I just want you to know that my first thoughts when Caroline was diagnosed with anencephaly were not great. I have dubbed them my "horrible thoughts." I want to be candid about what I was thinking, because I think it's easy for us to beat ourselves up about the thoughts that naturally occur to us in times of distress. Hopefully knowing that I had these thoughts can make someone else take comfort in the fact that they're not alone. I also want to note that while I am not proud of the fact that I had these thoughts, I am also not riddled with guilt about having them. I think they were part of what I had to go through to get to where I am right now in my journey.
One of the first things I thought was, "Am I going to be able to love her?" In my mind, I was having trouble figuring out how I was going to love my baby girl. How could I love her, knowing I would lose her? How could I LET myself love her knowing that? I wanted to distance myself as much as I could from her so the loss of her wouldn't hurt so badly. Ha.
The second thing that came to me was, "How am I going to cope with watching her grow?" I didn't want to see my belly grow. I didn't want to feel her moving. I didn't want to know she was there. I felt like she had been ripped away from me already, and having a constant reminder of her presence was going to kill me. That led me to the next thought...
"I hope I can just miscarry soon so I don't have to go through this for very long." This one hurts the most looking back. We had adamantly refused to abort Caroline, but my thoughts were running dangerously close to the same perspective. Get rid of her so the pain can be over. It is so hard to look at a future with a medical certainty of death and not want it to be over with quickly. But I'm glad this thought didn't last long.
I also thought, "It doesn't matter if I 'act' pregnant anymore...nothing I do matters to her, and I can't 'hurt' her anymore than she already is." I thought how pointless it would be to keep taking my prenatal vitamins, that it didn't matter if I ate all the right things, and that it wouldn't matter if I lifted something heavy. Nothing mattered anymore. This also didn't last long, but the fight against futility is a tough one.
All these thoughts passed through my mind on that first day of diagnosis. By the end of the day I was doing a little better, but that initial shock really threw me for a loop. I felt helpless, hopeless, and defeated. I had to really drop to my knees in prayer to make it through that afternoon. My immediate family, especially my mom, was a great encouragement and help to me. I don't know what I would have done without them. I went to bed that night feeling slightly more at peace, but it wasn't until the next morning that things really changed for me.
I am convinced that people were praying for us all night long. That next morning, a Friday, I woke up with so much peace. I was able to email our close family and friends and post a note on Facebook to inform everyone about what was going on. I have received countless replies to that email that have just absolutely blown me away. I have been humbled by people's thoughts and opinions of what I wrote, and know that God is being glorified in this situation despite my many imperfections. Cameron and I keep saying that God is working a miracle in this situation whether we get "our" miracle of healing for Caroline or not. And I am blessed to be a part of it all.
That morning my perspective changed. God just poured out a flood of grace and mercy on me. I was convinced that I could do nothing but love my little girl with abandon. I know it will hurt if/when we lose her because I love her so much, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I cannot believe how much this little person inside of me has already stolen my heart. And maybe it's because I know I won't have much time with her, but I treasure every minute of her existence here on earth, even if it is just in my womb.
I also am amazed at how much I enjoy feeling her move and watching my belly grow. I feel a bittersweet twinge every time she rolls over or kicks me from the inside, but I cherish those moments, knowing she's still with me, that there's still the hope and possibility of a miracle, and that she's not gone to be with Jesus. Cameron was able to feel her kick for the first time this past weekend, and it lit up his face. It just made my heart flood with a somber joy to see that.
I am now begging God to let her stay with us as long as possible. I cannot imagine wanting to lose her quickly anymore. She is my baby girl, my Caroline Grace, and I want to keep her as long as I can. Every day that I feel her and know she's still with us makes me so grateful. I can't imagine feeling any differently anymore.
I voiced some of my thoughts to Cameron that first day. In response to my hopelessness about taking care of myself and her, he said, "God has entrusted her to us, even if it's just for a little while. And if she's still here with us, it's our responsibility as her parents to take care of her to the best of our abilities. If we lose her, then we lose her, but until then, we have to take care of her." And he was right. If her life is valuable enough to continue the pregnancy, then it has to be valuable enough to treat her with the love and respect she deserves as our child. Now I might even be more careful about what I eat, do, and lift than I was before we found out about her condition. I love her enough to take care of her to the best of my ability.
Something else Cameron said that stuck with me was this: It felt like Caroline was "born" on that fateful Thursday. We may not get much time with her here on earth, and it may all be while she's ensconced in my womb, but we can still celebrate her life. We aren't waiting until she's physically born to appreciate her or love her, or to make memories with her. We may not get that chance with her outside the womb. So while we still have her, we're going to cherish her as if she was already outside here with us.
Since those first couple days, I've also had some comforting thoughts. God lost a child too. Not only did he lose one, but he CHOSE to lose him. He SENT him so that he would have to lose him. What kind of great love is that? So not only does he understand how I'm feeling, he also loves Caroline, Cameron, and me more than I could ever love Caroline myself. That makes me feel so much more at peace. It also reminds me that through his great love, we have the ability to see Caroline again in Heaven someday. Our goodbye is not forever, so we won't mourn with hopelessness. We can rest in the fact that she is loved and will be at peace, waiting for us to join her.
The other thing that brings me great peace is that I know God is bigger than all of this. He has power over death itself, so he most certainly has power over a physical condition that causes death. I can have faith that he CAN work a miracle in Caroline's little body, to heal her and make her whole. That doesn't mean that IS what he will do, and I know that. But it helps to hope in someone that has the power to do it, instead of being resigned to the fact that it is medically impossible. I'll elaborate more on that in another post, but suffice it to say that hope for healing is a very powerful thing, and something I won't relinquish until the day Caroline is either healed or goes to be with Jesus, if that is his will for us.
In the meantime, I will love her and care for her as much as I can, and I will treasure her life, even if it only lasts until the day she is born. Thank you Jesus for hope and grace, and for a peace that passes understanding.