Lying on the doc’s table watching the ultra-sound wand roll through sticky stuff and over my abdomen, I was petrified to look at the screen. Would there be a heartbeat? Would Dr. Crandall detect an abnormality? And if he did, could I handle it? After all, I was 45-years-old. In the last two and a half years I’d suffered two miscarriages.
Our family practitioner had told me gravely I was “playing Russian Roulette.”
A fertility specialist my husband and I consulted told us that at my age he doubted it was possible to get pregnant naturally and carry to term. He’d never seen it.
My parents, appalled that I’d even be trying because of the risk, urged me to use contraception.
And yet, the words that had the strongest impact upon me were from Scripture.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also
conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth
month for her who was called barren; for nothing will
be impossible for God.” (Luke 1: 36, 37)
Proclaimed on the Feast of the Annunciation and several other times throughout the year, these verses strangely appeared during my Quiet Times — for years — on days that coincided with my earnest prayer for married life and children. Could this promise be for me? Like Mary’s cousin who went on to deliver John the Baptist, my name is also Elizabeth…. I talked to a spiritual director about it, placed it in God’s hands and gently allowed hope to remain.
The years my friends were getting married, buying houses and having kids were the years I walked my German Shepherd-Husky-Mutt down to Sacred Heart Church, tied her up at the bicycle rack and cried my eyes out in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The people of the parish who stopped to pet Maxine came to know me as “the dog lady.” A name that smacked of spinster-hood to me…
By the time I hit my early forties, I imagined I was being judged by the vast majority of society as a financially-challenged religious fanatic who was either gay or hopelessly prudish. Whatever. I turned my energies toward charitable endeavors, enduring friendships, and improving myself. At the local university, I did enough tendus and echappes to eventually supplement my B.A. in English with a Certification in Dance Education.
Right after my first year of teaching in an arts-magnet school in Ohio, I met and married a successful architect from Naples, Florida. I was 42 years old. I often wonder if when they found out I was pregnant, some of society’s same guard were brokering the odds of my having a special needs child, and knowingly embroidering sentiments into their conversations like “unfair to the child,” “selfish,” and “risky.” No mind. It was all familiar scenery to me, along the unpopular route.
Loving may be sacrificial, but it’s never wrong. Inviting a child into the world with special needs is even more loving, and hence more meritorious, than if the child were perfect. There can be such blessing in it that the wait for Downs Syndrome babies is even longer than that for genetically normal kids. That said, we all want to deliver a healthy child. And lying on that table, I prayed hard for one.
I’d said “yes” to all the restraints my faith required of me, why couldn’t I say “yes” if God were trying to bless me, I mused? After all, before walking down the aisle, Mario and I had signed a paper, pledging that we were open to life.
Yet on the doc’s table I felt my first qualms of conscience. Would I even have what it takes to bring up a special needs child? Mario would flip.
I turned my gaze to the screen and rolled strong silent Hail Mary’s into the fuzzy image….
Dr. Crandall stuck his chin outward and squinted at the screen as he eased the wand over my belly. “There’s the heartbeat,” he announced.
Wow. My own quickened.
“The crown-rump link is appropriate to the gestational age and the nucleo translucency is not thickened which is a good sign,” he observed from beneath his spectacles. The nasal bone is present … another good indication there’s no Downs….” He punched in a few computations. A couple of lines swung up through a graph. The doctor waved his laser beam along the dotted one: “The baby’s in the 65th percentile for weight and growing right along the standard curve.”
After a few more technical observations the appointment was over. Dr. Crandall turned to me and announced, “You can start telling people you’re pregnant.”
Are you sure?” I gulped.
It was the twelfth week of my pregnancy and my first appointment with this pro-life doctor. Amazingly, the appointment had fallen on The Feast of the Annunciation.
I was awed.
We named her Victoria when she arrived September 26th, an 8.5 pound chubby-cheeked “Lumpkin.”
All along the way, Mario and I had trusted God. There was no artificial birth control, which separates the unitive from the procreative purposes of the sex act. We used Natural Family Planning. There was no invitro-fertilization, which relies on the principle of killing life to create life. There was no amniocentesis – no open door to killing an innocent unborn human.
Incredibly, two years later, we discovered we were pregnant with another. Like our biblical cohorts, Elizabeth and Zechariah, we named him —
The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.