Welcome to Michaela's Hope a web site dedicated in memory of our precious angel, Michaela Hope Bucher, and all babies with Anencephaly.
Anencephaly is a neural tube defect that causes the brain and skull to stop developing, very early, in fetal development. Anencephaly has no treatment, or cure, and is always fatal. Roughly 1 in every 1,000 pregnancies is affected by this or another neural tube defect, such as Spina Bifida. Consequently, many parents face difficult and heart wrenching decisions regarding their baby's life. They must often make these decisions with very little information about anencephaly itself which is why we have chosen to share our story.
In September of 1998 a "routine" ultrasound revealed that our baby's brain and skull had not developed. Not wanting to believe that anything could be wrong with OUR baby, we searced for answers and sought second and third opinions. Doctors explained that Michaela was lacking the upper portion of her skull at about the eyebrow level and that at best, she might live for 48 hours. I was about 20 weeks pregnant at that time and our options were as follows: to have a partial birth abortion, to induce labor, or to continue with the pregnancy.
We already had two beautiful healthy little boys at home, ages 4 and 19 months and couldn't imagine life without any of our children, including this one. Faced with the reality that our baby would die, Joey and I did a lot of soul searching, and after several weeks, decided to continue with the pregnancy. The decision gave us peace of mind and allowed us to focus on our baby, and the best way to love her, for however long she might be with us. Having made that decision, we contacted Doctors at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and sought consultation. After a lengthly ultrasound, and discussion with both a perinatologist and a neonatologist, we left Rochester confident in our decision to carry our baby girl to term.
I started doing a lot of research, mainly on the internet, to find out all that I could about anencephaly. The information that I found was often conflicting and not very helpful. I remember sitting at the computer one night searching for infomation when I saw the first picture of a baby with anencephaly. The site depicted a severely deformed baby with multiple birth defects, one of which, was anencephaly. Based on what our Doctors had told us, we believed that our baby would look completely normal from the eyebrows down. So, I continued searching until finally, I was given a picture of a baby with Anencephaly that I feel accurately portrays the defect.
Preparing for Michaela's birth was exciting and yet scary since we knew that her birth meant that we would lose her. Still, we prepared ourselves and those around us for the day when she would arrive. After setting up a date for the scheduled cesarean section, we met with hospital staff and shared with them a detailed birth plan that clearly explained our wishes for Michaela and our family. We toured the hospital ahead of time and met with the nurses that would be responsible for our care. This preparation allowed us to feel more comfortable when February 8th arrived and assured us that our needs would be met.
February 8th arrived much faster than any of us had imagined it would. At 11:44am I gave birth (via c-section) to a beautiful, 16 and 1/2 inch, 4 pound 11 ounce baby girl. Michaela was having difficulting breathing so the Nurse brought her to us right away. All I could think about was how much I loved this little girl, how perfect she looked, and how nothing else mattered. Joey and I took turns saying, "I love you", until the Hospital Chaplain arrived to Baptize her. Soon, Michaela's condition seemed to stabilize. She was having less trouble breathing and even opened her eyes.
Michaela and Joey stayed with me until it was time to return to our room. There, she was cleaned up and dressed in a little sleeper that said "Daddy's little girl on it". We brought several newborn hats for her to wear, and to our dissapoint-ment, all of them were TOO BIG! So, Michaela wore the stretchy little hat that the hospital provides to meet her big Brothers. The Boys were amazed by her. Michaela held their fingers and opened her eyes. Cole told her how much he loved her and Austin, being just a little tyke himself, gave her plenty of hugs and kisses. We were a family of five...if only for a little while.
Michaela stayed with Joey and I the entire time that we were in the Hospital. During that time, we came to know and love our little girl more with each passing minute. Michaela would occasionally root when hungry, but, since her sucking reflex was weak, we chose to tube feed her expressed breastmilk. We cared for her head by covering it with triple antibiotic ointment and then wrapping it with sterile gauze. Caring for Michaela was not as hard as I had imagined that it would be. She was a precious little angel right from the very start.
The Doctors and Nurses were wonderful and always full of encouragement. Michaela became known as "Our Little Fighter", which her daddy said came from me. She would often open her eyes in bright light and would squeeze fingers tightly as if to say, "I love you!" She even responded to her daddy's voice by opening her eyes and looking right at him. We have come to believe that Michaela knew more than anyone ever imagined that she would. She was her own little person with a unique personality and a beautiful soul.
On February 10th we were able to bring Michaela home. I will always remember that day as being one of the best in my life. From the time that we found out that she would not live the only thing that I wanted ,was to bring her home, to live, with us. She was the center of attention and the apple of her brothers eyes. Cole loved to hold her while I did dishes and Austin would hug her and say, "OHHH BABY". She was the daughter that we had longed for and the best little sister that our boys could have asked for.
