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The Anniversary of My Son
Sep 26, 2002

Today is the anniversary of the death of my only son.

We delayed having children when we were first married waiting for us to be better established in our careers and generally more "grown up" before starting a family. Then my husband was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, resulting him needing dialysis and then a kidney transplant. In unusual circumstances, his kidney transplant using a kidney donated by his brother failed. This was followed by a serious complications and a long hospitalization. Although we had been trying to get pregnant for a couple of years by this point, no pregnancy had resulted, and with his health issues following the failed transplant, I figured our chances of having children were slim to none. Just managing life on with him on dialysis was stressful enough.

Then a year after his release from the hospital, a kidney from a deceased donor was offered to him. A perfect match and a successful transplant! My hopes immediately turned to having a family. After a relatively short time, I saw a ob-gyn to make sure everything was okay and see if any infertility treatments were needed. He suggested waiting three months and then consulting a specialist. Because of a variety of factors, it was more like six months before the initial consultation visit could occur, but finally, we were working to have a child.

Infertility workup indicated a male factor problem, and some minor issues for me, but a reasonable chance that artificial insemination would help us conceive. After five unsuccessful attempts, we faced the difficult question of moving to invitro fertilization or giving up. After much soul searching, we decided to try IVF, only to discover I did not respond well to the ovarian stimulation and have our first attempt cancelled. At this point, I was very depressed, increasingly convinced that God did not intend for us to have children. Our second attempt, however, proved more successful and we were able to complete the IVF procedure.

I cannot express how I felt when my husband heard the news that we were finally pregnant. We were both so overcome with joy! He cried so hard trying to tell his mother we were pregnant that I was afraid she would panic thinking something was wrong.

Three weeks past until we scheduled for the first sonogram to check that the sac was properly placed and check for normal development. I was a bit nervous with the vaginal sonogram, as I had so many for checking for follicles, but none checking for a baby. But there it was a little blinking light, indicating a heartbeat. How wonderful! But something was wrong, my doctor wasn't as happy as he should be. He explained that the baby was measuring too small, only 6 weeks, instead 7 weeks, 1 day. We needed to come back next week for another check.

A week of waiting and praying and trying to trust God and not worry. Finally, the second ultrasound. Even more nervous than the last time, but there it was a blinking light. But I could tell immediately, something was wrong! The doctor took my husband and I into the conference room and explained the baby was still only measuring 6 weeks, 1 day instead of 8 weeks. It had only grown about 1 mm in six days. The doctor thought our chances of a good outcome were slim, probably a chromosonal problem. Did we want to end the pregnancy now or wait and see? I worked this hard to get pregnant to give up now, and my husband and I figured as long the heart still beats...

Two and a half weeks go by, before the next scan (doctor was out of town and we chose to wait for him to return rather than see someone else). Finally, the day comes. I haven't felt pregnant at all. I'm convinced that it's a missed miscarriage and there will be no heartbeat, and my usually optimistic husband isn't much better. We start the scan, and there it is a baby, a heartbeat. It doesn't have much detail, but the doctor can tell the head from the rump. He's measuring only 6 days too small, 9 weeks 5 days to the expected 10 weeks, 4 days. It's a miracle and God has answered my prayers. We are thrilled!

Discharged from the specialist, we seek out a ob care. Hoping a praying everything is okay now. Afterall, lots of women don't even have sonograms that early, probably happens more than we know. Five uneventful weeks pass. Then an opportunity presents to have a sonogram done to help the local crisis pregnancy center raise money for it's medical clinic. The event is scheduled and everything seems to be going perfectly. My little one is a huge hit with the audience, even sucking his thumb. But afterwards a perinatologist who was narrating the sonogram comes back and in response to my question, "Is my baby okay?" starts examining the baby more closely. Apparently the heartrate is too slow and irregular. He recommends getting an scan done at the hospital "sooner rather than later". It's the weekend so I decide this means Monday.

Monday morning, Oct 1, I call my midwife and request a scan explaing the circumstances. We've been monitoring the heartbeat with a home doppler all weekend, so I'm nervous but confident we're just documenting the problem for the perinatologist to review. Appointment is set for that afternoon.

The sonographer begins the scan, is taking the first few measurements, when suddenly she says "Oh, no. There's no heartbeat!" In that moment, my world stops. I can barely believe that it's true, but I see with my own eyes the baby is there, but it is still.

No movement, no heartbeat, nothing.

My miracle is gone. My baby has died! I manage to function, call a friend for support, get dressed, go to the midwife's office, arrange for my infertility specialist to do a D&C, and finally call my husband with the news. I feel so bad, as if I've let him down by not being able to carry our child. We call pastors and friends for support, finally telling our parents later that night. The next couple of days are difficult waiting for the D&C, grieving, but we do request that genetic testing of our child be done, hoping for an explanation. I also ask them to please make sure that the child's gender is determined. Physically, the D&C is easy, easier than some of the testing done to get pregnant, but emotionally the pain is nearly unbearable.

Having been delighted at being pregnant, we know we want to try again, and after all, now we found something that worked, right? So November, we start another IVF cycle. No success. Then February, still none. Finally, April. By this point, I am responding to treatment so poorly and so depressed by failure that it is clear that this is our last chance. No pregnancy!

I don't know why God has allowed this to happen to us. I don't know how he will use this awful circumstance in my life for good, but I know his promises are that all things work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes, and that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height not depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in the Messiah. I know that God did not have to allow me to be pregnant at all, and I believe that he did so only because we asked it of him, and that my son, who is with Him now, is a gift from God for me. That I know pain and suffering that may appear to outweigh the happiness from this chapter in my life, does not mean this pregnancy was not a blessing from him.

Today is my birthday, and it is the anniversary of the death of my son, but our son is still one of the best gifts (along with the love of God and a wonderful husband) I will ever receive.
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