“They are beautiful, Laura,” Mom says. The room is well-occupied, yet to the blind it is empty. Upon entering the room, there is an obstinate, precarious hush. A few seconds prior, I had dared to pull out the manilla envelope. I handed over the latest 3D ultrasound pictures, and exited immediately. The small, flat, paper-folded vessel is unsuspecting yet is of utmost importance. Within its glued edges resides the latest ultrasound pictures of our baby. Despite her abnormalities – the erroneously bent knees and wrists, misshapen feet, the small chin – these pictures are magnificent. A sleepy peacefulness resides in her face, her tiny hands pulled up to her cheeks. She rests, contentedly, while the weight of the world rests on her parents’ shoulders. Yesterday, my eyes could not be pried from this baby, softly sleeping in a warm, cozy haven. In seclusion, I granted my thoughts access to the realm of the benevolent. For a moment, I was in this place with her, watching her peacefully dream of love, life, and happiness. This was possible in solitude. Today, I cannot bare to look for fear of ruining the holiday, ruining Christmas. I will not cry today! Despite this stance, the tears skulk, the facial grimacing is on stand-by. It’s all a matter of time. Aside from my mother’s remark, no one knows what to say. My sister, brother-in-law, dad, grandmother sit in reserve. How does one comment on such delicate, imminent death?
“The baby is a girl…” my trailing voice preludes the tears. Slow, wet tracks streak my face. I had waited so many weeks for this moment. The announcement. What should be the happiest disclosure since the pregnancy itself adds salt to the wound. What should be filled with smiles, laughter, pink candy, and girl-talk is solemn, quiet, with heads bowing and tears shedding. The somber aura is palpable. Yet, I marvel at my new angelic vision of baby girl. Yellow lacy dresses, tiny sparkling earrings, blond tresses, curls falling around her face. This is what she would be. This is who she is.
Chatter returns. Christmas resumes. Turning, I pull warm air through my nose, releasing it with a burst past my lips. I am ready. With a heavy heart, I put aside the pictures, put aside the tears. Baby girl’s first Christmas. Baby girl’s only Christmas.
The holiday reprieve buoys my soul. A roast baking provides spicy aroma. Gifts sparkle in shiny paper, neatly folded and glamoured with decoration.
“Work has been so busy…” says my sister, her laugh cutting through her narrative. Three of the dogs dance around the kitchen in a love-hate relationship. These dominant dogs are tap dancing on the hard kitchen floor, occasionally stopping to raise their hind ends. Between the snapping and snarling is a menacing, “Grrrrrr.” The pug, Sadie, has safely hidden herself away in the upstairs library, wanting nothing to do with the downstairs cacophony. This distraction is vital to the reconstitution of life, of celebration. Conversation flows. Bing Crosby confidently sings “White Christmas”. Multi-colored tree lights twinkle innocently. Paper wrappings fall to the floor, bows stick to foreheads, ribbon drape as scarves. The laughter is guarded, yet present. Photos snap. The fireplace crackles, warming the room too much. The now exhausted dogs snore, lying amicably next to each other. Riding above the wistful spirit, my mind is freed in the safety of this company.
When bellies are full, eyes are sleepy, and everyone is resting after the festivities, I find myself alone with my mom in the kitchen. Between the scraping of the dishes, she asks a heavy question.
“Have you and Jason made any more decisions on what you’ll do about the baby?” Everyone must be wondering about our decision of terminating the pregnancy, but it is my mom who brandishes the bravery.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do yet. Right now, we are waiting for the test results to come back.” Maybe they will find they made a horrible mistake with the ultrasound. Even doctors are capable of mistakes. Irrational hopes, I know. As a mother, I don’t dare release my grip of them.
Jason and I have achingly mulled over this devastating decision. Neither of us can afflict such a procedure on our baby girl. Replaying in my head is the voice of Dr. Bates. Terrifying are her words, letting it be known that waiting for the baby to be born naturally could be to my detriment. Stalemate.
In response to our impending and agonizing choice, I get the nurturing support I desire. “That’s probably the way to go for now, as long as you are feeling okay. Take it one day at a time.” A brief pause cushions her thoughts, and tentatively she unexpectedly adds, “If you and Jason need any help with bills or if you need time off of work and need money to help supplement your expenses, let Dad and me know. We are always here to help you. We don’t want you to have to worry about money during a time like this. You both need to focus on your health.”
Through all the doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, tests, sleepless nights, and angst I never even considered the potential financial ramifications of all of this. Since this all began, the first tears of relief flood my eyes. In the trenches of this crisis, the familial support is there. We band together, emotionally, financially. A meager smile fights through the tears. It’s funny how sometimes it takes tragic circumstances for family to become closer. If I squint hard enough, and tilt my head just right, I glimpse something slender and shiny around this dark, ominous cloud: A tiny silver lining.