Thanking God for clarity

January 29, 2010

Friends, we have been honored to have been lifted up in prayer and brought before God, and have been touched by the goodness of friends, family, and even strangers both near and far.  Our parents have been wonderful, willing to drop everything to come sit with us during the toughest season in our lives.  We have felt God strengthening us and comforting us during this time.  We have felt the love of friends who have visited us, called us, and will visit and call in the future.

We want to specifically thank you for your prayers as we met with our doctor yesterday.  We wanted to meet with the same doctor who met with us on Monday and set up our appointment with the high-risk doctor.  She was wonderful, compassionate, and accommodating.  She offered us her condolences and spoke with conviction her intention that their office would do everything within their power to prevent this from happening in a subsequent pregnancy.

We asked for another ultrasound, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, we wanted to see if ours and others’ prayers that God would heal her in this life had been answered.  Secondly, we wanted to see if our baby was a boy or a girl.  Thirdly, we didn’t get any pictures on Monday, and we wanted to have some pictures printed off so we can have them with us.  It was also important for us to see for ourselves, as we didn’t know what to look for on Monday.  We had the intention that we would schedule another appointment for an ultrasound, but our doctor offered to do it during that visit, which was wonderfully accommodating.

We than asked the many questions we had that would help us decide where to go from here.  On Monday, we were provided with the options of inducing labor prematurely or removing the baby through surgery (basically an abortion).  An option that we brought up on Monday was the possibility of carrying the baby to term.  Since the surgical procedure is something we do not consider to be an option, we were left with the heartwrenching and troubling decision regarding whether to induce labor or carry the baby full term.

Yesterday, our doctor was wonderful in telling us what it might look like to undergo either option, and was good to explain to us that the longer we wait for the birth, the more health risks are involved for Julee that may have an effect on subsequent pregnancies.  That was something I hadn’t thought about.  She also told us that whether we induced or carried to term, we can pretty much do whatever we want during the delivery process.  Many people, we were told, like to hold the baby, take pictures, have a pastor baptize the baby, or make footprints.  We were free to do this during our baby’s delivery, which was a comfort to us.  We were also comforted to know that our baby is not in pain, and will not suffer during the birth or during death.  Our baby will pass peacefully.

During the ultrasound, we were told that we were having a baby girl.  It really helped me and Julee both to humanize our child.  In a time like this, we no longer wanted to refer to our baby as “it.”  We can say “she.”  We were also told that the doctor was 100% certain that our little girl has anencephaly.  Strangely enough, this was a relief for us.  It allowed for us to accept the lot that we’ve been given and to engage in what we should do next.

We have chosen to name our baby Hosanna Elizabeth Dunn.  Hosanna, of course, is the cry of praise that was given to Jesus on Palm Sunday.  It was originally meant as a both a cry of praise and a cry for help.  One translation we saw read, “save now, we pray!”  Julee and I both feel that this was a perfect name for our baby.  Elizabeth was chosen not because it’s Julee’s middle name, but because it means “consecrated to God.”  Again, we felt it was a perfect name for her as we prepare to give her to God for healing and to make her whole.

Regarding what decision we make, I am absolutely convinced that this is not a moral decision, and we cannot make our decision based on our position on moral issues.  We choose to make our decision based on what is the most loving thing for our child, for ourselves, and for our family.  There are extreme times in our lives such as this, where we look at the circumstances around us and find that the rules don’t apply; that the beliefs and opinions we so frequently construct for ourselves like a brick wall crumble under the need for compassion and mercy.  I affirm life in all its forms, and if our daughter suffered from any other defect that allowed for the possibility that she may live, there would be no question.

Please continue to be in prayer for us as we continue to grieve.  We have grieved publicly and in community, and we have been blessed to have so many great friends and family who have treasured us and lifted us up in prayer.  You are probably one of those people.  Again, we thank you for your prayers and support for myself, Julee, and baby Hosanna.

A dream come false.

January 28, 2010

On January 25th, 2010, at 2pm, Julee and I met our second ultrasound appointment with great anticipation, as we were eagerly awaiting whether we would be having a boy or a girl.  In fact, we thought the worst thing that could happen was that our baby wouldn’t cooperate, and we would be left guessing.  What happened in reality was the farthest thing from our minds.  As we met with the ultrasound technician, she proceeded to identify the baby’s body parts – hands, arms, legs, feet, ribs, heart, stomach, bladder.  We grinned giddily as we witnessed our baby’s development, and we even let out a half-frustrated chuckle and sigh upon seeing our baby’s legs crossed, preventing us from knowing its sex.  We watched in wonder at seeing our baby’s heartbeat, and in seeing our baby move.  The technician began to get quieter and quieter as she talked about having trouble seeing our baby’s head, but we thought nothing of it.  We began to get more concerned as the technician called the doctor in to see if she could view our baby’s head.  The doctor came in almost immediately (which is a rarity for any doctor), and after looking at the ultrasound for about 5 minutes, she urged us to go to a high-risk specialist immediately and have this looked at.  She told us nothing about what was happening other than it could be an abnormality or that it could be the limitations of their machine, but urged us to drive immediately to the hospital.  They would be waiting for us, we were told, and they are staying open after hours to take a look at us.

