Searching for stories about marriage, I stumbled across this one and it brought tears to my eyes. I strongly recommend that you read this. Life is not a bed of roses and sometimes, we face the biggest adversity in marriage. But giving up is not an option and this story about dealing with hardship in marriage shows that clearly. Read More below…
My wife and I have been graced with three amazing sons: Daniel Edward, Owen Milo, and Henry William who was born this last December. While being pregnant can bring out some of the oddest social graces of people, it is incredible to see how excited people get about pregnancy.
There’s a wonderful piece in us that has been wired to get excited about this. As long as there have been cultures the biggest, and most frequent, celebrations are often weddings and births of babies. Being a history major I’d always studied these sorts of facts as interesting anthropological phenomena; it’s just something people do.
Three Years Ago
It wasn’t until three years ago that I truly began to see what a big deal having a baby is.
- Three years ago I learned 1 in 3 babies in the United States don’t make it to full term due to natural causes. That’s not sub-Saharan Africa. That’s first-world America.
- Three years ago I learned why people don’t tell others they’re pregnant before the 12 week check-up.
- Three years ago our first son, Daniel, was born. Daniel had red hair, a little button nose like his mommy, and a broken little body that simply couldn’t support his life on this earth.
- Three years ago I learned that in a world broken beyond my ability to fix it, God shows his incredible grace to bring hope through that brokenness. I learned that God doesn’t make us avoid hardship to show he’s good. He shows it despite the hardship.
On January 1, 2012, my lovely wife, Anna, came sprinting downstairs: She’d taken a pregnancy test and it said we were going to have a baby! We waited patiently, oh so patiently, while our excitement grew about this first addition to our little fam.
While we waited for our little arrival we did all the things new parents-to-be do:
- downloaded the app that tells you how big your baby is each week (a cherry, a plum, a melon!)
- got the mommy multivitamins
- started doctor’s visits
- kept our little growing surprise on the down-low
Then we waited for week 12: The magic number where your risk of miscarriage statistically plummets. We actually had appointments two days in a row: The check-up and then the official doctor’s visit.
At the check-up we got to hear the regular heartbeat of our baby. We were so excited for this green light on health that we went home and told all of our friends and family.
It was the day of the second appointment, three years ago, that I got a call from Anna that changed everything.
Anna and I had planned to meet up at the appointment. I was coaching football at the time and, since we got good news the day before, she felt comfortable just meeting me there. I was running a little late when I got the call. The only things I could make out through her sobs are still burned into my mind: “You have to come now. Something is wrong with baby…”
Anna was distraught. The news was that our baby had a condition. Some condition. It wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t good. They didn’t think the baby would live.
It was three years ago that I became a crier. I’d once had a conversation in college about how it’d been a decade since I’d really cried hard. I cry a lot more now.
That day, and in the coming weeks, the doctors talked to us about our options. Further research into what was wrong was an option. The second option required some inference. There was frequently talk of the numerous difficulties.
- This baby would have some complications, whatever they were.
- They could be expensive to find.
- If it didn’t work out, we would have to wait longer to try again for another baby.
- If we waited much past week 12 we’d have to have a complicated procedure to remove the baby.
- If the baby died later it could be messy, difficult, and dangerous to Anna’s health.
- If it happened when we were away from a hospital it would further complicate things.
These facts were brought up frequently.
The inference became clear: This is scientifically a waste of time and resources. Ending this now makes the most sense: a healthy baby is the end goal. No one asked if we wanted to abort our baby. It was always stated as a positive; “You could move on” or “Are you still planning to carry this baby?”
We didn’t choose at week 12 to keep a full term baby we knew wouldn’t live. We chose at week 12 to not give up on a baby we knew was still alive.
At first doctors thought it was a spinal condition. Maybe fluid on the brain. Possibly trisomy 18. We did an amniocentesis. We ran genetic tests. All were clear.
They thought maybe it was scoliosis. Maybe spina bifida. He was missing a leg and had some organs on the outside of his body. Fixable. We’ll take a one-legged little man.
We had regular doctor visits, between once and twice a week, starting at week 12 when we found that something was wrong with baby. We were told that baby could pass any time.
A week went by, then a second week, and we got to see him grow. He kicked, punched, sucked his thumb. We continued to watch his healthy heartbeat. We prayed. We cried.
It wasn’t until around week 20 the doctors could see enough to understand the predicament. The doctor had to tell us three times what she saw.
It is quite rare in this form, and not fixable. An amniotic band had wrapped around his torso. His heart and body were growing. His lungs were not. “I’m sorry,” she said. We didn’t understand why. She repeated her information, along with her apology. We didn’t hold it against her. We also didn’t understand. She painted us a picture. We cried some more.
By week 32 the doctors were in a bit of a tizzy. We started doing paperwork to bring Daniel home. What?! He had a healthy heartbeat. We also began funeral preparations.