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Friday, July 1, 2016

When a Routine Ultrasound Makes Ultrasounds Routine No More

INNOCENT it was, a quiet, sunny, winter’s morning, July First.  A Tuesday.  Two years ago, today.  A day our lives would change.
We thought nothing of it really.  Apart from the fact we were going to ‘meet’ our unborn, and see their little 19-week-old body in utero, in the form of pictures, some in a printed form we could take with us.  We would see him or her move.  Little did we realise at this point we were about to see our baby from this view many more times in the intervening months, many more times than a normal couple might see, and get to know, their unborn baby.
We readied ourselves and set off in the car; us and our then 15-month-old son.  A quiet car trip, planning the day out as we went.  The strange thing as I look back, those plans soon withered into annihilation.  Those plans were very soon forgotten.  I have no memory of them.
When life changes in an instant, the present bequeaths to the incoming moments a state that can neither accommodate the past nor plan for the future.
We found our way to this brand-new clinic, within a pristine new hospital complex, where the ultrasound scan would take place.  There were still many workers around finishing the place off.  We arrived, registered that we were there, found a seat and some toys for our son to play with.  I can still picture where we sat and the types of interactions we had with fellow parents-to-be.  It was a beautiful moment, pregnant with possibility.  We really had no idea what was about to hit us.
Being invited in for the scan itself, we were impressed with how well behaved our young son was.  But, for some reason, the sonographer was taking such a long time to sort herself out.  It seemed to take her longer to get the views she needed to do our scan.  When she couldn’t see the heart at the right angle, she invited us to go and grab a coffee and return in thirty minutes.  At that point I was impressed with myself that I was able to pick out our foetus’ kidneys (which were remarkably prominent in the scan — little did I know that was not a good sign).  Suspecting nothing was amiss we did as was suggested, and so we went for some morning tea.
I had to shift the car because the ticket had run out, so my wife took my son up to the ultrasound scanning rooms and I followed them minutes later.  Upon arriving I sat in the same seat in the waiting room as I had beforehand.
Then, a minute later, there was a glimpse of Sarah — something wasn’t right.
She gestured to come into the room.
Sarah took up her position on the chair and the sonographer came into the room with a gentleman in his fifties — one of the chief consultants.  They reran the scan, talking a different language briefly, before they asked Sarah to get dressed.  We were then ushered into the consultant’s office.  He was very nice.  Being too nice.
Something was wrong, but we really still had no idea how wrong things were.
There wasn’t that much said, but this consultant felt like Dr. Phil.
He gave us the medical prognosis first, very matter-of-factly, then the plan for what next — how ‘treatment’ would change.  Then he said words etched into our memory:
“You’ve got to be strong for each other…
[his eyes welling up with tears at this stage] …
there’s a very long road ahead.”
In the disbelief of shock, yet knowing this is real, I said something without thought: “I suspect we’ll be thanking God for our faith.”  The doctor then said, “I thank God for your faith now…!  Thank you so much for making this easy for me.”  He then respectfully ushered us out of the rooms, a place I now felt as if we no longer belonged or were worthy of — a place of life, where we were now agents for death.  In a very short timeframe our understanding of where we were and what we were doing was obliterated.
From that moment, everything changed.  The drive home.  Being home.  Having family there.  ‘Words of comfort’ fell flat, and some well-meaning people infuriated us, even when they said innocuous things.  Vulnerable in a second.  We were in the throes of such an ambiguous grief, and those days grew into weeks, and only through the months did grief morph into something pliable for use; for me, lament in reflection and the simply resolve to keep going.  Sarah was always pragmatic, except for the sudden moments she’d be thrown; every few days or so, in her own private way.  Our faith did help, and heaven knows, your prayers helped enormously.
It helps to think back with fondness, only two years ago, to a time God knew we could endure, even if we didn’t have His confidence.
For the times coming for some of you, where the moment changes things, irrevocably, know that you have enough, and are enough, in the Lord your God.
It is well with our souls.  Even in the midst of that Tuesday morning, it was well with our souls.  Because we know Christ.  (And I laugh now, because this July 1st Sarah is very happy; to be buying new camera gear!  Her conversation with her father this morning: “Guess what, it’s the first of July!”  Dad sources Sarah’s camera gear, and it’s new financial year.  Life does move on J)
Christ is a friend for every horrid occasion and every sordid temptation; a friend we never thought we’d need; in the way we know now.
But oh such a friend, for such seasons as these!
© 2016 Steve Wickham.
Postscript: If you have time, take yourself through this sermon.  It does us good.

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