Friday, May 15, 2015

The appointment when nothing bad happened

Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be.
-Carrie Fisher

From the moment I learned I was pregnant I started thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Each day, each step, each new pregnancy thing I had to do, I thought of bad things that could happen. And sadly, some of my fears have already been realized. The (stupid) antiphospholipid antibodies. Spending two and a half weeks in bed while lupus and migraines got to reign my body.

At eleven weeks pregnant, I prepared for my fifth (fifth! Ridiculous.) pregnancy-related doctor's appointment with trepidation. My cheerful midwife thought it would be a great idea to schedule the appointment the Friday before Mother's Day. That way I could hear my baby's heartbeat -- and maybe even have a sonogram -- as a sweet first Mother's Day gift.

It was a nice gesture, but it sounded like a horrible idea to me. How sad to find out my baby didn't have a heartbeat, or has a heartbeat but some tragic abnormality, going into Mother's Day weekend. Not only would I grieve but so would all our friends and family, on a weekend filled with celebration. I had thought about how and when to tell them the bad news in the best way possible. Couldn't we postpone such bad news until some normal weekend? How about wait until after Mother's Day to get the bad news?

I know that it's possible that I could have a healthy little baby to snuggle in November if God sees fit, but it's kind of in His hands. I don't know for sure exactly what He's going to do in this situation. As far as my own self goes, I feel like the odds are stacked against me and this baby. So I tried to steel myself for more bad news that Friday afternoon.

Johnie and I planned for heavy construction traffic, and actually made it to Lexington more than an hour before my appointment and did a little shopping. We got to the office pretty close to my appointment time and settled in to wait for a long time, but were called back immediately. Thank God, my blood pressure was normal - again.

The nurse pulled out the doppler to find the baby's heartbeat. I held my breath, reassuring myself it was okay if she didn't find it. She said she did find it, but I couldn't even tell it was a heartbeat. She repositioned the wand and I heard it. Strong and steady. Like beautiful music.

I went through the exam with my midwife and we went over my bloodwork. My numbers had slightly decreased. Still no bad news. She didn't mention the sonogram, so I assumed we wouldn't be getting one that day. But she excused herself and wheeled in the machine. Once again I held my breath until the image came on screen. I could see a head and body but couldn't make out much more.

She was talking about arms and legs and a pulsing umbilical cord. I didn't see any of that, but Johnie and I began a chorus of "Is that normal?" that lasted for the rest of the appointment. Then, she saw the baby's little hand. "Oh, see that hand," she squealed. "And that tiny little thumb!"

"I see it!" Johnie said.

I felt like Rachel on Friends when she couldn't see her baby. "I don't see it," I sheepishly admitted.

The midwife froze the shot, enlarged the image, and scooted the machine closer to me. "See?" And finally I was able to see it.

She printed out that shot, and then took another picture of the head and body and printed it out for us.

"What about the other hand?" Johnie asked.

"Oh, it's in there," she said.

Silly husband, I thought. Worried that the baby doesn't have two hands just because we only saw the one. I chuckled a little.

We waited while she added another roll of printer paper and watched the baby for several more minutes. I was able to make out things more clearly now and was just in awe getting to watch. S/he did a flip. At one point, s/he brought his/her hands up to his/her face. We all laughed. I wondered if maybe the baby could feel the pressure from the sonogram wand and was distraught that his/her comfortable home was being disturbed. Hands to face, "Is this how it's going to be in here now?!?"

And then it hit me. Maybe Johnie's concern had rubbed off on me. I hadn't seen the baby's legs. I could clearly see the arms - even the fingers and thumbs. I could see eye sockets and a nose and mouth. Why were there just two little nubs where the legs should be? I decided I would ask the midwife at the end of the sonogram and assured myself that we would be okay even if our baby didn't have legs.

Just then, the baby kicked both legs out with a flourish. I was able to see them clearly. I thanked God and started crying. What a fast and sweet response to my worried heart.

I had prayed and prayed throughout my pregnancy that my baby be protected from any illness in my body, and that the Lord please protect my baby from any mistakes I am already making as a mother. I pray throughout each day for the baby to feel calm and peaceful, safe and loved. Protected from anything bad in my body or in the world.

I couldn't help but watch the sonogram in awe. It felt like my prayers were being answered. I know that bad things could still be discovered, but my baby looked healthy and was active. It seemed like s/he was chillin'. Hangin' out. Exploring his/her own small little world. Oblivious to any bad thing. Exactly how I hoped my baby would look.

When we got out to the car, I just started sobbing. Johnie was a little confused, and worried.

"Of all the ways I imagined this appointment could go, I never let myself think about the possibility of nothing bad happening."

It was such a sweet gift from God. I could only feel thankful. And a little hope started bubbling up inside of me: What might it be like if we actually do get to have a healthy baby?