THE DIAGNOSIS AND THE DECISION TO CARRY OUR BABY
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 was the starting point of major life transitions that totally transformed my life. My husband, Jarod, and I were called into the doctor’s office because our nuchal translucency scan led them to suspect our sweet baby had Down Syndrome. We were asked if we would like to terminate the pregnancy at this point and to let them know our decision by the end of the week. Needless to say, we were shocked that an anomaly had been found but even more so that the idea of terminating this pregnancy seemed like the only option for us. It was a crazy realization to me that the majority of families that receive the same diagnosis do, in fact, terminate. Our child was perfect in our eyes, and although we would need to learn how to care for a child with Down Syndrome, terminating the pregnancy was not a choice we were willing to make.
Since I had refused to do the amniocentesis due to fear of miscarriage, we were referred to a high-risk pregnancy center for additional testing. So, on Thursday, January 4, 2018, my mom and I arrived for an ultrasound and fetal echocardiogram, which examines the heart for structural abnormalities. Most children born with Down Syndrome have some sort of heart abnormality, which is usually repairable within the first few months of birth, so this is what we expected.
RECEIVING UNEXPECTED FURTHER DIAGNOSES
After the testing was all completed, we were called into a private room for the results. We were expecting a confirmation of Down Syndrome and had prepared ourselves for this result, which is why I did not see a need for Jarod to take time off work just to get a confirmation of what we already knew. However, this was not the information we received. We were told our baby was very sick.
Our sweet baby had several anomalies suspected, some of which included heart and brain imperfections and hydrops fetalis, a condition where fluid builds up within the baby’s body and stresses all the organs. As a result, there is also a maternal risk called “mirror syndrome” which stresses the mother’s organs as well. The doctors also suspected kidney problems, or a complete lack of kidneys, which they believed could be causing low amniotic fluid.
CONTINUING THE PREGNANCY WITH HOPE
The doctors were surprised that we had not already miscarried naturally, and we were told that with all these diagnoses combined, our baby was not “compatible with life.” I was in complete shock! They asked if we would like to terminate the pregnancy at this point, and they even offered to do it the same day! Again, I refused. I promised our baby that I would carry him or her for as long as he or she chose. If we were to lose our babe, it would not be our doing.
Our choice not to terminate meant I was at high risk and would require weekly check-ups, ultrasounds, and daily heart rate monitoring. We were sent home and told to come back for our first check up the following Tuesday.
This time Jarod came with me. We were feeling pretty optimistic. I was feeling great, my blood pressure had remained stable, and I had no swelling. We had spent the weekend researching each one of the suspected anomalies, and we came prepared with a game plan for each one! We were hopeful and believed in miracles! This baby was such a blessing for us that there was no way we would lose him or her . . . or so we thought.
We showed up to our appointment, and as the technician began the ultrasound, I knew immediately . . . there was no heartbeat. Our baby was gone. This was not at all how it was supposed to turn out! My soul was crushed. The Kirsten everyone knew died with her child.
THE DECISION TO GIVE BIRTH TO OUR STILLBORN BABY
We were given the option for a dilation and evacuation, or D&E, which is when they surgically remove the baby and placenta. Sometimes, the baby can be injured, and we did not want that. Our child had already been through enough. So, I chose to be induced, and after about 30 hours of labor, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Laekyn Fawn. Not hearing our baby cry was the most painful silence in the world.
Following her birth, we had to register Laekyn as stillborn. We had to make some of the most awful decisions. Decisions a parent should not ever have to make, like what to do with the body? Our Laekyn was not just a “body” to us, she was and is our daughter.
HONORING OUR DAUGHTER LAEKYN’S LIFE
We decided to have a formal funeral service for her. At the hospital, we were able to have her baptized in a beautiful ceremony. Having the funeral meant other family members could choose to hold her or give her special gifts of love. Our two other children both chose teddy bears for their sister. We got to choose a song to be played at her service, and I was even able to deliver a eulogy. She was laid to rest in the cemetery across from our home, HER HOME. That is the closest we will ever get to be to her.
All of these things were profoundly healing for all involved. However, had we chosen, back in November, to terminate our pregnancy, these beautiful memories would not exist. We are so fortunate to have been able to experience all the joy, amidst the sadness. Our autopsy results confirmed that Laekyn did have Down Syndrome, hydrops fetalis, and a heart condition. All the other suspected anomalies were not present. We believe that her little heart just could not hold on anymore with the stress of the hydrops.
CREATING A LEGACY IN LAEKYN’S MEMORY
Laekyn’s tiny footprints, which I had tattooed on my arm, are a reminder of all the many blessings and things I have learned BECAUSE of her death. This little girl, who never even took a breath of air, transformed my life so dramatically and helped me reconnect with the truth of my life: people have always turned to me to aid in their healing. I have since received certifications as a Life and Grief Coach, and I promised myself (and Laekyn) that I would bring hope to those who could not see it.
Having survived the loneliness and desperation of my own deep dark places, I decided to dedicate the rest of my professional life to helping other people find THEIR light at the end of the tunnel- their power and true strength- through self-growth and empowerment. As a result, Zenful Goddess Healing Through Empowerment Coaching Services was born.
There is no footprint so small that it does not leave an imprint on this world.