There is one thing I’m sure of – pregnancy is a beautiful gift from God. The way a woman’s body was built to carry another human being is simply amazing. Yet, so many of us are naïve’ to the fact that not every pregnancy is a guarantee of a baby – At No Point. In fact, studies show that 1 in every 4 pregnancies end in a loss.
My very first pregnancy I was young and had no clue that I was at risk for having a child with a defect, or that there was a possibility I could lose my baby. I can remember around 7 months pregnant I told my mother some items I purchased for my unborn son. She suggested to me (very softly) “Maybe you shouldn’t be purchasing items yet – anything could happen!” I was so confused by her statement. Why would my own mother try to take away the excitement of having my first child? We didn’t have any health issues in our family, and I had never heard of anyone in our family having a miscarriage, still birth, or any birth defects. We actually had not experienced a death in the family at all since I was born, and we have a fairly large extended family. To suggest there was a possibility of my child not being healthy was an absurd statement in my mind. My son ended up being a healthy 9 pound baby!
So my naïve’ thoughts on how glorious pregnancies are continued through to my second pregnancy. That is until the day we were going to find out the sex of our baby. Sitting in the waiting room my husband and I bounced names off of each other. If it was a boy, what would we call him? And a girl? We quickly came up with the name Viviana (a combination of both of our grandmothers’ names).
When my name was called by the sonogram tech, we walked in with a little pep in our step. Ready and eager to hear our little baby’s heartbeat, to see a profile, to dream about who this baby will look like – pure excitement! During the sonogram, the tech stays pretty quiet throughout the process, telling you very few things. The silence was killing me. So with every moment I would ask, “what’s that, what’s this…?” She responded, “it’s just a leg, are you wanting to know the sex?” Ummm… Of course, yes! She told us we were expecting a little girl! My heart melted, my family would be complete. Her profile looked just like her older brother. I was smiling ear to ear.
The sonogram tech turned off the machine and grabbed my hand. She said, “But there might be something wrong.” Wrong??? What could be “wrong” with my baby? I saw the heartbeat. She had two legs and two arms. She looked perfect to me!
We were referred to a high risk doctor and were told she had possible “skin edema.” Crazy thing is I thought the woman had no idea what she was talking about. I was still naïve’. I thought my family was invincible. I walked out of that appointment with excitement… My little daughter – Viviana – I was already so in love with her!
Skin Edema – What did that mean? Of course, when I got home my first instinct was to search the Internet. Skin edema meant she had fluid under her skin. It wasn’t threatening unless there was fluid in two or more organs. This just left me more confused with a bunch of medical terms!
The next day we went to see a high risk doctor. First, they performed a much longer sonogram. Complete silence. After the doctor reviewed the images, he came into our room. I will never forget him. He was wearing a heavily-starched white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up just below his elbows. His shirt was open to the second button below his neck. He wore a soft cologne – that if I were to smell today, it still reminds me of that moment. He leaned slowly against the wall and just spit out the words, “your daughter has Hydrops Fetalis, and has a 1% chance of surviving.”
Wait… What?!?!?!? My daughter is going to die???? Yesterday I was told she has fluid under her skin – and now you are telling me she is going to die from this? Fix it!!! Why can’t he fix it?
He sat down and put the sonogram wand back on my belly. At this point, I was crying so hard my stomach was moving up and down, but he continued on to show us that Viviana had fluid under her skin and surrounding her lungs. This made up 2 “organs” of fluid and diagnosed her with Hydrops Fetalis.
This doctor looked us in the eyes and told us he suggested we terminate the pregnancy. I was 18 weeks pregnant and I legally had until I was 24 weeks pregnant to terminate. He sent us home to make the decision. I couldn’t even make it to the car. I broke down in the middle of the parking lot.
At 18 weeks pregnant with my second child my belly was already large. All of my friends knew I was pregnant. Again, I had been so naïve’, I didn’t keep the news of my pregnancy a secret. Everyone in my life knew I was expecting.
