How do I begin to get us to the present? My name is Angela and I am married to Robert. We have a precious nearly 3 year old daughter, Isabel, who is the joy of our life! In December of 2007 we got pregnant again, but lost the baby around 7 1/2 weeks due to it being an ovarian ectopic pregnancy. We got pregnant again in April 2008 to miscarry in June of 2008 at 9 1/2 weeks, requiring a D&C. Finally in October 2008 we found out we were expecting again (an answer to many prayers) and due on July 11, 2009, our 6 year wedding anniversary.
This pregnancy had been relatively uneventful and we were excited to make it to our anatomy ultrasound. Isabel (and Rob) had already decided the "new baby in Mommy's tummy" would be a baby girl, a little sister for Isabel. I was excited to find out, because Rob didn't want to "talk names" until we found out the gender.
Wednesday, February 4th, 2009, 17 weeks 4 days
We went to the appointment and they got right down to the ultrasound. Our ultrasound tech had scanned me when I had my ectopic pregnancy almost a year prior, although I'm sure he did not remember. We watched the little baby on the screen wiggle and flex tiny limbs; Isabel was in a sort of silent awe watching everything on the screen. The tech wasn't saying much. It wasn't until Rob commented, "the baby has all it's fingers", that I noticed the first problem was exactly those little fingers. The hand showed splayed fingers which looked like 3 digits and 2 digits fused together, almost like the star-treck hand sign. I wanted to ask the tech right then, but I couldn't bring myself to speak. He moved on to other areas of the body and then I asked, "Is everything looking okay?" He began to give me the "list" of problems starting with those little hands:
"Well, her hands are showing some fusion between her pinky, ring and middle finger and her index and thumb. We don't know if there is webbing between them. It looks as if all the bones are there." He held up his hand to show me what I had already seen on the screen.
"We're also seeing a spot of fluid in her bowels, "significant amounts" of water on the brain; hydrocephalus, and it's measuring about 2 weeks behind in growth," he continued.
Rob and I sat in silence. We looked at each other then back at the screen and the room felt very heavy with the realization that things were appearing very wrong with our baby. It was about 3 minutes later when Isabel broke the silence, "Mommy, can you tell me what we're going to do at Grammy's house?" Bless her heart for speaking because I don't think I would have known what else to say other than to answer that question. "Yes, we're going to play with toys and look for Bailey and Roscoe, but we can't let those two cats fight," trying to clue the tech in on our conversation. "We'll also look for the raccoon and the oppossum when it gets dark, because they'll probably come up on the deck and eat the cat food," I stated. I then turned to the ultrasound tech to explain that my parents live in the mountains, "Hendersonville, near Asheville."
"My wife used to be the director at Camp Pinnacle," he said.
"Camp Pinnacle? Do you know the Bacherts?" I questioned.
"Kelly?" was all he said, with a question.
"I was at her funeral," he said.
"So was I," I was shocked...what a small world for the ultrasound tech who was giving us the worst news of our life to have been at the funeral of a high school girl with whom I had clogged, attended church, and had sleepovers as a child. He was there at her funeral and we had cried together before for the loss of a different life. And there he was to deliver the news that could mean the loss of our baby's life. I was strangely comforted that we had something in common, that he wasn't just a complete stranger telling us about these problems. A blessing.
We met with my favorite OB at the practice...the one I almost always request to see, and the one who knows the story of our losses over the last year so very well. Dr. Segal looked at us so sadly and apologized that this was happening. He scheduled us for an amnio the next morning and when I asked him directly what he thought all these problems "looked like", he responded, "Trisomy 18".
Trisomy 18. I knew from the moment he spoke those words that this was a worst case scenario being played out before us. From my time on the internet's trying-to-conceive message boards, I knew that it was fatal either in utero or shortly after the baby was born. We were in shock most of Wednesday.
Thursday, February 5th, 2008, 17 weeks 5 days
Thursday morning we went to a Women's Specialty Clinic for an ultrasound, amniocentesis and genetic counseling. It took 4 hours. The ultrasound basically confirmed everything we had seen the day before:
Fluid on the brain is called ventriculomegaly, not hydrocephaly...because it is in her ventricles. So much fluid that it is causing her head to be 2 weeks ahead in growth. Her heart looks okay so far, although since her body is measuring 2 weeks behind it is hard to see for sure. The fluid in her bowel (echogenic bowel) is of little consequence...either the doc thinks this is the least of her problems, or I understood him to mean that it was so little fluid it could hardly qualify as noting as echogenic bowel. Finally she would not give us a good shot of her hands, so we could not say much about her finger problems.
We met with the genetic counselor. She is very kind and will help us to make many decisions. We then prepped for the amnio. The tech who prepped me was so very kind and took many 3-D pictures of the baby. He confirmed that she is definitely a she!! (A little sister for Isabel and a second daughter for our family!) His demeanor was the kindest and gentlest of all the people at the clinic....there was just this kindness that was radiating from him. The amnio was very painful and I jumped when the needle pierced my uterus...it was terrible. The needle was in for 2-3 minutes and I said "Hail Mary's" in my head with my arm draped over my eyes. When it was over I felt very faint, but they got me a cold washcloth and then I was okay. The results will take 2 weeks to come back, although we put a rush on a test that would tell us if it is a Trisomy.
