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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Gaur

Where It All Began (part 1)

“There is something wrong with your baby’s brain.” All of the air is sucked out of my chest. It is as if my soul has left my body, hanging over me, suspended in that moment. Suspended in a sea of nothingness– totally numb.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Then a flood.

My heart tears at my chest and I gulp in a few shallow breaths as a wave of nausea consumes me.


I was 34 weeks into my second pregnancy. Baby was growing well. I was swollen and sore and eager to meet our second sweet girl. At a routine weekly visit to my OB, my doctor recommended an ultrasound to determine the baby’s weight and position as I prepare for labor. My sweet hubby, Chris, picked me up from work before the appointment and, running late, we didn’t get a chance to eat. Stomachs rumbling, we walked down the hall to the ultrasound office and waited for the tech to enter the room.

We had undergone half a dozen ultrasounds at this point between both pregnancies, so we spent some time in small talk with the ultrasound tech, mentioning our plans for the baby’s room and ideas for her name. She took all of her required photos and pleasantly instructed us to go back and meet with our doctor.

Meeting with the Doctor

Back down the hall we traversed cooing over our sweet ultrasound photos, pondering whose nose she would inherit. We were escorted into the farthest exam room, which I’ve since referred to as the “bad news room”. We waited hungrily and quite impatiently for the quick follow up meeting with the doctor who would tell us that the baby looks good and we would see her next week. Like I said, we had done this a bunch of times and knew the routine by now. The wait seemed abnormally long, but I thought nothing of it. Surely the doctor had a few patients to see before us. Finally, the polite knock at the door.

Dr. P peeked her head in and shared a friendly hello. She sat in the swivel stool across from us and we smiled politely back– our last few moments of normalcy and calm.

Then the blow. “There is something wrong with your baby’s brain.”

As my heart and breath betrayed me, she continued on. Through the fog encapsulating my mind, I tried to listen, but I only grasped bits and pieces of what she was saying. “There seems to be extra fluid in the left ventricle of the baby’s brain. I called the high-risk OB, and he looked through your scans. He would like you to be immediately transferred to Colombia University Medical Center in the city. They will be better equipped for this delivery and a NICU stay. She will likely need brain surgery after she is born to drain the fluid using a shunt.”

My words had failed me. Brain surgery? Shunt? What does that even mean? I sat there on the exam table, lips tight, eyes wide, tears staining my cheeks. Chris, my rock, jumped into action, taking in all of the information we needed, planning next steps in his mind. He knew his role in all of this. He would make sure his wife and his baby got the care we needed– its like he didn’t even skip a beat. I, on the other hand, was totally useless. I couldn’t piece together a sentence. As we walked out of the office we were supposed to stop and talk to the woman at the front desk to get the referral paperwork we needed. I walked out of the exam room, into the waiting room, right past the front desk, and out the door. In that moment, I was unfit to speak to another human.

The Aftermath

When we got out to the car, we called my parents. Mom answered with a cheery, “hi, sweetie!”

“Hi Mom, is Dad there? Can you both come on the phone for a minute?” I mustered.

I sat silent while Chris delivered the news and shared what our next steps would be. To be honest, I can’t even remember their reaction. My head was still swimming. I remember watching a bead of rain slowly zigzag down the passenger window and pool up at the base.

The next thing I remember, we were down the road at a local eatery trying to get some food into our empty stomachs while we processed what had just happened. Chris ordered a burger and some fries from the ornery owner– I’m sure my mental status at the time played a role in my perception of him. I sat in the booth, staring at a cardboard boat of fries, unable to bring it to my mouth. I couldn’t eat. I couldn't speak. All I could do was cry.

Soaking it All In

That night I lay awake in bed, my mind spinning. Thoughts bounced through my mind, one after another– unproductive thoughts, I might add. “Don’t Google it.” I remember the doctor saying. Well, of course I was going to Google it. I read through scholarly articles-- that may as well have been written in a foreign language-- and read about drainage devices and syndromes. “It’s going to be okay,” I coached myself. She will have this surgery and then she will be fine. We can correct the issue and she will live a normal life.” Finally, I drifted off for a few hours of unrestful sleep.

But that was only the beginning.

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1 Comment

Jan 30, 2022

Very well written, Stephanie! I can’t wait to read more!

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