The surprise baby I didn’t know I needed

Motherhood

August 15, 2019

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It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways. 

I’ve heard these words before, but never have they rung more true than in my last pregnancy. 

At 31 years old I was a mother of 6. My kids were 8, 7, 6, 4, and 2 — and another son, Isaac, was due any day. 

I was not planning on ever having any more children. Six felt like all we could handle—mentally and financially. And even more critically, childbirth was causing a lot of strain on my body. I loved all of my children and I was grateful for all of them, but I was at my absolute max and had a list of serious reasons to avoid pregnancy going forward. 

To be totally honest, I was planning on getting a tubal ligation right after he was born, and my husband was going to get a vasectomy.

But as I said before, sometimes God works in funny ways. I didn’t end up having time to get an epidural during Isaac’s birth, so I wasn’t eligible to get the tubal immediately following. 

We scheduled it for the next day, but just as my anesthesiologist came in, I started having chest pain — which was scary, especially because I’ve had heart issues in the past. 

The anesthesiologist checked me out, looked me dead in the eye and said, “If you want to go through with the surgery, we can have you sign a waiver. Ultimately the choice is up to you. But if you were my daughter I’d tell you not to do it.” 

That was all I needed to hear. I focused instead on the other half of the solution: my husband’s plans for a vasectomy. 

But when the day of his scheduled appointment arrived, it turned out he, too, was having second thoughts. 

We took this as a sign and instead, we decided to turn to something different to help us prevent pregnancy—a Fertility Awareness Based Method, or FABM also known as Natural Family Planning.

For personal and religious reasons, we felt that this was the right thing to do, and we both felt at peace about the decision. However, this was not the first time we’d used this method. It requires a particular level of commitment and knowledge from both parties, and well, it’s not always easy. 

FABMs are a method of avoiding or achieving pregnancy based on awareness of a couple’s fertility — understanding when the woman is ovulating and abstaining on those days to avoid pregnancy. 

That can be hard at times, but when my husband and I truly committed to it, we actually noticed that we were more in sync as a couple. We both became more aware of how my body functioned.

This knowledge helped us to communicate openly and gave us greater unity, trust, and respect for each other. It gave us confidence that this was the right choice for our family. 

A deep level of trust

A few months after Isaac was born, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Cystocele and Stage 3 Rectocele (a prolapsed bladder and rectum), due to the stress all of my pregnancies had put on my body. 

The repair surgery would include a mesh implant, a sling, and biological graphing of horse muscle on the inner lining to hold the implants in place. 

This particular doctor also strongly recommended that I get a tubal ligation. If I were to get pregnant again, he said, the growth of the baby and act of giving birth could potentially cause the implants to separate or puncture through my organs and kill me. 

I didn’t know what to think at first. I felt so many emotions: fear, relief, and a lot of questions. 

But after much back and forth, and many many discussions, we felt called to a deep level of trust in God and decided that we should forgo the tubal. 

One of our priests shared that sometimes trusting in God means that we don’t get everything that we want— but that doesn’t matter, because in the end, this earth is not our home. Heaven is. And if we can take the trials in our life and surrender them totally to God, completely placing our trust in His goodness, we can get there. 

So on the morning of my surgery, as I was being wheeled in on the gurney, I told them I was finally opting out of the tubal. And wouldn’t you know it: the doctor I told was the same doctor who told me, just after Isaac was born, that if I were his daughter, he’d advise against the surgery. 

And then it happened

The rest of that year, I recovered from my surgery smoothly and we continued to stay committed to our FABM. There were seldom any glitches where we felt uncertain about my fertility, although, I wasn’t as young as I once was. My body wasn’t functioning as steadily as it had when I started having children at 24. I guess you could call it peri-menopause, but still young enough to count on the success of FABMs. 

But then it happened: my period was late. Only 3 days, but I knew my body, and I knew that anything beyond 2 days was a red flag. 

I rushed to the store to buy a pregnancy test, came home, snuck into the bathroom and took the test. I hadn’t even moved the test 2 feet away from me after just peeing on it and there they were…TWO FAT PINK LINES confirming that I was pregnant with Baby Number 7.  

I was beyond mad. I was livid—irate. I just opened the door and yelled to my husband, “I’m F@#$%^G PREGNANT!!!” and then curled into a ball and cried like a child. This was the last thing I wanted in the world. The last thing I could imagine happening. And at that moment, my heart turned to stone and I entered the darkest time of my life. 

With my previous pregnancies (none of which were planned) eventually my heart came around, but with this baby, I amazed even myself by how cold my heart had turned. I didn’t care about being healthy. I didn’t care if I miscarried, in fact, I hate to admit it, but I wished for it, to be free from it. 

At that moment, my heart turned to stone and I entered the darkest time of my life. 

