Friday, January 27, 2006

Doctors Don't Know Everything!

Well, here's another pregnancy story--but this one has a happy outcome with the birth of my now-almost-8-year-old son. Until the 7th month, I didn't dare imagine that we might make it to birth; though I wasn't really anxious, I wasn't optimistic. Then I had a dream that was much like the actual birth. From that point I allowed myself to get rather excited about it--and when he was born, I felt such a rush of delight that I could not contain it. The doctor was amazed at my outburst of happy whoops, but she wasn't inside my head all that time and didn't experience the things I had first-hand.

When I first got the positive home pregnancy test, I started trying to find a pro-life, high-risk ob-gyn to help me. I needed pro-life because I wanted someone who valued life as any doctor should; the high-risk because of my previous troubles and my age; I was 37. It wasn't easy to get much information on the doctor's stand on life. I called a number of offices and when I asked if the doctor was pro-life, I almost always got an icy and/or vague response from the receptionist. I was under the strong impression that the doctor I chose fell into the pro-life category; I don't remember exactly what convinced me. I went for my first visit, and she had me undergo an ultra-sound. At this point I only felt assured, as at 6 weeks I saw a healthy heartbeat and I was given no bad news by the technician.
We had been meaning to go to Yellowstone for a long time; since Gary was going to a trade show in Coeur d'Alene, we headed off in that direction and were planning to go straight from the trade show on our trip. I had every aspect of the trip planned out. We were so excited!
The last day of the trade show came. We would be gone in another hour, but we got a phone call in our room. It was Gary's brother Dave. He had tracked us down and was calling to tell us that Gary's mom, who was deeply affected by Alzheimer's, had fallen and broken her hip just after a long surgery to fix it when it had been broken shortly before. She was fading fast and we were wanted in Portland. So we cancelled our reservations, finished packing and left for Portland, but she was gone before we got there.
From the motel room there, I called my doctor because I'd been bleeding. I could immediately hear the alarm in her voice, but not entirely from what I was telling her. "I've been trying to get hold of you! Where are you?" I told her we were in Portland. She said, "Good. You need to go right away and get a good-quality ultrasound. It looks like you have what is called a cornual pregnancy, and you could bleed to death. I think I'm going to have to ask you to terminate this pregnancy."
I was devastated. I could not do such a thing; I'd been pro-life since shortly after becoming a Christian. I'd researched the development of the unborn in detail and knew that it wasn't just a "mass of tissue" and that unlike what women are told, the unborn do feel pain. I knew that from the first cell the unborn is identifiably human. Also the development was happening fast and what didn't originally look visibly human at a glance was quickly becoming distinctly so. But I could bleed to death! It didn't matter if they had to hang me upside down to make it last, I had to hang on to this pregnancy.
I went for the requested ultrasound. At the same time, Gary's dad was at the same hospital discussing some of the details of his wife's death. It was something of an encouragement to him that while one family member had died, one was just beginning a new life. This ultrasound, however, didn't reveal anything conclusive except that it had started as a twin pregnancy, but one wasn't developing. With this news I didn't react as much as I would have expected--at least there was one that was viable. I had grieved over previous losses and I was going to rejoice in this pregnancy while there was life in it!
At home my doctor told me to stay on bed rest until they did another ultrasound, but that wasn't for another couple of weeks. During that time, I regularly read Psalm 139, the one with "You hem me in--behind and before" which then spoke to me of His boundaries that He has set for those who trust in Him; also, more famously, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Significantly, it also says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast." Nothing I would do would be hidden from His loving and watchful eye. Even now, to read this Psalm is like visiting an old friend. The funny thing was that when I was reading it, I could easily flip a chunk of pages to the right and turn to Isaiah 45:19, which appeared almost like it had neon lights around it: "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek Me in vain.' I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right." When I go to that old Bible, and go to Psalm 139, Isaiah 45 is still the easiest page to flip to from there. The message I heard from it was that God doesn't speak to hear His head rattle. He makes His promises, His story, His proclamation of love for us with purpose and in truth. He wants us to take Him at His word. When I pondered the unthinkable possibility of "terminating the pregnancy" as my doctor suggested, my stomach would wrench. When I thought of not doing it for any reason, I was at peace.
We had a friend who had in previous times discussed pro-life issues with me, and it was clear she thought I was a bit extreme. At this time, she said, "I guess this makes you re-think your stand on abortion." I said, "If anything, it makes me surer of my stand." It wasn't that hard to choose the only side that gave peace.
The next ultrasound revealed that the position of the placenta was no trouble after all. They didn't know why I was bleeding, and that problem continued throughout the pregnancy, without effect. I had gone to this ultrasound alone, and to my surprise, when I got to the car, my knees nearly went out from under me. It's the only time I've ever experienced that. I didn't realize how much I was affected by the whole ordeal until then.
This pregnancy was my son Tim. With the previous pregnancy losses combined with the bleeding, no one felt sure that he would make it to birth. When his birth was announced at church, I gather that the whole congregation applauded. They had been praying for us the whole way through.
Now sometimes when I look at Tim, I marvel at how easily the doctor said to "terminate" him. Easy for her to say! I am thankful that we didn't panic and take that route. We never would have known the great potential of the birth of this healthy boy. He's almost 8 now, full of mischief, and I can't imagine life never having heard his voice or suffered his pranks. I guess he had to cause mischief before birth as well; had to develop his own m.o. early in life. It has occurred to me that perhaps Satan opposed Tim's birth because of some great thing he might do later in life to glorify God. That is what I hang onto--suffering all this mischief, before birth and since, will be worth the end result if Tim grows up to glorify the God who made his own life's value known to us!

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