Today was my due date
Several weeks ago when starting the website for Through the Heart, I debated about how much of my personal story to tell. Ultimately I decided to keep the mention of my loss short and void of detail – after all, this organization isn’t about me, it’s about YOU.
During the last several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a lot of people about pregnancy loss and hear stories of heartbreak, courage, and hope. I have encouraged people to find an outlet for their emotions and, in particular, have noted that writing can be therapeutic. I’ve come to realize recently that I haven’t been taking my own advice.
And so today, I’ve decided to share more of my story because June 24, 2013, was my due date.
It took my husband and I 10 months to conceive our first child. Once we did, we ran the gamut of emotions the same as any new parents-to-be: excitement, worry, panic, disbelief, and utter happiness. We had no reason to suspect there would be any problems but nonetheless were still tentative as most couples are.
In early December 2012, we went for what should have been a NT Scan. I had never had an ultrasound before but when the baby came up on the screen, I knew something was wrong. It resembled a bean and its body had no definition. The sonographer told us the baby was too small to complete the scan. We then went to speak with my ob/gyn who informed us that our baby had a cystic hygroma, which in basic terms is a build-up of fluid around the head, neck and spine. She told us that in most cases, the presence of a cystic hygroma indicates a chromosomal abnormality that is incompatible with life. This news was heartbreaking. We were in disbelief.
I had blood drawn for the MaterniT21 test which can detect trisomy 13, 18, or 21, which means the presence of 3 chromosomes instead of 2 in those pairings (trisomy 21, the most common, is also known as Down syndrome). It took 2 excruciatingly long weeks for the results to come in but when they did, we were relieved to hear that the test was negative for all 3 trisomies. We also found out that day that our baby was a girl!
We gained a lot of hope that day and although we knew there we still issues (the presence of the cystic hygroma, for one) we felt reassured that we would in fact be having a baby. Just before Christmas, we began announcing the pregnancy to family, friends, and co-workers.
After the initial diagnosis of the hygroma, I began seeing a maternal fetal medicine specialist as well. At my initial visit it was still early to tell what exactly was going on. When I revisited around 16 weeks, the doctor noted that he thought there might be an issue with her heart. He used the word might because at that point in time, her heart was about the size of a pea and still very difficult to see. It appeared, however, that one of the ventricles was either severely underdeveloped or missing all together.
It was decided that I would undergo an amniocentesis to draw amniotic fluid in order to test for additional chromosomal issues. When the results came back, we found out that there were 2 chromosomal defects – a deletion on one and an inversion on another. The defects were a fluke and not the results of our own genetic makeup. This was, we were told, a very rare scenario. We then met with a geneticist and a pediatric cardiologist who confirmed that there would be major defects with our daughter’s organs and brain function and the possibility that she would not even survive past birth. The terrible news kept piling up.
The weeks surrounding this diagnosis are a blur. Through all of the meetings with doctors, all of the ultrasounds, all of the tests, the information that kept presenting itself to us was that our daughter would have an extremely low quality of life. We made the incredibly painful decision to terminate the pregnancy. In early February 2013, at 20 weeks, I underwent a dilation & evacuation in what were the 3 most agonizing days of my life.
Up until now, many people in our lives did not know about the termination – they assumed we miscarried. I kept that information private because in the moment, I did not want to deal with the judgment that can come along with such a decision. But now that time has passed, I don’t feel that I should have to keep it a secret. I am not ashamed of the decision I made. As parents it is our job to protect our child, and by keeping our daughter from a life of pain and suffering, we feel we have done that.
The last few months have been hard. We’re lucky to have family and friends who love and support us and we know that with time, things will get easier. The memory and the pain will never completely go away, but we will go on.
- We live in South Texas where we’re in the middle of a drought
- We are planning to put the house up for sale in the near future so the tree won’t be with us for very long
Still, it seemed like the right thing to do for us. As I stood there looking over the tree, I felt like I was going to throw up. The only thought going through my head was that I shouldn’t be planting a tree, I should be having a baby. I think in days ahead though I will be glad to have that tree and I hope it will be a source of comfort and peace.
I’ll be glad when today is over and we no longer have June 24 looming in front of us. I know things won’t magically change tomorrow but I do have faith that there are better days ahead and we will someday have a child.
Our baby girl is in our hearts today and forever.