01-22-11 / Picture Day
After having a wonderful Thursday and Friday I was a little nervous about this day. My dear friend Brandy at Sneak a Peek Ultrasound has offered to allow us to see Thomas as often as we need or want and I was really feeling the need to see him; today was going to be that day. Aaron watches the previous ultrasound video at times and I still haven’t been able to do it, it just makes me sad; I was a little apprehensive about how this whole experience might turn out. If I can’t even watch the first video of him without crying; how in the world would I be able to make it through a live ultrasound without losing it? I contacted Brandy earlier this week asking if she might be able to squeeze me in and she had no problem at all coming in just for us today; she’s truly a kind and amazing woman! We want to include our family as much as possible with these little opportunities as this is their only time with him as well and having them there makes it so special for us. Before I go on about today’s events I would like to explain our ultrasound experiences leading up to this.
Brandy is another person that God strategically placed in my life, many many years ago. When I graduated from High School I made a swift exit from Jasper and headed off to college where I felt I was finally my own boss. I was no longer Brother David’s daughter, which isn’t a bad thing to be, but I was just me in a new place with perfect strangers; I could choose at that very moment exactly who I wanted to be to these new people in my life. I must admit I did not choose wisely, those that knew me then wouldn’t even recognize me now and I’m not referencing my outward appearance. I dove in head first, into all the things that were forbidden my entire life; after all, they were forbidden, they were excessively enticing. I was always that kid, wanting what I couldn’t have and not worrying much about the consequences if I chose to chase after it. I met Brandy while working at Café Del Rio in Lufkin, I will always be thankful for that meeting! She was like everyone’s little sister. She was so different from the rest of us, she was a sweet girl that had no business hanging out with our group; I think she got pure joy out of watching us make total fools of ourselves. I decided, on a whim, to move to Beaumont one New Years Eve and off I went; thank goodness Jamie had a spare bedroom full of junk that I could invite myself to live in. I didn’t see Brandy again after that, until about 8 years later; we ran into each other in the nursery of Calvary Baptist Church of all places, our kids were in the same class. This meeting led to Myspace and Facebook friend requests; isn’t that just the natural thing to do after running into an old friend after being apart for 8 years? Through these sites that bring so much drama to most people, and have brough that for myself from time to time, we got to slowly know each other again. I thank God for all roads leading to her being in my life at this moment in time. I remember thinking how grown up she was, being married, having two beautiful children and owning this fabulous ultrasound business; little Brandy had turned into a fabulous adult.
When we found out we were pregnant she immediately offered her services. She told me that we could come in as often as we’d like to see our little one and we took her up on it pretty soon thereafter. Everyone at work had me panicking about being pregnant with twins because I had gotten so big in the beginning, so I quickly asked when she could squeeze us in; had to make sure there was only one in there! I can’t express the amount of relief we felt when we saw there was only one, after all, we don’t really have the space in our house for one baby, much less two. All we saw at that ultrasound was a healthy baby with a fast heart rate and put what we thought was our biggest concern to rest. Knowing what I know now, I can see his anomaly in those early images; it’s just not something any of us were looking for.
