Written by Sadee Carney
You never really think about what truly the miracle of life is. Most of us have fairly normal pregnancies, which in turn, produce happy healthy babies. We take for granted how miraculous this is. Until you hear the words “something is wrong”.
This was me. This was my pregnancy with my third.
We were so excited to be adding to our family, but as excited as we were, we financially were in a tight spot and in turn moved our family across country to unknown territory. We were completely on our own. But we decided to have fun with this pregnancy and basically surprise everyone that we were pregnant and –it’s a girl! Being an only girl in my family, I was elated to be expanding my girl squad and all the fun things that come with it.
There are certain dates that you remember as significant dates. One of those dates was February 2, 2017. We went in for the anatomy scan, thinking nothing of it because my previous two pregnancies I was blessed with two healthy children. Expecting to see the same thing, we made light conversation with the tech as she did her job, just waiting for all the fun pictures we could show all our family.
I wish this was what happened. I wish I was looking at a cute profile of my baby to post to social media, to find out if my due date changed because I was measuring bigger. Instead I had a gut wrenching silence from the tech as she politely said she would be right back. I sat there thinking of situations like down syndrome, or some other situation that was ‘bad’ but never thinking of the ultimate ‘worst’. I kept saying in my mind I would do my best for the baby girl and would love her no matter the disability she came with. As long as she was okay.
We were greeted back with the tech, followed by my doctor. The minute that door closed it was so cold, the heaviness of her words were felt by the chills and goosebumps all over my body. As she sat watching what the tech was going back over, I heard her voice crack as she described what she was seeing. She described what was called acrania. Okay, we can handle that, right? (I just thought this was some kind of disability) Then the shattering words of ‘non-viable baby’ escaped her mouth.
Have you ever had those dreams of you falling off a building and screaming “NO” at the top of your lungs? No matter how much you try grasping the air, grasping for anything, it’s not stopping you from falling down? You just keep falling, for what seems like forever? But then you wake up.
There was no waking up from this.
I laid there feeling more exposed than just my belly. I felt as if everyone could see my heart burning and nobody was trying to put the flames out. No matter how many times I was trying to force my brain to wake up, I was awake and this was really happening. I was looking at my child who was kicking my belly; I was looking at a future without her.
The drive home was forever long. An already long two hour drive seemed like it was 4. Nurses had pulled our kids out of the ultrasound when we were told of Eva’s condition. They had no idea why mom was crying or why it was so quiet. This was supposed to be a happy day getting to see pictures of their new baby sister and instead mom was crying and could not even look at them. We were able to distract them enough with a movie as we discussed our options. Call it denial, but my only option was to deliver a healthy baby and bring her home. How was this even fair?
We had a follow up with the nearest Maternal Fetal Medicine the very next morning. I felt anxious, annoyed, scared, and just beaten down. Not only was it a 7 hour drive, it was 7 hours of quiet to think. Trying not to GIVE UP hope but also trying NOT to hope. So badly we were hoping it was a glitch on crappy old equipment and we would be told nothing is wrong and we were still having a girl and she is healthy. I would have filled a wishing well with a million plus quarters to have them tell me this.
Instead we were told once again, there was no mistake. Our daughter would die, and there was no medical procedure that would save her, or us from this heartache.
We had just told the world we were having a baby girl and now we would have to turn around and say ‘actually, just kidding, she is gonna die so please stop congratulating me’. And to be hit with more of a whammy we had just moved and had no friends to help. I wanted to curl up in bed and die, because knowing your child is dying inside of you, and there is nothing you can do to help? It was the uttermost betrayal against myself.
But I wasn’t alone for long, because my life-lines were a few streets away.
Here is where I met Jillian. She bought my family pizza that night we got home from Fargo. Whoever said friendship couldn’t be bought with a pizza was wrong. She introduced me to other women who helped me along the grueling road we were set to endure on. And we spent the next 18 weeks preparing for Eva’s birth and death.
There were so many treasured memories and stories that happened during those 18 weeks, even during the hardships, I found joy. I hope everyone who was a part of that journey knows how much I appreciated the love, support, and help; I am forever in gratitude.
Normally setting an induction date is really fun and exciting! You know the end is so close and you have a set date of meeting the new piece of your heart. You know you will be bringing them home in this outfit and introducing this bundle of love to the world.
This was a welcome date, but also a death date. As much hope as one could have, we knew Eva would not live for long. We hoped we would get hours to cherish with her, but at the end of the day, she was not safe outside my womb. We knew she was kicking and living; if I could I would have endured the painful pregnancy forever just to keep her alive with us. But we knew we had to say goodbye. We had to set a date. We had family traveling out to grieve and celebrate with us, but it felt like no celebration. I hated any talk of family traveling or any message of “can’t wait to see you” because as thoughtful as they were trying to be, it just meant I was nearing the worst day of my life.
