When I entered the ultrasound room I was full of excitement and anticipation. But when I left that room an hour later, all the delights of pregnancy had drained away, leaving me a very frightened woman. My unborn baby had an ‘abnormality incompatible with life’.
In the following days and weeks, I attended appointments with my local doctor, an obstetrician who looked after difficult pregnancies, specialists at the hospital, more ultrasounds… “I need to make an appointment. My unborn baby has an abnormality.” And instead of feeling like a pregnant woman, I began to feel like an interesting medical case: “Only a few babies are diagnosed with diaphragmatic hernias each year,” said the professor, his eyes alight with interest. “It’s very unlikely your baby will survive.” He didn’t seem to notice my grief.
How was I to tell my family and friends that my unborn baby was not going to live after birth? Blurting out the news resulted in shock and no one knew what to say. So I tried a round-about way of sharing my grief: waiting until an appropriate moment presented itself.
“Where are you having your baby, Sue?”
“Why are you going all the way to Sydney?”
“My baby has a problem… he probably won’t live after birth. I have to see a specialist in Sydney.”
A few words, a minute in time… It didn’t seem to matter how I tried to break the news. Congratulations and delight still turned into shock and an inability to find the right words. I hated upsetting people. I knew they were only concerned for me but I couldn’t cope with my own feelings, let alone theirs.
Sometimes I considered accepting everyone’s congratulations and not even hinting there was a problem. But I knew I’d feel like a fraud. Everyone would assume my baby was healthy and we would soon have him in our arms to love and enjoy and take home. They would assume I was a normal pregnant mother. Would they say later, “Why didn’t you tell us when we congratulated you?” Would they feel deceived?
I sometimes thought, “If only… if only I could take delight in my changing shape. If only I could count down the weeks with anticipation. If only I could enjoy being pregnant. If only this pregnancy was normal.” From external appearances, no one could tell I was the odd one out in the antenatal waiting room… I could pretend I was like everyone else. If only pretending could become reality. With people I would never meet again, I did pretend. It was easier.
After a very distressing pregnancy where I frequently felt like despairing, something unexpected happened. A few days before my baby was born, I realised I wasn’t just an interesting medical case after all. I was an expectant mother like all those other mothers I’d sat with in the doctor’s waiting room. Yes, I was anxious at what lay ahead. I knew it would be very difficult. But for the moment that didn’t matter.
Soon I would be the mother of another beautiful child. Soon I would meet our baby, a gift from God. Would our baby be a boy or a girl? What would our baby look like? That feeling of excitement and anticipation, I thought had disappeared forever, flooded through me.
I felt like a normal pregnant mother.
For anyone with a prenatal diagnosis: Does/did anyone else wonder how and if to share that diagnosis? Like me, do/did you no longer feel like a normal pregnant mother?
Please share my grief stories on my blog Sue Elvis Writes