I Named Her Anyway

I remember the day I decided not to love Annie. I didn’t want my heart broken by a broken hearted baby growing wrongly in my womb.

I named her that day anyway.

A baby should have a name, I reasoned. That name defined the life of a baby I hadn’t even felt move yet. I’d only seen her long legs kick, kick, kicking away on a screen in black and white while the technician searched for the other half of her heart.

It’s good to define a life the day before you have to fight for it. It’s also good that we wanted Annie so many days before someone told us we shouldn’t anymore.

“Yes, her heart is all wrong. See there on the screen?” He was asking the wrong person. Certainly, I had an untrained eye, but to a hopeful, expectant mother everything about her forming fetus feels just exactly right.

“You don’t have to do this, Mrs. Lane. And I’m positive you won’t want to. I’m not even sure your daughter will live to be born. You don’t want to put yourself through that. I’d advise taking care of it today. It’s very private and safe. We can do an abortion right here in this office.”

Hot tears stung my cheeks. Was he talking to me? About Annie? His words drowned in my delight of watching my baby girl flip and flop on the television mounted on the wall in front of me.

“I can see you need some time to consider it,” he pressed. “You don’t have to decide today. But I can assure you it’s your best option. And no one will fault you for it.”

I didn’t need time to decide. I needed time to catch my breath and find my voice. He waited impatiently and handed me a box of Kleenex.

“No. No. I want to keep her!” My words were chopped by gut wrenching sobs. “I want her. I want her.” I don’t know if I was telling Annie’s doctor or Annie’s mother, but we both understood.

Contrary to popular medical belief, choosing life for Annie has been our best option. And more than a few loudly inquiring minds have faulted us for it.

Each of those recommenders and inquirers were right. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t have to do this. It’s absolutely been life’s greatest challenge but equally humble honor to be Annie’s mom.

To be the mother loving a child who everyone knows will die too soon.

To be the mother comforting a child who knows all the truth of her condition.

To be the mother nodding and smiling, passionately thanking a discharge team’s recurrent announcement. “We’ll give her 6-8 weeks,” they say with smug, forced grins. “Enjoy your trip home.” And we were free for another day to wait for Annie to fail.

And somehow since we chose life five years ago today — while we all wait for Annie to fail– we just keep living!

I picture those 20-week-old fetus hands covering her face when I hold her thumb tightly to clean the red blot from a third-try finger prick.

I remember those skinny, unborn legs when I pretreat pink leggings discolored with brown sludged knee stains from digging for worms on a pre-k playground.

I remember the doctor’s warnings of Annie’s shortened life expectancy when she darts the entire length of the soccer field chasing her ball to the net.

Every three months when I’m scared to death in some cardiology waiting room, I close my eyes and picture preborn Annie that day. And I remember that we made the right choice to keep her, to want her, to love her. I’m going to keep making that choice every day I get to.

Decisions, Decisions

On this day last year, we chose life for this happy, fun girl.photo (4)

We had to wait a week to see if her diagnosis would even be compatible with our choice. And honestly, the doctor’s recommendation sounded terrifyingly inviting and horrifyingly easy. I whimpered to Matt, “I don’t want a baby like this.”

How simple it seemed to cut the cord (literally) and count our losses. But we couldn’t. We wouldn’t. Because as logical as it sounded to others…even to us at times, it wasn’t right. Though we decided we were ready to get pregnant with Annie, we’d be embarrassingly naive if we thought her life was our choice. Her life wasn’t up to us and her life wasn’t for our pleasure or satisfaction either. So what if her life would make our life forever different than what we’d dreamed about in premarital counseling? Too bad if her life was an “inconvenience” to someone who wanted a worry-free reality. Reality doesn’t answer to dreams.

They kept saying we had time for “choices.” What they quietly withheld is that while we were free to choose, we were not free from the consequences of our choice. And so, what else would we choose than to cling to truth and to hope in the one who was holding Annie’s life in His hands, who did make Annie for His purpose.

The choice we had wasn’t to terminate Annie or not. The choice we had was to trust that God knew what He was doing, whether it felt like it or not. And of course, He did. And does. And will.

It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been cheap. It hasn’t been normal. It hasn’t been neat and tidy. In fact, Annie has a beautiful but jagged, light purple scar covering her chest that matches an ugly scar inside our hearts. And of course, saving Annie’s life hasn’t been all that convenient.

But it’s been worth it. every. single. second. of every. single. heartbeat. has proclaimed to a watching world that there’s something more than convenient. There’s something more than logical. There’s something more than easy.

There’s the Creator who’s writing a beautiful story of redemption in the face of our Annie. Just to continue proving that He is the author of this heartwarming story, it seems more than simply “conicidental” that on this one-year anniversary of choosing life, FamilyLife just so happens to be publishing an article about Annie tomorrow. Here’s the link: http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/parenting/archived-content/miscellaneous/somethings-not-right-with-your-baby .

I love this story that God is telling. There’s no way I could make this stuff up!

hard things

Not as Easy as You’d Think

When the perinatologist suggested terminating Annie when I was 18 weeks and 6 days pregnant with “a baby who might never live and was guaranteed to have significant complications,” I immediately choked out a quiet but firm, “No, that won’t be an option for us.” Even though my audible answer was an automatic refusal, the silent reasoning that screamed in my head wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t at least an option to be considered.

Sure, I knew what was right, what was moral, what I should do and say. But I’ve learned that knowing the correct response doesn’t silence the fears. It was one of those times where I’m glad I decided what I’d do before I even got into the situation– you know the ones your parents made you role play as a teenager, the ones where you practice making the right decision in the light before it’s too hard to see the right answer hiding behind the dark.

It was a time where I felt like God’s promises weren’t matching up with what He was asking me to obey. Kind of like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars…and then God told Abraham to kill his only son as a sacrifice. I’m sure Abraham was wondering how in the world God was going to make recompense of that situation to make good on His promise. But, as God always is, He was serious about asking Abraham to obey and He was also faithful in keeping His promise by providing an animal as sacrifice instead.

God asked me to obey Him that day (and in the few weeks’ window that followed where Arkansas law would still legally permit a termination) and trust that He is the giver and taker of life. I know that I would have never chosen to end Annie’s life while she was in the womb. But I can’t say that there weren’t days that it sounded like such an easy option. It seemed so easy to silence my fears on my own. To take measures into my own hands so I could know and prepare myself for the outcome. To be the one in control so at least I could be sure how it would all unfold. To give in to my fears of the what ifs of Annie’s life to come. To be swamped in post-op pictures of 5-day-old babies and convince myself that neither Annie or I should have to live through that.

And yes, I would’ve missed this:

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But I also would’ve missed this:

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I’m seeing that when God asks for my obedience, He knows I’m afraid. He knows I’m scoffing inside my head thinking there’s no way it’s all going to come together.

But I’m thankful that there is no fear in love, so that I can live each day unafraid of what it holds and what tomorrow will bring, because God is lovingly writing the story of my life and Annie’s life. I can trust Him when He asks me to obey, and I’ll put my hope in His promises that He always keeps.