By: Tessa Michaud
In January 2011, my husband and I learned we were blessed with another pregnancy, another beautiful child. After having a miscarriage in September 2010, my doctors wanted to proceed with caution. It was a confusing time as I had wanted to celebrate with joy and excitement, yet I knew from previous experience that pregnancy was anything but predictable. Nevertheless, as I navigated the emotional rollercoaster, I proceeded with several recommendations made by my incredible doctor to ensure that the pregnancy was progressing as expected.
The nurses were so happy to deliver the news, “congratulations your levels more than doubled!!” At approximately 7 weeks, we heard our baby’s heartbeat, which the doctor said we may not have heard if we had come even one day earlier. At 9 weeks, we returned to check our baby’s heart rate once more to ensure it was increasing. The news was fantastic, our baby’s heart rate was perfectly normal! After a few weeks of these calls, hearing our babies heartbeat several times, and positive doctor appointments, I talked myself into relaxing more and enjoying our pregnancy while continuing to remain cautious about everything from stress management, nutrition, exercise, sleep/rest . . . whatever you can imagine, I had it covered.
I was determined to ensure we had a healthy pregnancy and baby.
The trend continued through our 12-week appointment. At 16 weeks, the doctor had struggled initially with finding our little one’s heartbeat in the exam room. He stated that he would send me over for an ultrasound if he couldn’t pick it up but assured me not to worry. I had started crying anyway and the hair on the sides of my head was soaked. The doctor provided so much comfort and just as he had suspected he found our sweet baby’s heartbeat within seconds of me losing control. The heart rate and the beautiful sound of our baby’s heartbeat were perfect. All was right in the world again.
On May 6, 2011, my whole world changed forever.
I attended my 20-week appointment with hope to learn if we were having a boy or girl. I had, finally, let go of fear and worry and was simply enjoying the entirety of carrying a beautiful baby and planning for our future. I entered the stenographer’s exam room. She told me that my bladder was a little too full and she was having difficulty seeing everything. She reported that she could not tell us if we were having a boy or girl and that I would most definitely need to come back for more pictures. I looked over and saw our baby’s spine and commented that it looked like the most perfect curved spine. The stenographer stated that she doesn’t care so much if it is curved as if it is closed at the end. I said something along the lines of “it looks good right?” I remember her saying “mmmhmmm.” She then handed me a picture of our angels’ tiny little foot. For days I asked myself why in the world I hadn’t realized that something was wrong right then and there.
Soon after completing the ultrasound, my doctor walked in and began sharing the devastating news that our sweet baby had anencephaly, that his neural tube did not close properly and he is missing part of his brain and skull, and that he would not live long after birth if he survived the next 20 weeks and that we had two options . . . terminate or carry.
Two options. Two options that at the time seemed like the most confusing, horrific, unbelievable choices that anyone had ever laid before me.
In what I can only describe as shock, my husband went through the motions of confirming the diagnosis at the hospital. The staff at the hospital were wonderful, but unfortunately, they only confirmed the diagnosis no matter how hard I prayed for something to change in the short 30-60 minutes between appointments. The stenographer asked if we knew and/or wanted to know the gender of our baby. I quietly told her after a few moments that we wanted to know. Immediately, she told us we were having a boy. Squeezing each other’s hands throughout the ultrasound my husband and I allowed ourselves to experience our emotions as we watched our son moving actively on the screen. He seemed so perfect. While all the medical professionals reported that our son was imperfect, I could only think about how perfect he appeared . . . how perfect he was to me.
As you can imagine, the next several days were unbearable. I cannot describe exactly what I was thinking or feeling, but I do know that everything I believed, everything I thought I knew was being challenged in ways I had never experienced. Our family was traumatized.
We were given a deadline of when a decision needed to be made. A decision to carry our precious baby as long as possible or terminate the pregnancy.
A decision that no parent should ever have to make, yet, many parents are faced with far more often than you or I could imagine. To this very day, I wish I could say that I knew instantly that I was going to carry our son to term. I didn’t.
My husband and I explored both options thinking of our little boy. Would he experience pain during pregnancy? No. Would he experience pain when he is born? No. We thought about our precious four-year-old daughter with so many questions about her well-being, ability to understand and survive the trauma of losing a brother so young. We thought of our marriage, each other as individuals and our families.
Then, and looking back now, I know this was the most fearful and uncertain time of my life with the exception of one very important thing. While I have relied on my faith and reached out to God through prayer in good times and bad so many times before, I knew for certain if there was ever a time, I needed Him most it was now.
With so few answers, so much uncertainty, and immense sadness I began to pray asking for guidance, comfort, peace, and strength. There were so many questions, so many unknowns. I never blamed God, but I do remember during those first few days many silent screams and times that I begged Him for an answer. Why God? Why our little boy? Why my family? Why is our baby girl’s little brother never going to come home? I didn’t know the answer those several days after learning of our precious boy’s diagnosis and I don’t claim to know the answer now but what I do know is that my little boy was living and breathing in the moment that a decision was to be made. He was ALIVE. His life had and will forever have meaning. He was created for a purpose.
And then I stopped searching, I remember the moment I realized that I would carry our son. I remember feeling so scared and so full of love.
I knew I would find strength through God. I hoped for peace and understanding for everyone. Above all, I knew and could never deny that I had fallen deeply in love with my son long before we knew of his diagnosis. I knew that his imperfect condition was a very small matter compared to how perfect he is and will always be to me.
As my thoughts cleared very slowly, I was overcome with a responsibility to do everything in my power to be the best possible mom to our little boy. My husband and our amazing family joined in the journey to celebrate our son’s life and boy was he celebrated! Every day posed challenges. It was not easy. But, one thing was for certain, I was madly and deeply in love with a little boy we named Evan Matthew and I was going to make certain his life on earth, no matter how long or short, was one full of hope, peace, and incredible love.
I wish I could say carrying our sweet boy was never a choice. The reality that I struggled so tremendously with this is sometimes hard to bear, but what I now know is that the most beautiful people, moments, experiences and the most incredible ability to love can come out of our darkest times.
Our sweet boy taught me to love deeper and live stronger than I ever knew possible.
He took my faith to another level. Together, Evan Matthew and God showed me that I am stronger than I think and braver than I could have ever imagined.
Tessa blogs about her experience at Our Young Warrior. Read more about her journey grieving Evan Matthew.