23 - The True You
The next video was unlike the other ones he played. Shine’s resounding laughter while she gave out instructions or narrated or asked questions can not be heard in the background. There were no songs. There was no dancing. There was no running around. This one was quiet save for the soft sounds of the ocean waves. There were no words. Just a shot of Shine sitting on a two-seater swing, her Mom bought us as a housewarming gift, in the small garden in front of the house, looking out at the ocean.
Her long silky hair flowed as the wind blew on it, her cheeks and nose were slightly flushed and her eyes twinkled under the midday sun.
He was right there beside her, taking the video but he did not speak, did not ask anything. He just stayed there and let her think.
It was almost two months after they moved to their home, two weeks into planning their wedding and a few days before the New Year. Shine complained of weakness and exhaustion and James noticed she was easily tired and often caught her breath the past days so they went to the hospital in the city to have her checked. They ran a few tests on her and hours later they were sitting in Doctor Charles’s office waiting for his opinion.
He held her hand firmly as the doctor looked over the test results. She glanced at him and smiled as if to tell him she's okay.
"Well, it's not Gehrig's that's causing the fatigue and the weakness. So far, during our past check ups I saw that the progress of degeneration slowed down." The doctor said
"That's great news. Right, Doc?" Shine beamed.
James watched the doctor's sullen expression and knew there was more to what he was saying. "So, Doc, what made her experience those symptoms? Is there something else we should be worried about?"
The doctor nodded his head and pushed a piece of paper over his desk to James.
He picked it up and as soon as he saw what was on it, his hands trembled and tears filled his eyes. One second he was filled with joy and the very next, he was filled with self blame and wanted to hit himself hard on the head.
"What's wrong? Dear? What's going on?" Shine asked, feeling suddenly anxious.
James held back his tears and took a deep breath as he looked at her. "D-doc... Doc, will tell us, my love." He forced a smile and raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.
"Shine, remember earlier how I asked you to be tested for all possibilities? This was one I hoped I wouldn't see. What James has in his hands is your ultrasound result. James, if you could just show that to Shine. Shine, read the last line that says Diagnosis."
She looked at the paper and read. "Single, Live Intrauterine Pregnancy with estimated gestational age of 4-6 weeks."
"Shine, you're pregnant." The doctor said.
"I'm pregnant? We're having a baby?" She beamed. "Love, we're having a baby!"
James bowed his head as his tears flowed, unable to look at her. "I'm sorry. This is my fault. I'm so sorry." He sobbed.
"Why are you sorry? Why are you crying? I don't understand. Don't you want our baby?"
"No... No... That's not it..." James struggled to say between sobs.
"You can't have this baby, Shine." The doctor stated.
"Pregnancy is risky even for perfectly healthy women. Carrying this baby will take a huge toll on your body which can cause the nerve degeneration rate to increase. There are only 4 known cases of pregnant women with ALS worldwide. In all cases, after exhausting all medical efforts possible to keep both mother and child alive, they delivered healthy babies but the women died within a few months after. That's the best case scenario. Because of the grave risk, it is always a possibility that we lose both you and the baby during pregnancy." Silence filled the room as the doctor's words weighed down on them.
"You have two options." The doctor continued. "If you decide to keep the baby, you would have to stop taking all medications which means ALS will take its course through your body at its own pace. We won't know how aggressive it could be and we can't be sure you and the baby can survive it."
"A-and the second option?" She asked in a hesitant whisper.
"Terminate the pregnancy. You will continue with your medications and will have a higher chance of surviving more than a year or so."
"I'm keeping my baby." Shine said determinedly, without a second thought.
"That's not the most medically sound decision,Shine." The doctor said.
"I don't care. I'm going through with this pregnancy."
"Shine... My love... Please listen first."
"No! This is my child, James. Our child. I want to fight for our baby. I want to give him or her a chance to live." Shine stated with finality. "James, I don't need your medical opinion right now. I don't need the nurse and the med student. I need you, the true you to tell me what you want." She said.
James stared into her eyes and nodded. "I want to keep our baby too." He whispered and Shine smiled though her tears.
"Mr. Faulkner, as a medical personnel, you know how much risk you're putting your family into."
"Doc, I have trust in your medical experience, I respect our field but I am also a man of Faith and the father of this family. You said in all cases, both mother and child survived the pregnancy and delivered safely. You only mentioned the possibility of losing them both but there is greater hope that they will survive. If Shine wants to fight and keep our baby then I will fight with her." He said as he looked at Sunshine reassuringly and they smiled at each other, holding hands with tears in their eyes.
"Then I will do what I can to make sure Shine and the baby are safe," Doctor Charles said.
He set the camera down and tucked her hair behind her ear.
"You know what, James?" She spoke softly and gently placed her hand on her belly. "I'm happy. I'm not afraid because I have hope that we will make it through and that I will see our baby grow up to be a good person. Even when I'm gone someday, I will leave you with a precious gift."
He held back his tears and gathered her in his arms in a warm embrace.
"Don't say that, my love. We'll take it a day at a time. We still have a long way to go. We'll grow old and gray together. And we will both cry when our child tells us he or she will be getting married." He chuckled.
"I must look ugly then," she giggled. "I will have white hair and wrinkles, and my nose and eyes will be red and swollen from crying."
"I don't think so. I think you'll still be beautiful. You know what I'm sure of, my love?"
"That I love you and I will love only you forever. And..."
"I want to kiss you." He grinned.
"So kiss me." She giggled as she pulled on his collar and kissed him senseless.