She’s not viable….
When Charlotte is soundly and snuggly asleep in bed between Johan and I, we often marvel at the wonder that is our daughter. She is perfect. She is beautiful. She is mesmerising in every aspect of her being. I cannot imagine a world in which she does not exist. I cannot fathom a life that does not include her larger than life personality.
And yet, this was a cold, hard reality with which we were hit with when I was 23 weeks pregnant.
I remember every aspect of that moment. The feel of the sheets against my skin as I lay in a bed not mine, in a room with two complete strangers whom I’d listened to all day, hidden behind their cubicle curtains, talking to loved ones, talking about their beautiful new babies. The heat of of a room where the aircon wasn’t working, the warm sun baking through the curtains, the sound of construction work outside my window, the dull background noise of nursing staff tending to their new mommies and new little people in the nursery down the corridor. The telephone ringing at the reception desk. The excited chatter of family come to visit loved one and celebrate the miracle of new little lives born that day. The smell of sanitizer hanging in the air. Newborns crying in the nursery as they receive their first bath.
A week before we were swaddled in ignorant pregnancy bliss. A week before, my husband and I had seen Charlotte at our 22 week ultrasound. It’s the all critical ultrasound, organs are checked, limbs, fingers, toes, brain matter, heart function, blood flow, artery and vein formations and supply, weight is checked, head circumference, the results of our Down Syndrome risks. As I lay there and we watched our perfect little girl on the monitor we allowed ourselves to finally breathe, she was well, she was healthy. She was perfect. Our doctor was thrilled with her progress and development.
24 hours later it all changed. I was admitted the day after our scan. After tests and a night of observation I was diagnosed with early onset pre-eclampsia. I’d read briefly about in in my pregnancy book. I knew that the only method to stop it from progressing was delivery. But I never in a million years thought that we would be that one in a million pregnancy that would result in a delivery that would see a child born into this world at the very start of the third trimester.
A week of staying in hospital and feeling reasonably healthy went by, while my blood pressure refused to stabilise I still felt well enough to believe that this was all somehow a huge misunderstanding, that soon we’d we sent home to enjoy our last few months of pregnancy bliss. And so I lay in wait that fateful day, with baited breath. For my doctor to arrive and tell me what our game plan was to prevent my illness from progressing. What we’d be doing to keep Charlotte inside, growing and healthy. To tell me that all would be OK, as it was just a week previously.
When I heard my doctors voice in the corridor, the light laughter shared with the nursing staff at reception, I allowed myself to believe that all as going to be OK. Nobody is capable of sharing light-hearted laughter mere moments before delivering bad news surely? My halo of hope shattered the moment that my doctor walked into my room and towards my bed. I could see it in the walk, the eyes and in the way I was greeted. It was over.
The world went quieter and quieter as our one sided conversation progressed and my diagnosis was being explained. I didn’t contribute much, I sat and listened, trying to comprehend what was happening, until those words brutal were uttered.
‘She is not viable’
I was given a breakdown of her viability from a legal and medical point of view. I was given statistics on survival rates. The probability that in the certain event that she were to be born soon that she would likely suffer from lifelong debilitating complications. In my doctors’ eyes, I no longer had a viable pregnancy, or a child worth saving. Our baby that was doing so well a week ago was suddenly no longer worthy of this world or my doctors’ time. She wasn’t viable.
I was advised that the best course of action would be termination, in the best interest of my own health. She wasn’t a cause for concern any longer. With a final look down towards me of pity I was told that my doctor would be away for a while on a business trip for two weeks and that it was doubtful that I would still be pregnant on return, I was wished the best of luck on my decision and for the weeks ahead and I was left to digest what I was just told and to make an impossible decision with my husband, my childs father.
Behind a curtain on the opposite side of the room was a new mom who wept with me. We hadn’t even laid eyes on each other and yet I was receiving far more compassion from this woman than I’d received from my own doctor. She made me promise not to give up. She made me swear that I would continue fighting and looking for help. She selflessly gave me the hope that I needed, in spite of her own birthing trauma and firstborn lying in the NICU.
I remember feeling so very alone, in a room full of patients and nursing staff. I remember feeling the feint movements of my daughter inside my stomach, alive and fighting, nobody fighting for her any longer. She wasn’t viable? She wasn’t worthy? She wasn’t a living being worthy of having time spent on her any longer?
I remember the fear. A thousand variations of crippling fear. What if I was being selfish to fight and she died in pain? What if I fought and she was born with severe compilations and lifelong issues. What if I fought and I died, leaving her without a mother, leaving my husband with a child who required constant care because of my own selfishness. What if I agreed to termination? Would I be able to live with the guilt of ending my perfect daughters’ life to save my own? ‘What if’, a thousand of them. That voice behind the curtain encouraged me not to give in, to hold out hope until my husband was able to get there and until we were able to get a second opinion.
‘She is not viable’ I’ll never forget those words for as long as I live and breath on this earth.
And yet here she is. Strong, beautiful, breath-taking in her determination and presence.
We were given hope the following morning. She was viable to someone. Someone believed in my determination. Someone believed that she was worthy of fighting for. Someone knew that she deserved to be given a chance to be a part of this beautiful world. Someone believed that she would be ok, healthy and happy. For that belief I’ll never be able to repay or express my gratitude enough.
As I lay beside her, watching her take in those tiny gentle breaths while she dreams of conquering the world I remember that we are guaranteed nothing in this world. Nobody is going to fight for us if we don’t fight for it ourselves as well.
I know that we did right, that we fought bravely and selflessly for her. I know that while I came dangerously close to losing my own life, that it was worth the risk, to have her a part of this world. Every day she shines fresh, beautiful light into this world. Every day is a blessing and an honour to know that someone else believed in her, in us. That she was worthy.
She was viable.
She was worthy.
She is perfection.
She is our world. She is viable. She is worthy and she is pure perfection!