Thursday, October 23, 2014

God's presence in the past

Today, on the occasion of Shannon's 25th birthday, I want to write about an amazing thing that God did for me when I was pregnant for her.

We had moved from Minnesota to New York so Shawn could work and go to graduate school.  I was 23 and lonely, far from all my family and friends.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was pleased, although the pregnancy had not been planned (confession: only Jonathan was "planned," although God always has a plan).  Deliberate or not, I was excited to have a child, a family.  I looked forward to being less alone, and I had always been crazy about babies, so, honestly, I was sheepishly very happy about the turn of events.

Then the morning sickness set in.  Except it was all day, and all night.  The world turned green and spun for weeks on end.  I didn't know you could feel like that for so long and not die.

One day, I woke up feeling less ill.  I went to the bathroom, and there was blood.  Blood.  Lots of blood.  My first though was, "Rats.  I have my period."  Then I remembered that I was pregnant, and pregnant ladies do not get periods.

We called the doctor.  "Are you cramping?" she asked.  We told her yes.  "Do you still feel sick?" she asked.  We told her not so much.  "Well," she said, "You are probably miscarrying.  Don't worry about it.  It isn't your fault, and you can't do anything about it, so just drink fluids and try to rest.  We'll get you in for a sonogram in a few days."

After a few days, the bleeding tapered off and I went for the sonogram.  I do not remember anything about the ultrasound technician except that he was a male, and he was kind.  He did the exam, and then he spoke to me.  "There is a nice healthy baby in there," he said, "with a strong heartbeat.  It looks good."  Then he slowed down.  "What probably happened," he told me, "is that you probably had twins and lost one."  He did not pause awkwardly, expecting me to react with grief.  He continued on without missing a beat.  "When you lose a twin and carry the remaining one, it throws tests results off later in the pregnancy.  So don't worry.  Especially about the AFP test, alpha-fetoprotein.  If you have that test, the results might show that there is something wrong with your baby, but those skewed results are common when a twin has been miscarried, so don't be afraid."

"Don't be afraid," he said.  I think he was an angel from the Lord.

I had the AFP test, and the results showed that there was something wrong with my baby.  I thought, "Well, that's what the ultrasound guy said to expect."  However, the doctors apparently had not spoken with the ultrasound guy.  They went berserk.

One day, the doctor's office called me at work.  The nurse on the other end of the line said sternly, "You need to come in for amniocentesis today.  You are getting along in your pregnancy, and if you delay, it will be too late to terminate."

I hung up the phone without saying anything.

We changed doctors, but the concern continued.  We had to go to meetings for "genetic counseling."  The baby would have Down's Syndrome, they told us.  Then it was spina bifida.  It was always something.  "But I miscarried a twin," I would tell them, and they would look at me as though I had four heads.  I could see it in their eyes, although they pursed their lips and kept silent, "Why does she keep saying that?  Why does she think that's even relevant?" They did not seem to know that mothers who miscarried a twin often had abnormal AFP results.

But I remembered.  I prayed to God, and I remembered what that ultrasound technician had told me, that ultrasound technician whom God Himself placed in my path, who probably spoke things that ultrasound technicians are not allowed to speak.  I kept my hand against the side of my stomach where my baby kicked with such vigor and constancy, I knew she had to be strong and healthy.  

It's not that I would have terminated her anyway.  Still, being young and friendless and far from home, with a husband working full time and going to graduate school, it would have been very frightening to have a special needs baby.  And God was so gracious to me.  God was so gracious.

Shannon was born, and she was perfect, absolutely perfect and beautiful beyond description, the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  They wanted me to consider terminating her, but she was absolutely, utterly perfect.  I cannot express the joy, and the pride and the relief and satisfaction and vindication and elation that I felt.

Now she is getting a PhD in organic chemistry from Yale.  She might actually discover the next cancer cure.  Or the cure for AIDS.  Or the cure for lupus!  She is more than a mother's dream come true.


Hope T. said...

Ruth, this post gives me chills, especially the photo of you as a brand-new mother with your baby. Your face shines with pure mother-love. I hope Shannon had a happy birthday. My son's birthday is tomorrow. He will be ten. October is such a wonderful month for a birthday. I walked for hours the day he was born and enjoyed the peak of the vivid colors. Today was that same kind of perfect fall day.
I haven't forgotten the emails at all -- I've just gotten sidetracked with birthday and other stuff. Things will get back to normal soon. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved this post.

ruth said...

Thank you.

I've been having trouble coming up with ideas. I was glad when this memory resurfaced!