As hard as it was, I resisted the urge to bother Brandy about coming back in every single week; I was actually able to wait until December 23rd. My sweet friend, Stacie, came up with a wonderful gift idea for Aaron for Christmas and it included Sneak a Peek. I went in that day to create a once in a lifetime gift for my husband that would lead to our best Christmas ever and a gift that only I could give him; finding out the gender of our baby. I was trying my hardest to get out of the house on time, but Aaron and Aaden kept finding ways to stall me, not intentionally but just in the way a husband and child can do. As I finally made it to the car I had to text Brandy to let her know that I would be late because without yelling at Aaron, “I am going to be late for my ultrasound”, and blowing the whole gift, I could not seem to get away from my house. She was as laid back as she’s always been and told me it was fine that I was running behind. I got there and she executed our plan beautifully. She turned off the big screen so I couldn’t see a thing and referenced the baby as an “it” throughout the scan, I was a little nervous that I might somehow cheat and peek or she might slip up and say, “he” or “she”; anyhow, we both made it through with very little effort. She kindly printed images with the appropriate body part labeled and one image that will forever be in my mind; my sweet boy stretched out, long legs slightly bent as if he’s truly relaxed and his long beautiful arms gently laying by his side. She sealed these priceless images in two envelopes and handed them to me so I could wrap them for Aaron and I to open together on Christmas morning; time moved like thick molasses from the 23rd until the 25th, but I didn’t cheat! Aaron was working this Christmas, which meant he wouldn’t get home until 5:30 on Christmas morning. As I was lying in bed, too restless and anxious to sleep, I decided I would get up at 5:30 when he walked in so we could open our gift then. I couldn’t stand to wait any longer. Keep in mind, I never get up when he comes in from work; I cherish my sleep, but this couldn’t wait! I will never forget the way his heart started pounding as he read the note I had enclosed about the gift he was about to open, I could visibly see his chest moving with each beat. I let him know what I had done earlier in the week and promised him that I didn’t know either, he tore it open like a little kid and we were both shocked to see, “it’s a boy”; thrilled but shocked. We had convinced ourselves that it was a girl so we weren’t ready for that, so many things were so different about this pregnancy that I kept telling myself that this one must be a girl; I was clearly wrong, there was no denying the fact that this baby was a boy. I already had things planned out in my head, I would bake cupcakes to reveal the sex of our final child and my good friend, Lauren, offered to bake them for me; we all know if I bake something, it more than likely won’t get eaten. As Aaron headed off to work on Christmas night, the kids and I headed to Lauren and Shane’s house to watch Lauren bake our blue cupcakes; everything about this baby’s reveal was full of excitement for me, I will always cherish that. I have Brandy to thank for this.
At the time I went in for that ultrasound, Brandy kept telling me that Aaron and I should come in the next week to actually see him. She kept commenting on how active he was. At one point, I had my hands under my head and she said, “it’s laying just like mommy” and I wanted to cheat and look so bad. After the Christmas dust had settled we asked her if Tuesday would be a good day for us to come in and she didn’t mind at all. Little did she know that I was bringing a zoo with me, Aaden, Kamryn, Mom, Amber, Jae, Reagan, Kennedy and Amanda; doesn’t seem like a ton of people but when you have four kids in a setting like that it gets chaotic. We all sat and enjoyed watching him hide; the little stinker wouldn’t uncover his face. Brandy couldn’t get a measurement of his head to save her life because he kept positioning himself in a way that made it virtually impossible; as frustrating as it was then, I’m thankful that she couldn’t see what was really there. She printed us several pictures, gave us a disc with the images on it and a DVD with the entire session for us to be able to watch for years to come. One of the first things Aaron did after finding out about his birth defect was plug that DVD in and watch him, I couldn’t bring myself to watch; broke my heart. Because of Brandy, we have those memories that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
One of the first things Dr. Sherman said to us when she found out that we had been to Sneak a Peek to find out the gender just a little over a week prior to the ultrasound her office performed was, “she should have contacted me, she should have alerted my office”. Let me say this as loud and clear as I possibly can, I thank God that she didn’t. What if Brandy had seen our baby’s anomaly on December 23rd? What if she had notified Dr. Sherman’s office? What if she had overlooked it on the 23rd but noticed it on the following Tuesday during our session? Aaron and I would not have the amazing memories that we have of watching our son develop. More than likely Dr. Sherman’s office would have contacted us before the holidays letting us know that Sneak a Peek had notified them of some concerns they had surrounding our ultrasound; what is now remembered as our favorite Christmas yet might have been completely shattered by worry. I know a medical professional might not see it this way, but I am thankful that my dear friend Brandy was unable to detect his problem, the memories she has given us are ones that will forever be in our hearts and minds.
Once we discovered that our son had anencephaly I wanted to contact Brandy, not to ask her if she had noticed it and not shared it with us, not to voice anger for her not detecting it; just to thank her for all she had done for us. I don’t know why, but I kept putting it off, I thought of it daily but I just couldn’t make myself contact her. I think it was about a week after we found out that she contacted me, my heart sank. I don’t know why, I don’t know why I was so nervous to hear what she had to say. Those concerns were laid to rest when I read the words that were becoming so familiar to me, she loved us and was thinking about us, she was sorry for the news we had been delivered and didn’t know what to say; finally she said, “I just want you to know that I am here any time you need any thing and any time if you decide you want to or need to see your lil guy I am here”, I already knew this was how she felt, but to see the words made my heart feel so good. I set up an appointment with her on the following Saturday, a time when many of our family members could join us. This appointment was very special to me, our family from the Baton Rouge area was able to come in for it; this included my Nana. Not sure why, but it’s so important to me that my grandparents be a part of my children; I guess that’s how everyone sees it. One of the things that weighed so heavily on my heart when we found out we were pregnant was that my Paw Paw would never get to rock this baby, now I’m a little jealous that he’ll have far more rocking time with him than we will.
