Today, April 25th, I am 20 weeks pregnant. I’ve officially reached 5 months, and I can’t tell you what a huge milestone this is for me. To have made it this far and for my sweet baby girl to be healthy and well, I don’t take that for granted in the least bit. When I was pregnant with my daughter Hannah Grace, she was diagnosed at 11 weeks, 6 days with a fatal neural tube defect. We knew from the time I was 3 months pregnant that she would either not live to term or she would not survive for long after birth. So naturally, when I found out in early January of this year that I was pregnant again, I had such a whirlwind mix of emotions.
The first emotion was pure joy, and as I showed my husband the positive pregnancy test I just laughed hysterically. I couldn’t help it! After four years of infertility before becoming pregnant with our Hannah, all I could do was laugh that after only one month of trying we were pregnant for the second time. Only God, y’all! Only He can do that!! Soon after the joy arrived, though, fear set in. It started off as anxiety as I was still processing the shock of being pregnant again. Then, after a couple of weeks, once it really set in, sheer fear began to consume me. I was so fearful that we were going to lose this baby. I knew the chances of her having the condition that Hannah had was so rare. But the very real possibility of miscarriage plagued my mind. It’s so common and with my history of infertility, I knew that I was at a higher risk. I hoped that my fear wasn’t the result of a lack of faith and doubting God but was the result of an ultra-realistic view that made me temper all my excitement.
The fear of her being diagnosed with some other fatal diagnosis also weighed on me. I went into each doctor’s appointment having already thought through all the possibilities of what the ultrasound could show and what I might hear my doctor say. “No heartbeat.” “Baby isn’t growing.” “There’s an empty sac.” “Baby looks totally fine.” I didn’t want to be shocked if the doctor said something horrible so I prepared myself to hear anything and everything. Since we were completely shocked when we received Hannah’s diagnosis, I was determined that this pregnancy I would think through every possibility before each appointment so that I wouldn’t be surprised this time. A few weeks after my first scan, a round of bloodwork revealed that every screening my doctor ordered came back negative. Then I had my scan at 12 weeks, 6 days, and again, baby looked completely healthy. I finally reached the end of my first trimester and took a deep breath. I started feeling baby flutters. I went to my next doctor’s appointment, heard baby’s heartbeat, then more bloodwork ordered to screen for open neural tube defects. Negative. Next doctor’s appointment, heard baby’s heartbeat. Perfect. She was totally healthy. I was feeling full-on kicks at this point.
Weeks of nothing but good news and positive signs. But could I actually let myself get excited? The constant state of fear had definitely lowered and backed down. I was feeling more hopeful and not as anxious that at any minute I would go to the restroom and discover that I was miscarrying. I was breathing easier and my walk was lighter.
But could I let myself get excited? And if I did get excited, was it dishonoring to my daughter who we lost? By rejoicing and celebrating over my healthy baby, was I inadvertently not celebrating my cherished Hannah who we knew from early on was not a healthy baby? Was I unintentionally putting more value on this baby by being thankful for her health so far? These may sound like silly questions, but they were and still have been part of my processing for months now. Mace and I have had many conversations discussing how both of us have had to process through these questions. We know that our hearts will always love Hannah, and she has a special place in our hearts that no other person or thing will ever be able to have. It’s her sacred place, and we rejoice and celebrate over her and try to honor her in how we speak of her to others.
And yet, we have felt guilty at times that we have a healthy baby, and we think how we would never want Hannah to think that she is being replaced. That is absolutely and unquestionably impossible. All of these thoughts, all of the processing…and through it all, God reminding me that He has got our baby girl in His hands, just like He had and has our Hannah. My wild imagination may have led me to some dark, terror-stricken places, but God’s Light shone into the darkness to remind me of the truth.
So now here we are. 20 weeks pregnant with my big anatomy scan coming up on Monday. There’s no reason to suspect that anything is wrong with our baby, but I would be lying if I wasn’t feeling some anxiety over what could be revealed during the scan. So the same question comes up again-can I actually get excited now, finally? A week ago, Mace and I finally turned a corner. We had celebrated Hannah’s First Birthday the week prior and for the first time in several weeks felt like we were coming out of a funk. I was at my doctor’s office and decided to read a pregnancy magazine. Flipping through and reading page after page, I started to dream about what it would be like to take this baby girl home, to have a nursery prepared for her, to nurse her, to have a newborn sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed, to see how much our son loves to play with and comfort his newborn sister. I allowed my imagination to go there, to the delivery room, giving birth to my second daughter and enjoying those precious moments. I allowed myself to get excited. I allowed myself to dream. I texted Mace and told him how for the first time during this pregnancy I was dreaming about what life will be like with this baby girl. We talked that night and shared how both of us had finally reached a place where we were letting our minds go there. It’s foreign to us. Since last Tuesday, I’ve been tiptoeing timidly into those imaginative moments, afraid that if I step too heavily, they won’t come to pass. I’m hesitant to fully stay in that dreamy state and quickly pull myself out when doubt and fear creeps back in.
This new territory is scary, but I’m so grateful that I’m finally letting myself go there. It’s like a room of dreams that I had completely locked shut, with no way in, and I was the one holding the key. But now, because of God’s sweetness and reassurance, I’ve placed the key in the lock, turned the handle, opened the door, and tiptoed across the threshold. I don’t dare go too far in, but for now, I will stay close to the door so that I can quickly back out when needed. There’s security in entering slowly and cautiously. But for me, just entering and peeking around a bit, too scared to run full-speed ahead, has taken a lot of courage and faith. And I’m so glad that my God meets me right where I am, holds my hand, and beckons me to stay close to Him with each step I take as I allow myself to cautiously enter this room and begin dreaming.
Pressing on in faith, Jennifer