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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Call

I remember it well, I was standing in the downstairs family room, where Mark and I ran in home daycare when he handed me the phone. It was my OBGYN office. Mark and I had agreed to refuse any extensive and or invasive tests on our babies during our pregnancies. I had gone to my last OBGYN appointment alone, which was unusual for Mark and I, but finding coverage for our in home day care was often tough and nothing exciting was going to happen at this appointment. We were about four months along, so we had heard the heartbeat, but were not yet scheduled for the ultrasound. Mark and I had discussed intently our beliefs around testing for any issues, neither of us believed in termination of pregnancy and we both would accept any child God gave us. For those reasons we did not feel the need to test for any possible disabilities. But as I said, I was at this appointment alone and the test was just a blood test on me, so I had it done. I remember going home and telling Mark that I had been unsure how he would feel about me doing this test and explaining that since it was just a blood test on me, I had done it. A day later I got the call. The woman on the other end said my AFP was abnormally high, as I recall it was in the tens of thousands. They wanted me to go for an ultrasound, but not at my office at the hospital with a specialist. I remember my gut sinking that day, this could mean many things but the most likely and scariest was that the baby had spinal bifida. It was not a false positive, the numbers were much too high, it was something, but what we did not know. Fear immediately took over my body, I felt guilty I had had the test done and worried about how to tell Mark and his reaction. He was near me when I got the call, he saw my face drop, he knew it was serious. Why had I done the test? My pregnancy just went from bliss to horror in one phone call. The ultrasound was scheduled for the next day, we needed to scramble to get our daycare covered so we could go together. I don't remember much about the time in between the call and the ride to the ultrasound, but I can still picture the waiting room very clearly. There was a prison inmate there with handcuffs on and guards with her, she obviously needed an ultrasound also. She was taken in first and then shortly after a strawberry blonde came for us. She introduced herself as Beth and we bonded easily.  Mark also being a strawberry blonde, there seems to be some unsaid connection red heads have toward each other. She listened to our story, we were married almost nine years, this is our second child, we didn't know or want to know the sex of the baby and we didn't believe in abortion for us. She started the ultrasound and discovered right away what the problem was, calling it the best of circumstances. The babies stomach wall had not closed and she would need surgery after birth to put her intestine back inside her body and to close the wall. Beth really wasn't supposed to tell us anything, we were supposed to wait until the team of doctors came in, but like I said, something about us bonded quickly. It sounded like pretty good news as we waited for the doctors to come in I remember feeling a slight sense of relief. The child wasn't going to have a spinal injury, but needing major surgery after birth which did sound tricky. The doctors came in and told us more about the condition, 1 in 30,000 babies were born this way. It was called gastroschisis and there were varying degrees, some babies needed many surgeries, some just one. The baby would be in the NICU until able to eat well on their own. There was risk of infection, of low birth weight, of being born premature, the risks were great and many. The surgery would be done as soon after birth as possible, to minimize infection. The baby would be placed into a sterile bag up to their arms immediately after birth and I would not be allowed to hold her at that time. That's about the time they offered me a late term abortion. I said no, we won't be doing that, firmly, knowing full well I had Mark's backing. The second doctor offered it again, directed more toward Mark this time, treating me like the emotional woman who couldn't make a sound decision. I piped up, saying Mark and I do not believe in abortion for us, we will accept this baby unconditionally. There were at least two more times in our conversation with these doctors that abortion was mentioned and my blood boiled more as they seemingly pushed the option on us. I had just seen my baby's fully developed face, I was in a loving marriage and she was a part of both of us, the doctors pushing abortion made me angry and upset. They acted like she wasn't a human, she was just a deformity inside me. I increasingly felt sick to my stomach, physically and needed out of that office fast. I needed to be with Mark, alone, I needed his reassurance and love. I needed to cry and talk with my husband, so I changed the subject after one more time, with a louder, more upset voice I told the doctors that we wanted a plan to move forward, we would NOT be terminating this pregnancy. Ironically, I had been good friends with a girl in HS that's father was a surgeon. I was pretty sure he was the right surgeon for this procedure. I asked about Dr Emmens and the doctors were impressed he was a friend of mine, saying he is the only surgeon in town that does this surgery. So we had a plan, I was going to go home and call Dr Emmens at his home and ask more questions. We left quickly and embraced in the elevator, all emotions letting go. I was angry at their pushing abortion and terrified for my baby, but hopeful Dr Emmens would take care of me. I had spent much time with his daughter Kim in HS, sleeping at her house often. I had a good relationship with her family, especially her Mom, so I knew they would welcome my call. On the way home I started vomiting, my body was reacting to the stress and fear in a way I had never experienced before. Mark was scared for me, I could see it in his eyes, how was I going to make it through the rest of this pregnancy? I had had a miscarriage just nine months earlier, so my fears were high. I know Mark worried how he would get me through a tough pregnancy and what if, as the doctors had told us the baby didn't thrive and we lost her?    TO BE CONTINUED

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