June 1st was the day we decided. It was still early enough the odds of her surviving labor were better rather than waiting until 40 weeks. We wanted all the odds to be in our favor to meet Eva outside of the womb. As we drove to the hospital the silence was loud, but my sobs were deafening.
We started the induction very gently and albeit a normal delivery. We had our moments of laughter, and somber times. It was such a slow process, and with the roller coaster of emotions I felt like my progression was even slower. Our OB and nurse were amazing and let me do things however I felt best and at the time it was pain med free and no Pitocin. I wanted to feel everything because it would be all I had of our experience. I was trying to pack a life time of pain and joy in the little time I would actually get with Eva.
But something changed. We had such high hopes to spend even a minute with Eva alive, but things were progressing slow, and I just felt ‘off’. TJ had gone to get some food and I had been trying to choke down anything to give my body the energy it needed to keep going. And then I felt it. I began sobbing. I was so worried Eva was mad at me for not making it through, I wanted to quit and felt so defeated. Not only this, I felt Eva leaving me. I knew she was going and I wouldn’t get the chance to hold her alive.
Not even two minutes later my doula had everyone in the room so we could check Eva’s heartbeat and my progress. Pulling the ultrasound machine over (because we couldn’t hear it with the doppler) confirmed my worst fear. Eva was fading. She was laying so still, and then there was the heartbeat. I thought that meant she was just resting and would be okay but the look on my OB’s face said otherwise. She said it was beating too slow. And we watched and listened as it got slower in the span of 10 seconds. She was not going to make it to birth, let alone a mere few more minutes.
Devastation hit me so hard. My main goal was to bring her earth-side alive so her dad and family could meet her. And I had failed. She died alone, without us there to hold her hands and tell her it was okay; that we loved her and we would miss her, but she was free to go. As hard as that would have been, I wish I could have had that opportunity to say hello and goodbye properly.
But my job was not done. I still needed to bring her earth-side. And as I was in no position to make any decisions, my doula and husband helped to bring in the epidural and let the labor pain be over.
While this did help -and my body did progress after- it was still a difficult birth. I had a reaction to the epidural (very rare but also a probable reaction to grief) that made it difficult to push and not shake. I pushed for what seemed hours, I was so weak and could only wince from the unbearable pain. But finally my job was done. Eva Carolyn had been born a little after midnight, weighing in around 4 pounds.
I still don’t know the exact birth details that every other mother knows, and part of me is okay with that. What I did know is she had curly brown hair at her nape, she had such long fingers – and my sister mentioned she could have played the piano with their graceful length. She had such delicate little toes that helped her dance across my stomach throughout the pregnancy, and she had big brown eyes just like her older brother.
We got to hold her and love on her for a brief time and then we had to let her go, it was time to put her worn little body to rest and we did so with the upmost respect for us and our family.
Days turned into weeks, then weeks into months, and months into a year. And then another year. And it will continue to keep going forward.
A lot has happened since Eva: we got pregnant with our beautiful rainbow baby, my dad died unexpectedly, we made another move across country, we settled in, bought a house, started our older two in school. Things are starting to settle. Life is moving forward but Eva is not forgotten.
I remember a phone call with my Aunt; she had mentioned at first your thoughts are consumed with pain and remembering your child. Sometime later, you would spend a day that you didn’t think of them. And as painful as it is to think you wont think of them, it doesn’t mean you love them any less, but the pain becomes less painful. I love Eva and miss her dearly, I always see little girls that are her age and so wish she were here; but the pain has become a little less painful over the past two years. I made a promise for her second birthday I would spend the day honoring her, I would choose to spend that day celebrating what her life was to me, I would be happy.
I often think of grief as this pit in my living room. It is something that will always be there; some days it is easier to step around and navigate, while other days it seems the pit has grown and I fall in. All scenarios are okay. I take my time and let myself be sad so I can climb back out and try again. Grief is not about “getting over it” but a “keep moving forward” kind of thing. And that has become my motto: Keep moving forward.
Continue to show love, be empathetic to all those around you, take a break when needed, laugh and find joy in this life, and keep moving forward. I can promise you, one day the pain will hurt less, and that will be okay too.
You can read more about Eva’s story and finding joy on our blog.
This article was submitted by Sadee Carney, beautiful mother of four and author of the blog EvaEverAfter.