After 12 months and 3 rounds of fertility treatment, on Thanksgiving, we found out we were expecting a baby, due in August 2017.
5 weeks. At this point we hadn't told anybody. Christmas was only a few weeks away and we thought if we could keep it a secret, it would make the best Christmas present ever. We also didn't want to get everyone's hopes up in case something was wrong - like any pregnant woman, there was a real fear of losing this baby. My dating scan would confirm that I did indeed have a healthy looking pregnancy. I'll never forget that day, seeing my tiny speck of a baby on that screen and even seeing his heartbeat. (I referred to my baby as "he" from the very beginning...I just had this overwhelming feeling it was a boy).
On Christmas Day, when I was just over 8 weeks pregnant, we gave our families Christmas tree ornaments revealing our secret. It was the greatest Christmas ever. There were so many happy tears.
The planning for this new baby started, he was nicknamed "baboo", and we all loved talking about our future with this new baby.
Ben and I decided to have the harmony blood test done at 10 weeks. We wanted peace of mind knowing our baby was healthy, and also we wanted to know the gender as soon as possible. So impatient! Before we found out the results, I asked Ben what we would do if the results came back as high risk.
"I think if the child wasn't going to have a good quality of life we wold have to terminate. It wouldn't be fair to the child"
"Yeah I agree. God...I couldn't imagine anything worse than having to make that decision"
"I reckon a stillborn would be worse. But let's not think about it, it's not going to happen"
I was so nervous to receive those results, but when my doctor called to tell me the baby was low risk for everything and that it was a boy (hah! I knew it!) I burst into tears. I was so happy! The baby was healthy! And it was a boy! Everything was going so well.
I was so excited for my 12 week scan, to finally see my baby looking more like a baby. Seeing him up there on the screen was magical. He was perfect, and the sonographer seemed to think so too. Everything looked good. We'd made it past the 12 week mark, the 'danger zone'.
We began to tell everyone else our happy news. We told our colleagues and posted an announcement on Facebook. We were overjoyed.
They next 8 weeks were pretty uneventful. I didn't have any morning sickness, just frequent headaches, which isn't all that unusual for me. I finally started to get a little belly and feeling some kicks around 16 weeks. Those kicks were the greatest feeling in the world. I couldn't wait to for my belly to really pop. Other than actually having the baby (obviously) that was the thing I was most excited for, the pregnant belly. Everything was going so well. It seemed so surreal that in 4 months time, I would have a baby of my own.
Then came my 20 week scan. The worst day of my life.
I was weirdly anxious before my 20 week scan. And when my friends asked why, I said 'I don't know..I'm just scared they're going to find something.' I had my scan done on the maternity ward of the hospital I work in. All the nerves vanished when I saw my baby on the screen. And Ben's smile. He kept smiling and looking at me, I'd never seen him so happy!
"Ok almost done, I just need to check the spine and legs" the sonographer said. I thought we already looked at those, but ok....aww! Look at him, he crossed his legs! So cute! Wait..what's that big black thing? Why does she keep taking pictures of it? Its probably nothing. It's probably an organ. It's fine. If I don't ask then I won't know and everything will be ok.
"Ok....So....There are a few things I'm not happy with. The spine and legs are abnormal"
I immediately sat up and started taking my clothes off. I felt really hot. I couldn't breath. I was suffocating. The silence in the room was deafening. "I'm going to be sick".
Surely she's wrong. She doesn't know what she's doing. She must be new.
The sonographer told us she wanted to get her colleague to come have a look.
Ok good. She'll tell you you're wrong.
But, for some reason I knew there was something seriously wrong and I was so, so scared. By the time the other sonographer came in, the tears were streaming heavily. She wasn't happy with what she saw either. They immediately took me downstairs to the radiology department to talk to an experienced radiologist. I couldn't believe what was happening. I can't remember word for word what was said to us next, but the words "severe", "abnormalities" and "neural tube defect" were part of it. I couldn't speak. She was telling us our baby had a spina bifida.
