The words still echo in my head… “this condition is not compatible with life”. These words and the look on the doctor’s face will stay with me for the rest of my life. We had a hard decision to make. Do we continue with this pregnancy knowing that our child will never live, or do we choose to deliver early? The day before, we had gone for our first ultra sound. It was so exciting, and the look on my husband’s face when he could see our child move on the screen is something that I will never forget. But then the technician had to get a supervisor and a doctor to come and look at the screen, and I knew something was wrong. Our baby had anencephaly, and condition where the neural tube does not form properly and as a result the brain never forms, and the back of the skull does not close. It was a shock, and heart breaking.
We made the hard choice to end the pregnancy early. It was not a choice we made lightly, but having two children, I couldn’t imagine going through another four or five months knowing that my child would die as soon as I gave birth. At twenty weeks we went to hospital and had labour induced. On February 19, 2004, our daughter Teagan was delivered. She never took a breath, and yet impacted my life in ways that I could never have imagined.
There are few resources available to parents who make the hard choice to end a pregnancy like this, for babies who will never live outside the womb. On the internet there was an abundance of websites for parents who chose to carry to term. I found a small and strong group of women who had gone through the same thing as me, and if not for them, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time.
There were several things that made this hard, and different from a miscarriage. I felt responsible for ending my daughter’s life. I could have had her with me for longer, and I threw it away. Dealing with that guilt was hard. We went to a memorial service for families who had gone through a loss such as ours, and there was a family who had made the choice to carry to term. The went places and took pictures and documented their pregnancy and time with their child. They had a scrapbook of memories to look at. As with many instances with infant loss, my husband did not grieve the same way I did, and he could not understand the depths of the pain I felt. He wanted to just move on, and wanted me to do the same. He had not felt the pregnancy as deeply as I did, and admittedly did not feel the same connectedness that I did to Teagan. Even now it is striking how differently we view this event in our marriage. I envied this couple who had experienced their child’s life together, and grieved together, and I felt so alone. I was filled with “if only’s”. I still have days like that. I regret not holding her for longer, I regret not kissing her. I was afraid because she was so little, afraid to touch her. If I had waited longer I could have held her closer. I still regret that most of all. I want more to hold on to.
This year was the sixth anniversary of my daughter’s brief time in our lives. Her life is often forgotten by others, including my husband. I still think of her everyday, and wonder what life would be like… and need to recognize her impact on my life.
And then there are times when I am shocked when others remember, like my son or an aunt, who do remember, and think about her. And I realize that I am maybe not the only one who she touched. And it makes me smile…