AN UNEXPECTED BLESSING
My boyfriend Devin and I met before the start of Summer 2018, and we immediately had a strong connection. Towards the end of July, I discovered I was pregnant. I was very nervous initially, and I did not know how to process this life-changing event. Though after seeing my tiny, squirming peanut during my first ultrasound, I was in love beyond belief.
On October 24, 2018, at 18 weeks and 6 days gestation, we went in for our routine anatomy scan. We were excited to find out the gender of our child, so we could start preparing and purchasing more specific items. During our ultrasound, Devin and I learned that we were having a boy, and we thought that everything in the pregnancy was progressing just as it should.
At the end of the visit, the ultrasound technician said that we would need to return the following week for a follow-up scan, as she was unable to get images of our son’s profile and diaphragm due to his position during this scan. Not thinking anything of this, we carried on as usual, planning to return on November 1st for our second ultrasound.
RECEIVING THE NEWS THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG
During the follow-up scan, it was evident that the technician was unusually quiet. We watched as she took multiple images that focused on our son’s head, chest, and abdomen area. At the end of the appointment, Devin and I were advised to sit in the waiting room because the doctor wished to speak to us about the results of the ultrasound.
We were both extremely apprehensive waiting for the doctor. Approximately 30 minutes later, the ultrasound technician emerged in the waiting room and advised us that everything was fine. She told us that we could go home.
On November 3rd, I received a phone call from one of the doctors that we needed to make an appointment for an ultrasound with a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist immediately. After receiving that call, Devin and I were both in a state of panic, wondering what could possibly be wrong with our son that required us to see a specialist. It took two days of back and forth phone calls to finally get in touch with our doctor to get some answers. We were told that in the second ultrasound, it was discovered that the baby had fluid in his head, chest, and abdomen, and that we needed to see the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist to determine a course of action.
A DIAGNOSIS AND OPTIONS
On Friday of that same week, we went to see the Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist for a more detailed ultrasound. The ultrasound technician called in the specialist, and she told us that our boy had hydrops fetalis and that there were no treatment options. She stated that our son would most certainly die shortly, not even making it to birth. The specialist essentially advised us that terminating the pregnancy would be the best option.
However, the doctor did say something that resonated strongly with me. She said, “whether you choose to continue or terminate, the decision that you make will be the correct one.” I cried immensely, feeling helpless that I could not protect my son from this terrible illness.
Devin and I chose to seek out the opinion of a second Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist. We were given the same diagnosis. This specialist told us that our baby had one of the worst cases of hydrops fetalis that he had ever seen. He, too, advised us that termination was an option, but that he could not make the decision for us. After seeing this specialist, Devin and I knew in our hearts that our son had a high rate of mortality.
CHOOSING TO CARRY TO TERM
Despite this grim diagnosis, we both knew that we would not be able to live with ourselves had we gone the route of allowing the doctors to end our son’s life. We both wanted to give him the best chance of survival possible, and we wanted our son to know that we loved him beyond belief. No matter how brief our time with him was to be, we wanted it to be cherished.
Our new course of treatment was for our regular obstetrician to monitor me weekly for any changes in symptoms and to also have a weekly ultrasound to ensure that our son’s heart was still beating. We entered every appointment with a feeling of dread, wondering if we would receive tragic news that day. Devin and I were blessed enough to have four weeks with our son after receiving his diagnosis. We both thoroughly enjoyed rubbing my belly, feeling the baby kick, talking to him, and telling him we loved him on a daily basis. All of those moments are precious, and they filled our hearts with such a deep love for our child.
LEARNING THE DEVASTATING NEWS
On December 2nd, I was very sick. I had been throwing up for almost a full 24 hours, unable to keep down any fluids. Devin encouraged me to contact the on-call doctor to advise her of what was going on. At my doctor’s advice, we went up to the labor and delivery unit to be seen. I was started on IV fluids, and then one of the nurses used the handheld Doppler to check the baby’s heartbeat. She was not successful in finding his heartbeat, so we had to have an ultrasound.
The technician came in and told us he was just going to check for the heartbeat. Devin and I looked at the screen, and we immediately noticed that we could not see the usual fluttering of our son’s heart in his chest. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and gently told us what we already knew: our son had passed away. We were both devastated and didn’t know how to process this news.
The doctor advised us of the steps that would occur next with the induction of labor. Around 8 o’clock that night, we started the induction process. The following morning, on December 3rd, there was no change in the dilation of my cervix. The doctor gave me more medication to induce labor, but everything was unsuccessful. The medication caused me to have a high fever that would not break throughout the entire day.
Several hours later, the doctor tried a balloon catheter to expedite the labor process. I was terrified that my son would not be born naturally and that I would have to have a cesarean section. Two hours later, I began to feel pressure, and my water broke. I was absolutely terrified, but Devin was by my side, and the nurses handled the situation in a calm manner.
MEETING OUR SON
Our son was born at 8:47 pm on December 3, 2018. We named him Jairus Esai. I chose not to look when my son was born because I was not mentally prepared to see him come out lifeless and not crying. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see him at all. In the late hours that night, I had to have an emergency D&C procedure because my placenta did not deliver.
The next day, on December 4th, I finally made the decision to see my son. Devin told me that he had my nose, lips, and the shape of my eyes. Hearing that took away any fears that I had about seeing him. The nurse brought my son to me in a cooling device, and I gazed upon the miracle that was my son. He was perfect in every way to me, and I held him close and kissed him on his head. The cooling device allowed us to spend as much time with our son as we wanted to, until the funeral home took him away.
It was very sad to see my son, but it was amazing to have the ability to hold him and kiss him. We had the blessing of spending two and a half days with Jairus Esai. After that time together, we knew it was time for the funeral home to come and take him before we remembered him any differently.
Our bereavement nurse was kind enough to take pictures of him for a photo album. The nurse also made keepsakes from his footprints and handprints and provided us with several other keepsakes, like a certificate of life and a teddy bear.
THE BEST DECISION WE EVER MADE
My decision to carry Jairus Esai to term changed my life for the better. I learned how to love outside of myself and to be a more caring person. In the beginning of my pregnancy, I wasn’t sure that I would be a good mother or that I would be capable of changing my life to live for my son. I know now that I would have given my life had he been able to live, but God had other plans for our perfect baby boy.
My advice to the mothers out there, who are faced with their baby having a terminal diagnosis, would be to keep fighting as long as your baby’s heart is beating. You honestly never know what the outcome will be. There is something to be said for letting your baby have life, even when you know it’s going to be brief.
You won’t have to live with the guilt of having to make the decision to end your child’s life. Leave it all in God’s hands and remain strong. Lean on your partner, friends, and loved ones for support, and know that no matter what happens, you were the best mother to your child, because you gave him or her the gift of life.