Dedicated to the memory of Blair Nielson
March 22, 1991- March 22, 1991
I wake in the bright sun; it streams hot and friendly overhead. I seem to have dozed on a park bench that parallels a small playground. I can see the slide, a merry go round and a jungle gym, all contained in a massive sandy area. A little boy about five years old, with blond hair and who is wearing a pair of denim bib-overalls and a white t-shirt, is watching me in the most compelling manner.
Suddenly he lunges, and grasps my hand shouting, “Come on, let’s play.”
As he touches me, I feel a surge of love flooding over me. I eagerly jump to my feet and we play on the slide and I push him on the merry go round for what seems like hours. I am happy and the devastating news is gone; it is only a fleeting thought as we play.
The smell of alcohol permeated the whole room. This small room smelled like any other hospital or doctor’s office, sterile and unfriendly. I looked at the stupid cartoon of Garfield on the wall behind the desk, ‘Give me Coffee and no one gets hurt.’ I began to gradually lose any feeling in my fingers and my brain was screaming at the pain in the upper part of my hand. I jerked my numbed mind back to the present and stared at my wife, sitting to my right, her left hand clutching mine so tight, her ring was cutting into my fingers. She was focused on the small picture-like guide the doctor was leaning forward to show us. I refocused on the page. It showed the insides of a woman’s reproductive organs, the womb and the birth canal. He was explaining the concept that had shattered our lives just a short half hour ago.
I had taken my wife in for her sixteen week checkup and there had been some kind of abnormality in the scan. We were asked to wait for almost an hour while the doctor went and consulted with a colleague. Now, we were trying to come to grips with the term – Fetal hydrocephalus…
“Hydrocephalus is. . . .” My brain again zoned out, trying to make sense of the news. “You are lucky, if this would have happened ten years ago, or even five, the mother would have died delivering the baby as the infant’s head is too big for the birth canal.”
My wife sobbed and I managed to extract my hand from her death-like grasp and slip it over her shoulder. She leaned into me as she rubbed her swollen tummy.
I find myself once again in the playground. The little blond boy is kneeling in the sand. He digs with a small plastic blue shovel and the matching bucket sits next to him. I make my way forward and kneel. I look at my feet somewhat surprised to see my shoes are missing, but then the little boy has bare feet as well. Over the course of the time, the sun climbs higher and the hole in the sand gets deeper. He looks up at me with the most loving expression moving gently across his face. I run my fingers through his soft hair. Comfortingly, it seems as if we are the only two left in the whole world and I swear I can actually see things slowing down, as if time is standing still. Then I get a chill down my back as I look up, and I see the clouds overhead racing along. Almost as if to distract me, my little companion suddenly grabs the shovel and starts to flick sand everywhere.
The doctor went on, “I would advise that pregnancy be terminated. The chance of the baby surviving the trauma of birth isn’t good. If we take her by caesarean, there would be brain damage. The chances are non-existent that she will live more than a few hours, due to the weight of the swollen head.”
The doctor flipped some cards in place and put the little guide back on his desk. He actually looked sad about the news he had just given us.
“What’s going to happen?” my wife choked.
“You will be induced and have to deliver as a live birth.”
She sobbed again and I could feel tears running down my face.
“If you want to take a week to think on it, go ahead. I know it is a tremendous shock. I can arrange for another doctor to go over the results if you would like. If you decided to go full term, we will do what we can to keep the mother healthy.”
“What . . .what would you . . . .what is your suggestion?” I babbled.
His face lengthened in sadness. “I wouldn’t be willing to risk my wife. Complications could develop and she may die, as well. I would take the termination.”
I don’t remember the drive home. The only thing I can remember about the rest of the day was that my wife had friends who hurried over. I sat in the chair for most of the time spaced out while the two women tried to console my wife.