Kathleen Felicity

My mother came over to the house early that day to watch our two younger girls while my husband and I and our two older girls headed to my OB appointment. Between the girls in the backseat we had a stack of mini-cupcakes, white frosting, waiting for either blue or pink sprinkles—we planned to let the girls decorate them according to the gender, then to stop by Bryan’s work to announce to his coworkers.

The bets were leaning heavily toward boy, though personally we thought girl, and we were excited either way. We had a short wait in the waiting room, the girls playing with their dollies they brought along—June’s was wearing a pink outfit but she packed a blue one in case our baby was a boy—and they fidgeted during the ultrasound, asking “what’s that” as much as I asked “how does the growth look?”. I always get nervous about anatomy ultrasounds. We had never had a miscarriage or any problems with pregnancy or any of our children, but I know enough people who had to make me nervous.

The ultrasound tech said they were behind and was obviously getting frustrated with the baby—a girl, she was almost certain, but couldn’t tell—who was curled up, high in the womb, and wasn’t cooperating. Eventually she said it was the best we would get and we’d have to come back, then rushed us out of the room almost before I had my pants on.  Disappointing, sure, but not all nurses are created equal, so we shrugged it off and I went to wait for the doctor’s hi-how-are-you quick check in while Bryan took the girls back to the waiting room.

My doctor sat down with her laptop pulled up and told me she had concerns, that the baby was only 5th percentile in size and wasn’t growing. They saw cysts in the kidneys, a problem with the heart, and couldn’t see the gender. She expects the baby to not make it to delivery, or, at best, to be born with severe complications, maybe Downs, maybe another chromosomal disorder. I looked at her for a minute while she hands me a box of tissues, then told her I just couldn’t understand, I’ve had no cramping, no bleeding, I’ve felt movement, every appointment has been perfect and we have no history, so how can this be possible? She said it just happens, and some parents abort with this diagnosis.

I don’t remember exactly what I said after that—I think I asked the same questions again and again, trying to absorb what she was saying, and asking silly questions like “am I just too old?” (no), and she suggested that I get my family in there so she can explain it to them too. The girls are too little to totally understand, but they understood their mother crying, and Bryan was just as shocked as I was. My doctor is not an uncompassionate person—she hugged me, told me how sorry she was, and said she would make sure to get us in with the special ultrasound techs in the same building as soon as possible.

About an hour later, I was in a chilly room, watching the ultrasound tech scan over my belly, looking at the baby’s hands, feet, legs. She is a girl for sure, she tells me, and shows me the fingers on each hand, her lips and nose, which looks just like her sisters. I can’t help but think how torturous this is, looking at this baby who looks just perfect to me, who looks so much like all my other babies, knowing that this might be the last time I look at her moving.

Two doctors come in, also do the ultrasound, murmuring to each other where I just can’t quite hear what they are saying. They tell me the size is not an issue, the first ultrasound tech was wrong—she is right on the correct growth curve—and that is a huge relief. What they thought were cysts is actually urine building up in one kidney because the kidney isn’t draining. That sounds awful to me, but the doctors say that as long as one kidney works, they are not overly concerned.

The problem is the heart. It is tilted and they can’t get a good look as to why. Maybe a mass, maybe switched ventricles, maybe a chromosomal disorder. “Your kiddo is too wiggly for us to get a good look” they say, and when they ask if we have any questions there are too many for us to even ask. I finally ask if the kidney will explode since it is building up (nope), and if they think the baby will die. I can’t get that second question out without crying again, but they are good doctors and look at me with what I think may be real sympathy. They tell me they can’t know yet, but we’ll do many more tests.

So now we are waiting for a phonecall to schedule a day of testing—withdrawing amniotic fluid to double check for chromosomal disorders, an echocardiogram, meeting with heart surgeons, looking at the NICU. The doctors seem to think we should expect a c-section followed by immediate heart surgery, but we don’t know anything for certain yet.

I spent most of Friday crying, and begging everyone we know or have known for prayer; Saturday we had a snow storm, leaving us stranded at home in the best possible way, with a day of rest, prayer, and envisioning what the future may hold.

We named the baby Kathleen Felicity, which means “pure happiness”, and we plan to call her “Kit”. We wanted her to have a name so people can pray for her specifically. I was hoping for another girl; I love having girls. Before the ultrasound, I’d cleared out a spot in the closet and put in an empty dresser for her tiny clothes, even hung up some baptism gowns we’d used for the other girls. Each time she kicks, I say a prayer; I haven’t given up hope for her.

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