I can hear cold, hard facts from a doctor without flinching, maybe even with a smile and a nod.
I can consider the losses represented by those cold, hard facts with a sense of sadness, still bounded by rational thought.
But when I allow my mind to wander to the hopes, dreams, and desires inherently crushed or denied by the losses suggested by the cold, hard facts, that’s when I lose it. That’s when weeping takes over, and I can no longer make sense of the facts, the losses, the how’s, or the why’s.
So to friends and acquaintances who may have run into me in public after our devastating ultrasound, I may have appeared aloof. I just couldn’t bear to face congratulations from people who just learned of our pregnancy, or to be asked about how I am doing (or worse yet, how the baby was doing).
So what was going on? My routine anatomy scan showed some concerning dilation in the ventricles in the baby’s brain (from cerebral fluid not draining properly). So once again—sinking flashback to first pregnancy—we traveled out of town for a level 2 ultrasound at a maternal fetal medicine center to find out more details.
Basically, this baby had nearly the same diagnosis—and prognosis—as our firstborn, Josiah. This baby’s ventricles are only mildly dilated, but the doctor did find a neural tube defect (Spina Bifida) in the same spinal region as Josiah had. And like Josiah, this baby’s kidneys were abnormal and probably not functioning (so again, I had low amniotic fluid). In addition, we later found out that due to the low amniotic fluid, our baby’s lungs were failing to develop properly, and would likely have difficulty breathing at birth. Given all these anomalies, survival was not expected, and stillbirth was likely.
How this happened to us AGAIN is bewildering. After our first pregnancy, we were told that having a child with Spina Bifida raised our chances of having another child with a neural tube defect from 1% to 4%. Only 4%, not a great concern. Then for the past year of trying again to conceive, I was faithfully taking the prescribed 4 mg of Folate to PREVENT neural tube defects. It made no sense.
Cold, Hard Facts to a Blazing Hot Furnace
Around that time, after that initial troubling ultrasound and while waiting for our consult with the maternal fetal medicine specialist, we traveled out of state for a family gathering. On our long drive home, Matt and I listened to an audiobook collection of sermons about suffering entitled When Life Isn’t Perfect. The one that spoke to me was about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. (If you are not familiar with this story, read Daniel 3.) They knew that their God was able to save them OUT of the furnace, but were thrown in anyway because they refused to bow to the golden image. Instead, in an even more glorious show of power, the Lord saved the men IN the furnace. They came out without a singed hair or the smell of smoke on their clothes.
Our baby’s diagnosis—two years after losing our firstborn—is a devastating blow to us. We are facing an incredibly hot furnace. We know our God is a healer and can choose to save us out of our furnace. But if He doesn’t, as with Josiah, we are confident that He WILL meet us in the MIDST of our furnace. This is our hope in the midst of our grief.