We wanted to celebrate our latest pregnancy the weekend after we found out, so we left the kids with my mom one evening and went out to see Gravity. Intense and immersive, the 3D effects in outer space were at the same time beautiful and harrowing. Space is a ruthlessly unforgiving environment.
As we watched the movie, Abby and I were both struck with how the plot seemed to mirror the amazing journey that Itty and Bitty have taken. First, their lives are incredibly fragile and can be ended by the slightest physical damage. Also, just like Itty and Bitty were fertilized in a Petri dish, transferred to a cylinder and frozen for months or years, temperature-control-shipped to Tennessee, stuck in another freezer, then thawed, loaded into a syringe, and finally inserted into Abby—the characters in Gravity have no hope of returning to Earth in the same vessel they started in; they have to improvise and find other spacecraft. Like the astronauts’, their odds of survival are very long.
There’s even a scene where Sandra Bullock floats around in the relative safety of a Russian spacecraft curled up in a fetal position. The symbolism is unmistakable; critics describe it as symbolic of a “rebirth,” but the metaphor of birth in my mind was getting back safely to earth, which was still quite a few plot twists away. I thought of her fetal floating as symbolic of the safety (oxygen) of a foreign spacecraft, which is very similar to Bitty’s situation.
And we have our own plot twists ahead.
On Wednesday, Abby drove up to Greenville for an ultrasound to confirm that everything was okay at the six-week mark. They confirmed that there is only one baby, and she got to see Bitty’s little flutter of a heartbeat. But there was also some hard news. The doctor believes that Bitty has implanted in or near a scar from a prior c-section, which is a weak spot, muscularly speaking. He’s not entirely sure, so a high-level ultrasound has been scheduled for this coming Wednesday, with more specialists present.
A caesarean scar pregnancy (CSP) is a very rare occurrence; the elderly doctor had never diagnosed it before. The “treatment” in just about every case focuses on preventing things like hemorrhage, hysterectomy, and maternal mortality. If the baby is not already dead, they almost always terminate it. From the medical studies we’ve read, even if it is caught later in the pregnancy, the baby does not survive anyway.
The House of Gjertsen has had some bad ultrasound appointments, but this was hard in a different way. Our usual mantras are, “Where there is life, there is hope,” and “Every day with Baby is a good day,” but this tentative diagnosis challenges that.
Please pray that next Wednesday, the ultrasound will show that Bitty has developed away from the scar (towards the main body of the uterus) and doesn’t appear to actually be in the scar. In that case, the remainder of the pregnancy might proceed in a high-risk way, and could possibly result in live birth.
It’s also possible that when we get there on Wednesday, Bitty’s heart will no longer be beating, and they’ll have to figure out how to extract him or her safely.
But it’s very possible the result will be something vague and between. We may be put in the horrible position of having to choose to terminate the pregnancy after we’re told that the embryo is almost certainly not viable in its current position and that delaying the procedure would be very dangerous to Abby. This action contradicts the whole reason we adopted our embryos in the first place—our desire to save a life and bring it into a new family in imitation of the gospel. Of course I’ll be wanting to know all the probabilities of all kinds of catastrophes, and they won’t have them because they’ll tell us this whole thing is too rare and there isn’t enough data.
I’m not entirely without hope, but it seems at this point that our time with Bitty is going to be brief. Unlike the protagonist of Gravity, Bitty may be welcomed to a peaceful shore that is not on Earth, a shore that has greeted four Gjertsens before.
Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive disaster? (Job 2:10b) Thank you, God, for the gospel, which inspires us to adopt the fatherless. May that desire and hope survive whatever happens on Wednesday. Please pray for us!