The drive was rushed and frantic, though I tried to maintain my composure.  “That ultrasound machine did look kind of old,” I told myself.  “This is just a precaution.  Normal doctor freakout better-safe-than-sorry behavior,” I said.  As we entered the doctor’s office, we completed some paperwork and nervously underwent the second ultrasound of the day.  Much to protocol, the technician identified the major body parts for us, conducted some measurements, then left to get the doctor.  As the doctor entered, he was sheepish and soft spoken, and immediately we knew bad news was coming.  I felt as if someone was about to punch me in the gut, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it.  He informed me our baby suffers from anencephaly, which is an extremely rare defect in which the brain fails to develop from the ears up, making it impossible for the baby to survive.  We were stunned.  I cried, but not nearly as hard as I’ve cried since.  Sometimes the weight of it doesn’t hit until some time passes.  The doctor sat with us for a moment for our questions, but we were too stunned to say anything.  Part of me felt bad for our doctor.  How is someone supposed to break the news to us that our baby is not going to live?  How can he give our baby a death sentence, then go home and have dinner with his wife as if nothing happened?  I’ve wondered how he’s handled it since.  He proceeded to tell us that this is not a genetic condition, and that the chances of this happening again is extremely slim.

I’ve been angry with God.  I’ve asked Him many questions and peppered Him with my protests.  At times I haven’t felt like talking to Him.  God knows how long we’ve tried to have a baby, and He knows how excited we were to be parents.  Why this joy has been taken from us, we do not know.

I have been told at times, and have probably told others that God has a reason for everything.  In this case, I am unable to think of a possible reason for this that makes me okay with it.  Strangely enough, I find more comfort in thinking that there isn’t a reason for this – that this wasn’t God’s plan and that God didn’t want it to happen.  That God hurts with me, Julee, and our families, and that God would want it some other way like I do.  I realize that blows up my theology and much of the theology within Christendom, but perhaps this is a pain and a suffering that the world of theology fails to encompass.  Perhaps this event in our lives doesn’t fit neatly into tight little boxes; little rules and statutes we can memorize and teach in Sunday School.  Perhaps some things in life cannot be explained.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve been incredibly thankful for how public we have been about our pregnancy, because it has led to us being public in our grief.  While one may think that a public grief would be embarrassing, I have felt nothing of the sort.  I have been overwhelmed by how loved we have felt in just a few moments after telling our friends and family what has happened, and this means the world at a time like this.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely one of the many who have reached out to us with kind words or gifts and have lifted us up to God in prayer.  I thank you for your part in making us feel so loved, from the bottom of my heart.  I am humbled by the goodness of God’s people.

We ask for your continued prayers as we decide where to go from here, as we have many questions to ask of our doctors that we were in too much shock to ask on Monday.  We get by day to day, so we thank God when we can make it to the next day.  Please be in prayer for us, that God would guide our thoughts and actions in the coming months.  Also pray that God will carry us as we cope with the pain of losing a child.  Selfishly, I ask for your prayers that we continue to sleep well.  We deal with the pain and suffering from this loss every hour – I pray that the nighttime becomes a time of peace and of respite for us.  Again, we are exceedingly grateful for your kind words and the confidence in knowing you are in prayer.

The unexpected news.

January 27, 2010

Ever since Monday when we found out the devastating news about our baby, Jason and I have been floating around just trying to keep our heads above the water.  This is something I never imagined being faced with.  In my ignorance, I thought we were in the clear since passing into the second trimester.  I guess I should’ve had some armor on to shield from any possible unexpected pain that would come my way with this baby.  But I had no idea.  There was no inkling that anything, anything at all was wrong.

Every appointment up until Monday had gone great.  The doctors had had no trouble finding the heartbeat at each appointment.  I had no sickness and thought I was progressing normally.  Just 2 weeks ago I began feeling the little movements of our sweet little baby and with each day they were happening more and more.  Everything was going smoothly or so I thought.

