By: Tracy Keinrath
February 4, 2004 was the day that changed our lives forever. A routine ultrasound strongly indicated that our baby girl had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder that is incompatible with life. An immediate amnio and five agonizing days of waiting brought confirmation of the doctor’s initial diagnosis and the end of life as we had known it.
After many tears and long discussions, we decided to continue the pregnancy and to let God handle it. I didn’t know how I was going to do that, though.
I kept thinking, “How will I ever survive this?” “How can I be a good mother to our two other little girls knowing our baby is going to die?” There was a real fear that I would emotionally disintegrate. I began to disengage myself from my baby. It sounds cold and unmother-like, but it was my way of coping with my grief. I isolated myself as much as I could, not wanting to go out in public or to family functions. There, someone could happily bring attention to my pregnancy, and I would then have to tell them the dreadful truth. This was supposed to be a happy and life-affirming event, but my pregnancy was a burden I heavily carried. My husband and I went through the motions of a normal life for our girls. There were even times we laughed and forgot about our reality for a while. Thank God we were blessed with two beautiful and healthy little girls. They kept us sane and grounded.
My husband and I had been talking one day about what we should name our baby girl. Part of me didn’t even want to think about it. A name would make her more real, give her an identity.
I realized I had been trying to keep her, in a strange way, anonymous. We did pick a name, though, Audrey Hope. In that instant, I couldn’t help but acknowledge I was carrying a real baby inside of me. I felt such sadness every time I felt her move. It’s hard to understand this, I’m sure. Every kick reminded me that this little being inside of me was going to die. I would never know her as I knew my other daughters, and that broke my heart, day in and day out. I knew my husband was suffering too, and we tried our best to prepare ourselves for our future.
Emotionally, my husband and I were at a loss. We had no idea what this experience would be like, and the fear of the unknown was so overwhelming.
Our OB gave us the name of Share and explained their services. I wasn’t sure I wanted to let an outside person into our lives. After much persuasion from our OB, my husband finally made the call. We met with Cathi from Share a couple of times before Audrey’s birth. She was able to answer many of our questions, and we talked about several scenarios of how the birth experience might be. She told us one of the things she would do was take pictures. At that point, I didn’t even know if I wanted pictures. Actually, I had no idea WHAT I wanted. Cathi assured us she would be there and would help us and our family through this. Although in time she did exactly that, much of what she said then had little meaning to me. I was still quite detached and overwhelmed with sadness and fear. The day came when it became necessary to induce me due to high blood pressure. Within 15 minutes of breaking my water, I felt a strange sensation. Quickly the nurse checked me and said I was ready to deliver. But I wasn’t ready.
The one thing that I had done through the pregnancy was keep Audrey safe within me. I knew I hadn’t loved her like I should have.
But I had carried her and provided a warm and secure home for her for nine months. Now they were telling me she was coming out of me. That was like saying, “Now is the time for your baby to die.” But Audrey didn’t die. She started breathing and kept breathing. She pinked up, wiggled, looked around and softly cried. The minute they laid her on my chest, all my fear disappeared. Audrey Hope was here, and she was my beautiful little girl. Instantly, love filled my heart, and I knew that having her, no matter how long, was a true gift from God.
Cathi was right by our side from the time they put the needle in my arm for induction. She was there as I pushed and brought Audrey into this world. She watched and waited with us to see if Audrey would breathe. She accompanied the nurses to the nursery and dressed Audrey in the tiny outfit we had brought for her. She baptized our daughter. She made sure my husband and I, as well as her big sisters, family and friends, held Audrey often. She held Audrey and took her into her heart. She took many pictures. She answered questions and brought family and friends coffee, Kleenex and comfort. She instructed the nurses and staff how to handle our situation and made sure we were not disturbed.
She made a safe haven in our hospital room where we could finally love our daughter. A place I could love her like a mother should.
My husband and I were able to hold her, rock her, kiss her, change her diapers and just be her parents. Audrey was such a little fighter! She blessed us with five days here on Earth, five days more than we thought we would have with her. She met and touched the lives of all our immediate family and friends. Although our journey with Audrey was not always easy, it was our time to know and cherish our daughter. Cathi was always there, an ever-present support and guide. When we did have to say goodbye to Audrey, we did so in the most perfect way we could, by holding her and wishing her a happy journey to meet God. Cathi was once again there for us. She took Audrey, securely wrapped in a blanket, to meet the funeral home staff, a task we didn’t have the heart to do ourselves. She then stayed with us until we were ready to leave the security of the hospital and venture into our new future without our baby girl.
Share continues to be such a bright light in our lives. My husband and I have volunteered there and participated in their events. The rewards are innumerable. I used to joke that volunteering there was my “therapy.”
With Share’s compassionate support, I can proudly, unequivocally and FINALLY say, “I love you sweet Audrey Hope!”
About Tracy Keinrath
Tracy is a wife and mother of two daughters here on Earth and daughter Audrey Hope waiting for us in Heaven.[ssba-buttons]