Our Greatest Treasure

Author: testimony

 

It was June. England was in the grip of a heat wave. We were in the process of moving into our first apartment. Our very own! At last we would be together again after the long separation forced upon us by the difficult situation in Poland. It seemed as if we required nothing more to make us happy, for we would finally have our own little nest, and nothing could change that

 

Several days later I discovered I was pregnant. “What happens now?” I asked my husband somewhat apprehensively. “Nothing!” he replied. “We’re going to have a baby.”

I ran my eyes over our tiny apartment and thought. “God, where are we going to fit the crib? And what about the carriage? The toys? The clothes?” The more I asked myself these questions, the more apprehensive I became. Fortunately, these fears did not last long and were soon replaced by an overwhelming sense of joy. “I’m going to be a mother,” I thought. “Funny what a feeling it is.”

We informed my family. Everyone was delighted. I quickly calculated the date of birth. It turned out to be a double joy, for it would be on the same day—only a year later—that my brother’s son was born. My sister-in-law and I began to make plans for our children. Who knew, perhaps we would have a boy too?

A few days passed. I went to see the doctor for the necessary tests. But it turned out there would not be any. No blood sample. No USG. The doctor looked into my throat and ears, took my temperature as if I had the flu, and not a baby. Shocked, I decided to fly to Poland and have the done tests there.

In my tenth week of pregnancy I saw our baby on a black and white monitor. It was kicking briskly, as if to say: “Hello, mommy! Here I am. See how small I am?” I could not contain my joy. What a wonderful feeling! My mother had accompanied me. On leaving the doctor’s office, both of us wept tears of happiness.

Two weeks later my husband joined us in Poland and we went for another USG. This time, it was daddy the little one greeted. It had grown a bit bigger and was waving with its little hands and feet. My husband was very moved. Already he felt like a daddy.

Another ultrasound taken in the fourteenth month of pregnancy indicated no irregularities. On the contrary, the doctor told us the heart had now properly formed into four chambers, and the brain, lungs, and kidneys were developing normally. In a word, the child was perfectly healthy. We could now return to England with an easy mind.

Every succeeding day was as joyful as our wedding day. We spent hours taking about our child, whether it would be a boy or girl, and how we would raise it and love it. Only now did we realize that we had not really known happiness. Now we could really say that we required nothing more to make us happy. We had each other and a normally developing child; and in just a few months it would be born into the world.

I was now into my twentieth week. It was a Sunday, and we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary. Over dinner we discussed our child and the coming day’s visit to the midwife when we expected to learn the child’s sex. We argued over the child’s name and waited impatiently to see it on the monitor. Full of energy and excitement we went for the appointment. The midwife, a very pleasant person, gave us a running commentary on what she observed on the screen. We could not wait to hear if it was a boy or a girl. Suddenly the midwife fell silent. The silence lasted a while. Finally, my husband asked, “Well, can you tell us? Boy or girl?”

“Not yet!” the midwife replied brusquely. She asked us to go out for ten minutes. Apparently the child was badly positioned and she “could not see everything.” We left the office. A number of couples sat in the waiting room. Most of them were smiling, but one couple looked very sad.

After ten minutes we returned to the building. A number of doctors and midwives were standing outside the office. From their gestures and expressions you could tell they were discussing a serious case. “It must be the child of that couple we saw in the waiting room,” I said to my husband, somewhat saddened. And I thought to myself, “What a blow it must be to the parents.”

Finally, all excited, we went into the office. The midwife examined me again. She asked me to turn to the right, then to the left, and still she said nothing. After a few minutes she asked me to get dressed; then, looking me sadly in the face, she said, “I am afraid to tell you that your child has a few problems.” I almost fell out of my chair. The midwife went on: “The child has an excess of fluid in the brain, which indicates a normal pressure hydrocephalus. In addition, it has an aortic valve regurgitation, an unusual shadow over the large bowel, which might indicate a problem, and problems with the kidneys. It also has deformed hands.”

For a moment I felt I was watching a film; that it was not me the woman was talking to. My husband pressed my hand as if to give me courage, and I sat there frozen. I could elicit no reaction from myself and preferred to stay that way. The news refused to register in my brain. Concerned and embarrassed, the midwife mumbled something about how hard it was to receive such news; but still I could feel nothing. A few minutes later, the doctor came in. He confirmed the findings and referred us to specialists.

 We said nothing to each other all the way home. Nothing could pull us out of our silence. Even though I was sitting beside my husband, I was not there. I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. No pain, no sadness, no sorrow. Nothing. Only emptiness.

Only upon reaching home did the news finally begin to sink in, and a feeling I could never describe seized me. I wept and all but banged my head against the wall. “Why?” I cried to God. “Why us? Why our child? What have we done to deserve this?” There was no end to my questions and complaints. My husband did his best to comfort and encourage me. He said we ought to wait for more tests, this time carried out by a proper physician and not a midwife, and with better equipment.

