Mom to Faith Elizabeth
August 14, 2009 – August 17, 2009
St. Peters, MO
Just after New Year’s, 2009, my husband and I learned we were expecting our first baby. A bit surprised by just how quickly I’d gotten pregnant, I quickly became the pregnant person that everyone envied – never sick a day of the pregnancy. Other than exhausted during my first trimester, I enjoyed being pregnant and so along we went. We painted a nursery and with the help of my dearest friend in the world, Sarah, began planning a baby shower. The 20-week ultrasound came and we had decided not to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. The doctor did tell us that they found something on the scan that was abnormal. Called a choroid plexus cyst, they occur in about 1% of pregnancies – of those, 99% turn out to be nothing and occur in otherwise normal pregnancies. When that little blip came up, the doctor recommended that we do the bloodwork we’d previously not done because, according to the doctor, we were as low risk as could be and those first trimester screenings are notorious for false positives. Okay, bloodwork done – and all came back normal as could be. No increased risk of anything. At a level 2 ultrasound, the doctor declared, “Everything looks good. You have a greater risk of a complication from an amnio than you do that there is something wrong with this baby.” Whew – sigh of relief breathed. “We’re going to watch you on ultrasound – just in case.”
Eight weeks and a couple of ultrasounds later, we were back for another one. There the ultrasound tech said we needed to see the doctor and have an additional scan…our baby’s stomach looked small, her growth had slowed down, I had too much amniotic fluid…major alarm bells were going off. So, off we went to the doctor, where the perinatologist included the discovery of a heart defect called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). We were shuffled between a couple more doctors, leaving with an amnio scheduled for the following day.
The doctor that performed the amnio said, “In all the years I’ve been doing this, if there is a problem with this baby, you will be the first incident I’ve ever seen of a patient with normal bloodwork and no risk on the screens come back positive for a chromosomal abnormality.” By the way, this doctor no longer attends deliveries because he’s closing in on retirement. You do the math – I’m pretty sure we’ve been written up in medical journals. By the time I had the amnio done, I was 31 weeks pregnant. It was July 8, 2009. Two agonizingly long days later, we got the phone call “…negative for Down’s Syndrome…negative for Trisomy 13…negative for any problems with the sex chromosomes.” Whew – wait, she wasn’t finished talking yet, and I heard a “but” coming. “…but I’m afraid the amnio was positive for Trisomy 18.” Dead silence. Me, sitting on the couch. My husband working 40 minutes away. “Do you know anything about this condition?” I told her what we knew, “We’ve been told babies with trisomy 18 don’t survive.” She replied, “That’s right…I’m so sorry.” I think I hung up on her then. Not on purpose, but I was in shock.
The next few minutes are a bit of a blur. I truly didn’t know what to do next. I called my husband, sobbing, and simply told him he needed to come home, which he of course did. Then I paced and walked in circles in my living room. I didn’t want to tell anyone before I told my husband, but I couldn’t stay there by myself until he got home, a likely 30 or 40 minutes. So, I called my parents – in Ohio and tried to incoherently explain the phone call. My poor dad answered the phone – he has a bad track record of answering the phone to a sobbing daughter. He woke my mom and she was able to talk me down a little. My dad got on the other phone and called Sarah, who will forever now be known not as my friend, but as my lifeline. She whisked up their 2-year old and was on my doorstep in 10 minutes. And together we sobbed on the couch. She held me and I cried and cried. And she cried with me. Soon, my husband came home and I told him.
The next several weeks were filled with visits to the doctor, horrible conversations about what our daughter’s birth would likely mean, and other horrible moments that no one should ever, ever have to endure. While pregnant with my child, we sat at a funeral home and picked out a casket for her to be buried in. One of my lowest moments, I assure you.
I was induced on August 14, 2009. At 9:27 pm, Faith Elizabeth was born in an uncomplicated, normal delivery. She came out and I heard the sweetest words I will ever know, “She has a heartbeat.” We didn’t know if she’d be born alive, so it was our miracle to know that she was with us. Laid on my chest, she was pale and not breathing well, but her eyes were open and she was there – and she was beautiful. Wavy, dark hair and perfect little features. 3 lbs. 12 oz. and 16 3/4 inches long. As far as we are concerned, we got our miracle. We got three amazing days with Faith. She fought to be with us and never gave up. We got to meet her and hold her and love her in the most uncomplicated and perfect way. And in the end, she was in my arms when she peacefully left this Earth. I brought her into this world and am privileged to know that I held her when she left it three days later on August 17.
We have discovered that though she didn’t weigh much, Faith had weight in this world.
Erica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also read Erica’s blog at http://thelargentlife.