Bravery Starts With Honesty
Words by Jannet Yoo
I used to think that bravery was not for me. I’m not a risk taker. I don’t like the unknown. I need details. I like to work within boundaries and thrive in predictable situations. I love the idea of being brave, but I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I actually have to be.
When I found out I was expecting, my husband and I were slow to celebrate. Though the test stick read pregnant, we didn’t want to get too excited. Having had a miscarriage the year before, we were afraid that if we let our guards down, we might have to pick up pieces to shield our hearts all over again. Our first visit to the doctor’s office didn’t make things better. The doctor said he saw a sac but nothing inside. Finally, after two STAT ultrasounds each a week apart, signs of growth appeared. Several days later we made our way back to my doctor’s office and saw a heartbeat flickering on a screen. This is it, I thought. The pregnancy was confirmed, and I believed everything after would be bright, beautiful, and perfect because this was our rainbow baby.
Due to my age, the doctor suggested I get additional screening done. I had friends who had done the same, but it seemed like everything had turned out fine for everyone around me, so I signed up and didn’t think twice about it. The morning of, I got ready and made a mental note of all the things I had planned for the day. The hospital appointment with my husband was the first thing and then he would drop me off so I could have lunch with a friend and then he’d pick me up again and the list went on.
I never made it to lunch.
The screening showed excess fluid around the neck and abdomen of the baby, indicating a high possibility for a miscarriage or if the pregnancy were to continue, a high probability of a genetic disorder along with heart and other issues. When the genetic counselor told us the news, everything around me grew dull. She continued to speak but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. My husband and I left the hospital with crushed hearts and tears in our eyes. That night I cried myself to sleep and woke up crying the next morning.
Sometimes we look for opportunities to prove that we are brave and sometimes those opportunities sort of make their way into our lives without warning. I wondered why God would make my husband and me go through such sorrow. Somewhere in the stillness of my heart I felt like He was telling me that I was stronger than I thought and braver than I believed. I remember thinking, God, I don’t want to be brave.
In the weeks following, we learned that the baby was in fact growing and the fluid around his stomach had gone away. I did more blood work that showed a high probability that the baby would have Down syndrome. Though I could have done invasive testing to confirm this, my husband and I decided against it due to the slight chance this may harm the baby. I knew I was going to birth this child whether or not he had a genetic disorder. That was never a question.
And yet all throughout my pregnancy I struggled with wanting a “normal” child or accepting things as they were. I prayed that by a miracle our baby wouldn’t have a genetic disorder because I didn’t want the baby to suffer and if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t want to suffer. I was afraid. I didn’t want to live a life outside of typical. I wanted a life like the other parents around me. I didn’t want to have extra hospital appointments with a specialist or see a genetic counselor during my pregnancy. I didn’t want to spend days and nights researching genetic disorders, health risks, and medical terminology. I didn’t want to click page after page reading through forums with women who had gone through similar situations. I think I was waiting for God to speak to me through the Internet. All the discussions and articles I read left me unsatisfied. Every woman had a different story. I wanted Him to tell me that we’d end up with a “normal” family and that all my efforts to know the outcome was going to lead me down a road of answers. But it didn’t. And again, I felt God telling me that I could be brave. This bravery wasn’t something I could just talk myself into. I realized I could be brave because He was with me.
This bravery didn’t mean I needed to act as if everything was fine. It wasn’t until I mourned that I was able to let go and gain strength. It wasn’t in a day or even over a couple days. It happened in waves throughout my pregnancy. At first, I felt guilty that I struggled with feelings of sadness. Already I felt like a bad mother. But in time I told God I wanted to let go of what I had thought life would be. It takes bravery to look at a situation head on and allow God to work. It’s brave to trust that God has the answers when I don’t; to have hope when I don’t know the outcome. It’s brave to be honest with myself and tell God how painful everything is and how weak and under-prepared I feel. I grieved the loss of what I had imagined my pregnancy would be like. I grieved the expectations for the kind of baby I would have. I grieved my hopes for a certain type of family. I grieved my dreams of what I thought motherhood would look like.
When my son was born, he had blood drawn to test for Down syndrome. The results came in positive. And though I had to go through another process of letting go and grieving the finality of the situation, this time with my son in my arms, I looked at him, my rainbow baby – bright, beautiful, and perfect to me. It’s not the life that I had ever imagined I’d live but I’m believing it’ll be so much better. While I mostly thrive in predictability, I’m learning to let go of my plans and embrace the unpredictable. With so many new things—therapists, teachers, doctors, appointments, sometimes I feel like it’s all too much. But then I remember that I am brave because He says I am and I will get through each new hurdle.
Bravery—this bravery is not simply mind over matter. I can be brave because I am not alone. He is here with me. He is always here.
Click to Read Next: Raising Informed Children
About the Author:
Jannet Yoo lives in Southern California. She enjoys one-on-one conversations, putting pen to paper, and spending time with her family.