The day started with anticipation. It ended with
voices ringing in our ears…”Your baby has a very
serious heart defect. We are sorry but nothing can
be done to fix it. If he makes it to term, he won’t live
more than hours or a few days. We strongly suggest
that you consider ending this pregnancy now so that
you don’t prolong your suffering.”
My husband Dave and I had been at an appointment
for a level two ultrasound, 19 weeks into our first
pregnancy; a follow up to some funny results from a
blood test, probably nothing to worry about.
The world was spinning, collapsing, everything had
changed. Life before this day was over and now we
were on a new journey…one with no easy road, no
real way out.
I wish I could say the decision to continue, to carry this
baby with “no hope” was automatic, but that isn’t the truth.
The truth is that I couldn’t imagine any of the options.
Early induction was offered and seemed less like
“termination” than a surgical abortion. Twenty-one
more weeks of planning a birth and a funeral at the
same time seemed impossibly painful. There was no
way around the pain. I wanted out.
Then, thanks to a kind receptionist, I was connected
to a woman who had been given similar news 2 years
earlier and had chosen to continue her pregnancy.
We spoke on the phone and I heard something that
surprised me. Her story was one of love and grief, joy
and pain. She spared no details, sharing every aspect
of her journey. She didn’t make trite statements or
offer spiritual platitudes, but instead extended the
hope that there can be beauty mixed with suffering.
The decision was made. I think that decision saved my
life, not physically, but spiritually.
My doctor was so adamant I terminate that I had to
ask if she would continue to be my doctor since I had
chosen to carry to term. She agreed, but I could tell it
I continued to go about my daily life, going to work,
to the grocery store. Every day was a choice to move
and live. There were two other pregnant women who
worked in the same dental office as I did. All three of
us were expecting firstborn sons, all due within a 12-
week period. I couldn’t avoid the truth; I embraced
it and was honest with everyone who asked about
the baby. Though I knew it made some people
uncomfortable, I couldn’t pretend things were ok.
At 30 weeks, we had another ultrasound and there
was a slight improvement in the appearance of our
baby’s heart. We saw a pediatric cardiologist who did
his best to see our son’s heart anatomy through my
belly. The news was still grave, but a glimmer of hope
existed. We would have to wait and see.
At 36 ½ weeks, a beautiful boy, Davis Eric, entered the
world. I was able to hold him for a moment before
the neonatal team whisked him away. My husband,
Dave, followed and Davis’ heart defect was officially
diagnosed “Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.” A big
name for a big problem. Only a few babies survived the
3-part surgery and the best hope was still “a lifetime of
looking over your shoulder” as the neonatologist put it.
We had come to a peaceful place of surrender. He
was ours for a season, however long, but ultimately
he was the Lord’s. We could choose the surgery
knowing that our hope was not dependent on our
Davis had surgery on the fifth day of his life. We
had held him, loved him, parented him in the ways
we could. He survived only a few short hours after
surgery. The doctors had done their best, we had
done our best, and it was time to let him go. The pain
was the deepest ache I have ever experienced. I still
feel it sometimes. But this pain does not bear any
regrets, any second thoughts, any “if onlys.” This pain
doesn’t consume me from the inside out.
We are blessed to now have two daughters, Anna and
Grace, both healthy girls and we look back with gratitude
and humility on our painful and wonderful journey.
Tracy volunteers her time working with young women
through Young Life, a non-denominational Christian
outreach organization for adolescents.