Mom to Jack Benjamin
September 22nd, 2010
Columbus, Ohio
Our baby boy went to heaven on September 22, 2010. I can’t believe that I can sit up at the computer long enough to type this, but here is our story:

I am 26, my husband is 30. We were overjoyed to find out 2 weeks after our wedding anniversary that we were expecting our first baby!! We did not expect it to happen so soon, so we considered ourselves incredibly lucky to have gotten pregnant so quickly. We do not know how two other people could be as happy as we were to be becoming parents. We knew that we were the happiest people on this planet, and we quickly began planning our baby’s arrival.

We had an ultrasound at 9 weeks. Everything looked perfect. Baby was moving around like crazy and we could see his little arms and legs moving around. We were over the moon, and at that point I felt comfortable telling the world: “I’m going to be a mommy!!!” Despite the morning sickness in the beginning, I was known as the happiest pregnant person people had ever seen. I was honored to have people make that claim. I wore my honorary mommy badge with pride.

After hearing his little heartbeat at my 12 and 16 week ultrasounds, I had zero worries that my little one was growing and thriving. In fact, I felt my first kicks at 16 weeks, which people told me was amazing and I was so lucky. By 18 weeks, you could see him kicking through my stomach. My husband was able to feel him, he was so so happy and so proud. Throughout the next two weeks, I made anyone who would give me their hand put it on my belly. I was so proud of my active baby.

We woke up on a Monday morning for our 20 week ultrasound giggling and laughing. We couldn’t wait to see our baby again. My husband talked to my belly all morning to get the baby fired up for his picture day.  When the ultrasound began, our wonderful OB started showing us his little parts, but her tone was bothersome. She is normally super perky and happy, and something seemed wrong. She kept jiggling my belly, because she couldn’t get him to move his head. Right after she confirmed that baby was a boy, she finally told us what was wrong… she was worried because she couldn’t get a clear shot of the top of his head.

The practice is in a hospital, so she immediately sent us down to the high risk maternal-fetal medicine unit. A nurse began performing another ultrasound on our baby boy. The whole time we just thought he was being stubborn and wouldn’t move his head off of the side of my uterus. But when she zoomed in to a close-up on this giant screen, we knew. We saw his eyes, but nothing above them. The doctor came in to confirm the worst news I have ever heard in my life. My sweet baby boy had anencephaly, a rare neural tube defect where the baby is born without a brain or skull. I felt like I was floating above myself as he was explaining his diagnosis, and how it was 100% fatal. He was very sympathetic, but I started wailing uncontrollably, so he gave us a lot of time alone to cry.

I was numb as the doctor began explaining our options. I was MISERABLE. Just 15 minutes before, I had images of playing baseball with my little guy and teaching him how to cook, and now he was being taken away from me.

After talking things through together, my husband and I decided to undergo a D&E. I knew in my heart that I could not bear to feel and see those stomach kicks for another 4 months, knowing that my baby was suffering. I wanted to release him from any pain so that he could wait for us in heaven. I admire so much the women who choose to carry to full-term, but I knew that was not the right decision for my family and our sweet baby boy. Unfortunately, there were people in my family that, though well-meaning, told me that our choice was wrong, and begged me to carry him through. Ultimately, I knew that I was choosing to suffer so that he wouldn’t. I feel like it would have been selfish for me to continue, knowing that my sweet boy wasn’t really reacting to us talking or singing to him, like we thought he was this whole time. We knew we had to sacrifice ourselves for the happiness of our child.

The next 48 hours were peaks and valleys of worse and even worse. We took turns breaking down; sometimes we would comfort each other, and sometimes we would sob together. We took turns going over and over “WHY??? WHY is this happening to a baby who is SO loved and SO wanted??”

I also struggled (and will probably continue to struggle for the rest of my life) as to what I did wrong. I took prenatal vitamins for 3 months before conceiving, even taking DHA supplements. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like it wasn’t my fault, despite the doctor’s assurance that there was nothing I could have done, and this was just a very, very, very unfortunate fluke. In the future when we are ready to try to conceive again, we will be prescribed mega-doses of folic acid (10 times the recommended dosage for “normal” women). I would give anything to know what caused this. I would eat, drink, and do absolutely anything if it meant I could take my baby boy home with me.

We went in to be dilated, and had to go at two separate occasions. The first experience was emotionally painful, the second was emotionally and physically painful. It hurt, and I hated every second of it.

