It has been nearly 4 years since my daughter, Beth Ann was stillborn due to a birth defect called Anencephaly, but this is the first time I have sat down and told my story from beginning to end. I now have the courage to speak out due to my newfound support from an Internet club called "Mourning Mommies". They are a wonderful support group for anyone who has dealt with this unfortunate problem.
In July of 1996 I was elated to find out that I had become pregnant with my second child. I had tried to convince my husband that it was time for another child and he finally agreed. I could hardly believe that I had gotten pregnant the first month we started trying. I was on cloud nine.
I started my prenatal visits and everything seemed to be running smoothly. We could hear the heartbeat and I was having no problems other than a slight problem with my blood pressure. I went in for my 16-week check and had my alpha feta protein testing done, which I had done with my first child, so I expected no problems with this.
I was quite surprised to get a call from my OB asking me if I could come in for an ultrasound and so that we could talk. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagine what would happen at that appointment. I thought that maybe I was pregnant with twins because they do run in my family.
I had to take my 4-year-old son, Levi along with me to the appointment because I could not find a babysitter on such short notice. We hurried to the doctors because they were squeezing me in. When I got there everyone seemed quite different than they had at previous visits, but I didn't pay a whole lot of attention, I just wanted to see what the doctor had to say.
We did an ultrasound, though the doctor did not let me see the screen. I thought this was odd but kept my mouth shut. He turned off the machine and told me to get dressed and then he would be back to talk things over. When
he came back in my world came to an end.
He said this is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to tell someone, but I am pretty certain that your baby has anencephaly; do you know what that means? As I work in a doctor's office I did know what it meant, but I told him he had better explain. He said, "Your baby has a neural tube defect that is not compatible with life." Your child does not have a brain. I am 95% certain that this is the case due to your abnormally high alpha feta protein level and with the ultrasound I just did. We are not equipped to handle that situation here at this hospital and I would like to refer you to Hershey Medical Center for further evaluation and treatment.
I told him to set up the appointment, grabbed my son to my chest and ran crying from the office. I called my husband at work and told him what I had found out; needless to say we were both in a state of shock. We didn't know what to do.
We told all of our family and friends what had occurred and they all were completely shocked, as they had never heard of this before. I talked with my doctor friends and they told me pretty much the same thing. If this is truly the case, the best thing for you to do is to terminate the pregnancy. I couldn't even fathom that as I have always been against abortion. They told me with my history of asthma and blood pressure problems with my first pregnancy that the risks outweighed the benefits of trying to carry a baby that had 0% chance of survival to term.
I had 2 weeks from the initial visit at my OB until my appointment in Hershey. They were the most tormented weeks of my life. What should I do? What would people think of my decision? Could this really be happening
On December 13, 1996 my husband and I made the 2-hour trip from our home to Hershey for the appointment. I had to have another ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and then an appointment with a specialist. Everyone was in
agreement that my baby did indeed have anencephaly. The doctor said, "I'll give you some time to think this over, but if you want we can induce you today while you are here. There really isn't much choice as the baby will not survive and most likely you will not carry to term anyway, most of these babies do not go full term."
With our limited knowledge and our certainty that she would not live we decided, for my health and peace of mind, we would deliver that day. I knew I could not carry a baby to term that would not go home from the hospital with me. It would be 5 more months of heartache. I wanted to start healing and get my life back.
After a long and difficult labor Beth Ann was born on December 14, 1996 at 20 weeks gestation. She was stillborn, as they had predicted. She weighed 8 ounces and was 10 inches long. She did indeed have anencephaly. She had all of her fingers and toes and a beautiful face. The nurses took her and dressed her and wrapped her in a handmade quilt and brought her into my husband and I. They said take as much time as you need and call us when you need us. They also called a nun who came and blessed her for us. They did fingerprints and footprints and all of the normal baby stuff that they do. Everyone treated us with respect and love. I was discharged from the hospital later that day and we returned home to our family minus our little girl.
The next few days are quite a blur but we managed. Then came the realization that it was over I had no little one to cuddle in my arms. Those days I thanked God for my firstborn who had so much love he didn't know what to do with it. I reached out everywhere looking for support and someone to talk to that would understand. Everywhere I turned it seemed I hit a brick wall. No one I talked to knew of any support groups and no one seemed equipped to deal with my problems. I was so lost. I finally decided I had to deal with it on my own and I did a pretty good job. Sure I still have my bad days but every day is a little easier than the last.
Finally about 2 weeks ago I connected with the internet and to my amazement there was a group for people just like me, dealing with the same things that I had had no one to talk with about for so long. It has been a Godsend for me and I hope that no other woman has to go this alone. If I have anything to do with it, people will know that there is help out there if you only know where to look.
Thanks for listening