I'm writing this post as I move into a new phase of my life. After a year filled with moments of sheer joy and complete despair, I've reached a place of acceptance and hope. I'm here to share my story in the hopes that it will help someone who has endured similar heartache and tried to move on with life through a lens of optimism.
But before I can share where I'm headed, I need to explain where I've been...
In October 2009 we became pregnant with a July 2010 due date. This was our first time pregnant and we were overwhelmed with the news. As the weeks passed and the baby grew, so did our acceptance of what was about to happen. It was completely surreal until the day we heard her heartbeat through the Doppler, and then we knew there was no turning back. Everything was progressing to plan and we travelled to Los Cabos, Mexico in February for a babymoon to celebrate our last months together as a childless couple.
Little did we know what awaited us upon our return.
It all started at our 21 week ultrasound at the end of February. We were very excited to see the baby that was growing stronger and kicking harder each day. I went in to the room by myself (they wouldn't let B in until the end) and everything seemed pretty routine...until the end. The nurse turned off the machine and told me I needed to go see my doctor the next day. I was surprised and asked about seeing the picture, and she said we needed to go to the doctor. I asked what what was wrong, and she wouldn't say.
Needless to say we were totally freaked out and barely slept that night. We went to the doctor the next morning and his face immediately told us something was very wrong. He said the baby had a two vessel umbilical cord instead of three. He said this wasn't uncommon but could be indicative of other things. He also said there were some anomalies in the face and head that they couldn't identify. He said we would be referred to the Mount Sinai high-risk pregnancy clinic in Toronto for further investigation.
We were devastated by the news, but tried to be optimistic, hoping that it was a misdiagnosis or something minor. Our Mount Sinai appointment was a full two weeks later so we both threw ourselves into work to try and forget about it, which was virtually impossible.
The day of our appointment came and we were both cautiously optimistic. The doctor conducted a thorough ultrasound, which took nearly an hour. She then left and came back with two more doctors to do a follow-up ultrasound on the baby's head. They then left to discuss and told us to go to a small room at the end of the hall to wait for the results.
We never imagined what they would tell us. They said the baby had exencephaly, a rare condition where the skull doesn't form properly and the brain is exposed/outside the head. They said it was a fatal condition. I could try to carry the baby to term, but i would likely miscarry. And even if I did carry to turn, the baby couldn't survive outside my body. The final option was to be induced early.
Needless to say we went with the last option, rather than delaying the inevitable. They booked us in for an induction one week later. That was quite possibly the longest week of my life. I went with B to Chicago for a trade show to take my mind off the reality of what we were facing, and we returned the night before the induction.
I was in the hospital for 48 hours and had a series of medications to induce labour. It was extremely painful and I ended up having an epidural to help me manage the pain. On Friday, March 19, I gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, who we named Olivia. She was 1 pound 5 oz and very tiny. Her head had a number of anomalies, including a severe cleft, but the rest of her body was perfect. I was thankful for the opportunity to hold her tiny body.
Olivia was buried with my grandparents in my hometown, where we know she's not alone.
The next two months were the most difficult of our lives, and we couldn't have gotten through it without the love and support of our family, friends and co-workers. We struggled to find peace in knowing that our little angel is looking down at us from heaven.
Since then we found out that the baby's condition was caused by an amniotic band, which is extremely rare and very much unlikely to reoccur.
So now, five months later, we are once again pregnant and due April 1, 2011. I'm cautiously optimistic about this pregnancy, and desperately hopeful this time will be our turn to become parents.