Thursday, March 12, 2009


The phone call came around 7:00. I'm not sure why or how I remember that except that it was the first moment of what has become known as my new life. The message from my midwife came shortly after I had tentatively announced that you were a girl to the world via Facebook status. Her voice was different, and the strained way she had said "I need to speak with you," made my heart jump immediately into my throat. I knew there was something wrong, though as I dialed her number, hands shaking, I tried to convince myself that it was something else. It was not the ultrasound, it could not have been.

She answered quickly, too quickly, and her voice was gentle, soft, too soft. She took a breath and mentioned the ultrasound, asked if Jesse was home. My heart was beating out of my chest and I stumbled to tell her that no, I was alone.

"I don't have the best news," she said, and the words hit me like bricks, I can still hear them now as clearly as if she were speaking to me. In the seconds between my strained response of "okay" and her next words I prayed that she was just going to tell me that I had placenta previa or something equally benign that would simply mean I could not birth at home, with her. I even imagined my sigh of relief, telling her I had been so afraid she was going to say something was wrong with the baby.

She asked if I wanted to wait until Jesse was there to hear the news, probably imagining my reaction, wailing, screaming, who could know? But I could not possibly imagine hanging up the phone without knowing. And so, she began, gently breaking the news that would change my entire world, though I didn't know it at the time.

I was doubled over, elbows on my knees, staring at a spot in the carpet that I can still point out if someone asks. The ultrasound showed signs of spina bifida, did I know what that was? Yes. No. I had heard of it but I did not know what it was. She explained that it was a neural tube defect, that your spine had not closed properly. My head spun, imagining what on earth I could have done to cause this. I needed another ultrasound, I needed a specialist, I needed...

I needed my mom. I held it together through the rest of the conversation without crying, practically rushing her off the phone so I would not show her my weakness, even though I could have. The second I hung up, I crumpled, I fell apart, sliding off the bed and onto the floor. The phone slipped from my hand and my face contorted and the river of tears began their journey, rolling down my face and spilling onto the carpet, transforming me.

No. No, this was not happening. This was the subject of my worst nightmares, the sort of thing I worried about needlessly. These things did not happen to young, healthy people with no risk factors. In fact, this was not my baby they were talking about. It was not you. They had to have mixed up the paperwork. The ultrasound technician did not know what she was doing. She had to be mistaken. Not you. Not you.

I wailed. In the silence and solitude of my home, with no one to hear me, I wailed. I did not even know what was to come, and yet I cried, harder than I had ever cried. I was already lost. In the next week, I would learn more about your condition than I wanted to know, I would be faced with the worst decision I could possibly fathom, and I would make it. But at that time, I didn't know what was to come. Somewhere, I knew it was the end, the beginning of the end, but I had no idea, really.

So that Sunday night, I clung to every ounce of hope I could muster. I googled. I cried. I waited. All I could do was wait.

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