All,  Marcella's Story

That “Catholic” Hospital

A few weeks later, my mom and I made the three hour trek up to Baltimore to St. Agnes hospital for an extensive sonogram of the baby, since nowhere around Berlin has specialized high risk pregnancy doctors. We pull up to this beautiful stone looking hospital and I am nervous as hell. My mom takes my hand and says, “I’m right here for you honey, we will get through this.” As we sit in the waiting room, waiting to be called back, I remember the posters about saving the cord blood, the bleakness of the waiting room, the terrible smell, and the horrifying silence- the deafening silence of living a nightmare. The nurse finally calls me back, I take a deep breath, stand up, and make my way through that single door and follow her to the exam room. She tries to make small talk, but being young and scared I just keep quiet, trying to entertain my mind with anything but the outcome of this appointment. She explains what to expect, how long the sonogram will take, and when the doctor will come in to review everything. As she squirts the freezing cold gel on to my stomach, I fix my eyes on the monitor, waiting to see my baby pop up on the screen. Almost instantly as she touches the sonogram doppler to my stomach, that beautiful baby pops up on the screen and for an instant everything else fades. She continues to scan, measure, take pictures, lock in blood flow, measure the heartbeat, and gather all the necessary information for the doctor to decide on if my beautiful baby has spina bifida. As she finishes up, she politely smiles, tells me that the doctor will be in soon, and leaves the room; leaving my mom and I in deafening silence once again.

What felt like hours, I’m sure were only minutes, but the doctor finally came in. He went through all the information the tech had gathered, all the measurements, pictures, and then started to look for himself. It was at this point that I began to feel uneasy; thoughts of why is he doing this again, is something wrong, something is totally wrong, when will they tell us what they see, etc. He looks at me and says, “good news, it’s a girl if you didn’t already know, but there is some bad news… your baby has excess fluid on her brain and does in fact have spina bifida, from T6 to T11 of her spine. I will speak to you more in depth in my office, but you can get cleaned up now” and with that he was gone. I sat there trying to process what just happened, how could he just say that and walk away, excess fluid on her brain what does that mean, and the worst part my baby did indeed have a birth defect-spina bifida. As the nurse walked us to the doctor’s office, I still hadn’t wrapped my head around all he had told me in the exam room, but when I saw him again the first thing out of my mouth was what does all of this mean?

He began to pull out pamphlets and brochures to show me what children with spina bifida look like, how demanding they are, how many special needs they have, and rattling off statistics of the likely hood of having another child with it. While looking through these pamphlets at these kids in wheelchairs, on feeding tubes, asking myself if I could really handle taking care of a baby let alone a special needs, I hear the doctor say, “you don’t have to keep the baby, we can terminate it. You are young, do you really want to be a teen mom to a special needs baby? You can’t handle this baby by yourself.” I recall looking up at my mom speechless, I couldn’t believe he was telling me the best option was to abort and terminate my baby because of her birth defect. When I finally found my voice, I looked him in the eye and said, “well I’m not terminating her, so what are my other options.” Again, this doctor began to spew how much work it was going to be, how I deserve to be a kid myself, that my baby would be in a wheel chair, more than likely paralyzed, on a feeding tube, and wouldn’t have much of a life to live with her spina bifida and hydrocephalus. At this point, he had made me think that termination was the only answer and if I didn’t then my baby and I would just suffer the rest of our lives, but I still wasn’t taking termination as the only answer. My mom and I made eye contact and then I said, “Well, I’m not terminating her, so you better start telling me what other options I have.” He began to speak about in-utero surgery, traveling to children’s hospital, but first I had to come back and have an amniocentesis done to ensure there were no other chromosomal defects on my baby. As my mom and I left that doctors office, I recall telling my mom that he wouldn’t have a part in anything else with my baby, that after the amniocentesis we would be going somewhere anywhere else but there; thankfully she agreed because we both were completely disgusted with how much he pushed to terminate my baby girl. While it was not exactly what we wanted to hear and go home having to share, we at least had a final answer that yes, my baby girl did in fact have spina bifida.

The three-hour drive home seemed to pass all to quickly as we pulled into the driveway of our house. I took another deep breath and pushed open the door ready to face the first time I had to acknowledge that there was something seriously wrong with the child I was carrying. I talked to my mom and my stepdad about the game plan, what happens next, all the scary risks and responsibilities of special needs, but that wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was picking up the phone and having to tell family and friends one after the other that my baby girl had spina bifida, a neural tube defect where her spinal column and spinal cord did not develop right and there was a high chance she would be every parent’s worst fear in a wheel chair, paralyzed, mentally handicapped, and on a feeding tube. That day felt like it went on for days upon days, by the time I went to bed I was emotionally and mentally drained and had nothing left in me. As I crawled in to bed that night, I cried a few silent tears and began to pray my heart out over my baby girl; for God to heal her, to be with me as I made it through those hard appointments, and that no matter what He chose to do, that He would never give me more than I could handle. Knowing that the amniocentesis was soon, I prayed that the scary risks and side effects of it wouldn’t harm my pregnancy and that God would protect my baby.