After a year and a half of trying to conceive, we had finally
resorted to fertility drugs. Multiple tests had failed to provide an explanation
for our infertility, but only one month of clomid finally made two lines appear
on that stick! We were thrilled! Our then three- year-old daughter, Kylie
had already been predicting a baby sister, we waited to see.
There are sometimes added perks to being a nurse, one of which was a sneak peak ultrasound by a friend. I snuck off for a few minutes from my department at work, I was 14 weeks pregnant and our goal was to see if Kylie was going to get that baby sister. She rolled that probe over and over my belly. We couldn't seem to get a good look, but she just kept going back to the baby's head. I remembered thinking, "She'll never figure out if it's a boy or a girl looking there!" She very casually stated that she was having trouble seeing part of the baby's head and wanted to know if I minded for her to have someone look with her. I said that was fine. She left the room, I couldn't figure out who she went to get, it was the end of the day and I thought everyone else had left already. I was just lying there trying not to panic. She had tried to seem un-alarming, but I already knew a lot about anencephaly. I just kept thinking how she should be able to see the baby's head just fine and if she couldn't I knew that meant anencephaly (that was one of the bad things about being a nurse). Then she came back with a radiology physician, I knew it was worse than she was saying. He began to roll the probe over my belly and then told me that they still couldn't see what they wanted. He wanted me to check in officially for a vaginal ultrasound and went to call my doctor. I tried to stay calm and not over-react; my friends face was bright red. I went back and told my charge nurse I might need to clock out. When I returned to the ultrasound department, they said my doctor was gone for the day and my doctor's office wanted them to wait until the next week to do a repeat ultrasound. I was trying very hard to stay calm. I went back to work, for a very short time, but then had to leave. I just had a sick pit in my stomach that the baby DID have anencephaly. I knew they were just trying not to scare me. I went to a friend's house for a couple of hours. I was so upset, and I knew I would freak out my husband and daughter if I went home right away. I just couldn't bear having to tell my 3 year old that the baby would have to live in Heaven. When I did go home, I repeated to my husband what the radiologist told me about it maybe just being to early to see. I just couldn't explain what it all meant. A couple of days later, he knew I was holding out and I told him everything. We were both very upset, but it wasn't until the next week when we had another ultrasound that we knew anything for sure. It was the worst week I've ever had. Waiting that long to find out if your baby will live or die is unbearable! When we finally had our official level II ultrasound I was 15 weeks along. It took less than 5 minutes to confirm our worst fears. We also discovered that we were having a girl after all. We quickly gave our child a name, Jenna Grace. Once the radiologist went over the screen with me, they sent us back to talk to my OB doctor. My doctor was waiting for us. She was very empathetic to our pain and carefully explained what our choices were. She did not pressure us to proceed with an early induction like a lot of doctors do, but merely informed us it was a choice we had. We quickly informed her that we would carry this baby as long as physically possible. She was very supportive to our wishes and went on to describe what we could expect our pregnancy to be like.
Every appointment we had, we always had a list of questions we took with us. Our doctor continued to be an advocate for us and was very open-minded to our questions and wishes. By 33 weeks I had developed significant polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). Due to the fluid level, and a large amount of braxton-hicks contractions, I began to dilate. I had become rather short of breath and had felt horrible all weekend. Upon showering for my morning OB visit, I lost my mucous plug. When I arrived at my doctor's office she informed me I was dilated to 3cm and sent me to the hospital to be monitored for contractions. I was falling apart. I got to the labor and delivery unit and a nurse I knew met me at the desk. I was crying and all I could say was, "I can't do this today!" I felt so unprepared! She hooked me up and we discovered that I was having contractions every 6 minutes and wasn't even feeling 90% of them due to the abundance of amniotic fluid. They gave me some brethine shots and the contractions stopped. I was sent home on bed rest to wait things out. Two days later they drew off some of the amniotic fluid by amniocentesis to buy us a little time, not to mention help me breathe. We had decided on a c-section to try and improve our odds for a live birth. Our scheduled delivery date was moved up and I went home to wait on the couch. Two weeks later, my fluid level was back up and at my weekly visit I had dilated to 4cm. My doctor changed my delivery date again, now we only had 2 days. It was hard to know it was coming so soon, I was right at 35 weeks. We had already made our preliminary funeral arrangements, written the obituary, designed the funeral program and planned the service, as well as, providing everyone with a very detailed birth plan. We packed a large suitcase with all kinds of inkpads, molds, clay, outfits, camera, video camera and several hats.
The day of my c-section came. There were roughly 30 people in the waiting room to start with. My husband and I felt strangely at peace. We knew that God's grace would be sufficient. They wheeled us to the operating room. I was very glad I had chosen a c-section early on. Jenna had been breach lately and I would have ended up needing one anyway, at least this way I felt prepared. As they made the incision and went to pull her out, I felt her kick and her head hit my ribs one last time. An instant later, there she was. My doctor made sure I saw her immediately, as I had requested, she wasn't moving at all. They took her and dried her off quickly. I was given my daughter to hold right away. She had opened her eyes, but was not blinking or moving them. She had made no effort to breathe and was limp. They told me she did have a heartbeat, but it had slowed upon birth to 40 beats a minute. I knew she would soon leave us. I gave her to my husband to hold. After about 10 minutes her eyes gradually closed. I kept feeling like she would be gone any minute. To all our surprise she maintained a slow heart beat for one hour and sixteen minutes. Initially we spent time alone with just Jenna Grace and our 3 year old, Kylie. We took about 300 pictures! We had been given permission to have a friend in the OR to videotape also. Many people came to support us that day. After we spent time alone, we brought back the rest of our extended families. Once Jenna's heart had stopped, everyone stepped out and we bathed and dressed her. Then we let EVERYONE who wanted to meet our daughter come in. We were very happy so many people wanted to share this day with us. It is very comforting to know so many people will also remember her and how much she looked like her big sister. Our church family turned out in mass as well as many coworkers. We felt very at peace that day. We cried a lot, but knew that Jenna was already in the arms of Jesus.
Five days later, we had a church funeral for Jenna Grace. Our Sunday school class had raised money for us through a huge yard sale and our funeral expenses were completely covered. We have experienced many blessings despite the ongoing crisis for us. We couldn't believe the number of people who came to celebrate our daughter's life. Our church was packed. So many have told us how much we have made them realize that EVERY life counts. We have never regretted our decision to carry Jenna Grace. The memories we made in that short 35 weeks, one hour, and sixteen minutes will always remind us that she is forever a part of our family.