Saturday, August 30, 2008

Life Matters

Drew and I were listening to a CD in the car yesterday and the song “Adonai” by Avalon came on. That song became very special to us when I was pregnant with our first son, J.

When I was about 18 weeks along with J, I had the AFP test done – it was routine in my doctor’s office, and I was naïve enough not to ask a whole lot of questions and just agree to have the blood work done. Well, this test is usually done between 15-17 weeks gestation, so I was on the later side. It also has a fairly common false positive rate for the defects it is attempting to detect. I did not know this until later.

So, when my doctor’s office called me at work with the results, informing me that our baby had tested positive for possible spina bifida and I needed to have a Level II ultrasound, I was nervous. To say the least. But we soldiered on and got our minds wrapped around the possibility that this precious baby might be facing some scary challenges and prepared to go to the perinatalogist’s office at the local hospital for my ultrasound appointment.

On the day of the ultrasound, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was going to get a first look at our first child, and that was exciting. Drew had taken off time from work to come with me and we proceeded into the examination room with no small amount of trepidation and excitement. As the technician performed the ultrasound she said that things looked good so far, but the doctor would be in soon to look at it, too, and did we want to know if it was a boy or a girl? We did want to know.

When the doctor came in, he was very businesslike and said something like this (I don’t remember the exact words), “Okay, this baby tested positive for spina bifida and Down’s Syndrome, right?”

I said, “What?? Our doctor only said spina bifida. I didn’t know it could be both.”

He kind of humphed, asked who my doctor was and said something like, “That figures,” never once looking at me, but keeping his eyes on the screen.

So, he proceeded to continue the ultrasound murmuring that he wasn’t seeing anything that he could point to that would explain the test results. Meanwhile I was fighting tears. When the ultrasound was finished he told us that he did not see anything on the ultrasound to indicate why our test results had come in as they had, but, since I was getting very close to twenty weeks at that time his office would set up a genetic counseling session as soon as possible. Asking about our insurance, he said they probably wouldn’t cover a genetic counseling session but they would go to bat for us. And he mentioned we needed to do it soon if we wanted to think about abortion.

I said, “What?? We are not planning to abort this child.” That wasn’t even on the radar as far as we were concerned. As I sobbed at his cold manner and the cavalier way we and our son were being treated, Drew and I both knew that was not an “option” as far as we were concerned. Then the doctor shook my hand and said it was nice to have met us and walked out, leaving Drew and me reeling, me sobbing, and the technician trying to clean up the devastation he had just left in his wake. She handed me a tissue and said something like, “I can’t make you any guarantees, but what I saw looked like a perfectly normal ultrasound.” I thanked her, and we left that office with our world reeling.

When we got home, I asked Drew to call my doctor because I was too upset to be coherent with him and ask about an amniocentesis. At that moment, I just wanted to know what to expect when our little one was born and to be able to prepare myself and be ready. Drew called our doctor, who calmly told him he had not mentioned the Down’s Syndrome because the odds were so very low as to be practically nonexistent and he had ordered the ultrasound just so we could rule out the spina bifida, which had been his main concern, and so we would be prepared with the proper doctors at the birth if there was need. He calmly told Drew that the odds of causing a miscarriage or hurting a perfectly healthy baby by having an amnio done were higher than the chances that there was even anything wrong with him in the first place, and he strongly advised against it, though if we wanted it done he would. I am very thankful our doctor was strongly pro-life. We decided not to have it done and trust that God would provide all we needed no matter what happened with our son.

Later, when the perinatalogist’s office called and told me they had worked it out with my insurance company to have the genetic counseling appointment, I told her I didn’t want it. We were not going to abort this child, and we couldn’t see what benefit it would do for this pregnancy for us to go forward with any other counseling or testing. We were done.

I remember driving back and forth to work in Tampa through the next four months and listening to that song, “Adonai,” became extremely comforting as I thought about the fact that God is in control and He had this baby in His hand and He had us as the parents in His hand as well.

On October 12, 1998, we welcomed J into the world, whole and healthy, and we have had nine years of joy with him.

Last night when we heard that song again, I looked over at Drew and said, “Look what we would have missed if we had let that doctor influence us,” and we both sat there with tears in our eyes.

I am convinced that the evolution mindset has helped to lead to our society’s acceptance of abortion. There are other factors too, but if we are no more special than a highly evolved animal, and the precious baby in the womb is nothing more than “tissue,” the value we, as a society, place on that life is much less than if we view each life as created in God’s image – from conception. It leads to the assumption that a baby who is determined to be not “perfect” would necessarily be not wanted. We had already determined that this baby was very wanted, no matter what the diagnosis said.

This is why I do not see abortion as a merely political issue. It goes to the very heart of a person’s worldview. If we do not value the very earliest life, it will color how we view all of life, whether people want to admit this or not. This is why when choosing between candidates I will always choose to vote for the most pro-life candidate I can. There are other issues I consider when choosing how to vote, but this is my top one, and I say that absolutely unashamedly, because this one issue says so much about a person’s world view. And it does not matter to me how loudly a candidate talks about “faith” or “morals” or whatever, this one issue talks a whole lot louder than words as far as I am concerned. And it matters. A lot.


char said...

Rebekah - I loved this post. I am 8 weeks pregnant.. and because I am at the magic age of 35 and am now "high risk" they offered me the early testing so that we could make all those important decisions that need to be made when a life is not perfect. I left the brochure and then when I visited my doctor the next time told her I didn't want any of the testing and because she is prolife it was no problem. But the mindset of the insurance companies and the doctors offices in general is that of the bottom line. Why would anyone want to be burdened anyway? Love you char

Rebekah said...

Congratulations, Char! Thanks for sharing that news here.

I was 34 when I got pregnant with Boo and my 35th birthday was three days before her due date, and I got soooooo tired of hearing the term "advanced maternal age" let me tell you. Boo ended up coming three weeks early, so she beat my 35th birthday, but they really need to come up with a nicer term, don't you think?

Heather said...

I HATE that first time mommies get sucked into the AFP profile thing. Something shockingly similar happened to us with our first.

Needless to say, we took a pass on that particular test in the future!

It's so sad...when I was a newbie therapist, so many of my kiddos were Down Syndrome babies. Our country has seen EXTREME drops in the number of these precious children born, thanks to "selective termination" (nice spin for selective murder, don't ya think?) Our callous disregard for life in this country is grevious.

Thanks for your post.

Kim said...

Oh, it makes my blood boil when I hear about doctors like that one!

Praise God for giving you peace!

Mrs. H said...

We too had a false positive with our daughter (which lead us to skip the testing with our next child!) Sounds like your level two ultrasound was horrible, though. I can't believe that they weren't a little more emphatic and soothing when they must deal with these type scenarios often. And the idea of aborting? Ugh, I can't even imagine hearing that from my doctor let alone even contemplating that. Praise God for His peace through the gift of song.