It was about an hour or so after we got back from the ultrasound appointment on Friday that we got the call from the genetic counselor, telling us that they had detected the various abnormalities in our baby.
I thought I'd fill everyone in on how we've been doing since then.
Upon getting news like this, that the baby we're expecting is going to have deformities of some as-yet-unknown severity, the first tendency is to imagine all the terrible things that could happen. This tendency is exacerbated by our natural desires to look up any information we can, so we can see what we're dealing with. And if one googles "Single lateral ventricle" and starts looking around, one very quickly starts coming across the worst-case scenarios, which I'll not get into here.
So Friday was a bad day. We were rather numbed by the news. But we still had to function: one's own kids don't stop getting hungry just because one's in a funk over whatever-it-is that grownups worry about. So we told the two girls (the boy being too young to understand) that there is something wrong with the baby growing inside Mommy, and we don't know what's going to happen. And we called up the church, and both sets of grandparents, and a few others with an immediate need to know (like our wonderful sister-in-law, who agreed to look after the kids tomorrow while Tonya and I go in for more tests). But on the whole, we were still borrowing trouble from tomorrow--a whole lot of it--in direct contradiction to what Jesus told us to do.
Well, now it's two days later. The news has had a little time to sink in. And with that time and some reflection, things don't seem so bleak.
For one thing, I've noticed that I have shortened my time horizon, so to speak: I've been thinking a lot about what Jesus said, about not borrowing trouble from tomorrow, and trying to live it. And in fact this is what nearly every person I've known who's lived through a serious personal crisis has said: "I take it one day at a time." Right now, I don't have to worry about what will happen in May: I only have to worry about what's going to happen today. What do I have to do today to get me, and my family, through the day?
And for right now, the answer is, pretty much what I've already been doing.
Great! Problem fixed, for now. Of course, when May runs around, things are going to get more complicated. It's likely Tonya and I will have some tough decisions to make then as well. And we don't even know what May's problems will be yet! And yet, the way to approach May will be the same: What do I have to do today, to get me, and my family, through the day?
Now, I'm aware that this may sound awfully sanguine, now. Maybe it is. Maybe all this sounds, to someone who's actually experienced tragedy first-hand, like I'm completely unprepared for what's about to hit. And that may in fact be the case. Nevertheless, Tonya and I have, in the last two days, come to a point where we can function, where we can keep our family going, and that counts for something.
Especially given that it's Christmastime. For those families whose babies are not well, this can be an especially difficult time of year. Everyone is supposed to be so happy! And there are so many things to do! For those who are hurting, the desire is that the rest of the world would just shut up and go away. And it doesn't help that what is being celebrated this time of year is the birth of the perfect little baby. When the baby one carries is known to be carrying some kind of deformity, it can be heartrending to hear songs like,
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,Nevertheless--it's still helpful to have our other kids around, because they keep pulling us back into the present, where we belong. We went tonight to see a play my Church is hosting about the birth of Jesus, and my girls were particularly taken by the scene where the angel appeared to all the shepherds (who were played by several elementary-age kids). When the angel appeared, they all jumped in fright and hid. Our girls, upon getting home, started acting this out: one would jump out and say "Shalom!" and the other would scream, "AAAAAAAAAHHH!!" and start running around in terror. And then the angel would start running around after the shepherd, which only made the shepherd more afraid...
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head....
And Tonya is sitting here laughing just remembering the scene. It's pretty funny--especially when the shepherd was played by our six-year-old girl, and the angel was played by our hyperactive four-year-old.
And the humor has been helping too. We keep doing little things that break the tension. Even when we're practically trying to make ourselves mope about, we do little things that bring us back to the present. Tonya delivered another of her magnificent mixed metaphors the other morning, complaining about our lot in life being a "bowl of tears." I looked at her with a cocked eyebrow and repeated, "Bowl of tears?" And about the point that Tonya started giggling at herself, I couldn't resist the obvious conclusion: "Too bad it's not a vale of cherries, either." The resulting laughter by both of us was much needed.
Anyway, we've settled into something of an equilibrium, for the moment. We still worry ourselves when we think too hard about the future. And neither of us has any idea what tomorrow's trip to the perinatologist will bring. But on the other hand, we've both started to accept the fact that the worrying doesn't change a thing--it just makes us miserable. We already know what we need to do to get through life, at least in principle. So we've settled into a mood that--depending on your viewpoint--is either wise acceptance, or fatailism...
...possibly mixed with a little defiance. What, you say? We might have a special needs kid? It might wind up really, really expensive? We might have some tragedy in our lives in the near future?
There's a part of me that wants to say (in my most annoying teen-age impression I can manage): What-EV-uh.
There's something liberating in looking at fate, and being able to quote Khan from that Star Trek movie (who in turn was quoting Capt. Ahab from Moby Dick, but Khan said it better): "To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"
There. I feel much better.
Anyway, continue to pray for us.
P.S. In the spirit of grappling with fate from the last, and stabbing at it from Hell's heart, don't be surprised if I start blogging about mundane things again in the not-too-distant future. Remember, if you don't go on about your normal business, then the terrorists will have won....