THE SAMUEL SERIES 3: AMNIO
We expected to walk in, get our millionth ultrasound, and be comforted by their new perspective and relinquished concerns about our baby. Although I knew deep down (somewhere) that it wouldn’t work out that way, I was clinging to the rare possibility that my water bag would miraculously reseal. The doctors tread lightly on the subject in the conversations two weeks before, making sure to drive home the point that resealing was “very rare.” But, it was a chance and we were banking on it. Our assumptions and expectations were met with a very raw and sobering reality. It was a rude awakening. My water bag had broken two weeks prior at just 21 weeks after all, so how could we have assumed anything different?
The slew of admittance questions flooded the tiny triage room. It was like we had to relive the last two weeks all over again, when all we wanted to do was look forward, to keep our eyes fixed on the hope of what was to come. There was one question I didn’t want to answer. I was trying to reconcile the answer in my head, trying to figure out how I could somehow minimize or make light of the reality that was before us. “Are you still leaking fluid?”
There was no way around the truth of the matter. I could not somehow make light of it because making light of it would only put our baby in further danger. So, there I laid, wishing I could control the fluid, wanting to so badly make this all go away, wishing I could proclaim the victory of resealing, but the only word that burdened out of my mouth was, “yes.” It was bitter to speak and it was bitter to think about, that I couldn’t physically help our baby and my body. I couldn’t DO anything, this was the bitter reality and all I could do was fall in line with it, be married to the tragedy, feel the pain my heart felt. All I could do was lean into the words of the Father and trust that the pain I was feeling would be for His glory. So much easier said than done.
The ultrasound machine was rolled in. It was always something I looked forward to in previous pregnancies, but now it was different. That machine represented despair and something to fear. The screen used to always reveal life and movement and clarity, and now it revealed a lonely place where our baby was stuck, uncomfortable, dry and full of mystery. The screen was always where we focused, but then something new happened. The screen lost our attention and as the ultrasound tech put the wand on my tummy and she slid it over my right side, I flinched off the table. It had never felt like that before. I had had dozens of ultrasounds, and it never felt like that. I didn’t say anything at first, but the doctor (who later became our favorite doctor) saw my flinch and asked her to slide back over the area. Then I spoke. “Ow.” He said, “that hurts?” Again, I wanted to minimalize and said, “well it is not excruciating but it doesn’t feel like a pain I’ve ever had with ultrasound before.” He took the wand and slid again and again and again. And each time that same painful spot was unavoidable.
The lump in my heart suddenly bubbled up to my throat. The panic started to envelop both Steve and I as we tried to hold it together until we knew what all this assessment was revealing. And then, he spoke it, “we may need to do an Amnio.” He explained that it isn’t something they liked to do, but if the pain continued, it would be the next step to confirm or deny the pain I was having was potentially from infection. This was real, our baby was in real danger and it was not just us that saw it. The doctor looked at us and asked us, “do you want us to do everything to try and help save your baby?” His tone, his eyes, his clarity drove it home in that moment: that the resistance to the stay at the hospital, the longing to just go home, the denial that this couldn’t be happening should not be my perspective. This man, this doctor, this team, and our good God was reaching. They had their hands outstretched towards us, offering the blessing to hope for this bitter journey to turn to sweet. And that was the start of when we went from resistant to obsessively grateful.
The army of medical staff surrounded me, preparing for something, anything that was about to happen. No one knew yet. Would my pain continue, would my baby be born this day, at only the first day of viability? They did tell us two weeks prior that the risk of infection was very high, but was this how our baby would come into the world, this day? What a far cry from what our assumptions of this day and this time would look like. And after what seemed like only minutes (because time has no meaning in crises) but was actually a few hours, our doctor walked back in. He went straight to pressing on my right side, and again, it hurt. I wasn’t understanding too much about his concern with the pain, as it wasn’t that painful, but the concern was clearly enough for him to call his superior because it was time to make the decision. I was struggling to control the shaking that I had always battled in anxious times like these before. I always shook in times like these. And then she walked in.
She walked in with focus and stability in her eyes. She barely introduced herself and went straight to the point. She pressed her hands firmly, low on my belly, and what was felt only moments before to be painful, was now gone. It was gone. I made sure to look at my first doctor to communicate silently to have him remind her to check the right side of my tummy where the originating pain was, and he, being as awesome as he was, read my eyes, and directed her that way in a most gracious way. She felt everywhere, all over my tummy. But the pain was gone. She sat there with her hand low on my belly again, and stared across my body at the wall beyond the bed for a few moments, and broke the tense silence with “I am not convinced we need to do the Amnio. Let’s keep a close eye on her.”
Those words were like air slowly leaking out of a balloon, like the long exhale after holding my breath underneath the water. I looked at our first doctor and then Steve and the light in my eyes suddenly returned. The miracle that was just performed before our very eyes sent a shock wave through our being, and as Steve and I fell into each other’s arms, this verse echoed in our ears:
“Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10
I could see again. I could see my loving husband who was sitting there longing for hope, I could see the doctors surrounding the ultrasound machine and the attending doctor, just awaiting the news of what was next. I could feel the weight of the blankets warm me up and the shaking suddenly subside. And they rolled me back to the room. And in the room, I looked around and could finally appreciate where I was, and although the panic was still looming, God had just unleashed his miraculous hand over my pain, took it away, silenced it, made me new and in that moment, and again, I felt him hovering.
That was the first day of my stay in that room, 323. The day was long and drastic measures were taken to rule out infection and potential sepsis in my vulnerable body. The fluid around our baby was measured to be even lower than the last ultrasound, and that began the journey that would be ushered and covered and sustained by the King of Heaven. He ushered us into a place of safety, but the road that lead there was broken and shattered and dry. That day was day one of the 35 days I would spend in that room with the comforter, the deliverer, and the rescuer. That day was marked by panic and devastation, but that day was redeemed by the promise keeper.
iMAGES BY RITA COURY PHOTOGRAPHY / www.ritacouryphotography.com / (510) 599-6169