The night before the D&E was the worst. We talked to Jack for over an hour. We told him over and over again how much we loved him, how brave he was, and how we knew without a doubt that he would look after our family as a beautiful angel in heaven. I had no idea a human could produce as many tears as I did that night.

I was given medicine to take that morning. Since surgery was scheduled for 7:30am, I had to take it at 4:00am. I went back to sleep for a few restless minutes. I had a very bad reaction to it, and I woke up with chills, a fever, and nausea. I threw up when I stood up, which was hard since I hadn’t eaten anything for two days.

I cried hysterically on the way to the hospital. I just didn’t want to do it. I did not want to give up my baby. I wanted to have my healthy baby boy on February 2 like I was supposed to.

I began having contraction-like pains while waiting to go into surgery. It hurt so badly!!! I could not stop sobbing. I wanted to go through this pain when I was delivering my baby, but not now. Not when I will never get to play with him and change his diaper and see him grow up and get married.

The hospital chaplain came to see us before I went into surgery, and she said the most beautiful and comforting prayer for our little Jack.  It was the only moment of comfort I had felt from the moment we heard our baby’s horrible diagnosis.

The anesthesiologist gave me some medication for the pain, but I was still hurting from the inside out. Finally it was time for surgery. We were given a few minutes to say our final goodbyes to our sweet baby.  I had my husband tell him we loved him so much, and we were so proud, and not to be scared. I sobbed and sobbed as they wheeled me away from him. In fact, the last thing I remember was crying in the operating room as they wheeled me in. My tears only stopped when I was under.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in the recovery area. The doctor came to tell me that everything went very well. I sat up, and instead of the sobs that I was expecting to continue, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I have never felt something like it in my entire life.  I knew right away that the peace I felt was my wonderful, beautiful son letting me know that he was okay, and that he was happy in heaven where he belonged. As an angel who I know will watch over our family.

They wouldn’t let me see my husband until I was fully awake. He looked so distraught when he came around the corner, so I immediately told him about how I knew, without a doubt, that our little boy had made it safely to heaven. This seemed to provide him some comfort, because he knew that I would never something like this if I didn’t truly feel that way.

My feelings of anger, guilt, and extreme pain are still here, and I break down in tears every day mourning the incredible loss of my son, but I know my angel is looking down on his mommy and daddy with love, and he will help us heal in time.

I would give anything to wake up tomorrow and realize that this was all a dream. I want my baby. I want my little boy. I want to have him in my arms for the rest of my life. But since I know he was not meant for this world, I will never, ever forget the utter joy and happiness he brought us over the 21 weeks we had with him, and when our time comes, I will be so happy to meet him.

Rest in peace, my angel baby.
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  1. Brandi Bates says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your strength is very impressive. You are a role model for all mothers that have lost children. My husband and I lost out little boy 6 weeks ago at 35 weeks due to a cord accident. I understand the grief you and your husband are going through. Have hope and know that you little angel will watch over you and your husband for the rest of your lives. He has a playmate named Xander in heaven. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.

  2. I am sorry for your loss, and admire your decision to do what is right for your family ( you, your husband and Jack)…This journey is so fresh and new for you, and you can expect to go through moments of peace, and moments of guilt, and moments of every feeling under the sun…It hurts, it's not fair–and it may never make sense.

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

  3. Audra, I am so sorry…I know this story all too well. We lost our baby girl, Fiona, the same way on 8-17-2010. We had a "textbook pregnancy" up until the 20 week u/s. I had never even heard of anencephaly! I have all the same questions and am experiencing the same feelings. If you ever want to talk, I would love that. My email is

  4. Rebecca Neal says:

    I find it amazing that you are able to share your story so soon. You may not realize it now but this is one of the best things to do to start the healing process. Keep your baby's spirit in your heart and he will help heal you through this trying time.
    You will be in my prayers

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I also chose to end a pregnancy early when we found out the baby had angencephaly. We found out at our 12 week scan. No matter what anyone says, you have to do what is right for your family. We felt that was the best thing for our family as well. We found out, through genetic testing, that we were having a girl. Two days before your son was born, we had another child. A boy named David. He was 7 weeks early and hours later we found out he had a heart defect that was not seen during any of my ultrasounds. He passed away in January. We live in the Cleveland area. If you ever need to talk, please feel free to email me.

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