As most of you know Ben and I are expecting a baby girl Sept. 6, 2010. I took a pregnancy test the Monday after Christmas. I thought there was no way we could be pregnant but my heart longed to see a positive result…and THERE IT WAS!!! Ben made me take another test just to be sure!! We were thrilled to know we would soon embark on the journey of parenthood. The first trimester seemed to lag on with constant nausea, but I tried to remind myself about the many women I know who have had it way worse.
Suddenly we were in the second trimester. I was feeling much better and counting down the weeks till we would find out the sex of BB (Baby Bratton). When I found out I was expecting all preconceived notions of what gender child I wanted went out the window and was replaced with a desire for a healthy baby whether boy or girl. People would ask what I thought I was having, and I never really had a clue. Yet, my mom, in-laws, and husband felt confident it would be a girl.
Finally 20weeks arrive!! My mom, mother-in-law and Ben accompanied me to the ultrasound. It was wonderful to see how much BB had grown and watch as BB moved and kicked. And after much measuring and checking the nurse finally told us we were expecting a little girl: Charlotte Frances Bratton!!! Everyone was thrilled. Unfortunately, the news was not all good. During the ultrasound my Doctor noticed an abnormality in the shape of the head which is referred to as the “lemon sign.” Ben and I were shocked and upset as she told us this shape could be a sign of Spina bifida and that we would have to see a specialist in Birmingham. I was extremely upset, but we did manage to celebrate the rest of the day by shopping for cute dresses and fun toys.
The days between my ultrasound and my appointment at the UAB hospital (about a week) seem to drag as anxiety about Charlotte’s health tore at me. Ben had a very positive outlook, and I tried to as well. My father informed me that only 1 out of every 20 children displaying the “lemon sign” has Spina Bifida which were good odds. I prayed fervently for Charlotte’s health and tried to trust in the sovereignty of God though I had my low moments.
Finally Wednesday arrived and Ben and I met my parents in Birmingham for the appointment. We waited anxiously as the doctor looked at Charlotte. When the doctor was finally done, he brought up a picture of her spine on the ultra sound and showed us that she did indeed have Spina Bifida. Right above her tail bone in the Sacral area of the spine there are around 3 vertebrae that did not close when she was developing early on. My first question was how severe this was since there are numerous levels of Spina Bifida. He told us that this was a more minor case. He then explained that she would need surgery right after she was born to close this area and try to salvage any nerves. Charlotte would probably have to be in the hospital for around 2 weeks to heal and be monitored. She also could possibly need a shunt later on to drain excess fluid from her brain. He informed us that with an opening this low the complications tend to be bladder and bowel control. Typically, one can still train the child in this area and by the time they are school aged there is no noticeable evidence of Spina Bifida. He let us know that I would need to continue coming for check up visits every four to six weeks and that it would be best to deliver Charlotte at UAB. The doctor also let us know that it would be important to have a strong network of people looking out for and monitoring Charlotte’s progress. This means I will have a pediatrician at home but most likely go to UAB for periodic checkups. As the pregnancy progresses I will be meeting with a team of doctors to discuss the birth and future therapy Charlotte might need.
It was a lot to take in. I recognize that in the scheme of things this prognosis is not so bad. Spina Bifida can be much more severe and even life threatening. It doesn’t and never will change how much I love her. How could it possibly? I know that God is in control, this is part of His plan. However, it is hard to know that my little baby girl whom I already love more than life itself, will have to have surgery when she is still so tiny. I have been fantasizing about the birth…about holding her right after she is born, about breastfeeding and bonding with her, about my family being around me all vying for a turn to hold her. It is hard to let those moments go. There is a fierce love and protection that comes with having a child. You would do anything to make them whole and healthy. It has also been hard not to blame myself, although my family, my husband, and the doctors have reminded me that this is not my fault and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent this. Yet it is hard to believe it, because you feel so responsible for the person growing inside you.
It is tough news, and I wish I could say I was totally fine with it; but I’m not. However, I do find great comfort in the fact that this is a more minor Spina bifida, I will probably still be able to deliver vaginally, and I do not have to undergo amniocenteses. In every other way Charlotte is thus far growing and developing great, and Ben, Charlotte, and I have the love, support, and prayers of so many wonderful friends and family. I also find great comfort in the knowledge that God was and is in control. He is both sovereign and good. He has been so very faithful to me my entire life and He will continue to be. Even this is part of His handiwork and will glorify Him. There is no one who loves Charlotte more than her Creator and I am trying to lean and trust in Him.
Thanks to all of you who have cried with me, made me laugh when I thought all I could do was cry, called, written emails and messages, and prayed for our family. Your support has been amazing and I would ask for your continued prayers. Please pray for Charlotte’s health and growth. Pray also for Ben and me, for peace about the future, for wisdom, and for strength. Thanks so much and I’ll try to keep everyone posted as things progress.
“You formed [Charlotte’s] inmost being;
you knit [her] in [her] mother's womb.
[She will] praise you, so wonderfully you made [her];
wonderful are your works! [Her] very self you knew;
[Charlotte’s] bones were not hidden from you,
When [she] was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw [her] actions;
in your book all are written down;
[her] days were shaped, before one came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16