The gray area

I’ve been straddling a gray area for a few weeks.  Things were going along swimmingly and then bam – I was like a fish out of water.  I’m talking about my pregnancy by the way.  Bless you, for so many have written or called to see how I am.  I didn’t mean for any of my previous posts to set off any warning flags, but it seems they did.  All is fine on the home front.  Alex, Henry, Charlie – we are all healthy and happy and blessed far more than seems possible.  But there has been a bit of a void in my entries.  While it may seem like I blog about everything (in all reality there is probably more that I don’t blog about) I always want to remain honest about what I do share.  I firmly believe we are all called to share our life experiences – our challenges and joys.  Not in a “let me dump all my stuff out on the table” sort of fashion, but more along the lines of “let’s come together in fellowship and support.”  Out of love for one another.

While it may sound like rambling, the words are finally starting to come to me.

The gray fog settled shortly after my first OB appointment.  Fear settled into my life and took my breath away.  It was an unexpected and unwelcome visitor.  Nothing unusual took place at the appointment – things went smoothly and the early ultrasound showed a strong heartbeat and an accurate due date (September 26 – my dad’s birthday.)  A few days later I had a phone conversation with my OB – again nothing earth-shattering.  Yet anyone who saw me that day – dropping Henry off at school, at bible study, a March of Dimes cabinet meeting, or the birthday party we attended that evening – had to notice the red, teary and puffy eyes along with my dazed expression.

We talked about odds.  Reviewed the various screening and testing that was available.  Numbers like 1 in 500 or 1 in 600 were tossed around.  Then the dreaded 1 in 100 was tossed into the mix – a statistic some genetic counselors stand by no matter if the case of Down syndrome in the family is the very rare translocation trisomy 21 (which is genetic – either mom or dad is the carrier), or the more common nondisjunction trisomy 21 (which Charlie has.)  Basically one could conclude that no one really knows exactly why.  It just happens sometimes, and the odds tell us if it is more or less likely to happen.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  As the cloud of fear enveloped me I was also consumed with a serious case of mother’s guilt and confusion.  These are the facts.  I don’t want this baby to have Down syndrome.  I love Charlie just as he is.  If I had received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome with Charlie I wouldn’t have done anything different.  I never received a prenatal diagnosis with Charlie.  Instead, it was me who first saw that he had Down syndrome.  In the delivery room.  The moment my son was born and was put on my chest.

I don’t know if I am strong enough to do that again.

This is the part where I really feel the need to clarify myself.  I am 12 1/2 weeks pregnant with our third child.  This is our baby – no matter what.  No test result would ever change that.  But as a dear friend put it, I’m re-living a life trauma through this new pregnancy.  I know that sounds dramatic – but in all reality, discovering that your child has a developmental disability is traumatic, no matter how you slice it.  Sure I’m way past all of those initial emotions and shock, but it seems there was still a bit of fear waiting to make it’s appearance.  And to be honest I wasn’t happy about it.  I was angry – I’m not the sort of person who has “issues” (though in all reality, we all do.)  And when I did have an “issue,” I dealt with it and moved on.

Easy as pie right?

Sure until you start to re-live events connected to that initial trauma.  Ultrasounds.  Doctor’s appointments.  Odds.

Alex said it best “we can handle Down syndrome, I’m not worried about that.”  I’m not scared of Down syndrome either.  It seems to be the fear of not knowing, that is eating at me.  Trust me, I’m well aware that I can handle anything that this new life brings.  And no, it’s not thanks to my own superpower capabilities, but through His grace.  I am fully confident that through Him I can do anything.  Yet I continue to repeat this conversation – bargaining really – with the Lord.  It goes something like this:  “Haven’t I made my sacrifice?  Lord I have, and I will continue to give you all the glory through our days.  But Lord, please, please, I don’t want to do this again.”

This is beyond difficult to admit.

In the meantime I’ve settled into a baking frenzy.  Which has led me to the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever.  It reminds me of the month after we found out there was a “chance” Charlie could have Down syndrome.  At my OB appointment, the nurse looked at me with disapproval when the scale showed that I had gained 12 pounds in one month.  I was shocked and made them try every scale in the office (surely the first was broken!)  Nope.  Needless to say I cut back a bit on my cookie baking.  And while I haven’t been baking quite as much this time around, the memory made me smile.  In many ways my three pregnancies have been similar.  And in just as many ways they have been different – a blissful first pregnancy with Henry, a smooth pregnancy and very easy delivery with Charlie, while this time around I’ve had some intense nausea and actually heard the heart beat at 12-weeks.  (Today we had an appointment and heard the heartbeat which sounded “good and strong” – this was a first as my other two babies didn’t cooperate this early.)

I realize we don’t always know where life is going to take us, and as much as we want to feel in control we aren’t.  Admittedly, I’ve been wading through some pretty tough muck, but again – it is good.  I was raised to believe that these sort of experiences are good for “character building.”  Trust me, “getting” to buy your first car at 16 – a shiny used white Ford Tempo – will build character (among other things.)  So believe you me – I have plenty of character.

