It was almost a year ago when we had Katelyn's 19 week ultrasound, when her arm difference stared us in the face and we sat stunned that God chose our little girl to be 1 in 40,000. As I reflect back on that day, I realize how much we've grown and the lessons we've learned...
I don't know if it was coincidence or intuition, but as we walked into the ultrasound room that day, I thought to myself, "I wonder if something is wrong with our baby?" I quickly dismissed the thought as silly worrying that every mother-to-be surely feels before seeing an ultrasound.
We cheered when we found out our baby was a girl. A few minutes later, the room grew strangely quiet and the technician's face grew pale as she--and we--realized something was wrong with our baby's arm.
If I could choose one word to describe that moment, it would be final. Katelyn was missing a forearm, hand, and five fingers. Period. There was no "hoping for the best" that she would grow the rest of her arm, and no possibility that the ultrasound had been wrong. In the finality of that moment, in that forced sense of closure, we had no choice but to deal with it. And so pray we did. A lot. To my own surprise, my instincts were to accept reality first, establish a sensible perspective, and then deal with emotions as they naturally came.
Lesson learned: When God's plan knocks the wind out of you, pray before you panic. Embrace it, embrace HIM, and let Him guide you to the next step forward. And whatever you do, don't let go.
After we left the doctor's office, I called my mom to tell her our news and began crying. I could wrap my mind around her arm difference, but I was scared. At that point, we didn't know if other parts of Katelyn's body would be similarly effected in the remainder of the pregnancy. I just wanted to wrap my arms around my belly and protect her. Dave and I spent the rest of the day together and filled it with prayers, research, hugs, tears, and thinking of fun advantages to having only one hand. The more we talked about Katelyn, the more excited we became. At only 19 weeks in utero, we felt privileged to already know our daughter on a deeper level. We couldn't WAIT to meet her!!
Lesson learned: The more positive our thinking, the easier it is to face reality. And don't be afraid to laugh; keeping a sense of humor has a way of shutting out self pity.
The next 48 hours (and throughout the pregnancy), we received an outpouring of love and prayers from family and friends. Our church and the churches our friends and families attend were also praying for Katelyn, and let me tell you- we felt it. It was in this sense of peace that we realized God has a remarkable plan for Katelyn's life. I mean, she wasn't even born, yet He used her to draw hundreds of people closer to Him in prayer. Pretty special. Humbling.
Lesson learned: Sometimes the most meaningful gift you can give someone is prayer, so give generously. To be on the receiving end of such generosity is life-changing.
Two days after the ultrasound, we met with a specialist who determined that Katelyn was, in fact, a very healthy baby and that she was otherwise on track to develop normally. Talk about relief!! Even so, we wouldn't have a confirmed diagnosis until after she was born. I was still a little scared and, at times, let human nature's worry get the best of me, but God gave me an underlying peace I needed in the remainder of the pregnancy.
After Katelyn was born, our visit to Scottish Rite reminded us that her arm almost seems trivial compared to other children who are missing both legs, both arms, or have no limbs at all. She's missing part of her arm; so what? She's a happy, well-adjusted baby who seems to love life. Sure, she'll face challenges, but again, so what? She'll overcome them and we'll be cheering every step of the way. Her name means "pure joy," and that she is.
Lesson learned: God is graciously intentional when he creates life. Be patient with and unapologetically accepting of others who are different. He made them His way on purpose-- and that, friends, is life worth loving and joy worth embracing.