Monday, November 11, 2013

The Flood

11:20 couldn't come fast enough. I grabbed a file and performed some obligatory reporting, but the task that should have taken 10 minutes took about 30. I googled "typing speed tests," hit the 'Start Clock' button and began pecking away. Mrs. Frisby, the head of a family of field mice, lived in an underground house in the garden of a farmer named Mr. Fitzgibbon. . . 68 words per minute, zero errors. I could do much better. I clicked the button for a new test. After several tests I maxed out at 78 words per minute, zero errors. Satisfied, and noting how much time I had been able to pass, I grabbed another file requiring only perfunctory attention until the clock read 11:00. I plastered a look of false bravado on my face as I told the staff I would be back in a couple of hours, and met Marcos in the parking lot, where we got into my car and drove to the doctor's office.

Immediately I noticed there was no ultrasound equipment in the room, and so I inquired of the tech who said no ultrasound was ordered for the day. When the doctor arrived I asked again.

"No. You won't have another ultrasound for quite a few weeks, until later in your second trimester."
I could feel the tears sting my eyes immediately. "But I thought - I thought that's what we would do today. I - I never would have consented to the last one, if I thought we would not do another one this week. I -" and the words from my last blog began spilling out of my mouth, "I need to know if this baby has anencephaly. It takes a great leap of faith to be pregnant again, but I need to know. I am stressed out wondering. I need to know!" and the tears were rolling and my voice was quivering.

"Everything appeared normal at your first ultrasound. . ." but I cut her off. "Everything appeared normal with my son, too, until one day it wasn't."

"I know. . ."  I wouldn't give her a chance to speak, I just kept pleading with her until she finally agreed that if there were a machine available, until she said with resignation that she would perform the ultrasound. "You're right.  It does take a leap of faith to get pregnant again."  She prefaced the impending ultrasound with familiar language to a lawyer: "I'm not a specialist. I cannot rule out anencephaly, especially not at this stage. I'm still going to send you to see the specialist. I can only tell you if the image appears to be normal, in my experience. I can't diagnose, or not diagnose, anything, and we're not going to take any action no matter what I see." With her waiver of liability having been made I said, unequivocally, "I want you to know it doesn't matter what you say today, or what the specialist says. It's not going to change anything. I'm not going to end this pregnancy. I just need to know." She nodded, and we proceeded.  Marcos held my hand, and I held my breath.

And there it was. You can't imagine how much that bright, round image of a baby's skull, taken for granted in so many pregnancies, means. Not until it's been decidedly missing from your child's ultrasound image. Not until you've wished you could simply take your own skull, saw it off of your own head yourself, to give it to your child. But there, clear and bold on the screen was the distinct image of bone forming a skull. Rocco rolled in response to the ultrasound wand, allowing us to see all angles. "As far as I can tell, within my area of expertise as a ob/gyn, not a specialist, there does not appear to be any grossly obvious deformity." I nodded at her conditional language, knowing it just her clinical training, knowing there was nothing gross about my son's deformity, knowing he was beautiful, and his little brother or sister is beautiful too, each in their own distinct ways.

In that bittersweet moment there was at once a flood of relief, and a wave of sadness as I grieved once again the day my world fell apart with my first lesson in anencephaly.  These moments will always be bittersweet.  Like the top of his own skull was missing, so Gabriel's physical presence will be missing from the rest of my life.  I feel it, deep in my bones.  I always will.  Faith, and a rainbow baby, don't replace the child that I carried, that I gave birth to, that I love from somewhere built into my core.  Faith only givea me the strength to believe that even though he is gone, I'll see my son again, and I'll be okay until I do.

Genesis 9: 13-17 "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."  So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on earth.

For years I've felt that I was on the brink of drowning.  I don't know sometimes how I managed to keep from going under.  There were mornings when I would wake up, and wonder why I would, why I should live to see another day and it was only by supernatural force that I carried on.  But my rainbow has appeared.  This time it is not an illusion.

Life will keep sending challenges, will keep throwing curves.  There will always be rain.  But now there's a rainbow in the clouds.

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