Parents: Kris and Matt
Hometown: Flushing, Michigan
Carried to term, born asleep
Kris will never forget the day of her 20-week ultrasound. She had called Matt from the waiting room to tell him they were having another healthy girl, only to have to call him back to tell him they instead thought she might have Trisomy 18. Although even at very early ultrasounds she had been behind in growth, the doctor had not been concerned since it was common that healthy babies measure slightly different than they should according to the dates. Kris and Matt had chosen not to have the AFP test with any of her pregnancies because they felt it was unreliable, so they didn’t have any information from that test. Then at the 20-week ultrasound, the technician saw the markers for T18 but didn’t mention it during the exam, preferring to wait for the doctor to tell Kris at the follow-up. So after calling Matt with the initial good news, Kris, her mom, and daughters Shannon and Shelby went in to talk with the doctor. It was then that the doctor told her what the technician had seen and said that he thought it was possible that she had Trisomy 18 and that it was incompatible with life. The markers they found were choroid plexus cysts, small gestational size, multiple heart defects, 2 vessel umbilical cord, clenched fists, overlapping fingers, and a possible extra digit.
So Kris made that awful, second call to Matt to tell him that their daughter may have something called Trisomy 18 and the doctor was recommending that they have an amnio to be sure. Kris proceeded with the amnio, but no one really thought it would come back positive. They just couldn’t believe that something like this could happen.
They were very honest with their daughters and family about everything from the beginning. They were careful to try to include Shannon and Shelby as much as they could in the planning and preparation for Abigail’s birth. Kris’s mom helped them out by telling the rest of the family. Matt and Kris made the decision to carry Abigail to term. Kris explains, “We are Catholic and Catholics do not commend termination but [i]if[/i] I had felt that termination was the best thing for us to do I would have done it regardless of my faith.” Kris continues, “The reason we did not terminate is because we could not choose the day our baby died. We felt we needed to leave it up to God and let him make that decision.”
Shortly after making their decision, Matt and Kris wanted everyone to know how they were coping, so they wrote a letter to send to friends and family:
“Matt and I need the support of our family and friends more than ever as we begin this journey in our lives. We do not know what the future holds for us and for our unborn baby girl but we have decided to continue on and see what Gods plans are. We have learned a lot about trisomy 18 in these past few weeks and are always willing to answer any questions you may have.
“The bottom line is that God may well take our baby before she is born. If she is born alive she will have numerous problems, we will find out the specifics of these problems as the pregnancy progresses. She will not be perfect but then again none of us are and we will accept her faults and make her life as comfortable as possible no matter how short that life may be.
“This experience has made us better stronger people and we hope that it will make everyone around us appreciate life just a little more. Thanks again for your continued support and prayers.”
Aside from the T18, Kris had an uncomplicated pregnancy. They had written a birth plan and reviewed it with the hospital. In their plan, they chose comfort care, because, “We knew the condition of her heart was fatal on its own and if we did get to see her alive we did not want her hooked up to machines that were only going to prolong the inevitable. We wanted to make sure she was as comfortable as possible for as long as we had her.”
Her due date came and went. The doctor told them that she would induce when they were ready. Kris writes, ”I really wanted to go into labor on my own because I felt that if I were induced I would probably be choosing the day our daughter died. But when my due date came and went without any signs of labor I felt that psychologically I could not take the uncertainty anymore, and we chose to induce on June 5th, 2 days after my due date. Because I was induced with both my other girls because I was overdue I knew that there was a good chance I would have to be induced this time also. I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 5:15 a.m but my water broke at 1:00 a.m. so I went into labor on my own. I am so thankful that my water broke at home only 4 hours before I was scheduled to be induced.”
They went to the hospital and Kris delivered Abigail at 5:47 a.m. She weighed 5 pounds and was 19 inches long. She was breech and her heartbeat was going down with every contraction so they decided not to monitor it anymore. Kris believes Abigail passed away about 30 minutes before she was born. Her labor lasted less than 5 hours; she had an epidural so she was not in any physical pain. Kris says, “I am so thankful that everything happened on its own.”
The time they had with Abigail Rose was wonderful. One of the most special things about that time was seeing all their girls together. Kris recalls, “When Shannon and Shelby first came to see Abigail they wanted to hold her, touch her, kiss her and look at her. They did not care that she was not alive. She was their sister and that was all that mattered to them. I am very thankful that we gave them that opportunity to meet and love their sister.”
At Abigail’s funeral, Matt and Kris included the following message:
“We want to thank you all for all of your continued support through this ongoing journey in our lives. We conceived and gave birth to an angel and feel very privileged to have had such an enlightening experience. Abigail Rose is now and has always been God’s child. She was only placed in our arms a short time to teach us all the lessons of a lifetime. On her short time here on earth she taught us, unconditional love, she showed us courage and strength and finally, she showed us how to surrender to the inevitable. Abigail was not a mistake by God; rather she was a gift from him. A gift that we can all celebrate. A gift that we should all cherish.”
Through this experience, Kris is very thankful for many things. “I am extremely thankful that everything happened on its own and because of that, we have absolutely no regrets. I truly believe that God was watching out for us. I am also thankful that at the ‘young?’ age of 34 I know how precious life is. Most people do not learn this life altering lesson until much later in life. Matt and I no longer take anything for granted; we value life so much more than we did before we were blessed with Abigail. If God gives us another child I will not have the innocence that I had before but I will have a greater respect for pregnancy and birth.
“I am also extremely thankful that I found support from the Trisomy board. I think that is the one reason I still have my sanity. I was able to research and talk to others that are going through and have been through the same thing as me. I found a due date buddy and we talked on the phone regularly. I did not feel alone. I found that no one wanted to talk about my pregnancy and the baby I was carrying and that was all that I wanted to talk about. The board was where I could talk openly with people who understood.
Kris says that “we are a stronger, closer family than we were before we had Abigail. She will always be a positive part of our family.
“When Matt and I first found out that Abigail had Trisomy 18 we were devastated but we chose not to let it destroy us. When tragedy strikes you can let it make you or break you. We vowed that this was not going to destroy us. We tried to find something positive in the experience. I am not saying that those 20 weeks and 2 days carrying Abigail knowing the prognosis was easy; it wasn’t. It was the worst time in our lives and I never want to go through something like this again…but the lessons we learned because of it have changed our lives for the better in so many ways.”
After Abigail we were blessed to have two more healthy babies so our family is complete with our four daughters with us on Earth and our daughter in Heaven.