After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt referred to December 7, 1941 as “A date which will live in infamy”. The bombing at Pearl Harbor changed the course of WWII, the course of history. And while the events that took place on July 16, 2012 did not have as far-reaching and devastating effects on so many lives, they did have a profound effect on the history of my own life.
The day I learned my daughter would die.
This is a picture of me, just hours before learning that devastating news. Do I even know her anymore? At the very least, her eyes now reveal a soul that has experienced great loss and a heart full of painful memories.
Wikipedia defines flashbulb memory as a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid ‘snapshot’ of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard. The day we learned Evie’s diagnosis is exactly that to me. I remember many details so vividly, and the memory of these details still turns my stomach in knots.
Hearing “It’s a girl …” and feeling unbelievable happiness, but sensing something in the way the ultrasound tech’s voice trailed off at the end that kept an anchor on my elation.
The words, “Ok Sarah, I’m really concerned about something here.”
Being so confused as the ultrasound tech handed me the DVD recording of our ultrasound and said, “Do you still want this. I would still want it.” I remember thinking, Why is she acting like my baby is dead?
The midwife’s response to my cervical swab, the test to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid, which I wasn’t. “Hm. I was not expecting that.”
Watching the highly experienced doctors observe my baby girl with their specialized machines. Hearing them whisper quietly about her. “Shop talk” is what he called it.
These words, “Ok, let’s go into my office and discuss the findings. It’s not good.”
Looking at Josh with tears in my eyes, him looking back at me the same, holding hands tightly as we walked down the hallway to the doctor’s personal office.
The diagrams the doctor drew – one, the way a healthy urinary system should look, healthy kidneys, ureters, a bladder – the other, our Evie’s – no bladder, underdeveloped kidneys, disconnected and non-functioning ureters. And his words, “The mortality rate for babies with this condition is high, in the high 90’s. My question, “So, what are the odds our baby will survive?” The response, “Most likely she won’t survive.”
The way everything around me faded. The way my throat became dry and my voice became shaky. The way I suddenly felt dizzy and confused. The way I had to focus so hard to get the words out, “Is there anything I can do? What should I expect for pregnancy, labor, and delivery?” And about a bazillion other questions that I couldn’t even verbalize.
Walking to the receptionist’s desk to make an appointment five weeks from then. The way my voice shook uncontrollably as I tried to tell her my name, think of when would be the best time to make an appointment.
Emerging from the office into the elevator lobby. Feeling so confused, blinded by tears. Shaking. Looking for the elevator button and not being able to find it. Josh grabbing my shoulder and spinning me around into his arms. The sobs that came from both of us. Wails, really, that we didn’t even try to hold back despite the very public setting.
Coming home to see my mom (she had been watching Micah). I started crying as soon as I saw her. Her frantic concern, “Baby!? What’s wrong!? Sarah, what is it!?” My response, “Well, she’s missing her bladder and her lungs won’t be able to develop properly. So I’ll carry her the rest of the time and when she’s born …” My voice trailed off and I made sort of an upward gesture with my hand. She knew what that meant and pulled me close, whispering how sorry she was.
It was such an emotional time. Looking back and seeing my facebook statuses (stati?), requests in my prayer journal, even some blog entries, still make me shudder. The depth of sadness is none like I’ve ever experienced. Actually saying goodbye to Evie was unbelievably difficult, but I still think the initial shock of her diagnosis and realizing that I had to live every day for the next several months with that impending loss takes the cake. Such hard things.
I look back and see how the Lord carried me through. Feeling His closeness and how He literally kept me from crumbling is the stuff faith is made of, and I am grateful for those moments. But, even still, my human heart still sees the black storm clouds that covered that day.
July 16, 2012. I will never be the same.