I thought there was no way my baby could have spina bifida, I'd been taking my Prenatal vitamins for over a year. I remember learning about the importance of folic acid for pregnant women in high school and I knew I was taking the recommended dosage. It can't be spina bifida.
"We don't just suspect it. We're sure of it" she said. And just like that, in a matter of minutes, our entire world was flipped upside down.
They took me back upstairs to speak with an obstetric doctor who would go over the scan results in more details. She told us how the baby's spine didn't fuse properly and used words like "quadriplegic" and "brain damage". The more she spoke, the harder I cried. It was bad. Really, really bad.
After a bit more conversation (mainly one sided as neither Ben nor I had any words) Ben finally asked the doctor what terminating the pregnancy would involve. She told us that I would be induced, go into labor, and give birth. I think that's the moment my heart broke. It all became so utterly real that we were going to lose this baby. She left the room to get some referral forms to the fetal diagnostic unit at another hospital. "Why is this happening?" Were the first words I was able to choke out throughout the whole ordeal. After that, Ben and I didn't speak to each other, there were no words. We just held each other and cried.
The next few days were a complete whirlwind. We went to fetal diagnostic unit at Monash Hospital where they confirmed the findings of the previous scan, and gave us our options. I asked about the best case and worse case scenarios. They were both horrible, and to be honest, not much different. The spinal cord hadn't fused properly, there was swelling around the brain, and he had clubfoot. They told us our baby would be wheelchair bound. He would have no function of the bowel and bladder. There would be brain damage. And it might get worse as he grew over the next 20 weeks. Immediately after birth he would need surgery to close the hole in his back, as well as surgery to implant a shunt to drain the fluid from his brain. Over the span of his life, however long that may be, he was going to need countless, constant surgeries. The list of professionals he would need was endless....neurologists, urologists, pediatricians, rehab physicians, orthopedic surgeons. He was going to spend his entire life being poked and prodded and passed from one specialist to another.
We decided to spare our baby boy from a lifetime of pain and suffering.
I think one of the hardest parts between those scans and when I was induced was feeling him kick. I can't do this. I can't kill my baby. He's so alive right now. How is he moving so much? I can't do this. I was prepared to be a mother at any cost. I could be the mother of a disabled child. I would sell my brand new house for a more accommodating one. I would sell my car for something cheaper, to pay for all the rehab and special equipment he would surely need. I would quit my job and give up our current lifestyle to be a full time carer. I would have done anything and everything for my boy. I would have given my life for him. But it wasn't about me and my desperation to have a child. I knew I couldn't be selfish. What kind of life would he live? Constantly at doctors appointments, in and out of surgeries, sitting in his wheelchair, watching his siblings run around and play, unable to join them? It broke my heart just thinking about it. Ben tried to tell me that it wouldn't be fair to our future children either and how much their lives would be impacted. But honestly, I didn't care about them, because they don't exist yet. Only our unborn baby existed, and he was all I cared about.
Which is why I knew that sparing him from this life was the greatest gift we could give him and the only parenting choice we would ever make for him.
And so 2 days later, I was induced. It was a horrible experience. The medication made me so sick, I was vomiting and having diarrhea at the same time. I was shaking violently as my body went into shock. The cramps were intense and constant, for about 6 hours. I had two shots of morphine that did not work. I was in so much pain, but I felt like I deserved it. It seemed like I was taking away all his pain. After about 6 hours of labor, my water broke and proper contractions started. I delivered my son, stillborn, one hour later.
He was born at 1:25 am on March 27th. He weighed 350g and was 24cm long. He was beautiful.
We chose the name Noah for it's meaning, 'rest comfortably'.
I didn't cry when I gave birth and I didn't cry when I held him. I felt weirdly at peace. I had my baby. It wasn't until later in the day, when we were leaving the hospital that I broke down.
It wasn't until we had to say goodbye.
The angel in the book of life, wrote down my darlings birth.
And whispered as she closed the book, "Too beautiful for earth".
Rest in peace sweet angel. I love you so much.