Life is always crazy, and it is proving to be so now more than ever. I needed a way to organize my thoughts and a way to remember every moment possible in this season of my life, because it will be gone in the blink of an eye, so I’ve decided to blog. Hopefully this will prove to be an accurate and meaningful account of the journey my family is on. Here is the beginning of the story of how our lives changed forever…
On January 31, 2013, Robert and I went in for an ultrasound of our 3rd baby. We already have two beautiful daughters, Dylan (4) and Harper Lou (2), so we know the prenatal routine pretty well. Ultrasounds are pretty anticlimactic for us because we have never found out the gender of our babies before their birthdays, and to be honest, all black and white shady baby profiles look the same. But while the technician was trying to get that profile picture for us, she had quite a bit of difficulty. She stopped making small talk with us and became more focused on her assessment of our little one. When she finally was finished, she turned off the machine and told us she needed to show the images to a doctor and they would be back in to talk to us in a few moments. This didn’t strike me as odd at the time, because we were told ahead of time we were having a Level II ultrasound because Harper was born at 33 weeks due to preeclampsia complications. I just assumed a Level II ultrasound came with a consult from a doctor. After a while the doctor came in and performed his own scan. When he was finished he turned to us and said, “What I have to tell you isn’t easy, so it’s best if I just come out and say it.”
I’m crying and shaking as I type these words, because what this man said to us has been permanently imprinted on my heart has completely changed our world. He told us our baby had anencephaly. He explained that during early development the neural tube didn’t completely close, so our baby was missing a major portion of their scalp and brain. He continued to tell us that this condition was “incompatible with life.” If our baby was able to make it to delivery, it would die soon after.
Without even looking at Robert because I knew he would agree, I told the doctor to turn the machine back on and tell us if we were having a boy or a girl. I wanted every second I had with this baby, in or out of the womb, to count. He told us we were having a girl, our third daughter. I think this news compounded my grief because of my experience with my own two sisters. My sisters are everything to me, and I think they would agree that we wouldn’t be the women we are today without each other’s love and support. We are going to have three little girls, and then one of them is going to leave us even more quickly then she came.
The doctor said he would give us a few minutes to process the information, and then he left the room. No sooner did the door shut then all of the tears and pain both of us were holding in came pouring out. Between sobs we decided to name our little girl Annie Rachel. Annie because it’s adorable, and Rachel after my best friend. When the doctor returned he offered us the opportunity to have an amniocentesis in order to confirm the diagnosis. He said that anencephaly is a fairly simple diagnosis to make purely by ultrasound because you can see the absence of the top of the baby’s head, but if it were him and his wife they would do the test. We went ahead with the procedure holding on to the smallest shred of hope that he was a blind idiot (which he is not). Then we were ushered out the back door so we wouldn’t have to walk sobbing through the waiting room full of happy moms pregnant with healthy babies.
That afternoon was full of phone calls, tears, questions, and each time we had to relay the story it became more real and more painful. Robert and I each come from a family of 4 children (that’s 3 calls each to siblings and 2 each to parents) and by the time we had relayed the news 8 times we collapsed in our bed. I can’t express to you enough how much the support of our families got us through the first few days of our new lives. That afternoon we picked up our girls from school and met up with my father in law so he could take them for the night. This gracious offer gave us the time we needed for us to process the initial shock and weep openly without scaring the girls. We still weren’t sure what we were going to say to them. My sister called Robert and told him she wanted to bring us dinner. When we got home, both of my sisters and my brother got out of a waiting car with dinner, cheesecake, hugs and tears (I told you they were awesome). My brother even passed up free Thunder tickets to be there for us, and that means the world to me. It’s amazing to me how clear the day of the diagnosis sticks in my mind, but the subsequent days are blurry. Somehow we made it through and have begun to live out the next phase of our lives.
I am proud to say that my husband has led us bravely through this tough time, all the while leaning on the Lord. It is amazing how God has revealed Himself to us in these past few months. The very first thing He showed us was that we were not meant to go through this alone. He did this through our family, close friends, and strangers alike. Our families have done anything and everything we have needed, from praying with us and for us, watching our kids, checking in on us, and crying with us. Our friends have helped us laugh, continue to live our lives and prayed for us. Friends and family both have helped us spread the word so we don’t have to tell everyone the sad and painful story. This in turn has led complete strangers to pray for us. It’s amazing to hear the ways that people have been speaking to Him on our behalf. Our friend Kyle’s grandpa’s buddies who get together for breakfast have been praying for us. Robert’s sister Molly has all of her bible study friends praying. My Mimi and her husband have their entire church praying for us. Our entire Air Guard family have been praying for us… The list goes on and on. It is astonishing to me that so many in this world that haven’t even met us are loving on us and this tiny baby girl. His love knows no bounds, and we have been shown that many times over.
I’m currently 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant with my little Pistol Annie, and she is due June 30. I will continue to update with details of appointments and anything that is weighing on my heart. I passed nursing school on Monday, so I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands that I haven’t had in years, and I’m hoping that this blog will be a way to help me keep my sanity. Our story is not a secret, so if you feel led to share it with someone who may benefit from hearing it, please do. I have already seen Annie change lives, and I know she isn’t finished yet. Now I’m going to take a nap.