Six Words that Changed My Life…Twice
A portion of Chapter 1 of “The Blessing Choice: Change The Way You Make Choices, and The Choices You Make Change” (Part 2 for Be About Change)
Read Part 1 – “Choice and the Unexpected Path”
Read Part 3 – “The Blessing Choice”
“There’s a problem with the brain.”
“There’s a problem with the brain,” she said again.
There they are. The first set of six words that changed my life.
Those were the six words from our ultrasound technician during our daughter, Mikayla’s, 20-week ultrasound. She quickly shuffled over to the phone to call a doctor and asked for our doctor to come in and corroborate her readings. The doctor was not available right away, so they guided us back out into the waiting room where we would sit with the other patients and mothers-to-be at the OB/GYN office. This seemed like such an invasion of privacy for two first-time parents who just found out that there might be something wrong with their child’s brain. We fought back the tears, and you could tell the other patients in the waiting room could sense we had just been delivered some tough news. We waited there for 15 minutes, but at the time it felt like an eternity before we could see the doctor.
When we finally did see our doctor she told us not to freak out quite yet. The initial results came back looking like there was a significantly sized cyst in Mikayla’s brain. They referred us to a high-risk pregnancy office so they could perform a more extensive analysis and give a diagnosis, if there was one to give. We had an appointment across town after lunch. My wife and I walked with painful precision to the car and went out to lunch together at a Jason’s Deli in midtown Nashville. We went through lunch trying to keep it all together. There wasn’t really much small talk to be had, so we stayed pretty quiet and joined hands to pray for Mikayla’s brain.
We arrived after lunch at the high-risk pregnancy office, and didn’t have to wait very long before they took us back. We met a very cordial and supportive doctor who told us she was going to take her time and do an extensive ultrasound. I had never been in any ultrasounds before, but it seemed pretty obvious that the brain of the life inside my wife’s body was anything but normal. Before our doctor could say anything, I could feel a pit inside my stomach. I started to feel nauseous. Our nice and cordial doctor’s face became stern and serious. What she would say next would change the course of my life. The life that I was living was about to be severely altered, and I was about to become a new man. I just didn’t know it yet. It is hard to believe that your life can change in an instant, for when I woke up that morning, it seemed like any other day.
I am not sure I heard every word that our doctor said that day after her initial sentence, but these are the basics of what she said:
‘Your daughter has a condition called Dandy Walker Syndrome. She has excess fluid that has built up in her brain that has formed a cyst in the back of her brain, otherwise known as hydrocephalus. It is hard to say anything for sure, since the outcomes of children with this syndrome vary so greatly. It is a rare congenital brain malformation that affects around one in 2500 children (which comes out to .04%). Your daughter has a one in four chance of surviving this pregnancy to full-term. When she is born she will most likely require immediate surgery to relieve some of the pressure that is building up in her brain from the excess fluid, and it is very likely that this child will have significant special needs. It is my legal obligation to inform you of your right to terminate this pregnancy.’
As soon as those words of ‘terminate this pregnancy’ left her mouth the room was dead silent. Words became a precious commodity at that point. The moment had swallowed up all the meaningless pleasantries and polite conversations that we have on a daily basis. Every word that would come out of my mouth in those moments was extremely important.
I remember her saying that ‘you guys seem pretty calm right now’ for the serious news she gave us and asked if we understood it fully. She decided to step out of the room with the ultrasound technician to give us time to talk it over.
When the door shut behind them I remember feeling like I was in one of those war movies where the bomb goes off, and all you can hear is the ringing in your ears. I was in shock. After having stared at an ultrasound screen for the past 45 minutes, I remember my gaze finally returning to my wife Heather. We finally looked at each other and embraced. I remember Heather being amazingly calm. She tends to be a crier, and I expected her to be balling her eyes out at this point. How do you start a conversation like that with your wife? How do you begin to discuss if you are going to keep your daughter after hearing news like this?
Both my wife and I have strongly held beliefs about a child’s right to life, and we are both pro-life. However, I will tell you with conviction that when the choice becomes real to you, it completely changes your perspective. Suddenly, it’s not just some debate you have over a beer with some friends at the dinner table. When you are presented with a real choice it becomes a totally different ballgame. When you are faced with the decision yourself, you get to see a bit of your future flash in front of you. Either way I chose, my life would change forever. If I say “yes we are keeping this baby”, I am accepting all the challenges that come with the decision. However, if I say “no we aren’t keeping this baby” then I turn my back on my beliefs. I turn my back on an actual life. I would end the life of our baby. I am not one to have large political debates with people, but I know it is a life because I saw her move around during the ultrasound, and I listened to her heartbeat. She was real, and she was real to me. She still is.
In that moment, my wife and I somehow had the clarity of conviction to say that we were going to keep this child. No matter what, we were going to give this child its best chance at life. We called the doctor back in and told her we are keeping this baby. Looking back on this day I still say that it was the most terrifying day of my life. Some parts of the day are very hazy and other parts are still crystal clear in my memory. I remember quite vividly calling my mother that night to deliver the news. I cried so hard when I had to deliver that news. I have never felt the feeling of devastation that I felt that night nor have I ever since. I had a new reality, and I would never be the same person again after that evening. God ripped me out of the life I had been living up to that point, and he called me to a new life and a new way of living. He called me to a new purpose. Sometimes it feels good to be called, and sometimes it doesn’t. At this particular point in my life, it didn’t feel good to be called. I was called to be Mikayla’s father. The responsibility of that weighed on me heavily, and I went to sleep that night just asking God to help me to be the man my wife and my daughter need to see us through this. I had always thought in my relationship with God that I was putting my faith in him. This was the first time I remember thinking that God was also placing his faith in me.
To be continued…
Dedicate yourself to a more purposeful life.
Graham Honeycutt discovered his calling after confronting some very difficult questions. The process of working through this challenge led him to discover his vocational calling, and it is a process through which he coaches others.
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Read Part 1: Choice and the Unexpected Path
Read Part 3: The Blessing Choice
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