I felt great joy after the appointment and that could have only been from the prayers of so so many people...we are so amazed at people who are praying for our baby and for our strength who have never even met us. What an awesome thing. I was joyful to be pregnant...joyful that our baby is a little girl...joyful that she is ours and that she is a precious creation of God, no matter what her problems are.
Thursday night I told Rob that we should really sit down and talk about a baby name. He suggested that we each make a list of names we liked (like we did in choosing Isabel's name). I sat with my pen and paper and only came up with one name, Mary Grace. To my surprise, Robert agreed that that should be her name. He reminded me that I had always been drawn to it from the beginning of the pregnancy- that that was the name I kept coming back to.
Mary Grace. I had wanted to use the name "Mary" because after struggling with our 2 losses last year, and being so eager to be pregnant again, Mom sent a prayer request to Medjugorje where the Blessed Virgin Mary has been allegedly appearing to a group of children (now adults) since 1981. The messages that she gives are for us to convert to her Son....Jesus. Always she tells us that He is the way...and urges us to pray for conversion for the world. She appears monthly with a message and many people send their prayer requests for Mary to take to her Son. Who better to intercede in heaven for you than the mother of Him who could answer our prayer! I know she took our request for a child to Jesus because not 3 days later, I found out we were expecting. I felt like Mary had heard my request, mother to mother, and because of her intercession on our behalf for another child, that child's first name is "Mary".
We chose "Grace", because we know that both she and our family will need the beautiful grace of God to be able to make it through the upcoming times ahead. And when I think of the name/word Grace, I imagine these great beams of light streaming down from heaven...I guess I'm envisioning God's grace flowing directly down from Him to us here on earth. And that is certainly what we need. I had loved this combination since the beginning of our pregnancy and now it has sort of "chosen" us. It feels like this is supposed to be her name.
Not long after we decided on her name, did she start kicking....enough so that I thought Robert might get to feel a kick for the first time! I placed his hand and sure enough, she gave him a little whack! That was confirmation enough for me that she agreed upon our name selection. Not only did we want to bond with her in a special way as soon as we could, it appeared that she was reaching out to bond with us as well.
The last 2 nights I have slept hard. I guess from the emotional exhaustion of the situation. But Friday morning I woke up at 6 a.m. and could not sleep anymore. I lay in bed and replayed the ultrasounds, the findings, trying to remember each ultrasound picture in my mind- looking for additional clues which the doctors might have missed. Trying to think up another explanation for what this could be. I got up and got online and started reading the blog of another mother. One who had lost her precious daughter and how the mother clings to the Father through the entire journey. Her story touched my heart as I realized that we could be following this same path. We are asking for a miracle, but if God doesn't provide a miracle cure for our daughter, she will have a home in heaven...and God will still be our Father. Tears streamed down my face as I read their story and felt the immensity of what is upon us.
Saturday, February 7, 2009, 18 weeks
This morning I woke up and realized I had not felt the baby move in about 24 hours. I realize her body is still small....you don't even start kick counts until 28 weeks, right? But with all that we know, my heart felt panicked. I lay in bed and jiggled my belly like the ultrasound techs had done to get her to move positions. Nothing. I began to pray with an urgency..."Lord, we are not ready yet...we can't have just found out that something is wrong and You take her from us! Please Lord, Jesus!! We are not ready to give her to you!! Give me some movement, show me she is alive in there!" Over and over I prayed...and then I remembered my prayer cloth. If ever there was a time to use this...but before I continue, let me stop and explain.
In Acts 19:11-12 it speaks of how cloths (aprons and handkerchiefs) were touched to Peter and Paul and taken back to the sick who were often cured of their ills..."God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul; so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." We know that objects in and of themselves are powerless! Faith is the basis of this devotion and God can empower whom He wills. He is the ultimate Healer and unlimited in His resources for healing! The prayer cloth I have is used to focus or funnel my faith toward Jesus, much like a flag is used as a focus point of patriotism.
So I placed it over my belly and began to pray for this baby...that God would heal her completely. I went through each of her ailments and asked for specific healing over each body part. I told God that I wanted His will to be done, but I begged for His will to be to save her. I talked to God about her name, told Him about her big sister who was so eager to hold her, I reminded Him (hah...me reminding the Father) of all the miracles Jesus performed...as many healings as I could think of from the Bible. What an awesome thing if we went back into that next ultrasound in 3 weeks and all of her problems were healed! I prayed and prayed, and as I prayed, I felt her move inside of me. She began to move and move...almost as if she knew that those prayers were for her and she was joining in! She moved that entire hour of prayer and I was never so grateful.