serious. Oh, to be that naive again. I remember our doctor saying not to panic, that we were going to go have a high-level ultrasound at another hospital. That perhaps it might mean a minor surgery when the baby was born, or perhaps something not very serious at all. They sent us right away. As we waited on that ultrasound, we googled low amniotic fluid and found that it was a correlation with kidneys. That was all we really knew going in.

As the ultrasound technician took the measurements she told us the good news: the baby was measuring right on track, the brain and spinal cord looked good, the heartbeat was strong. It was then that I asked about the kidneys. Her response is one I will never forget. "I don't see any." I remember asking, you don't see a problem with them? And then she repeated herself. I was confused. How could our baby not have kidneys? How was he or she breathing, kicking, hiccuping all the time, thriving at 23 weeks in utero?

We sat down with a specialist and were told that our baby had bilateral renal agenesis. Because the baby didn't develop kidneys, the amniotic fluid was low, as well as the lungs being underdeveloped at birth. The "fluke" (in our case) condition occurs in 1 in 4,000 pregnancies. (I didn't even hear the initial diganosis and it wasn't until we got home that I read it written on the doctor's business card that I even knew what it technically was called.) The air left the room, and there I was. Standing over the ultrasound room, watching this man and wife and their toddler son get the worst news of their lives. It was like I was watching someone else.

"We aren't taking this baby home." That's all I remember saying.

They spoke of options, terminating, and that "some" choose to carry to term but that it had "terrible emotional side effects." I remember the feeling of heaviness and shock the most. We were sent home and the drive there was a quiet one.

The next few weeks were filled with follow up appointments, prayer, tears, anger, confusion, shock, countless hours on the internet researching and reading blogs of those who had the same "0% chance of survival" diagnosis, and the decision to carry Christian (who we still didn't know was a boy or a girl at this point) was made. I think in our hearts we knew all along that we could never end his life prematurely.  The realness of being pregnant with a baby I knew I would never take home took its toll on me, emotionally and physically. I was terrified of strangers who would ask the obvious questions such as when I'm due, what I'm having, etc. I am still amazed that I never got ONE of those questions, kind of hard to believe isn't it? God protected me from so much.

Family and friends swooped in, delivering meals, flowers, cards. Those emails and texts got us through the hardest of days.

A three month journey of heartache and grieving began. I questioned God (still do at times!), I yelled, I screamed, I was angry and confused. It slowly turned into a time of trying to embrace the life growing inside of me. A life that had purpose, meaning, and a plan - no matter how short.  God has carried us through what we hope is the worst of it, and we are forever grateful for the time that we were blessed with to spend with our sweet boy Christian.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
-Psalm 27:13

The "after" part of Christian's story isn't over yet. Every day is a new emotion, a new life lesson. God is always revealing things to me through this experience and I have been given a new perspective on countless things. And I'd do it all over again for that time with him.

A life so brief.
A child so small.
You had the power to touch us all.


Kelli said...

You have a beautiful heart, Erin. Thanks for sharing it with your readers. Your sons are so blessed to have you as their mommy.

Nikki Salisbury said...

Erin, I am so sorry for what you and your family have had to go through. I could never imagine how difficult that journey could be. I am teared up and amazed at your strength and courage.
Nikki (Music) Salisbury

Anonymous said...

Its the worst feeling in the world isn't it? I was 35 weeks. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I love this post and I love that quote A life so brief.. Hugs to you. I hope you can come check out my blog (it is extremely sad though) www.letterstoleia.ca

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