I have been blessed with four amazing daughters, currently 11, 10, 8, and 3 years old. But in my heart, it still felt like there was one soul missing from our family. Ray and I had recently made a lot of big life changes, and adding a new baby on top of everything else didn’t necessarily make the most practical sense. But we weren’t closing that door. We wanted to leave it in God’s hands.
So I’d pray.
If we were meant to stay a family of six, remove this longing from me. But if it was in God’s will, let us have one more baby. And if it was a boy, let having a son be a catalyst to strengthen my husband in his faith – and let my son’s life be in service to the Lord.
And He answered.
Boy, did He answer… Just not in a way that I could have ever anticipated.
Just after Thanksgiving 2022, Ray picked up a pregnancy test for me to pee on. (I think he’s always been able to tell when I’m showing symptoms before I could.) Those two lines appeared almost instantly! We were thrilled, the girls were thrilled – especially Hope, our 3-year-old who had been praying for a baby brother.
Figuring I wasn’t too far along, I was planning to wait until after the holidays to start getting set up with an OBGYN. We were still new to the country life in small rural Texas, and just the thought of driving an hour into town for all the prenatal appointments felt exhausting. I’d already had four easy pregnancies, and other than horrible morning sickness, I felt great.
I started seeing the OBGYN at about 13 weeks, and everything was right on track. My youngest, Hope, came with me to every appointment. She loved telling everyone that she was going to be a BIG sister. We listened to a healthy heartbeat. We saw a little gummy bear dancing on the monitor during the 16-week ultrasound. Everything was going perfect. Everything seemed just like my other pregnancies.
The 20-week ultrasound
Our first indication of anything concerning was at my 20-week ultrasound. This is when they do a detailed anatomy scan that measures the baby’s size and take a look at everything from the baby’s heart, brain, major organs, down to their little fingers and toes. This is also when a lot of parents can learn the baby’s gender, but we were planning to wait until he or she was born. The sonographer kept a cheerful tone the whole time, making small talk about what gender I thought baby was. (I didn’t have a guess, but Hope had always been sure that she was having a baby brother named “Teddy.”) But the scan seemed to take longer than I had remembered in the past. And as it was wrapping up, the sonographer was scribbling something down on my chart.
When I met with my doctor to review the scan, she told me some things that they noticed, but tempered each with a reasonable justification:
- BABY’S SIZE – The doctor told me that from their estimates, the baby was coming in at only about the 3rd percentile… but maybe we just weren’t into a growth spurt yet, so I should just try adding more protein to my diet.
- BABY’S HEART – The sonographer wasn’t able to get a good view of the right side of the heart… but this was probably due to the baby’s position during the scan. There also appeared to be bright spots on the heart called echogenic intracardiac foci (EIF). The doctor told me that Google would say that they’re a soft marker for Down syndrome, but not to worry because they’re usually a normal variant and since everything else looked normal she was pretty sure my baby didn’t have that condition.
- ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE – “Geriatric pregnancy.” “Elderly Gravida.” “Advanced Maternal Age.” Get pregnant after 35 years old and you’ll get slapped with all these lovely terms before you can say “Kelly Clarkson!” I’m 36 now, and this was a wake-up call to me that I’m considered an old mom. I don’t feel old, anyway. But I do understand that there are more risks associated with advanced age. The doctor, who by the way is probably 27 years old, never made a big point of my age until now, since it was a contributing factor to consider.
Although she did her best to downplay these things, I was referred out to a high-risk pregnancy clinic for a more detailed ultrasound. I called Ray at work to let him know. We still didn’t think there was anything to necessarily be concerned about, but I asked him to accompany me to all my future appointments. Him getting time away from work isn’t something I’ve ever taken for granted. But this was important.
“Be strong and courageous.”
The high-risk appointment was set for the morning of March 17, 2023. Early that morning I was reading the Bible, and had just started the book of Joshua. (Side note: I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, but last year I decided to buckle down and begin reading the whole thing.) The sixth book in the Old Testament is about Joshua, the appointed successor to Moses, trusting God about finally leading the Israelites into the Promised Land of Canaan, which was currently inhabited by some major baddies. As Joshua was feeling the weight of the task before him, the Lord offered these words of encouragement:
I left the house with those words ringing in my mind, not knowing until later that they were a message that God purposely had me read that day.
Ray and I took Hope along with us, and let our older daughters stay at home with my in-laws. The clinic’s sonographer was foreign and spoke minimal English. When she was doing the ultrasound, I had tried to let her know that we wanted to keep the baby’s gender a surprise. I don’t think she understood, so I kept making sure Ray wouldn’t peek when anything got close to the bum. But the sonographer was paying a lot more attention to the baby’s head and heart. Lots of measurements. Lots of acronyms saved on the screen. To me, everything looked normal. Ray fell asleep in his chair out of boredom. Still, even though the sonographer never said a word, I was beginning to sense that something was wrong.
After she wiped the ultrasound goop off my belly, we were ushered into a waiting room with only a big desk, three chairs, and a readied box of tissues. Hope was giggly and excited to think we were nearly done. Ray was cracking jokes. And I was trying to convince myself that I was just overanalyzing things. Then the clinic’s receptionist came in with a tablet showing a doctor on Zoom.
It was an emergency situation. She wanted to discuss the ultrasound immediately.
I don’t know if this is anything you can relate to, but the next few minutes felt like a complete out-of-body experience. Almost like I was living someone else’s life. This stuff wasn’t supposed to happen to me.
The doctor told us that she wasn’t going to sugar coat anything. (Hence the box of tissues.) The scan didn’t look good. There was a portion of the baby’s brain that appeared to be missing… had we heard of such and such medical term… serious heart defect… unsymmetrical growth, restricted… advanced age… higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities…
When the words started to register, I just started crying. I was holding Ray’s hand during the torrent of medical terminologies and presumptions. Hope was sitting on my lap the whole time, and when I started breaking she started drawing five-finger breathing lines on my hand. My sweet three-year-old was reminding me to calm down. She knew I needed that; and honestly, I think she knew that God would make this all okay.
Ray and I told the doctor that no matter what we were going to fight for this baby.
The doctor suggested that we get a non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) to screen for genetic abnormalities, so that was our next step. Also a follow-up echocardiogram was scheduled for the next week. We ended the Zoom call and we were alone in that cold room.
Except, we weren’t alone. God was there.
Joshua 1:9 became my battle cry. I had to be strong and courageous. I had to let go of my fears. I had to trust that even though I didn’t know what God was doing, I knew He had a plan. And He would always be with us.
Ray looked me straight in the eye and told me that he believed God wanted to use this situation to reveal His glory to us. He rebuked the prognosis and the scan’s findings in the Name of Jesus. Then the three of us held hands and prayed.
Before we left the clinic, I told Ray that I wanted to learn if our baby was a boy or a girl. I wanted to know more about who we were fighting for. Ray stepped out for a minute to find the nurse, then came back to report that it’s a boy. Our first son. I broke down in another round of tears. Raw, overwhelmed, joyously emotional tears.