Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mom to Carli Hope
March 26, 2010
Pittsburgh, PA

My third, and my fiancée’s first; Carli was not planned, but she was excitedly wanted. I went on and on for weeks about how great it was going to be when we felt her kick, named her, brought her home, and so on. When my older girls would fight, I would smile and say “oh, I can’t wait till there are three of them.” When we crammed into the truck for a road trip to visit Ray’s family on Thanksgiving, I chattered excitedly about how fun it would be next year, trying to get three car seats in. I made plans. I allowed hopes and dreams to form. It never occurred to me that something could take all this away from me.

It was January 29th, 2010. We finally made it to our anatomy ultrasound. I was 18 weeks pregnant, and we were going to find out the sex of our baby (although I had a feeling our little bean was a girl). The ultrasound tech was very quiet. She asked if we wanted to know the sex, and I of course said yes. She said “girl” but did not smile, and did not make eye contact. She told us to wait, and she went to get the doctor. Ray asked if that part was normal, and I nervously said it wasn’t. She was gone maybe 3 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. I sat and wondered what could possibly be happening. I thought maybe she looked a little too intently at our baby’s heart. Was it something wrong with her heart?

Soon we were in the doctor’s office, hearing the words “fetal hydrops”. It was something I had never even heard of, but knew it was going to be serious. Ray asked “what are the chances…” and the doctor replied “20%. This baby might have a 20% chance of survival.”

I left the office that day feeling like I had been cheated. Why was this happening to me? Was it something I did? Worst of all, I felt like I had cheated Ray. I had let him down. I had promised him things that would probably never happen; no kissable toes, no first laughs. We spent the night crying, and feeling incredibly lost. It’s as if the world was moving around us, and we were still. Everything went by in a blur, while we sat in this darkness I had never experienced before.

Morning came, and with our eyes red and puffy, we decided our baby needed a name. She might not live long, so we better start getting to know her. I said “I like the name Carli”. Ray said “I like that too. I was thinking her middle name should be ‘Hope’ or ‘Faith’”. I said “I had thought about ‘Hope’. It sounds nice.” Carli Hope. The name came from nowhere, but we both agreed on it (an amazing feat given the intense name debate for the past few months!)

The next Monday was Ray’s birthday. February 1, 2010, but we didn’t even have time to celebrate. This was going to be our first meeting with our Perinatal Specialist. He was a very nice doctor, but one I hope I never see again. He talked about the possible causes of Carli’s hydrops (there are over 100!!). Carli was immediately examined via ultrasound for cardiac problems and anemia. Everything looked normal. No answers there. Blood tests for blood incompatibility and viral infections would take a few days to come back.

Then the doctor had a suggestion. An amniocentesis… “to help you decide what you want to do about this pregnancy.” I know I gave him an unintentional glare, as the meaning of what he was suggesting sank in. What do I want to do about this pregnancy? I want to fight! I want to give her a chance! “No amnio.” I said. I didn’t care what the results were going to be. If it was a genetic problem, it couldn’t be fixed anyway, and wouldn’t change my decision about carrying sweet Carli. I left his office that day feeling a little more hopeless than the last appointment. Carli’s chances for survival had been lowered to 10%. 

Some days, I cried until I ran out of tears. I prayed like I hadn’t prayed in years. I begged God to just let my baby live. And then something occurred to me- Carli was sick; she was either going to live, or not- and the outcome was already determined. I began to pray for strength to handle whatever happened, and grace to lead my older girls through the next few months. This became my daily request. I no longer prayed for my baby to be healed, or for any miracles. I just wanted strength. Carli was fighting, and I just had to let her fight as long as she could. 

Despite the hydrops, Carli was growing normally. Her brain was functioning- and this meant she could hear me. Did I want her to hear me crying all the time? No. So, I sang. I laughed. I talked with Ray. I talked to her sisters, and I encouraged them to talk to Carli. We told her how much we loved her. We spent the next few weeks going through tests, and exploring options. No treatment could be done, without knowing the cause of the hydrops. February flew by, and still no answers. 

On March 1st we met with the specialist again. He was shocked to see Carli’s heart still beating. He hadn’t expected her to live this long (just 22 weeks). The hydrops was getting worse. Carli was horribly swollen- fluid around her heart, lungs, and under her skin. She couldn’t even move. I decided to have the amniocentesis, and hopefully find more answers. It was extremely painful, and the results took weeks to come back. Again, the test results were normal, and we still had no answers. 

On March 20th I went to take my GRE test for grad school. I had a million other things on my mind, but felt that Ray and I had to continue with some of our “normal lives”. During this 4 hours test, I felt Carli move. She didn’t move a lot, so I enjoyed the times she did. I had no idea this would be the last time I ever felt her kicks. 

On March 22nd we went back to the specialist. I had a bad feeling all morning, and knew what the ultrasound would ultimately tell us. My fears were confirmed as soon as the probe was put to my stomach. There was no movement. It took a few minutes, but finally the technician looked at me and said “I’m sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat.” Those words have echoed in my head, and haunted me since the day I heard them. It is a phrase I will never forget.

We decided to spend the next few days preparing for Carli’s arrival. We scheduled an induction for March 25th. Instead of shopping for baby gear, we had to begin shopping for a funeral home, an urn, and a very tiny gown.  

I went to the hospital the night before my induction, to begin the process of dilation. It was not physically painful, but certainly emotionally intense. I lay in my hospital bed wishing I could wake up to find a new reality. Maybe it was all a mistake. Maybe my baby was still alive. I begged my fiancée to take me home, but deep inside I knew what had to be done. In the silent dark delivery room, I prayed once more for strength to deal with what was coming next. 

I like to believe all my prayers are heard, but I’m not always sure. I cannot describe what happened next, other than to say it is the only time in my life I have actually felt like a prayer was heard and answered. I felt like I was wrapped up in a huge blanket of comfort. I felt at peace. I slept well that night, and remained in a bizarre state of calm for the rest of the induction. 

I spent all day that Thursday laboring my tiny baby out of my body. On Friday morning at about 1:30, it was time to give the last bit of pushing needed to deliver Carli’s body. On March 26th, 2010 at 1:57 am, I delivered Carli into the dark delivery room. Ray and I clung to each other and let our bodies be overcome with grief; tears flowed freely as we held each other. I didn’t feel a thing. She was so tiny. She was just less than 12 inches and weighed only 1 pound and 13 ounces. 

The doctor took Carli from the room, and the nurse followed. Ray and I held on to each other as the world once again sped by. The silence of the delivery room was deafening. This is not how I pictured our delivery. I have never felt so empty. 

After several minutes, we wiped our tears and asked to see our little girl. They brought her back to us, dressed in her tiny gown. We held her for a few hours. I felt at peace as I examined her closely. She looked a lot like her daddy. We had her baptized, and finally let the nurse take her away so we could get some sleep. I felt accomplished. Even though she didn't get to come home with us and I will forever miss my baby, I did was I was supposed to do. I fought for her as long as she had the strength to keep going. I loved her while she was with me, and I will love her forever. She never had to know pain; she never had her feelings hurt; she was never angry. All Carli ever knew was perfect love.

We saw Carli one more time in the morning, before handing her over to the funeral home. I left the hospital in the most unnatural way a mother can ever experience; without my baby. Leaving the hospital, I left my comfort behind. Grief took over, and the following days were not easy.

I do not regret my decision to carry Carli. It is a scary road to travel; it's painful; it's unfair - - but more than anything, it is beautiful.

You can contact Katie at katie12.19.86@gmail.com


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