My husband and I love to tell our 3rd child, Bryce, that he is our miracle baby. His story is one of many being told today, where a mother chooses life over a doctors suggestion. Where the possibility of a handicapped baby or a mother’s possible death pales in comparison to the hope of life!
We had been trying for over 2 years to get pregnant. I had just received a second opinion from an OB who’s exact words were “to be happy that you already have 2 children. You probably will never have any more.” The diagnosis was PCOS.
For months, I struggled with my roller-coaster emotions. With each friend that announced a new pregnancy, my heart would secretly break. I began to feel guilty for my sorrow, as I knew several other women who had been waiting for many years to get pregnant, while I already had 2 precious little ones!
One day, I had gone to the eye doctor for a routine eye appointment. My vision had been giving me trouble, and I expected that my 20/20 vision had changed. My “routine” appointment dramatically took a turn for the worse when the ophthalmologist noticed that my optic nerves were swelled. After seeing several specialists, and having several tests, I was finally diagnosed with Pseudotumor-cerebri (PTC). I was given medication and warned that if it didn’t work, I would need to have a shunt surgically placed into my brain.
“Oh yeah, and don’t get pregnant,” one specialist had warned. “It is very dangerous for a patient with Pseudotumor-cerebri to get pregnant.”
“No chance of that”, I muttered under my breath.
Except, about two weeks later, I was holding a pregnancy test with two purple lines!
My husband and I were so happy to be pregnant with our 3rd child, yet, we were also so terrified. I went immediately to my OB-GYN, who began to routinely warn me of the dangers of this pregnancy with each visit. I hated every appointment, and always left afraid and depressed.
Pregnancy brain began to kick in, and I found myself doing goofy things, like putting the phone away in the freezer! Most of the time it was funny. However, one forgetful incident changed everything.
At about 4 months along, my OB-GYN had sent me to the University of Michigan to see one of her colleagues who was a Maternal-fetal Medicine Specialist (MFM). Unfortunately, I had written the time down wrong, and showed up 2 hours late, missing my appointment. This seemingly humorous error was the cause of a later conversation with my OB-GYN that I will never forget.
Sitting on the uncomfortable table, I pulled the too-small hospital gown over my pregnant belly. The doctor’s voice was droning on and on, and I struggled to understand what she was saying.
“You aren’t understanding what I am saying, are you,” the doctor asked me.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m really trying. You’re saying that during the delivery, you would choose my life and safety over my baby’s?”
Pulling her chair closer to me, she folded her hands neatly into her lap. Sighing, she bluntly said, “your life is at risk.” Pulling a few papers out of her medical file, she handed them to me.
“Read these when you go home. You need to have a c-section because you have already had 2 children by cesarian. Your uterus has a very high chance of rupturing if I were to deliver this baby vaginally. Giving birth naturally is not an option for you.”
“Right, I got that. I have no problem with another c-section.”
“There is a very high chance you could die on the operating table.”
I blinked. “What?”
“If I were to give you general anesthesia, you could harm your baby, and the anesthesia could make your condition much worse. If I were to give you a spinal block, the sudden release of spinal fluid could cause your brain to collapse. I know this is hard for you to hear. It is in situations like this, that I strongly urge my patients to consider choosing their own life over their pregnancy. Having Pseudotumor-cerebri while you’re pregnant is nothing to mess around with. All of my medical books are telling me this is a very serious matter.”
I blinked again.
The doctor flipped the file closed. “On top of the risks to yourself personally, you are taking a “class c” medication, and that could be very harmful to your baby. We just don’t know enough about how this medication can affect a fetus. There are not enough studies. You are taking a very serious chance by following through with this pregnancy.”
My mouth flew open, “wait, what? What do you mean by ‘following through?'”
“I am strongly encouraging you to consider your own life right now. This isn’t the time for you to be having a baby, not while you are struggling with your own health.”
“You mean, I should get an abortion,” I asked?
“You are already a mother of two children. You need to take care of yourself so you can continue to take care of them.”
“I am going to give birth to this child. That is the only option I am willing to talk about with you,” I retorted.
“I don’t believe you understand how serious your condition is, and now you have missed your appointment with the MFM specialist. I can no longer be your doctor, Mrs. Nehmer. I’m sorry.”
And with that, I was alone. Scared. Angry. In disbelief. She wanted me to abort my child? She wanted me to abort my child! And now I didn’t have a doctor. And I was 4 months pregnant. Devastated, I sobbed all the way home, where I then called my sister. It would be all right, she said. She knew of a great doctor. She wasn’t taking on new patients, but let’s see if she will make an exception.
The new doctor was a breath of fresh air! Because of my medical condition, and the medication I was taking, I had to see my new doctor every few weeks. I also had to see another MFM specialist (this time I didn’t mix up the times). My new doctor was so calm and very hopeful. She talked through my fears and encouraged me at every appointment. She assured me that my old doctor had been using out-dated medical books and that there were new studies being done showing women with PTC were able to deliver very healthy babies, and live to talk about it!
“You can do this,” she would exclaim with a smile!
The morning of September 16, 2008, dawned bright and sunny. Making sure my mom was settled in to watch our two children, my husband and I went to the hospital. A few hours later, I gripped a nurses hand as an anesthesiologist prepped my lower spine for the dreaded spinal block. Because of the high-risk delivery, there were extra doctors and nurses standing around, ready for an emergency. Except, there was none. Within minutes, my husband and I heard a tiny cry. Tears streamed down our faces as doctors congratulated us. We had a healthy baby boy!
Today, I cringe to wonder what life would be like without Bryce. His boyishly shy presence is a blessing to our family. At 10 years of age, Bryce has a passion for playing the trumpet and violin. He is learning to play basketball and loves to write stories and build elaborate Lego sets. I can’t help but mourn for those families who are missing a child like my son, Bryce. Families who listened to a doctor play God, and lost hope, robbing themselves of God’s miracles!