Today is January 7th. On January 7th, 2013, our whole world changed forever. What started out as an exciting day became the worst day of our lives.
It was a Monday and we were going that afternoon to have our big 20 week ultrasound and find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. I worked part of the day, and Tommy had taken the day off. I got up early and headed out the door for work right about the time Jack woke up. Tommy got Jack ready and took him to preschool that day. As soon as I left the house I felt sick, and as soon as I pulled into a parking spot at work I opened my car door and threw up. [And since I was 20 weeks pregnant and I throw up hard, I also peed my pants.] Not an awesome start to a work day, but I wasn’t going to let it get me down. We were going to see our baby in a few hours.
I’m sure my patients didn’t appreciate any smells I brought into their rooms that day, but I got my work done and headed out about 2:45. Tommy picked Jack up at preschool and got him down for his nap. My brother came over to watch Jack while we went to the appointment. So I ran home to meet Tommy, get Bradley set to watch Jack, and change clothes and brush my teeth! Tommy and I took off for the doctor’s office.
Usually I went to the group’s office downtown at the hospital, but for this appointment I had scheduled it at their office out west since I would be working that day. Tommy and I talked about life and about all of those exciting baby-dreaming things you talk about. The sonographer called me back and gave me a cup for my urine sample. While I was in the bathroom I realized that I hadn’t much prayed for this day or this appointment, and on my way out the bathroom door I felt it strongly pressed upon my heart to just say “His will be done”. Which I’m not sure I’ve ever said before in my life. And looking back on it, it’s pretty wild.
I headed into the ultrasound room where Tommy and the sonographer were waiting on me, and we got started. What had started out chatty, quickly became just Tommy and I talking, and then just quiet. There was nothing casual or exciting about her tone, and I just thought she wasn’t a friendly person. Everything looked the same to me – just stuff I couldn’t identify. She told us we were having a boy – that was the only thing I could identify. And after 20 – 25 minutes, she said we were done. Then she said she had some concerns and would show them to the doctor and he would talk to us about it. So she took us out to the waiting room and said he would call us back.
We waited for what seemed like forever. I remember telling Tommy that she really should have specified her level of concerns. We were talking missing hand – cause I could totally handle that. He laughed and agreed. I don’t think either of us could have imagined how bad it would really be. So we talked about mindless stuff – just talking to keep our minds from wondering what was going on. I was so nervous.
Finally, a nurse called us back. She got my weight and blood pressure – like any of that really mattered. And she said the doctor would be right in. We went to a big group where you rotate which doctors you see, so I had never seen this doctor before. He was rattled. Tommy and I learned last January that you never want to be the one who rattles doctors. It doesn’t bode well. He walked in the room and said there was no easy way to say this, but they saw problems with our baby’s brain, heart, and stomach and thought there were signs consistent with down syndrome. I asked him how bad it was, and he said we should consider terminating. He had a specific name for the heart defect the sonographer thought she saw, and Tommy memorized it so we could look it up. The doctor told us we would go see the specialists and they would know more. We went out to the front desk and the nice ladies there commented on how beautiful our baby was in the ultrasound pictures we had. And they were still working on making our appointment. They finished and gave us the instructions for where the Perinatal Center was and to be there at 1:30 the next day.
We walked out the door and just both started crying. We stood by the elevators and cried for a few minutes before going down. We got in the car and cried some more. I remember needing Tommy to help me walk out of there. I just leaned on him and walked and cried. He drove us home. I can’t remember much of what we talked about or how much we actually talked. I just remember feeling helpless. Our best case scenario at this point was a baby with Down Syndrome with a repairable heart defect. And we prayed hard for that over the next 18 hours.
That night was a blur as we waited for our appointment the next day. I remember us looking to the Bible for hope, I remember us praying for the best case scenario but also the ability to accept the worst. And I remember the life of this sweet baby becoming so incredibly important to me that day. We hadn’t talked about a name for him yet, so we sat down that night and picked out a name for him that would be as full of meaning as his life was of purpose. And that was how we settled on Gabriel.
It’s hard for me to believe that we have now lived a full year of not a normal life. It’s also really precious for me to look back on the time between January and May of last year when Gabriel was with us. His life was precious and it’s so special to remember all of those moments we had with him.
I’ve never shared all of these details about January 7th before. It’s a day that has changed my life forever, and it is certainly one of the worst days of my life. But it doesn’t take away my hope. It was the hardest day of my life up to that point, but we survived it. God brought us through that day and all of the days to follow. I wanted to share about that day one year ago because I know that some of you know exactly how that day feels. I know you’ve lived your own version of it, and you have your story of your worst, shocking day to carry with you, too. And I want you to know that you aren’t alone. You are loved. And I pray that you will carry that day as part of your beautiful story. And for those who are walking this walk now, know it will get better. It will never go away [and I’m thankful for that], but it will get better. One day, you too, will be able to share your story while missing and remembering your loved one. Or maybe celebrating their life and their healing. And for those to come, know that your story is unique and precious, but that others have walked this before you and you will get through it, too. And know that you can find help here.
Today we remember our sweet, precious boy, and celebrate a life that changed ours forever. A life who shared about grace and love and blessings and God’s purpose. We will always love and always miss our precious G.