Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reproduction: it's not for the faint of heart

Fair warning: If you don't want to listen to my whining, just skip this one.

Ok, so seriously, some people make this baby thing look so easy. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones who - oops - get pregnant with a honeymoon baby and then quit their jobs and become cloth diapering, organic homemade baby food making, scrapbooking Babywise aficianados...and then continue popping another baby out every 18 months or so - probably have twins at some point - and then decide to homeschool. They look adorable when they're pregnant; they can have a successful grocery shopping trip with one kid sitting in the cart, another slung on their back, and one still in the oven.

Yeah, those people. Why do I resent them so much? Because I'm so stinking jealous.

Now, let me explain before I go any further where I'm coming from. I just got a call from the doctor's office to let me know that I failed the 1-hour glucose test and I have to come back to Evansville on Monday for the 3-hour test...the one with four blood draws. Now, lots of people fail the first test; objectively, it's not a big deal. But it just felt like that proverbial straw that broke the pregnant camel's back. I can't catch a break!

When I was little, I wanted to have fourteen kids, I think because I kept coming up with baby names I wanted to use. Anyway, I love being conservative, and there's something about the Dugger lifestyle that makes me lightheaded. I was itching to get married before I was out of high school. When I finally caught Tim at 22, I already felt like an old maid.

I would have had a baby the first year if it were up to me, but the best-laid plans often get thwarted by lack of insurance and other such unromantic factors. By the time we were finally ready to start a family, I could feel my biological clock ticking like a car bomb. At this point, I was down to wanting five kids, but I calculated that I still had time to gestate them all before I hit 35.

Almost a year and a half later, I still wasn't pregnant. I was convinced that I was barren, and that the reason was because God knew there was nothing I wanted more than to be a mother. I must have wanted it too much, because it sure seemed like I was being punished. Somewhere in my religious upbringing I picked up the idea of a sadistic God who likes to take away the thing we love the most, just to teach us a lesson. I wouldn't have verbalized it or preached it to anyone else, but I couldn't shake the expectation that that was the way He would always deal with me.

Anyway, one day the test was positive. I dragged Tim to CVS at 6:00 in the morning to buy one of those digital tests that you can't misread. Another positive. The next day, I made Tim drive through rush hour traffic to Babies R Us so I could properly revel in my happiness. It seemed too good to be true.

Two weeks later, I'm in the campus clinic being told, "It sounds like your body is trying to miscarry." I knew it was too good to be true.

At eight weeks we had an ultrasound. The doctor said it was a beautiful heartbeat. So we went home filled with joy again and started spreading the news.

Two more weeks, and we're back at the doctor's office because I'm bleeding again. Of course, too good to be true; I should have known. Another ultrasound, and there's our baby wiggling around without a care in the world.

Then things started going well for a while. The baby starting kicking, I started showing. At 20 weeks, we found out we're having a girl. We stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a baby doll and a "Little Princess" picture frame for my dad's office.

Less than 24 hours later, I'm in the hospital with a fetal monitor strapped to my barely-rounded belly, my heart racing from a shot of terbutaline.

I never should have got my hopes up. It really was too good to be true.

My doctor comes into the hospital room, assesses my condition, and then says, "Also, we were going to call you on Monday. There were a couple of areas of concern on the baby's ultrasound from yesterday."

For the next several days, I'm too worried about keeping my bun in the oven to think too hard about said bun's long-term prognosis.

Two weeks later, we're sitting with a genetic counselor, listening to facts and figures. "The nuchal fold looks a little generous, and the left kidney is dilated. Both of these can be indicators of Down syndrome." Yes, we understand. No, we don't need an amnio. No, we wouldn't be terminating if we got a positive diagnosis.

I never thought pregnancy would be a time of such fear. I thought it would be easy. My body is supposed to know what to do, right? Women have been doing this since the beginning of time, and the vast majority of the time it comes off without a hitch.

So why do I seem to be so incompetent at child-bearing? And why can't I have a few weeks' peace to enjoy something I've been looking forward to all my life, without feeling like disaster is looming around every corner?

The relevant insight came to me one of those first mornings when I was on my knees in tears, praying over and over, "Please don't take my baby...please let me raise this child." I started asking myself when I would relax. When I make it past the first trimester; then I'll feel safe.

What if she's born too early to survive? What if she's full-term, but something goes wrong during delivery?

Ok, once she's born, then I'll stop worrying.

What about SIDS?

Fine, when she's a year old.

She could choke on a hot dog. She could fall in a swimming pool. She could get leukemia. She could get in a crash with a drunk driver.

Well...then I guess...I can do one of two things.

I can worry every day that I'll lose her, or I can enjoy every day that I have her with me. I can fret about whether she'll be "healthy", whether she'll be able to fulfill all the dreams I have for her and experience all the life moments that I'm already anticipating...

Or I can trust. I can believe that God is not in the business of finding people who have too much hope and pulling the rug out from under them. I can lay my baby in His hands every day, knowing He will do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." I can start believing that this is not too good to be true.


  1. Erin, reading this brought tears to my eyes (and its hard to type when everything is all blurry.) I can't say that I understand all you are going through, so I won't pretend to. Hearing Tim talk about your baby girl and your pregnancy yesterday at Homecoming, I felt the peace and trust that he has found in this situation, and was deeply moved by the simple but profound truth the two of you are clinging to - that God is ultimately good, and ultimately in control. We have had to learn to cling to that same truth in the last 3 months as we have gone through my diagnosis of thyroid cancer, subsequent surgeries, and upcoming treatment. You never stop worrying when you have kids, not completely. But somewhere along the way, you learn that you have to do exactly what you have realized - DAILY place that child in to His hands, and know that really, that is all we can do, but that it is the best thing we can do. Praying with you that your faith is increased, that your prayer life grows and becomes the air your breathe, and that the presence of the Holy Spirit in your home and in this situation is made tangible to you in amazing ways. I KNOW that God is going to do more than you have asked or imagined, and more than you would believe, even if He told you! (Habakkuk 1:5)

  2. Oh Erin, you made me cry. I think that is so HARD to trust God with our children; loving someone so much, feeling the weight of the responsibility, and seeing all of the future potential there somehow also brings up how small I am in the universe and how little control I have in spite of my best efforts.

    I'm so sorry this has been such a rough journey. Although my own experiences were different, I truly feel for you guys. Thank you for sharing about your process (which, by the way, does not equal whining). I'll be praying . . .

  3. You are going to excel at being a mother just as you have so many other things in life! My thoughts and prayers are with you as you finish this journey and begin a whole new one when she's born! Best of luck!