I was in my twenty-eighth week of pregnancy. As I lay down on the examination bed, Billy picked up our two-year-old Bright Girl and sat on a stool next to me. We were excited to to watch the ultrasound on the big screen T.V. on the wall. To see how the baby was doing, and if we would be naming our little one Luke or Natalie.
The ultrasound tech squeezed the warm, goopy gel all over my swolen belly. Our baby suddenly appeared in black and white on the ultrasound screen. As our little one moved about in my womb, the technician did all her routine measurements.
Baby Griese, 2003
The outline of our baby’s profile appeared on the monitor, and we could even see its little heart beating. Its legs were crossed, which made it impossible to determine the sex.
The technician spent a long time looking at the screen with her eyes fixed on the baby’s back. Her lips were sealed into one flat line. She then excused herself and came back with my obstetrician, Dr. G.
He used the ultrasound equipment to examine the baby and then asked us to join him in his office.
I couldn’t understand what was happening. We just came in for a routine exam and were hoping we could tell the sex of our baby.
Dr. G directed us to his dark brown leather arm chairs. “Have a seat.”
The chair was cold against my skin, which made it difficult to relax. I kept fidgeting in the chair and my thoughts were anything but calm. Why didn’t the ultrasound tech talk to us? Why does the doctor want to talk to us in his office? Then it dawned on me. Is there something wrong with our baby?
Oh, God. Please, no.
Oh, God. Please, no.
The doctor told us that he could not find the baby’s kidneys; that it looked like the baby didn’t have any kidneys. He handed us a paper with directions to another doctor office. "I'm sending you over to a high-risk obstetrician today , to confirm the diagnosis."
I didn’t know what to do. I felt numb and overwhelmed at the same time. I couldn’t seem to think. Billy drove us to the specialist’s office and left me there. He dropped Bright Girl off with a babysitter and tried to hurry back.
The wait was long. The other women in the office avoided eye contact and looked anxious and sad. I wondered if there was something wrong with their babies, too.
Billy arrived back just as my name was called. We were led into another ultrasound room. Dr. C, the high-risk obstetrician, scanned the baby with even higher resolution equipment, and then asked us to talk with him in his office.
The room was freezing. My teeth started to chatter, so Billy held me close to keep me warm.
Dr. C began by asking us a question, “Do you pray?” We both nodded.
“Well, then, you need to start praying. Your baby has bilateral renal agenesis, meaning, it has no kidneys." He shook his head. "And that’s not compatible with life.”
I sat there, stunned. Not compatible with life? My baby is going to die? How? When? Why?
Billy blurted out what I was thinking, “Are you positive our child has no kidneys?”
“There’s a 75% chance that your baby has no kidneys,” he replied.
We thought there might be a chance the diagnosis was wrong and asked if there was any way to know for sure. The doctor said that we could try getting an MRI, but it may not be conclusive, either. We wanted to give it a try anyway and scheduled an appointment for the MRI.
We left the office without saying a word. The whole world seemed to darken before me.
As we headed to the car, each arduous step was an effort against the weight of my own body that wanted to buckle beneath me. I gazed down at the ground, taking one step at a time.
Billy dialed the babysitter on his cell phone. She said to take more time and get some lunch. We went to an Italian restaurant, but couldn’t make it through the front door.
I don’t remember who started crying first, but we both sat outside on a bench weeping and holding each other. I could sense people walking past us, probably wondering why we were so upset. We sat there, unable to move, not wanting to eat, and wishing that this day had never happened.
It was as if the earth and sky closed in around me and wrapped me in a cocoon of fear and grief. Yet, within the coccoon, the shield of faith kept me from being crushed. All at once, the promises of God were being tested, and they were holding up under the weight of the world as I embarked on this journey of loss.
The Lord is my pilot, I shall not drift,
He lighteth me across the dark waters;
He steereth me in the deep channels,
He keepeth my log.
He guideth me by the star of holiness
For His namesake.
Yea, though I sail mid the thunder and tempest of life,
I shall dread not danger, for thou art near me.
Thy love and thy care, they shelter me.
Thou anointest my lamp with oil, my ship rideth calmly.
Thou preparest a harbor for me in the homeland of eternity.
Surely sunlight and starlight will favor me on the voyage I take,
And I will rest in the port of my God forever.
From “The Sailor’s Psalm,” by Captain J.H. Roberts (1874)