Monday came with great anticipation.  We could hardly wait to see our little baby again, to find out if we are having a boy or a girl.  The worst thing we thought would happen is the baby wouldn’t cooperate and we wouldn’t be able to find out the gender.  Well, the baby had its legs crossed, so we couldn’t tell anyway.  But that was the least of our concern once we found out something was terribly wrong with our sweet little dream come true.

The ultrasound started out just fine, the technician showed us all the tiny body parts.  We saw the heart beating – 133, just right.  We saw the arms and legs moving.  We saw the torso moving up and down as the baby breathed.  We even saw the cute little nose and mouth.  Everything looked perfect to us.  This was our baby, the baby we’d dreamed so long of having.

The tech seemed totally calm, I had no idea anything was wrong.  She said she was going to ask the doctor if she wanted to look at anything herself before they cleaned me up (I had goop all over my tummy).  I suppose I should’ve known something was up, but I (again in my ignorance) thought this was normal.  The doctor came in right away, and told us the tech was having trouble seeing the brain, so she was going to take a look and try to get a better view.  After a minute or so of moving the thing around, she told us she wasn’t getting a good view either.  She said she was concerned that there may be an abnormality, and she wanted us to go ASAP to a high risk doctor.

She told us that the high risk doctor was going to stay late right then for us to come.  She basically said “go, go, GO”.  We were scared, but hopeful that she just wasn’t able to get a good angle.  At the high risk doctor, another ultrasound tech did a similar ultrasound.  She showed everything, and our baby still looked perfect to me.  After she had done all of her measurements, she said that she was having trouble seeing the brain as well.  She told us the doctor would be right in to look for himself, and to talk with us.

When the doctor walked in, he sheepishly said hello, and right away I knew something was wrong.  He told us that there is an abnormality called anencephaly.  He said that the baby’s brain did not fully develop, and this type of condition is “incompatible with survival”.  I was stunned, and didn’t know what to do.  My whole body was numb.  I just laid there as one single tear rolled down my cheek.  He told us he would leave us alone for a few minutes and then we could come talk with him.  Jason and I just held each other, both us heartbroken and it totally shock.  Still I didn’t cry, I didn’t know what to do.  I had just received the most devastating news, but I didn’t cry (believe me, though, I’ve cried a lot since then).

When we met with the doctor he asked if we had any questions.  Questions!?!  I couldn’t even think at all.  He told us that we did nothing to cause this.  It just happens.  He also told us that it’s very rare, and even more rare for it to happen again.  He assured us that there are no complications for me, and that it will not affect my ability to have more children.  Somehow though, at that moment, those words were not comforting.  I didn’t care about me, I wanted my baby to be okay!  I wanted my baby to live.  I wanted my baby to have a full life.

He told us of our options, which at that moment I couldn’t fully absorb anything.  All I knew was that no matter what we did, this baby is not going to live for very long, if at all.  Still at this moment, two days later, we have no idea what to do.  We have to rely on God to guide us and to help us make the right decision.  I’m not sure that there’s a right or wrong answer, and I pray that no matter what decision we make – everyone will know we made it with the utmost prayer.

We have been humbled by the outpouring of love and support we have received.  We know that God is doing something amazing through this, and He is using our unborn child to do something in in the lives of not only us, but many others as well.  To God by the glory in all things…even when we do not feel like praising Him, even when we are angry with Him – we choose to serve and love Him with all that we are.

I prefer a car…

January 18, 2010

…but I feel like I’m on a train.  One of the things I’ve been most struck by in this point in my life is how little control I have over it.  I’m in the middle of an internship application and interviewing process wherein a computer program will play a large role in determining where I, my wife, and our baby will spend the next (and first) year of our lives.  My wife is carrying a baby inside of her, and while I can do a lot to support her through this process, I pretty much have to sit back and let the miracle happen.  I have very little control over what goes on in there.  It’s kind of like trying to drive a train.  There are some places that I would like the train to go, but I have very little control over whether that actually happens.  Which begs the question: is this a season of my life where I have less control than others, or has my illusion of control under which I live for most of my life been lifted?  Have I lost control or have I realized that I never had it?  So, in two major areas of my life, I wait.  I hope God enjoys watching me squirm.

18 weeks and 2 days; that is when I first felt the baby move (that’s today, by the way)!!  I was driving to Target when I felt a little thump on my left lower ab.  I thought, “oh!  is that the baby?”.  Then a few seconds later I felt a few little thumps, and then a few seconds later a few more.  Still, though, I thought maybe it was just gas (sorry, TMI).  But after a few minutes passed, I knew it was the baby.  I’ve been holding my breath all evening, hoping to feel it again.  Nothing yet, but I know I will feel it again soon.  :o)