I made the choice to cut myself off emotionally from this pregnancy and inwardly, I really thought: “If I just don’t think about it, it’ll just go away.” 

Because I was 38 years old now and had the previous Cystocele & Rectocele repair surgeries, I knew I had to speak to my doctor immediately. “What am I to do now?” I asked him. “This is exactly what you said could kill me and here I am pregnant…again.” 

But to my complete bewilderment, he just looked at me, and said, “When did I ever say that? I never said getting pregnant again can kill you!” 

The doctor was insistent that I misunderstood his words. He made me feel like I was crazy. I’m not sure where the disconnect happened, but in the end, it turned out he was no longer delivering babies as part of his practice. However he did recommend me to one of the most highly-regarded doctors in the country, who served at one of the best regional hospitals. 

So I was placed in the best of care, which was good, because I was considered high-risk due to my previous surgery and my age. I also had to undergo more testing than the average pregnancy. At about 3 months along, I had my first ultrasound. 

Mama bear mode

During my ultrasound the technician printed off a few pictures for me and asked me to wait for the doctor to come in and finish the appointment. 

While I sat there waiting, I looked at those pictures with such disgust. Angry at everyone: Myself. My husband. The baby, and with God. I just sat there and I didn’t want to accept this reality, so I tried to tear up the pictures and throw them away. 

Funny thing: I’m obviously not as strong as I thought I was, because I was completely unable to rip that photo paper. It just wouldn’t tear. 

As I worked on that, the doctor came in. He greeted me and looked over the saved ultrasound images on the screen, did his own exam and came to this conclusion: “Based on what I’m seeing here, the baby has too much fluid on the brain.” 

The tech chimed in and said, “There is also a shadow in the shape on an “X” on the heart.” 

The doctor continued, “It appears that the baby could have Down Syndrome, in addition to a heart and kidney defect.” There was only a bit of silence before he cut in and asked me, “Would you like to terminate the pregnancy?” His tone was as casual as if he was asking me if I could pass the salad dressing.

He added, confidently, “I’ve been practicing medicine for over 20 years and in my experience, I have almost never been wrong. I would recommend terminating.” 

Suddenly, I found myself transitioning into Mama Bear mode. I knew I had a life within me and it was my job to protect it. 

I may have been angry about being pregnant, but I found myself just as angry and hurt that this doctor was flat out asking me if I wanted to get rid of my child.

He assumed that because the baby’s health conditions weren’t up to his standards, that meant that my child wasn’t deserving of life. He was measuring my child by some standard of “quality” and suggesting that my child didn’t need to live … that my child could and maybe even “should” be eliminated. 

Hearing news like this had taken my heart of stone and had melted it like butter on a hot skillet.

My husband and I set to work preparing for our child. We decided to learn sign language together and began to research how to accommodate our child’s life to be as normal and comfortable as possible with the various diagnoses we were facing. 

Hearing news like this had taken my heart of stone and had melted it like butter on a hot skillet.

We prayed like never before and recruited so many more prayer warriors on our side. We learned to lean on God and knew that whatever His plan was, we would accept it. 

Whether we had our baby for one minute or one year, we would accept and love our child and absorb those moments together as much as possible.

My miracle baby

During my next ultrasound, the baby’s fluid levels were more balanced, but still not great. By my 5th month I had undergone countless ultrasounds and testing to be as prepared as possible to support our baby (physically and emotionally). 

One day around that time, I was at work (not supposed to even have my phone out), but I happened to answer my phone anyway. From the other end of the line, I heard: “Baby doesn’t have Down Syndrome according to the test, but we still need to keep careful watch for other defect markers and over the heart and kidneys. Oh … and you’re having a boy!” 

And then, by my 7th month, all signs of any illness or defects were completely gone. Our son, Joseph, was given a clean bill of health and I give full credit to the faithfulness of God and His working a miracle for our little boy. 

I know doctors can make mistakes, but I’ll never forget how absolutely certain this doctor was that my son was inadequate to be born. 

But if it weren’t for that doctor’s mistake and judgment of the ultrasound, I think I certainly would have carried my anger and resentment throughout my pregnancy, holding it against my son. I wouldn’t have aborted him, but his misdiagnosis saved me from myself, and gave me a gift of loving my son beyond measure. 

Joseph was born via C-section in July 2018, perfectly healthy.

His smile lights up a room and he has the most contagious laugh. He’s smart, silly, and daring. He’s been my supreme joy every day and it seems impossible to imagine my life without him. I am so glad that we resisted the urge to do something permanent that would have prevented him from ever coming into our family. 

His misdiagnosis saved me from myself, and gave me a gift of loving my son beyond measure. 

When I look at him, I know that God had a plan for me, but He must have something truly amazing planned for Joseph. He paved the way years ago preparing me for his arrival, ensuring his very existence. He knew I needed him.

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