Renee, West Virginia

My husband and I have been married for over three years. Due to a chronic pain condition I have, getting pregnant was difficult and at times thought impossible. I wanted to have children so bad and although I love my stepson, I wanted to be a mother to my own child.

I was out of town when I found out I was pregnant and I had the biggest smile and was really bummed my husband wasn’t there to share in the joy. We had so much fun spilling the news to our family and friends in fun and creative ways. Every time I got to hear my daughter’s heartbeat excitement and joy rushed over me. I never knew anyone who had issues with a pregnancy so I had no reason to think anything could be wrong.  My first trimester went fine, so the baby had to be okay, right? Neither my husband nor my family had any history with birth abnormalities; we have only healthy babies in the family. I did everything right–took my vitamins and ate as well as I could.

Most of my pregnancy I was very sick and extremely tired. I had lost weight instead of gaining, and at five months I didn’t even look pregnant. My husband and I were so excited to go in for our 20 week ultrasound and learn if we were having a son or a daughter. We saw our daughter moving like crazy, and although I don’t know how to read an ultrasound, I figured nothing could be wrong. When the doctor came and got us he didn’t waste any time.  He told us it looked like our daughter had Turner syndrome and a cystic hygroma on the back of her neck. We had no idea what these were and our hearts just broke at the thought of something being wrong with her.

After getting used to the idea of having a daughter that might have Turner syndrome we were referred to a high risk doctor, and after an extensive ultrasound the news just got worse. He told us that she also had a kidney defect, her stomach was pronounced, there was extra swelling on the top of her skull and she had no membrane covering her cerebellum. After a fetal MRI (which they normally don’t do until after week 30 due to the development of the brain), a fetal echocardiogram, and research on our own we were living in our worst nightmare. The doctors concluded that our daughter suffered from Turner syndrome (diagnosed through amniocentesis), Dandy Walker Malformation (small cerebellum, missing cerebellum vermis, enlarged 4th ventricle and already fluid in her brain), a kidney defect, a large cystic hygroma, and fetal hydrops (these are 100% fatal). Now we understood why the doctors kept telling us “If she survives,” over and over again.

My husband and I made sure to get all the evidence needed to make a decision neither one of us would regret. Emotionally I couldn’t handle feeling her move everyday knowing she wasn’t going to survive. How do you live day to day wondering will this be the last day you feel your daughter move? At this point I was 23 weeks pregnant (our state bans terminations after 24 weeks) since it took weeks to get all the tests completed and to understand fully what was going on with my daughter. My husband and I made the most difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy.

On October 7th I was induced, and while I was in labor my daughter had passed away. At 8:56 that night I gave birth to my stillborn daughter. Having to hold her while we told her we loved her and we were so sorry this happened to her made it the hardest day of my life. I never thought I would have to go through this.  Unfortunately I know now these things do happen, and a lot of times parents don’t know that anything is wrong with their child until later on when the anatomy has further developed.

Before this happened I told myself I would never terminate a pregnancy.  I did think it was a woman’s choice, but should not be used as a form of birth control. Now having gone through this myself my opinion has changed a bit. Any person who would say differently has never gone through a horrible experience like mine and has no right to say otherwise. I would tell these people “You feel your child move and kick in your stomach; you get to see your child through an ultrasound, and tell me you wouldn’t want your child to suffer.”  As another mother said, we are given a gift to take away any suffering and pain our child will go through, instead we carry that pain for the rest of our lives so our children only know the warmth of our womb and the sound of our heartbeat. I will never forget my daughter Pax. She is my first born and forever my daughter.