My pregnancy journey began in October 2019. I had a ‘missed miscarriage’ at 6 weeks and lost the baby at 8 weeks. I was in Orlando on a business trip at the time and needed a D&C. It was scary and sad, but I knew that it was a risk of pregnancy at 38. I had just hoped it wouldn’t happen to me.
My husband, Charlie, and I were blessed to get pregnant again soon after. The baby would be due in September.
We took all the precautions in the first trimester and barely told anyone our exciting news at first. Before we knew it, we received the negative test results from the genetic testing, found out we were having a baby girl, and hit the second trimester mark. It was actually happening this time! We knew the risks weren’t over, but statistically speaking, things were looking good. We never imagined what pain we would be facing.
Because I had previously miscarried, I had an ultrasound at 6 weeks and another one 2 weeks later at 8 weeks. My appointments at 10 weeks and 14 weeks had been general check-ups and listening to the heartbeat. We did prenatal testing at 11 weeks and everything looked fine. We were told that the NT scan available at 11-13 weeks was unnecessary, so we didn’t opt to do it and I now regret that decision.
I went in for my 20 week appointment and was already nervous. I just wanted to see my baby and know that everything was OK. Because the doctor’s office is part of a hospital, and COVID was just starting to become a real thing, partners weren’t allowed to attend appointments. Charlie waited out in the car. This was going to be the first time we saw our baby girl since 8 weeks.
Although Charlie wasn’t allowed to be in the room, I was able to have him on a video call to watch. I held up my phone the whole time. The lady started pointing out body parts, ‘there’s the foot, there’s the thigh, there’s the arm’. And then she got less chatty. I started getting a sense that something was wrong.
I was taken to a room to wait. The sonographer and my doctor were in the hall. I heard them whispering. I heard my doctor let out an exasperated sigh and I will never forget that sound. The doctor came in and said he was just going to get to the point. He asked if I had ever heard of something called ‘anencephaly’. I said no and he proceeded to tell me that it was a severe birth defect where the baby’s brain, skull and scalp doesn’t fully form. It’s a type of a neural tube defect (like spina bifida but more rare). It’s a ‘fetal anomaly’ and there’s no cure or anything they can do for the baby. The baby would either die in the womb, be stillborn or live only a few minutes after birth. In all scenarios, the baby wouldn’t survive and it would be dangerous for me to carry to term. I needed to terminate the pregnancy because our poor baby girl was incompatible with life.
After a second diagnosis from a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist, we faced our limited options and our nightmare continued. I needed a ‘D&E’ this time because I was at 20 weeks pregnant. In Texas, this procedure is considered an elective abortion, even with a lethal fetal diagnosis from two doctors, and can only be done at abortion clinics. In Texas, there are only 3 clinics that can perform this procedure on someone greater than 16 weeks. Past 20 weeks, I would have had to go to the next nearest clinic… in New Mexico.
I called the 3 clinics and the soonest one of them could get me in was in 9 days. They had a backlog of patients because of COVID — the Texas Governor had concluded that all abortions were ‘elective’, thus stopping them during the height of the original COVID outbreak in TX. He had only allowed them to resume 6 days prior.
Charlie and I called every day to see if they had cancellations, and I even drove there in person to see if they could get me in sooner. I waited. I felt my baby kicking inside me, moving inside me. I worked. I tried to keep my mind occupied. Finally, the first appointment came. Charlie drove me to the clinic. It was an abortion clinic which means there were protestors outside. As I waited in line outside, with Charlie in the car, people yelled at me ‘God has a plan! You have options! I can help you!’. They couldn’t help me and it was devastating.
The next 2 days were a blur that involved medications and procedures to terminate the pregnancy and remove my baby. Charlie couldn’t be with me for any of it, but the staff were all incredibly nice, supportive and accommodating to the best of their ability.
Since the diagnosis, we’ve learned that this wasn’t our fault. I was doing everything I should have — exercising, eating a good diet, taking a prenatal vitamin — but science fails to know what the exact cause of anencephaly is.
Charlie and I have a hole in our heart where our little baby girl used to be. We grieve for her every day. We grieve the baby we lost and the woman she would have become.
Fortunately, we are blessed to be pregnant again (38 weeks!). This pregnancy has been filled with anxiety and fear of what might happen, but we have an amazing support network and take things day by day. We are very excited to meet our double rainbow baby soon and know our 2 lost little ones are watching over us.
Thank you Sarah for starting this amazing community of strong women and for letting me share our story.
Photos taken by Brooke Ashley Photography.
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