GROWING OUR FAMILY
My husband Mark and I both have a love for kids. I work as a Registered Nurse at a pediatrician’s office, and Mark is one of nine children. We have a large and loving family- complete with 22 nieces and nephews that we are very proud of.
Mark and I started dating in 2015, and we were married in 2017. Just a month after getting married, we learned that we were expecting. I had mentioned to Mark that I thought I might be pregnant, so I waited for him to come home from work that day, and we took a home pregnancy test. Although it was very soon in our marriage, we were so overjoyed to learn that we would be parents!
RECEIVING THE DIAGNOSIS
During our 20-week ultrasound, the ultrasound technician placed the probe on my baby bump and began measuring and assessing Sofia on the monitor. She told us that she would be right back in with us after speaking to the doctor. When she left the room, Mark immediately knew something was wrong. I did not. I thought maybe she just wanted to show the doctor something on our ultrasound. I didn’t think there was anything wrong at first.
When she returned with the doctor, he explained that Sofia’s head measurements were “off,” and that she had anencephaly, a serious birth defect that causes an underdeveloped brain and an incomplete skull.
He began to explain the diagnosis and that they were referring us to a maternal-fetal specialist to confirm the diagnosis. We had been so excited to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, and we never expected to be hit with this kind of news.
Another doctor at the practice- a family friend of Mark’s family and the first doctor we saw at our initial 8-week visit- came into the ultrasound room to talk to us. Mark asked his friend if the baby was a girl or a boy.
I had always hoped to have a girl one day, although I’d be very happy and content with whatever God gave us. He told us we were having a little girl.
PROCESSING THE DIAGNOSIS
We were left alone in the room to process our thoughts and feelings, and we left shortly afterwards. While home, we anxiously awaited the promised phone call from the maternal-fetal specialist. It was getting later and later in the afternoon, and we did not receive a phone call, so I called. A former coworker of mine answered the phone, and I had to explain to her, through tears, what had happened as she tried to help us over the phone. We were told to expect a phone call from their office shortly.
While we waited, we called Mark’s sister, Sue, a pediatrician living in Washington. We asked questions and expressed our fears and concerns. We also spoke with Mark’s mother and my parents as well. We were supposed to go to my parent’s house that evening for a celebratory dinner and to reveal the baby’s gender. I had to tell my mom what happened. We decided to still go to their house for dinner since we are a close-knit family and didn’t feel like being by ourselves after such devastating news.
On the way home from my parent’s house, I spoke with my aunt and also my boss to excuse my absence for the next day from work. That night, we eventually fell asleep, somehow. I think we were both so mentally exhausted by then. I awoke to a phone call the next morning from the maternal-fetal specialist asking how soon we could get to their office for an appointment because they could squeeze us in that morning. We quickly got ready and raced out the door. We had a second ultrasound, and the doctor there confirmed the diagnosis.
CHOOSING TO CARRY TO TERM
Following the diagnosis, the doctor presented us with our options, including the option of abortion. When he told us that option, Mark and I looked at each other, knowing exactly how the other felt and thought about that option. We knew it was not an option for us, and we immediately arrived at our decision to carry to term.
Everything we did from then on was focused on our baby girl. We officially decided on her name, Sofia Ann Porter. Mark and I prayed together and reached out to the priest at our church for support. We were assured of his prayers and received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
I had already been going to a psychologist and psychiatrist for anxiety and depression, so I called them to set up another appointment to discuss my emotions and feelings regarding the diagnosis. I turned to grief books that our family and friends had given us.
We went on a baby-moon to Kentucky to quiet ourselves and prepare for the journey ahead. We went to the zoo and an aquarium (my favorite), and we dedicated the trip to Sofia because we wanted her to experience as much as she could while she was still with us on this earth.
We tried to do many things together to celebrate her life, taking pictures along the way. Those pictures are now in a scrapbook I made for Sofia.
We felt very supported in this decision for Sofia because it was a part of our beliefs. We shared our decision with family and friends immediately after telling them the news. It was very painful to repeat the story and explain the diagnosis over and over again, so my mom and Mark’s mom acted as “messengers” between us and other family members.
All of our family, friends, coworkers, and people from our church were right behind us with our decision. But, even if they hadn’t been, we had to do what we knew was the right choice. Thankfully, we had a strong support system, and they continue to support us. We have relied on that support heavily.
MEETING OUR DAUGHTER
My pregnancy was very mild, and I did not experience many symptoms. Baby Sofia moved around frequently in my womb, which was always a blessing and a joy! We elected for an induction for delivery. We went to the hospital on a Sunday evening, and I delivered Sofia that Monday night. I only pushed for 21 minutes. It was scary, emotional, and happy all at the same time.
Sofia was born on June 18, 2018 at 10:25 pm. She weighed 4 pounds and 11.5 ounces. She was 16.5 inches long. We spent all night with her in our room. She was so beautiful.
This experience has made us all stronger as a family, and it made Mark and I’s relationship so much stronger, especially so early in our marriage. It made us rely on God and His work in our lives.
I encourage all parents faced with this experience to be strong and courageous in your decision. God thanks you for your decision, and He will not leave you. Make every effort to make memories with your child.