Miracle Monday: Believe For Life

The room was unremarkable, like most hospital rooms. There was my daughter, Mary, reclining on the bed, waiting for the nurse to do her ultrasound. The ultrasound machine was giving off its eerie glow in the dim light. A non-descript, mass-produced painting hung on the wall. I sat in the token guest chair, pushed into the corner. I had been to lots of ultrasounds and doctors’ appointments, even at this hospital, but there was something different about this one. Then, as the nurse squirted the gel onto Mary’s stomach, it dawned on me. It wasn’t déjà vu. I had been here before—in this exact room—twenty-three years before…..

I was so excited—the first look at my new baby. As with my other pregnancies, I knew there would be something magical in hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The nurse moved the probe around on my belly, and I couldn’t help but smile in anticipation. Any minute now, I thought. Any minute…. Then suddenly I could see the sac. It was peanut shaped, not round like my others had been, yet I believed it was still beautiful. After a few more moments, the nurse turned off the ultrasound machine, walked to the door, and said, “The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Wait. What? Why hadn’t she let me hear the heartbeat? I lay there in the dark, the paper on the bed crackling as I shifted my weight. The doctor walked in with somber steps. “We were unable to find the heartbeat,” he said.

The doctor went on to explain that I had what was called a blighted ovum, or anembryonic pregnancy. A blighted ovum occurs when a sperm and egg meet and attach to the uterine wall, but there is no life. It usually happens so early in pregnancy that a woman does not yet know she is pregnant. Cells form the pregnancy sac but not the embryo, and the placenta can continue to grow for a short time, which sustains a rise in pregnancy hormones even though there is no baby. Normally, a woman’s body would eventually miscarry, but mine hadn’t.
“Laura, you’ve lost your baby.” He stared at me meaningfully. “There’s no life inside the sac, and the sac itself is misshaped.”

I just stared back. Honestly, I didn’t believe him. I believed he believed what he was saying, but I had miscarried before and knew what it was to lose a baby. My body hadn’t miscarried this time, so I still had hope. I just knew my baby was alive.

“We are going to schedule you for a D&C.”
“No. I’m not going to do that.”
“You’ve lost the baby. You have to do this for your health.”
“No. I still have the baby. As long as there is life in my womb, I am not aborting.”
“This isn’t an abortion; it’s a D&C.” He was clearly annoyed.
“Well, it’s the same procedure, and it takes life out. If this baby does not pass naturally with miscarriage, I’m not forcing it.”
“You need to see a psychiatrist,” he said, none too nicely.

I thanked the medical staff and left the room. Then I made a follow-up prenatal appointment with the front desk. As I exited the hospital, I pushed open the door and looked up to the sky and said boldly, “God, you raised Lazarus from the dead! Breathe life into my baby!”

In my heart I recited Genesis 2:7 (KJV) “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
I went home thanking God for my child. Looking back on it, I’m a little surprised at my audacity in telling God what to do. But I suppose I would have done the same with my earthly father, and God is my heavenly Father.

Over the next four weeks, I continued to have doctors’ appointments. Though my pregnancy hormones continued to rise, they still could not find a heartbeat. The doctor, officially put out with me, persistently advocated for counseling and a D&C. With each successive appointment, the tension grew. The staff seemed convinced I would either succumb to infection any day or finally exhibit the symptoms of miscarriage.

From the outside, I probably did seem crazy. Even my friend gently suggested that I was just being stubborn and should listen to the doctor’s advice. It wasn’t that I inherently mistrusted doctors or refused to accept the reality of miscarriage or stillbirth. I had experienced it. I know it happens to many women, and I don’t want to lessen their pain or cast judgment on their unique situations. But even back then I maintained that God was the giver of life and that if this baby was not supposed to live, then I would miscarry.

This conviction allowed me to persist week after week, grimace after grimace, and face a doctor who thought I was being irresponsible by continuing my pregnancy. Then one day, there it was. Loud and clear. I heard my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. It was music to my ears. The doctor looked at me and said blandly, “I guess you were right.” “I know,” I said, smiling triumphantly.  We call that a ‘medical miracle".

Months passed, and I enjoyed a normal pregnancy. Around my seventh month, however, the ultrasound alarmed the doctor again. My baby girl’s head was too large and her femurs too short. They suspected dwarfism or another birth defect. My first response was, “That’s okay. I can love a small person.”

I was advised that I would need to validate the findings with a specialist at Alta Bates hospital to more accurately decide if I wanted to continue the pregnancy. Continue the pregnancy? Had they forgotten I was the woman who prevailed with a pregnancy that lacked a heartbeat for weeks? Now they were the crazy ones.

I was sent to Alta Bates, a premier hospital in Northern California known for its work with pregnancy abnormalities. Normally, to test for abnormalities and genetic disorders, one would undergo an amniocentesis. This is a process in which a hollow needle is inserted into the uterus to extract a sample of amniotic fluid. The medical staff felt that this procedure was too dangerous for me at my late stage of pregnancy and might send me into pre-term labor, so they performed an ultrasound and ruled out dwarfism. “There is more. You have a lot of excess fluid, and this indicates there will be brain damage. We can’t tell how severe, because we can’t perform the amniocentesis. You will just have to wait until the birth.”

I could do that. I wasn’t stunned. Everything about this pregnancy had been breathtakingly beautiful to me, and I knew it would continue to be even if this news wasn’t. I had seen God’s hand in this pregnancy, and I had full confidence in His handling of the situation. I prayed fervently that God would make her healthy, but I also knew that whatever He chose to do, He had chosen me to be her mother.

My daughter was born six and a half weeks premature. As confirmed, she was not a dwarf— in fact, she is my tallest child. She had no brain damage. She did suffer from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) related to her premature birth, for which she needed extra oxygen to help her breathing.

I remember staring at her caved-in chest. The doctor told me my daughter may not live through her first night, and I just smiled—this baby had already lived through so much. Once she was released from the NICU, I took this glorious girl—my hope held out for—home.

Now here I sat with Mary during her ultrasound, in the same room I had been in when they told me my pregnancy was over. Mary could not have understood the emotion going through me at the time, thinking about my previous experience in this place. She didn’t know that she, too, had been here before. She was the blighted ovum, the baby who wasn’t supposed to be.
There she was, healthy and happy, looking at an image of her own beautiful baby. I couldn’t contain it. I had to tell her. Though she knows the story of her birth, she had no idea we were in the same room where it all started.

If you remember nothing else from my story, remember this:  Babies are people.  Doctors are people.  But GOD is the Great Physician, and He has the final word on life and death.
My name is Laura Lynn Hughes, and this is just one of my miracle stories.

**You can read more of Laura's story in her book: 
"Choose Zoe - A Story of UnPlanned Parenthood and the Case for Life" 
at choosezoe.com or redarrowmedia.com**



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