My hope revived. Perhaps it was all a mistake? Perhaps we had been dealing with an inexperienced midwife? After all, just a few weeks ago in Poland everything had seemed all right.

That night I wanted to sleep soundly. But sleep never came. I kept thinking about my child, and the words of my prayer never left my lips, “Please, God, let it be a mistake. Allow my child to be born healthy.”

The next day we returned to the hospital for more tests. A medical team greeted us in the treatment room. There were about five specialists. A very nice doctor explained to us what he would be doing. He turned off the lights and switched on the ultrasonograph. We saw our child in a three dimensional image. It looked so sad there, almost fearful, motionless, its head buried in its strange little hands. The doctor patiently pointed out every part of the little body. From time to time he sighed quietly. After the ultrasound he invited us into a small conference room along with the rest of the medical team.

Alas! They confirmed the earlier findings. What’s more, the hydrocephalus was more serious than the midwife had supposed. It was not normal-, but elevated- pressure hydrocephalus.

The conference did not end with their confirmation of the verdict. It was also the doctors’ duty to tell us what having “such a child” would mean. They spoke in turn. “Your child has so many defects that there is a question as to whether it will come to full term. If it does come to term, and is delivered safely, it will have to undergo a series of operations, including brain surgery, valve implantation, which the child may not survive, bowel surgery, and, finally, heart surgery, which will be extremely difficult in so small a child. You should be aware that the child will suffer and may not survive these operations. For this reason, we are obliged to suggest that you terminate the pregnancy. You still have two weeks to make a decision, because after that we can no longer resort to this procedure.”

They concluded by saying that they would abide by whatever decision we made. Whether we chose to “terminate the pregnancy” (which meant inducing labor and not saving the child; in effect, suffocating it) or carry it to term—whatever the decision, they would support and help us in every way. We were in a state of shock. At home we were unable to discuss the subject for several days. We had not been able to decide on the spot. Neither of us had cried out, “We will not kill our child!” All we did was listen patiently as they explained the procedure for “terminating” the pregnancy.

Feeling overwhelmed by the situation, we were at a loss what to do. What should we decide? Did a mother have the right to put her child through such pain and suffering after it was born? What if the child did require several operations, and we were unable to help it? And what if, despite all this, the child died anyway? Did we have the right to decide this?

We wanted someone else to make the decision for us. We spoke to our families. They reminded us that God had given us this child and only God could take it away from us. Meanwhile, we remained silent. I read up on every piece of information on hydrocephalus I could lay my hands on. At night I browsed the Internet. Some articles raised my hopes. Others floored me. And so I remained on the horns of a dilemma.

It was evening. We were to meet the doctors the following day and give our decision. We were holding hands, saying nothing, when suddenly we made our decision. The child was ours, and we would bring it into the world despite everything! It was an incredible moment. A stone seemed to fall from our hearts. Our home knew joy again. Once more we affirmed that we would be parents. The child was the most important thing, and now we had to make up for the time we had spent wallowing in despair; for no doubt our child had felt it all. Lying in bed, my husband bent over me to talk to the little one. He received a strong kick in the nose for his pains! For the first time our child gave us a palpable sign of its presence as if to say, “Thank you!”

From that evening on, a sense of peace reigned in our hearts. Of course, we continued to fear for our child, but we never stopped praying for God’s mercy.

Only on one occasion did I have a relapse and ask my husband why this had to happen to us. “Are we so exceptional that it should not happen to us?” he replied. “There are many such children. The only difference is that some are fortunate because they happen to have parents who love them, while others are rejected by their parents. Our little son happens to have loving parents. He is fortunate!”

Bartek was born by caesarean section, scoring nine points on the Apgar scale. But that still told us very little. We were impatient to see how big his head was and how extensive the hydrocephalus was. But when they showed us the tiny bundle with its small hairy head and turned-up nose, we felt a great relief and continued to pray for God’s mercy.

I will not say our little son is as right as rain, as this is not the case. But, after a battery of tests, it turns out he will not require brain surgery. The hydrocephalus is not as bad as it appeared. Nor will a heart operation be necessary, for the heart is working well. As for the bowels, those ominous shadows proved to be nothing more than the amniotic fluid he had swallowed while still in the womb.

Many of our fears have proved to be unfounded. It is true the hydrocephalus has badly affected his eyesight, but I am convinced that rehabilitation and lots of love can do a great deal. The most important thing is that we did not despair and made the right decision in a very difficult situation. We have a wonderful child. He is God’s gift to us, our greatest treasure, and we could not imagine living without him. Now we know that God has great plans for us all, but the realization His plans depends to a great extent on us. God respects our free will, but He is also rich in mercy.

 

Ania & husband

 

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