How We Found Out
Erica and I sat in the doctor’s corner office as sunshine beamed through the large windows. It was September 25, 2001, and we were getting the worst news of our life.
When expecting your first baby, you are not wanting to make an appointment with an obstetrician specializing in high risk pregnancies. In fact, Erica loves midwifery so much, she did not want to be in any doctors office. A week previous, I made the decision that we were going to have a sonogram simply to confirm that our baby was right on schedule and there was nothing to be concerned with. After all, Erica was almost eight months along and we were planning to have the baby at home. It took her a year to convince me that homebirth was viable so at a bare minimum, I wanted a clear bill of health. We set up an appointment for a free sonogram with the local community college. We were so excited about the procedure and we were clear that we did not want to know the sex of the baby. We only wanted to know the status of his or her health, and of course, that would be good.
About forty-minutes into the sonogram, we started having concerns. The students kept going in and out of the room. An instructor walked in to inspect the screen. They whispered to each other on the side, and finally she said, “We are not seeing something that we should, and we would like you to see this doctor.” She slipped us a piece of paper with scribbled writing. It was the name of David Berry, one of Austin’s most well known perinatologists. We immediately called his office and got an appointment that afternoon. We were kicking ourselves for getting that appointment at the community college. They did not know anything! They are students after all. We will visit Dr. Berry’s office. He will say that it was all a misunderstanding and the college had inferior equipment. I drove back to work for a few hours and told Erica that I would meet her at the next appointment.
Erica eagerly greeted me in the waiting room and was rubbing her pregnant belly like all good moms do. We walked in to the examination room and a very capable, courteous technician completed the procedure. Then, Dr. Berry entered and asked us to follow him back to his office. I am not sure if you have ever been to the principal’s office, but being asked to the doctor’s office has got to be one of the worst trips. Dr Berry looked across his desk and compassionately said, “Our concerns were confirmed with this sonogram.” The ‘something’ that the community college had not seen was our baby’s brain. He continued to say that our baby had severe Hydrocephalus and would be born with serious birth defects.
In layman’s terms, Hydrocephalus is ‘water on the brain’. This condition is caused because the natural fluid in the brain does not drain effectively. We all have ‘water on the brain’ but a healthy body properly drains the fluid at the perfect rate. For some unknown reason, our child’s fluid was not being drained and therefore the brain was literally being forced out against the skull. This fluid had severely limited the development of the brain and our child would most likely be unable to talk, walk, or eat on her own. There was a strong chance he or she would be deaf and blind. We were told that some kids grow up with minimal delays, but that most had critical problems. Immediate surgery after birth would be necessary to drain the excess fluid off of the brain.
As the doctor explained the birth defect and the prognosis, I felt as if I were dreaming. My head was spinning. I literally pinched my arm in hopes of waking up from a nightmare. Tears quietly streamed down Erica’s cheeks. For the first fifteen minutes, I was in pure denial. I wanted to walk out of the room and start all over again. Thoughts shot through my mind at thousand miles per hour. “Surely, you have this wrong. Let’s try the sonogram again.” At this point, we said, “Please tell us the sex of the baby. If we are traveling this path, we want to know everything about the baby.” He managed to give us a little smile and say, “It’s a girl.”
Then, he gave us two options. We could continue to see him and schedule weekly sonograms to keep us posted on the baby’s progress. We would begin genetic testing to see if the problem comes hereditarily. A C-section delivery would be scheduled around thirty-eight weeks of pregnancy. Option two shocked us. He said that if we chose not to continue the pregnancy, we could travel to Kansas for a late-term abortion. Only two or three states performed such a procedure and Texas was not one of them. After hearing both options, it took us only moments to realize, that we only had one option. We would be getting to know Dr. Berry a whole better over the next few weeks.
What is happening to my family? This certainly was not the future we had envisioned. After all, we were Christians! My full-time job was ministering to kids in our local church. This type of thing does not happen to people like me. In fact, I remember just a couple months before this doctor visit driving down the road and thinking, “I wonder what it would be like if my child was mentally retarded. Nah, that would never happen to me. That is like winning the ‘bad’ lottery.” I immediately shelved that thought and said a little prayer like, “Lord, thanks that I don’t have to go through things like that.”
When we walked out of the office that warm September day, little did I know that the news I received that day would be so instrumental in shaping me to be the person God wanted me to be. All my life, I had seen the provision of God. My parents and pastor had taught me all about God. From my youth, I spoke many things about God. However, the steps Erica and I were about to take would compile all the lessons I had been taught and all the words I had spoken and put them to the ultimate test. What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What are you going to do about it?
We called our parents and our pastor. Thank God we had parents and a pastor on speed dial. That first night, we had dinner with my sister and her husband who were also expecting their first child. I remember everything about that night.. Many people called saying they were praying and that everything was going to be all right. “We are here with you. You can make it. You are not alone.”
Randy Phillips, at the time was my boss, pastor, and friend, pulled me into his office a few weeks after the news and said, “What are you going to do about this report?” I was shocked to hear such a statement. What do you mean, “What am I going to do!” I thought. There is not anything I can do at this point. He handed me a book called, Intercessory Prayer, by Dutch Sheets and calmly stated, “Read this book.” He went on to mention that It was time for me to establish prayer as the foundation for our actions. That God was able to heal our daughter and that if it was going to happen that we had to pray for it to happen. God does not just do things without our prayerful release. If God choose not to heal, then He would give us the grace to deal with it. I took the book home and read it in two days. I devoured the concept of intercessory prayer like never before and we begin to hold prayer meetings specifically for the healing of our baby.
I have a huge family and one of the things they love to do is pray. My dad’s mom is what we call a prayer warrior! She whips her kids that don’t pray and they are grown men and women. When this woman opens her mouth angels and demons turn an ear. We called her and all my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors and any one else that come over. We gathered in my parents large living room and stated the entire scenario of our baby girls situation. A few people quoted scripture and then we began to pray. We prayed specifically for God to heal our baby’s brain, for a speedy delivery, health and prosperity.