"We completely agree, we don't want any surprises... so the first sign of the gender feel free to just shout it out!” I say this with the utmost excitement as we both chuckle a little to ourselves.
"Just let me complete the scan and then we can discuss," is the underwhelming reply we received.
The ultrasound technician must have had a long day, I think to myself. I sense from his sharp and less-than-gleeful response that maybe our first-time-parents-to-be ecstasy is a novelty all but loss on him after a life time of shift work/tummy scanning hormonally high women like myself.
Come to think of it, clutching J's hand and thinking about something as trivial as the gender of our unborn baby is the last memory I have of being blissfully unaware and joyous in my pregnant body.
Upon further reflection, who gives a fuck about gender?
The moments to follow the completion of our 21st week scan are the beginning of a nightmare that haunts me to this day.
The technician asked us if we knew what spina bifida was and left the room promptly to see whether or not there was a specialist on hand that could counsel us immediately. Confused and in shock, I attempted to use my very best WebMD skills to explain to J what it meant. I burst into tears after explaining that it could mean our child most likely would never walk.
The appointments with a special team of fetal medical doctors (including a neurologist) revealed that the inability to walk would have been one of the many complications facing our unborn baby boy caused by this particular birth defect.
A lifetime of medical procedures and morbidity was highly likely. Quality of life was not guaranteed.The love for our unborn creation was so incredibly strong that we searched for a sign that would never come... until our time ran out. Faced with an impossible choice, we chose. If you can call it a choice at all. Like so many others, I am now a childless mother.
I’m not sure I can talk about the shame I feel, because it’s the kind of shame that makes you want to die. You hate yourself for wanting to die because you know you’re giving into the antithesis of everything you believe to be true at your core. No mother wants to kill their child. It’s very unnatural, physically and mentally. The minute conception happens you feed the baby first. Your body is designed to biologically put the baby first. The life inside of you becomes first.
And so I write to all of you, out there in the world who like I, have had the privilege to have birthed a child too precious to let anyone else hold. I share with you your heart break, your guilt, your shame, your strength, your great love... and above all else your hope.
At 27, I learned two of the biggest lessons of my adult life; nothing is ever promised and life itself is such a miracle.