I remember the night we did the home pregnancy test. I was at work and called my husband to ask him to pick up a test. He was so afraid of running into someone he knew as he was buying it that he drove about 30 minutes out of town to a drugstore. He was pretty sure it was going to be negative. Back in those days you were supposed to do the test first thing in the morning, so I got off work at 11:30pm and the plan was that we would watch a movie and the next morning I would do the test. But about half way through the movie I couldn't stand the suspense so we paused it and I went into the bathroom. Rick kept insisting it was going to be negative. So I waited the 5 minutes and read the test and called to Rick, "come here, you've got to see this." He called back, "I know it's negative." I said "just come see." So he walked in, looked at the stick, covered his mouth with both hands and just kept saying "oh my gosh" over and over. Then we hugged and we both started crying. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. We had been married a month at this point, we were in our early twenties, and the doctors had said that this could kill me. No big deal, right?
Our first appointment with the Dr. was pretty routine except that he said "okay, we can't wait until September to do these tests on your heart. We need to see where you're at risk wise so that we can terminate before it's too late if you're too high risk." I was stunned and said "I'm not getting rid of my baby, no matter what the tests show." So he said "Ok, then there's no rush and we can wait until September."
Pregnancy was like a dream come true for me. I loved every part of it. I loved even the parts that were unpleasant. I carried saltine crackers with me everywhere to combat constant nausea (as well as constant hunger). But as I would wake up and feel like throwing up I would think, "this is so cool that I get to go through morning sickness." My friend Martha was so excited with us and became an amazing support. One night we were working together when I was about 6 weeks pregnant. It was a slow night and she suggested that we try to find the baby's heartbeat with the doppler. She moved the doppler around for a few seconds and then this loud, steady, fast heartbeat filled the room. I started to laugh and the doppler bounced around and we lost the heartbeat. So she told me to calm down and hold still and she found it again and I giggled again. This cycle repeated for several minutes until we were both laughing with tears running down our faces. I had a real baby growing in me, my baby had a real heartbeat, this was really happening.
We had this underlying fear, knowing that things could go wrong because of my Marfan Syndrome and at the same time deciding that we were going to trust God, we were going to trust that this was His will for our family and we didn't have to be afraid. And it was really an uneventful pregnancy. My echocardiograms stayed good, my aorta didn't change at all during the pregnancy.
The scariest moment was the meeting with the anesthesiologist. Because of my risk factors the delivery would be high risk. I couldn't use the birthing suites, I needed an old fashioned delivery room. I would be induced, I would have an epidural from early on in labor so that I wouldn't feel the contractions and have my blood pressure go up in response to the pain, they probably wouldn't let me push much and I would need an arterial line to monitor blood pressure and blood gases and I should plan on 24 hours in ICU for monitoring after delivery. Scary stuff. But then the anesthesiologist started talking about the need for the full team in case I dissected and crashed during delivery etc etc. We left the meeting feeling like death was crouching around the corner waiting for me. Back to God we went, though. Trusting that He had brought us here.
So we watched and waited. I worked full time in labor and delivery as I developed stretch marks, and ligament pains, and varicose veins...and I rejoiced in all of it. Every part of the experience was such a huge blessing. We talked to our baby; we felt little movements, which turned into big rolling movements as the months went by. I was so sure we were having a boy and couldn't wait to meet him.
Finally, 9 months and 46 pounds later....on March 6th, 1991 we went in for our weekly check. Our doctor decided that my body was ready and told us to come back at 4pm when they would start the induction. We had about 5 hours to kill, we already had our bags in the car, so we went out to lunch and then shopping in Seattle. We both felt like kids on Christmas morning when your parents make you eat breakfast but you're too excited to eat because you know after breakfast you get to open presents. But it was fun to have the people in the shops ask when our baby was due and watch their eyes get big when we told them we were on our way to the hospital.
My friend Martha was our nurse throughout labor and delivery. Things went better than expected; I didn't need the arterial line, I didn't have to go to ICU afterward. And since I was all in for the experience, I was thrilled that there was a band around my belly where the epidural wouldn't work. I got to experience labor! I got to feel contractions and feel the need to push. At 2:49 pm on March 7th, 1991 we welcomed our baby into the world. They said "it's a girl!" And I asked them to look again, I was sure it was a boy! But they assured me that we had a daughter. A beautiful, perfect, healthy 7 pound 7 ounce baby girl. Her Daddy said she was "the most beautiful baby in the nursery," that even the nurses thought so, they hadn't said it directly but he could tell.
Our daughter will turn 19 in 2 weeks. People say that she looks just like me, only she's shorter; she doesn't have Marfan's. And in those 19 years, I don't think a day has gone by when I haven't been thankful for the incredible blessing it is to be her Mom. And I go back to our friend Martha, and the way God used her to bless us with our first child, our Kayla Grace.
Maybe that's the way that God wants us to live our lives. Not free from pain or hard things, but constantly aware of His presence and all of the blessings that we have every day. It's not a natural way to live, at least not for me. But I know that I cherished every moment, every experience because I was so aware of how close we had come to missing it all. There's a song by a Christian band, Salvador, and the chorus expresses that very thing. It says,
"Make me aware, make me see
Everything I am is not all about me
Take my world, turn it around
So that the obvious can finally be found
Make me aware
I have been missing so much
Not recognizing your touch
All acknowledging you’re the reason I’m even here"
That's what God did for us, He made us aware and He turned our world around. He kept me safe and He blesses us over and over again. I want to live in that knowledge.