I don’t remember most homilies I hear. Considering I hear something like three hundred and sixty of them in a year, I’m not ashamed of that. There are some that stick with me, though. One is that of my home church’s former pastor on the feast of the Epiphany at least six years ago, on how God often asks us, like He asked the Magi, to turn and take another way than that which we expected.
Another is that of a priest at BC, beloved Father Jack, who spoke one Sunday night, wiffle ball bat in hand, about righteous anger. It’s okay to be angry, Father Jack told us, as long as we’re angry about the right things. And right now, I’m sure I am angry about the right thing.
I wrote yesterday of the joy of seeing our new little one, of hearing her heartbeat at the ultrasound. Those things, of course, were great. But honestly, that was a post I wrote over the weekend, when I was simply hoping that was the experience we’d have. And it was. But it’s not the whole story.
The whole story is that I’ve been an intermittent mess since my first doctor’s appointment, when we scheduled an ultrasound three weeks out, at which point we “should hear a heartbeat.” And, as I’ve said, we did.
But after the ultrasound tech recorded the heartbeat and talked to us about a few other things we were looking at, she got quiet. Too quiet, and for too long.
Then, after too long a wait, the hospital doctor came in. First, he freaked us out by showing us what may or may not be a problem with the placenta. He said he wanted us back in three weeks, when the placenta would be bigger and easier to analyze.
He asked if we wanted a certain test I can’t spell when we returned for that visit. The test is done to determine the likelihood of Down’s syndrome in an unborn child. We’ve been presented with this option before and declined it. It’s not definitive, and the answer won’t change our course of action any. He scribbled out that code on the form for the next visit.
At this point, he almost left the room. Then he came back, and asked if he could offer another perspective on the test. The doctor asked if we declined for religious reasons, and we said yes, we were going to keep this child either way. It doesn’t matter to us.
It’s not just about Down’s, he told us. The test could show heart problems as well. After some questioning, we determined that his recommendation had nothing to do with the potential placenta issue he’d described. We assumed it did, or else why would he be challenging a decision we’d already made (three times), and for religious reasons to boot?
Turns out, he’s seen some people change their minds once more information was available, and thought we might like to consider that.
Again, I told him, “We will keep this child.”
Have you heard the term, “her blood boiled”? I felt it in that moment. A heat of such rage flushed through me. I’ve never felt anything like it before. Not even when the nurse after the D&C in January referred to Ethan as “just tissue” that “didn’t even look like a baby.” Then, I was sad. Now, I was livid.
Why do I need to know what other people, with less firm convictions, decide to do with their “imperfect” children?
How dare he. How dare he suggest that we might choose to abort our child. How dare he assume that my profession of faith in that room, which I realize now he probably wasn’t even entitled to, was not strong enough to bear a less-than-ideal child, especially so soon after a miscarriage that has made me desire for more children so strong it hurts sometimes. How dare he come back into the room, after the conversation should have been over, to question me, my husband, our values, our faith, our family.
I asked for the doctor’s name on the way out, and I will be sending a complaint to the hospital.
When I went to my OB immediately after, I told him what had happened. Not only did he understand and tell me that he would blast the other doctor the next day, but he later called to say that my ultrasound was not, indeed, cause for worry. He wanted to see me in four weeks, not three, but the first doctor freaked me out enough to push it up a week.
Yes, there is a heartbeat now, but there was also a heartbeat at Ethan’s nine-week ultrasound. This next one will tell us more, but waiting is so hard.
I don’t think I have the constitution for it, but part of me wishes I were in the field of fetal medicine. Too often, my pregnancies have been treated as solely medical conditions. With the exception of my current OB—a Jewish saint, as I like to think of him—people have not made an effort to check in on my mental or emotional wellbeing. The tech yesterday first referred to the baby as “the pregnancy” when we could see it on the screen. Thankfully, she switched to “your baby” thereafter.
I know everyone has his or her own views on when life begins, but my belief is firm and I make it clear at every opportunity. I deserve to have that respected. My children are people. My pregnancies are miracles of life.
I don’t need a church to tell me life begins in the womb. I figured that one out on my own. And I certainly don’t need a doctor without respect for life or my dignity to tell me any different.