Friday marked one year since Robert and I first heard the words “diaphragmatic hernia.” One year ago, we were so excited to find out the gender of Baby Hardy at our 18 week ultrasound, and never even expected for a moment that we would be receiving news that she had a birth defect. When the sonographer told us we were having a girl, I squealed with delight and shock and pure joy. It was my dream come true! I really couldn’t believe it was happening! My heart was soaring. That moment, and the thirty minutes that followed was one of the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life. Then, when the doctor came in to discuss the results, it was a hard and fast crash down to one of the scariest moments of our lives. At the time, I don’t think the seriousness of the situation even fully hit us. Perhaps because the doctor said there was a chance that it was a false read and we were hanging on to that tiny hope, or perhaps because denial is the easiest place to start, we held our breaths for a few days and the week that followed was full of more tests (level II ultrasounds, amniocentesis, fetal MRI, fetal echocardiogram), more bad news and more grieving. We were grieving the loss of the healthy baby we dreamed of and assumed we’d have. We began grieving what we thought might be the loss of her life with a fatal diagnosis like trisomy 13 or trisomy 18 or even falling in the unlucky 50% of diaphragmatic hernia babies. In those days and weeks Robert and I clung to each other with love and desperation and hope. It set the tone for us doing a lot more of that in the year to follow.
I’ll never forget during those days just laying on the couch in our living room with him and sobbing together. I’ll never forget going to get breakfast at one of our favorite diners and hearing a commercial on the radio for Brenner Children’s Hospital and how painful and difficult it was (and how tasteless that meal, and all the others for weeks were). I’ll never forget holding each other and praying together the most desperate and sincere prayers of our lives. But by the grace of God, the love of a blessed marriage, and the support of our friends and family, we pulled ourselves [each other?] together and got through the second half of the pregnancy. Our world views were changed already before Clara was ever born (see This I Believe), but they would change even more with her arrival. I never knew my heart would carry such a burden for families who have sick children or for those who lose a pregnancy or an infant. My eyes have been opened to just a small segment of the vast pain and suffering in our world and it has forever changed who I am. It has shifted my sense of priorities and importance and made me (I hope) more sensitive to others who face crisis and the fear and uncertainty that comes with it. I have made new friends, all across the country, with whom I share this common bond. And I have had the privilege, the honor, and the responsibility of bringing a miracle into this world and now with raising her. We’ve had countless prayers offered on our behalf and on Clara’s and those prayers have been answered in the affirmative. It has been the most difficult year of my life, but it has also been the most blessed. The past week, and on Friday especially, I've just been marveling at how far we've come in a year and how grateful I am to have Clara here with us and healthy. I'm thankful for her life and I'm thankful for this incredible family she's got. And in a strange way, I'm also kind of thankful for the journey of the past year.
One of the attendings in the NICU told us that statistics say 50% of all marriages fail. Going through something like what we’ve been through just pushes you clearly into whichever 50% you would have been in eventually anyways. Either your marriage gains the depth and intimacy of a more mature marriage, or it will drive you apart. I’m thankful for Robert. I’m thankful for what an incredible balance he is to me and how he grounds me when I need it and supports me with complete abandon. I’m inspired by his faith and overwhelmed by his love. The past year could easily have driven us apart, but I’m so deeply thankful that it has only made us love and appreciate each other even more. Friday night, we went out to celebrate. I don’t know what’s ahead for us, but I know that no matter what it is, we’ll face it just fine. Together.
Clara, on October 28, 2010:
Clara on October 28, 2011:
|No looking back, Clara. No looking back.|
|*Yawn*.... "Mom, I'm tired of this photo shoot..."|
Clara's feet then:
And Clara's feet now:
Date night for us, to celebrate what a hell of year it's been! Mmmm... fondue!
Onward and upward. Thanks be to God.