I had always imagined what it would be like in real life to get bad news at a doctor’s office. Would it be as it is in the movies? A nurse shows you back to the doctor’s office, and you and your husband sit there in perfect silence in two perfectly placed chairs facing the desk, waiting for the doctor to come in. Framed certificates and honors fill the walls, pictures of their family sit on the desk, and after a few minutes of waiting, the doctor enters in a perfectly pressed white coat and sits behind his desk. And you, the unexpecting recipient of bad news waits for the doctor to share the news, the diagnosis that will change your life forever.
“Lynne. Can you come on back?” I looked up from my seat in the waiting room of our OB/GYN’s office, freshly printed ultrasound images in hand, expecting to see one of the nurses. Instead, to my surprise, I see the ultrasound tech who had just shown us to the waiting room five minutes prior. Suddenly I felt all of the blood rush to my face. I knew this was bad, really bad. As an ultrasound technologist myself, I recognized that it is never a good thing to be called back into the ultrasound room for more pictures. So, I started to ask her questions like, “What’s wrong? What do you need to take more pictures of?” When she responded with, “The spine.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I could barely look at Spencer, but for whatever reason, I did. All I remember is he was shaking his head in disbelief. We were both scared and little did we know, our lives were about to take a major turn down a path that neither of us ever imagined.
After the ultrasound tech took a few more pictures she left the room to grab our doctor. In a few minutes Dr. Martin, the man who had delivered Cade and Cambrie and whom we had shared numerous laughs, jokes, and hugs with over the past eight years of being in his care entered the room. On his face was an expression I had never seen. His eyes were on the verge of tears as he shared with us the news I had anticipated once the ultrasound tech had said the word ‘spine’. However, I asked him before he could even get out a word. “Our baby has spina bifida, doesn’t it?’ “Yeah, it does. I am so sorry you guys.” I was in shock when Dr. Martin confirmed my fears that our baby had spina bifida. Even though my gut told me what we were about to find out once we were called back for more pictures I still clung onto a small string of hope that it was a mistake, that it wasn’t true.
I am friends with Dr. Martin on Facebook, as are many of his patients. Whether it is every year on doctor’s day, his birthday, or the birthdates of the children he has delivered into this world, everyone praises what an amazing man he is. And it is all true. He is a caring and compassionate physician and person. You see most people have a strong love and appreciation for the doctor who delivers their children, the person who is a key player in one of the happiest days of their life. But something that a lot of people don’t realize is that same love and appreciation is magnified on one of the worse days of your life. This is something that I will always appreciate and love Dr. Martin for. He was the first person to give us comfort and hope, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
We managed to ask a few questions in the office that day and quickly learned that we were dealing with the most severe form of spina bifida. We had many other terms and signs thrown at us, were told that in two days we could get in to see the high-risk pregnancy doctor and that we may be candidates for fetal surgery. After assuring Spencer that I was fine to go back to work, at this point I was still in shock and had not shed one tear, I slowly made my way down two floors to my office. Immediately it hit me when my little sister called. I had not been responding to her texts or calls. She was anxious to know how the ultrasound went. All I could get out was, “Not good.” Instantly I lost it. “Our baby, our baby, has spina bifida.” I mumbled. The ugly cry set in. After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly regained my composure and knew I could not stay locked in my office all day. The ugly cry returned and with a vengeance as I tried to tell my manager and close co-worker. I needed to have some time with Spencer to comprehend what had just hit us. So we sat in his truck in the basement of the parking garage for a solid thirty minutes, in silence, crying, being angry and confused, and arriving at one important point that we still refer to. This, spina bifida, will not define us, our family, or most importantly, our baby.
What I was dreading the most was having to tell our kids, our parents, our combined six siblings, extended family, and friends. It was painful to have to relive the pain, see the shock and sadness in the faces of people you care about and that are typically so strong. I do not think I have ever been hugged as hard or as long in my thirty-two years of life as I was when we told my parents the news. I did not think my mom was going to let me go. She just shushed me and hugged me until my tears slowed and my gasps for air returned to normal breathing. My mom is a very loving person, but I can never remember experiencing or seeing her hug like that. Telling Spencer’s parents was equally as difficult. Watching them embrace Spencer, wanting to take his pain and fear away was hard to watch, but it was also comforting to know we were surrounded by people who loved us.
The next 48 hours until we could see the high-risk doctor were excruciating. You name it, I thought or felt it. I distinctively remember laying on the floor in our pantry crying, thinking of how terrible things were. Feeling as if I was not strong enough to do this. This was going to be our last baby. I was supposed to enjoy every single second of it. It was supposed to be full of joy, full of happy memories. This was not how we planned. December 5, 2016 was supposed to be the day we had our ultrasound and then carried on like any other day. However, that wasn’t what was planned, what was written in our story. December 5, 2016 turned into our ‘D-Day’, our diagnosis day. I still remember sitting at Cade’s kindergarten winter vocal concert after I had the amniocentesis performed. It was unbelievably hard to watch the kids standing on the risers at the concert. Sitting in the same high school gym that Spencer and I had played high school sports in, wondering if, and doubting that our child would ever have those same opportunities to stand on the risers or run up and down the court were all thoughts that were racing through my mind. So tonight, we get to return to Cade’s winter vocal concert, a year later. This time we will get to hold our eight-month-old daughter. While I still do not know if she will be able to stand up on the risers to sing or run out onto the court with her teammates someday, I know that she will have a full and wonderful life. And just because it may be different from the life I had imagined for her does not mean it is any less meaningful or perfect.
Looking back on this day last year brings back many emotions. I have been trying to process a lot of those feelings the past few weeks. It is crazy to think of what our life was like before the spina bifida diagnosis. Have we changed since D-Day? Yes. I do not think you can go through the year that we have and not change. However, I think that is part of the purpose of all of this. To change. We needed this baby girl in our lives. She brightens each day because she is here. Her love for carrots, her big toothless smile, the beauty of her blue eyes, the determination that she shows during her PT sessions, and her laid back demeanor all provide daily reminders to me that life is beautiful, life is precious, it’s worth fighting for, somedays it is hard, but it is all worth it. While I would erase spina bifida from our story if I could, I would not erase the lessons we have already learned and the ones we continue to discover.