The day after we brought Michaela home, my Grandmother passed away. It was a very difficult time for us already and I didn't understand why it just kept getting worse. I remember looking down at Michaela and sobbing....I didn't want to lose her, too. Then, on Valentines Day, just three days later a girlfriend of mine died suddenly. I felt as though my whole world was falling apart. Then, I realized that there would be two more people in Heaven to tell Michaela how much that we wanted and loved her. She would always have someone to hug and kiss her when we couldn't.
The day after Valentine's Day, we took Michaela with us to Sioux Falls, SD which is about 90 miles away. It was a trip that we made often with the boys and looking back I am so glad that we brought her that day. Now, whenever we go there, I remember her and how close we all were, tucked into the van, for those few hours. It has become just one more memory to look back on with a smile. In fact, I never get into the van without remembering that day and how wonderful it felt to be Michaela's Mommy.
Our days became pretty routine. I will admit that it was exhausting....but worth it. Michaela ate every three hours and since I was pumping, I was up every two-and-a-half hours at night. During the day, we played games with the boys and did housework. But mainly we took turns holding Michaela and telling her about everyone that was waiting for her in Heaven. We sang special songs to her and told her constantly how proud we were of her and how much we loved her. She made us a better Mommy and Daddy just, by being, her.
Everything was going along pretty smoothly until the night of February 17th. Michaela seemed alright until around 10:00pm when I changed her diaper, and she had the first of many seizures. We immediately called our family to come over and notified Hospice. We just weren't sure how long Michaela would be with us. But, she was a fighter, and fight she did. After an hour or so she seemed to be doing better, so everyone went home. Joey and I spent the rest of the night holding Michaela and saying Goodbye. After a few hours, I fell asleep with her in my arms only to awake an hour or so later to Michaela's cries. She began to have seizures once more and we could tell that she was getting weaker and weaker as each one passed. It was such a helpless feeling, all we could do was hold her and express our love for her. Part of me wanted her to be at peace and another part of me wanted to have her forever.
Michaela continued to hang in there, though we sensed that the end was near. We spent the morning of the 18th taking pictures of Michaela with us until Joey's sister came to take the boys out for lunch. Cole and Austin kissed Michaela goodbye and told her that they loved her. Then, it was just the three of us, Joey, Michaela and I, alone in the house, just as it had been 10 days earlier in the operating room. It must have been just what she was waiting for, because at ten minutes after twelve, she died in her daddy's arms. Our little fighter was free...she was whole again in Jesus' arms.
Joey and I spent the next hour or so alone, holding Michaela and crying. Though we knew that she could not live on earth the hardest thing, that I have ever had to do, was to let her go. We cut a lock of hair from the back of her head and changed her head dressing, for the last time, before calling our families.
The next few days were a whirlwind...I scurried around town trying to prepare for Michaela's Visitation and Funeral. I made arrangements for flowers and balloons and framed many of our pictures. I wanted everyone to see our precious little girl as she was in life. I wanted them to know that we had not carried our baby girl to term out of obligation...but out of love. I wanted them to see how very special she was to us and know that we would have done anything, ANYTHING, to keep her with us.
Michaela's Funeral was held at 10:00am on Monday, February 22, 1999. She was laid to rest in a pink gingham casket covered with pink baby roses and babies breath. Joey put together special music for the service, songs that we had sung to Michaela from the very start. Cole wrote a special note for Michaela, and GOD, and placed it in the casket, we bought her pink tennis shoes, to go with her pretty white gown (so that she could run in Heaven) and Austin placed a small doll along side her. She is buried under a big shade tree right between where her daddy and I will one day join her.
As I write this, it has been nearly three months since Michaela was born. Though we miss her deeply, we realize that she is in a far better place. She is safe in the arms of Jesus and being loved by those who greeted her in Heaven. The road of healing has been rocky and I will admit that there are still days when I cry every time that I think about Michaela. But, she would want us to be happy and really, I am happy. I am happy that I got the chance to love a little girl who gave my life new meaning and gave me the pleasure of holding an angel...if only for a little while.
Our second daughter, Makenna Elise was born, healthy, on June 2, 2000 weighing 6 pounds 11 ounces. We are so very blessed by GODS love and are very thankful that we have an angel in Heaven to watch over us and guide us through the remainder of our days on Earth!
We Love you and Miss you Michaela!
We are so pleased to announce the safe and healthy arrival of our third daughter on February 14, 2003! Gracie Katherine is our beautiful little Valentine!
Eryn Renee officially completes our family! We are Truly Blessed by the Lord!
If you have had or have recently been diagnosed with an anencephalic baby, please consider joining Anencephaly Blessings From Above A Forum for Parents who have or are in the midst of carrying an anencephalic pregnancy to term