We arrived a little bit early for this appointment, odd for my entire family, but Brandy was coming in just for us and I didn’t want to keep her any longer than necessary. I was so uneasy about this one, I hadn’t even been able to sit and watch the past ultrasound without losing it; how in the world was I going to hold it together for a live viewing? Would my parents be able to hold it together? Would we all just be a total mess and leave poor Brandy sitting there wishing she hadn’t signed up for this? I hesitantly crawled up on the mattress while my family settled into their spots on the couches; I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I was joking around about how awful my toes looked and that I was in desperate need of a pedicure; what I really wanted to do was crawl into a hole and not go through with this. I sucked it up and somehow found joy in it all. The minute she put that thingy, for lack of a better name, on my stomach against the warm gel I felt amazingly peaceful about all of it. I was just ready to see my little boy and so thankful that I had a dear friend that could provide that for me. Over the past couple of scans we have realized that Thomas hates ultrasounds, he absolutely detests them. He refuses to cooperate and I have to say I love that about him. I love that he’s got personality among all the vital things he’s missing. He keeps his hands over his face and will occasionally lift one of them as if to say, “There, now leave me alone”. When he doesn’t have his hands over his face, he’s got his face buried to the point that we just can’t see it. He shows us his “moon” quite a bit; I do believe he gets that from his brother; both of my boys are super proud of their booties. At one point, he was stomping his foot as if he was throwing a temper tantrum; it was fabulous. Most mommies don’t love a temper tantrum but I have to say that’s the sweetest foot stomping I’ve ever seen. His muscles are so defined and he appears thick and healthy. He was trying his best to get his fingers in his mouth and at one point he had success. I think the hardest thing about these ultrasounds will be that he appears so healthy, he appears complete until we catch a glimpse of the portion that is missing, watching him wiggle and throw fits makes me feel that he should be born perfectly normal. Staying in touch with reality during these scans can become increasingly difficult. There was one moment where I had to fight back the tears, just when you think the 3 year old tyrant in the room isn’t paying attention I hear his sweet voice yell, “look, that’s my brother or sister”; talk about ripping your heart out. All this time I didn’t think he was paying us one bit of attention and without prompting he announces to the room that we’re looking at his little brother or sister. This was between the dust angels he was making on the floor and whacking unsuspecting victims in the knee with a hammer; he’s just so innocent, he doesn’t even realize the impact of what he’s saying. I think through all of this I have been hearing people talk about my strength but not believing it; I was truly amazed at how well I handled this day. I was amazed that I made it through the entire ultrasound without breaking down. I was amazed that I was able to point everything out to Brandy without crying, we just discussed it as the factual situation that it is. I was amazed that when she handed me the 15 images that she printed for me, I was able to go through each one with my family showing them the defect that was ultimately going to take his life. I truly don’t know how the rest of the room handled it, I don’t know if anyone else shed any tears; I chose to focus on the happy thoughts of my boy. I focused on the fact that he’s funny, the fact that his tiny hiney isn’t so tiny, the fact that he’s incredibly long and so active and ultimately that he’s alive in me; I am sustaining his life in the best way I know how and I love that I’ve been given that responsibility.
I don’t have any way to thank Brandy for all she has done and is doing for Aaron, our family and myself; she will never know what it means. In so many ways we are blessed, we have been handed a very difficult situation but things keep lining up that make it easier to bear. During these sessions we get to pretend that he’s “normal”, we get to see him the way we would love to see him on the day he is born; I cannot put a price tag on that.
We ended this day extremely late but in the best way possible, with family. Dad was gracious enough to give Aaden his very own harmonica, which oddly enough I enjoy listening to him play. The things that once drove me nuts are music to my ears. Don’t get me wrong, he still drives me bonkers, but I find joy in many of the things that used to send me sailing in frustration. Love your little ones!