I laid in my bed with this heavy decision weighing on my heart. I was raised a Christian, and was taught abortion was wrong. Aborting an unwanted child was considered murder! What about in my situation, when medically there are issues and the doctor is the one telling me to terminate? My family surprisingly told me they would stand by my decision whatever it may be. I was so confused and did the only thing I knew to do… Pray! I asked for guidance and for understanding.
As I was praying, crying, and rubbing my belly, Viviana started doing flips inside of me, and kicking me harder than ever before. I felt like she was saying, “Don’t do this mommy – don’t kill me.” It was after that moment I decided I was not going to terminate this pregnancy. God put Viviana in my womb for a reason. Who am I to decide it is time to end her life? What if the doctors where wrong and she could survivor this – or what if the fluid disappeared on its own? So many unanswered questions running through my head. I decided to get a second opinion.
We traveled 3 hours from our home to a doctor that specializes in Hydrops Fetalis. They did a 2-hour sonogram before telling us the same results. She has a very low chance of survival. They suggested we terminate the pregnancy. When I told them that simply wasn’t an option, the doctor got very angry with me. She told me I was “selfish” for not terminating. It was a very long 3-hour drive home.
A few weeks later (I was now at 27 weeks gestation) that same doctor called and told me that since I made it past 24 weeks they were willing to help me. They wanted me to come back and they would attempt to put shunts (drains) in Viviana’s chest to drain the fluid off her lungs so they could develop and she would have a chance of survival! Finally!!! They were going to do something!!! The day after that phone call Viviana’s movements weren’t as strong. My doctor told me that was normal, I also had extra fluid in my uterus and I wouldn’t feel her move as much. So I didn’t think anything of it. That night I couldn’t sleep; she wasn’t moving. I was going crazy thinking of the possibility that she had passed away. When I woke up, I had my sister take me to the hospital just to check if I was going crazy.
I walked into Labor and Deliver and told a nurse I wasn’t feeling movements since the previous day. She asked me why I waited so long to come to the hospital, and huffed and puffed while she listened for a heartbeat. She couldn’t find one, so she went to get a sonogram machine to see if she could see one. This time she brought a doctor in – A red headed doctor with red facial hair (I won’t name him, so don’t ask). He sat down and turned the screen away from me. I felt like a science project as he was reviewing my daughter’s condition. He called the nurse over closer and said, “Do you see this and that? This swelling is not normal, I’ve never seen anything like this!” I had to interrupt him…. “Excuse me, do you see a heartbeat?” He responded “Oh… no, nope, no heartbeat” and continued on with the nurse.
After that, they gave me the option to go home or to go ahead and be induced. I opted to be induced immediately. The next morning my precious Viviana Iris was born – not breathing. She was swollen and purple, but she was my daughter. She had her father’s toes and looked just like her big brother.
The hospital let us have as much time with her as we needed. We sang praises over her and allowed family to come visit her. A few hours later a nurse came in and asked, “Are you done with her?” We had some visitors so I just said “sure.” This is my biggest regret. I let the nurse wheel her out of the room. Why didn’t I kiss her one last time? Why didn’t I tell the nurse “NO?!?!” I am now left with this horrible image of my daughter being covered up and pushed out of a room. Where did they take her? Who else saw her? I will never know.
The next morning I was released from the hospital with a heavy heart (it felt like a brick) and empty arms. I had nothing but a bunch of flowers that were all going to die and one empty arm where my baby should be laying. But Viviana’s life had a purpose…
At that moment I knew I never wanted anyone to feel what I was feeling. Every woman leaving the hospital after a pregnancy or infant loss MUST go home with something in her arms. Two months after her birth we created and delivered our very first Viviana’s Memory Box. A box to help comfort families during a loss while in the hospital, and a place for them to hold items and memories of their baby.
We have since delivered over 3,000 boxes to families during a pregnancy or infant loss.