In the meantime I’m choosing to focus on these words:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

On that note I think some cookies are in order…

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11 thoughts on “The gray area

  1. I will say Libby, when I saw your other posts about your odds being just the same as any other women your age I questioned that because I was told about the 1 in 100 when I asked my OB and looked on the internet. And it bugs me too, if it’s random why are the odds so high? My OB could not answer this. But it’s so rare and I don’t think I’ve ever read of another case unless it’s the translocation kind. I’m not in your shoes and don’t know if I ever will be but just like the verse says- Be strong and corageous! I did some serious bargaining while we waited for our amnio results: “Lord we went through some tough times with Ainsley, please dont’ let something like this happen”. But I guess he had other plans. I truly believe everything is going to be fine Libby. You are in my prayers. And coming from someone who trys to be honest with my emotions and feelings, I admire you for posting about your fears, it’s okay to be a little scared, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have those thoughts.

  2. Libby,
    You are such a strong woman. You are such a fantastic writer and your entries are like watching a movie in my head. Its not hard to imagine that you are having some fear with this 3rd pregnancy. But what a blessing – being pregnant for the 3rd time! Now that is a gift!
    Oh, and even though I’m not pregnant, I can barely wait to test out these cookies. I just printed out the recipe and hope to make them tomorrow! :)
    Jodi

  3. In the best of circumstances, pregnancy can be filled with worry and apprehension. With what you’ve been through, it’s no wonder that post traumatic stress feelings are leaving you in a gray area. How to get past them? I’m not sure you can. You know first hand that things can turn out unexpectedly, with the odds not in your favor. I think you have to give full weight to your feelings and fears. And I think you have to decide what, if anything, you want to do to allay those. Sometimes just saying it out loud (or writing it) can help. Sometimes more definitive action is in order. Sometimes cookies really do help.
    I really appreciate your honesty. Your writing is beautiful.

  4. Dearest Libby, Reading your words is almost like listening to my own thoughts in a way…Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts. I can relate in so many ways (not pregnant with #2 yet…but feeling ready to grow our family soon-ish, so it’s been on my mind a lot).

    I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about “What if it happens again?” And I struggle, because my perspective has shifted so much since Viv’s birth. I wouldn’t change our Vivian in any way – to us, she is perfect; she is the perfect daughter for Vince and me. But I still long for a more typical experience: I long to have a happy leaving the hospital scene, with no NICU, no open heart surgery, no discovery after discovery of more health issues culminating in a genetic diagnosis and the day to day therapies, appointments and hearing aid boot camp!

    But I just have to trust in the story that God has written for us. Most of the time, I do.

    Peace and comfort as you wade through the grey area. Apologies for my novella-comment! But clearly your beautiful writing has struck a chord with me.
    love*hannah

    And I am so with you on the baking! Just for fun, here’s my go-to, all time favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe from Baking Bites blog:
    http://tinyurl.com/cyqmsj
    But I adore Smitten Kitchen’s recipes and will try your recommendation next time I bake!

  5. Libby, Your post made me cry because I can relate to what you’re saying. My husband and I really want another child too but I’m scared.

    I was brought back to the day our son was born while reading your heartfelt post and to those initial shocked feels. At that time everyone kept telling us that it’s normal to feel the way we were and I share those same senitments with you now. I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that your fears are normal.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers!

  6. libby,

    i made my way here via hannah & viv’s blog. i can relate to exactly what you’ve written. my 11 month old daughter is deaf, and right now, as i think about getting pregnant again (which has been the source of conversation lately…as i think about the possibility sometime in the near future), all i can think of is : but will our next baby fail the hearing screening again? will our baby be deaf? i love my daughter monrovia, and i believe she is a gift from God. but i also wonder, as hannah mentioned, what would it be like to have a baby and not go to multiple appointments every week? not to grieve the fact that she cannot hear my voice? to just have a typical labor, delivery, and postnatal experience. then i feel guilty because i am so so thankful for this child that i do have. she *is* a gift.

    thank you for sharing your heart.

    blessings, peace, rest, and good cookies to you…

  7. Libby, your words, thoughts, fears are also mine ever since 4-22-07 when they told me I had cancer. Ever time I have a “different” feeling in my body, bones and spirit. I too, know the Lord and know that he is with me and my family no matter if the cancer comes back or not. Through your writings, I think I finally know where the fog comes from and that is FEAR. I lift both of us (and our families, bless them for sticking with us) to the Lord today and ask that He give us the peace that only He can give us – let is remember to rest in Him –

  8. Libby, your fears are totally understandable. Thank you for being open with us and for sharing your feelings. It is reassuring to others to know that they are not alone in their own thoughts and fears.

    And thank you for all you do for the March of Dimes – working to help every baby have a healthy start.

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