There is something amazing about seeing your baby on an ultrasound... whether it's the first, second or tenth time. Just over a year ago, my husband Lew and I excitedly walked into the doctor's office, ready for our 18-week fetal survey, where they check every single organ to ensure that they're developing correctly. We'd already had one ultrasound where we found out it was a girl. And, we'd already named her -- Pamela "Ella" Catherine.
Over the course of that hour, our sonographer Colleen showed us each organ -- helping us to discern them since most looked like indistinguishable blobs. But, she told us they looked perfect and were developing correctly, so we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Colleen scanned around the rest of Ella's body -- first confirming that yes, she was still a girl. She then scanned quickly over each foot and each of her arms. We saw her wiggle all of her toes and wave her fingers. Something looked a little off to me because I thought we could only see one set of fingers. But, I shook off that feeling because we had a hard time telling which side of the body we were looking at, plus she could have just been making a fist or maybe we were catching it at a weird angle. But, at the end of the ultrasound, Colleen left for a few minutes, saying that she would be right back. At that time, Lew and I looked at each other and I said, "Something's wrong."
Maybe it was because the sonographer didn't leave at the end of our previous ultrasound. Maybe it was because there was a sign directly in front of me that said something to the effect of "Sonographer cannot divulge any information on your ultrasound. This information must be provided by the radiologist or your ob/gyn." I just knew there was cause for concern, and I immediately looked at Lew and guessed.
"I think it's that arm," I said. "Something wasn't right. I couldn't see any fingers... Could you?"
Lew just slowly shook his head. He then held my hand while we waited, and prayed that we wouldn't hear terrible news.
Three-hundred minutes later (or maybe just five) Colleen came back in with the radiologist. Now, we loved our hospital. We loved our doctors. Our nurses. Our sonographer. We even loved the food service people. But, you want to know who we didn't love? Our radiologist.
This guy walked in, looked at us and said "OOH... no one likes to see me! Hold on one second" and then proceeded to spend five minutes examining the ultrasounds. Meanwhile, I'm looking at Lew mouthing, "Are you kidding me?" while Lew was staring back at the radiologist, stunned.
Finally, the radiologist moved away from the computer screen and said, "I'm not happy with something I'm seeing on your ultrasound. In looking at it, your baby is missing all of her left hand. So, we're going to get you set up with the high-risk specialist and they'll go over all of the possibilities with you. Sorry." And then he left while we stared at Colleen with our jaws dropped, my fingers turning white from the grip that Lew had on my hand.
Colleen sat with us for a few minutes, gave us her sincere condolences and handed over a pile of ultrasound photos. She then went out and told our nurse practitioner what the radiologist had said. The NP wanted to see us before we left, but Colleen said we could take as much time as we needed.
I slowly got dressed and we ambled down the hall. Our NP was there within two minutes and gave me the biggest hug. She then asked me the question that still appalls me: "Now that you have found this out... is there any chance you wouldn't want to go through with this pregnancy?" Without any discussion or hesitation, both of us vehemently yelled "NO." She smiled and said, "I absolutely figured that knowing the two of you -- but I had to ask."
She had gotten to know us pretty well at this point, and gave it to us straight: "Well, out of all of the scary developments that could have come out of an ultrasound, this is one of the best." We nodded, because honestly, that was exactly what we were thinking as well. She then paused and smiled sadly at us and said, "It still sucks though." Yup, that about summed it up.
We talked a little bit as we left the hospital, but mostly we sat in silence as we each slowly processed the information. Occasionally, one of us would voice a concern -- mine typically consisted of "how will she wear a wedding ring?" (On her right hand, of course.) And, "how will she put her hair in a ponytail?" (With help -- though that may never be an issue if this kid, who is now 10-months-old, doesn't grow some hair.)
We made it about 10 minutes down the highway when I started smiling.
"I know what she's going to be for Halloween this year," I said.
"What?" my husband asked, looking at me like I was nuts.
"NEMO! With her little fin"
At that point, we both started laughing. Our little Nemo was going to be just fine. She wouldn't have a hand, but we've got a roster of family and friends missing limbs, not to mention family that had much scarier complications at birth. If the worst thing to happen over the course of this pregnancy and birth was a missing hand, we could handle that.
As an added benefit, thinking about her as our little Nemo led me to start Googling a good picture of Nemo for my desktop. In the process, I stumbled upon the Lucky Fin Project -- a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and support for kids with limb differences -- and it's founder, Molly. Within a few minutes, I had ordered Lucky Fin bracelets for both of us and within a short time, I realized that I had also found an incredible limb difference community -- which has been so helpful for both advice and sanity checks.
In the weeks after that, we had regular follow-ups and ultrasounds with the high-risk doctors well as consults at Children's Hospital. They all confirmed what we already knew: Ella was missing her left hand from just past her wrist, but that everything else looked awesome. What I loved about our entire support team -- including family, friends and our medical team -- is that they all talked about how Ella was perfect. Not that she was perfect except for her hand. She was just perfect. And you know what? It's 100 percent true. Perfection isn't about the number of fingers or toes you have. Perfection means something different to everyone. And to me, there is nothing more perfect than this: