I wish I had a grand romantic story to tell you of your conception, sweet Flicker. But let’s face it – no kid wants to hear that kind of thing. We tried for several years to bring you into this world, and with the help of the kind people at Boston IVF and a little magic from God you came to be this past February. I will never forget that day. You were put into my womb on Super Bowl Sunday, and your dad and I joked that we would have to name you after one of the players on the winning team. The Seattle Seahawks were victorious, so there began our list – Russell, Richard, Marshawn. Marshawn D’Elia. Has quite the ring to it.
We first met you when I was just four weeks pregnant (which is really only two weeks – this fertility business is pretty confusing, sweet Flicker). You were tiny – no bigger than a grain of rice – but very clearly we watched your mighty heart flicker rapidly on the ultrasound machine. There are simply no words to describe the emotion of that experience; watching a beating heart inside of my own body that will one day power you. Power you while you chase the cat or do cartwheels in the front lawn or take a nap in your sunlight nursery. Beat strongly as you walk to your first day of kindergarten or fall for your first crush or marry and have children of your own. That little flicker will be there through everything. After we left the doctor we could not stop gushing about that little flicker – our little Flicker – and thus your nickname was born.
We saw you again at six and eight weeks, each time in awe of how fast you were growing. From grain of rice to lentil to kidney bean all in the course of a few weeks. Miracle. Each time we met you, sweet Flicker, we fell more in love. We weren’t the only ones to fall in love with you. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all heaped love upon you. Your de facto Boston family were simply overjoyed. You were gifted with tiny onesies and shoes with the Canadian flag on them and a pretty stylish set of striped pants. Part of the beauty of this time was that only our most dear friends and family knew about you, like a perfect little secret that we loved to keep. There would be a time when we would announce you to the world, but for now it was just us. You, me, your dad and our best friends. The community who would help raise you. It was just perfect.
You were merciful on me, sweet Flicker, in terms of causing morning sickness. I never felt sick, and was only slightly more tired than usual (who are we kidding – I need few excuses to take a nap). From what I could understand and feel, everything was going perfectly with you. If only you could have been telling me what was really going on. What did it feel like when everything started to rupture? Please, please tell me that there was no pain. No heartache. No sadness. Please tell me that you felt warm and safe and loved amidst the chaos that was happening around you. It kills me to know that you were being harmed and I didn’t know it. I don’t know how I will get over that.
It was at our 12 week doctor’s appointment, sweet Flicker, that our whole world crumbled. That we were shaken to the core. That your father and I cried together. That we couldn’t believe the words we were hearing. “Something’s just not right.” “Severely abnormal.” “Not how it’s supposed to be.” We went home that horrible afternoon and questioned everything. Questioned God. Questioned what we did wrong. Questioned whether the doctors could possibly be right. They had to be wrong. This had to be a mistake. It was just one ultrasound. We talked with our families and pastors and friends over that weekend. We prayed and talked and speculated during a long walk around Walden Pond.
Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled.
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Coming out of all of our conversations from that surreal weekend it seemed that everyone had a horror story of their own or of a one-degree connection in which they received a bad pregnancy prognosis, only to point out their beautiful son or daughter playing in the next room. While your dad and I weren’t counting on the doctor we would see Monday saying “just kidding, you are perfect,” we had come to terms with the possibility of raising you with special needs or having to manage a high-risk pregnancy. Hope rippled, but not ruffled.
April 14 was the worst day of my life. “Incompatible with life.” “Less than one percent chance of survival.” “Catastrophic.” Many other words were exchanged through cries of anguish and pain, but none of them matter. It was just me, you, your dad and this new reality that we would likely not be bringing you home in October. Cut out all of the doctors and testing and follow up appointments. It was just us. I am sorry I could not be stronger for you, sweet Flicker. That I could not demand that the doctors fix you, reverse their prognosis, tell me everything was going to be ok. I felt so powerless that I couldn’t protect you; couldn’t take on your pain so that you could live. Over the days and weeks to come we would get test results back and a more firm diagnosis, but again none of it mattered. What was done was done and all we could to is go home and try to cherish what little time we will have together. Hope was beyond rippled or ruffled; it was eliminated.
But human resilience is an amazing thing, sweet Flicker, something you have demonstrated to me in spades by continuing to fight week after week. I draw from your strength as I daydream of bringing you home. Pronouncing you a miracle. Watching you thrive in spite of your diagnosis. Only God knows what the future will hold for us, sweet Flicker, but I promise to you that I will keep a fierce hope from which I hope you can draw strength. My strength is yours, and yours is mine. Beautiful.