In August of 2008, my husband and I found ourselves in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, anxiously waiting to find out the sex of our second child. We were going over names we liked for boys and girls, and wondering who this baby was going to look like. That day we found out we were expecting a precious little girl, but we were also told that she might have a rare condition called hydrops fetalis. We were referred out to a high risk specialist to do another sonogram to find out if she really had this condition. That day we agreed to name our daughter Viviana Iris Acosta.
The next morning we had another sonogram, where it was confirmed that Viviana did have hydrops, a fetal condition where fluid would take over two or more organs in her body. In Viviana’s case, she had fluid in her lungs and in her head – right under the skin. The doctors told us that Viviana had a zero-percent chance of survival, that her lungs would never develop, and that she would suffocate at birth. We found ourselves making the decision of terminating the pregnancy or carrying on with the pregnancy. Multiple doctors, nurses, and many strangers were encouraging us to terminate the pregnancy – that we were selfish not to.
My husband and I were both raised in Christian homes, and neither one of us believe in abortion. We knew that God had put Viviana in my womb for a reason. It was up to God to take her life – not us. The doctors did many tests to try to find out what was causing the hydrops, but could not find any explanations. We continued on with the pregnancy… praying for a miracle.
At 7 months pregnant, I stopped feeling Viviana move. We went to the hospital to get checked and they confirmed that Viviana’s little heart had stopped beating. The next day on November 3, 2008, I gave birth to Viviana. We held her close to us, and prayed over her, and praised God for putting her in our lives for the short time He did.
When it was time to leave the hospital, my world came crashing down… I was leaving the hospital with empty arms, no baby, and nothing to remember her by. I knew at this moment that I never wanted another person to feel the way I was feeling.
After the loss of Viviana, my husband, Rafael, and I attended grievance counseling. For the last session, we were asked to do something for someone else who was going through the same thing we were. That’s when we came up with the idea of making a keepsake box for families who lose infants. We made up a couple of boxes and placed items in the boxes that we wished we would have had in the hospital when we lost Viviana. Then, we delivered the boxes we made to the hospital’s baby ward.
God burdened our hearts with the knowledge of families leaving the hospital empty handed after the loss of a baby. It was then that we realized that this is something that we wanted to continue to do. So, we started Viviana’s Memory Boxes.
In 2009, we found out we were expecting again! This time it was a little boy. We named him Benjamin “Kaleb” Acosta. We had monthly sonograms to check on his health and make sure he didn’t develop hydrops like Viviana had. Everything was going very smooth, and we prepared for his birth by buying him clothes, picking out his room décor, etc. At 8 months pregnant, I had a routine doctor’s visit. The first thing the nurse did was make me get on the scale where I saw that I had gain 10 pounds in one week… a sign of hydrops. I immediately started to cry, knowing there was probably something wrong. When the doctor measured me, I was the size of a 10-month pregnant woman. She decided to do a sonogram, and it was confirmed that Kaleb had developed hydrops – just like Viviana. Kaleb’s lungs and head were filled with fluid.
We rushed to the hospital where I spent 3 days on bed rest, spoke to multiple doctors, and ultimately decided to have an emergency c-section. Kaleb was born 8 weeks early on April 26, 2010.
Kaleb spent 3 days in the NICU before passing away on April 29, 2010. In those three days, we spent as much time with him as we could. We sang praises to Kaleb, “Our God is so Great! So strong and so mighty, there’s nothing our God cannot do…” Every time we sang this to him, his heart rate would increase and his tiny fingers would squeeze our hand.
Right before Kaleb passed, one of the nurses (not knowing who we were) brought us a box from Viviana’s Memory Boxes. I was so thankful at that moment, and still am to have this precious box. Inside the box we placed some of Kaleb’s personal items like the blanket we wrapped him in, the piece of felt the nurses placed over his eyes to help him sleep, the comb they used to brush his hair with, a lock of his hair, and some of the many pictures we took. We also put his footprints on the inside of the box lid. I know that when I am ready and able, all of these items are in a safe place for me to go and remember our precious Kaleb.
We don’t know the answers to the “why questions”, but we do know that God has a plan for our lives. Because we experienced these terrible losses in our lives, it enabled us to realize a need to reach out to other families who lose a baby.
We are now hoping to adopt a baby in the near future. God will provide us with the right baby to be a part of our family when the time is right.
*Update Aug 2011- We are so excited to annouce we have adopted! Our daughter is a true blessing, we named her Janiyah, which means “God is Gracious.”. Thank you all for your prayers, they were answered!!
**Update May 2013 – We are blessed to announce that we welcomed a healthy baby girl into our family. Although it was a stressful pregnancy, worrying if she would develop hydrops, she came out screaming and she is our biggest baby!