It was a beautiful fall day as I drove myself to the hospital that afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement, as I had anxiously awaited this afternoon all week. Today was the day. I was going to get to view the baby I was carrying and hoping the ultrasound would show me whether I should be digging out the clothes my sons had outgrown, or whether I would be instead be buying some dresses and lace.
That routine ultrasound turned out to be anything but routine, and far from exciting. “There’s no good way of telling you this, so I’ll just go ahead and do it…” the doctor began.
No chance… No treatment… There are no words to describe the heartbreak and shock that follow such words. I had suffered a miscarriage previously. This baby was past that scary point. This child was moving inside of me with the beating impulses of the heart on the screen for all eyes to see. How could our baby, so very loved, be without even a chance?
Hearing our daughter’s prognosis was devistating. Many expected us to abort. Yet we knew that her life was as precious and meaningful as everyone else’s. God had created her, and had a deliberate purpose in mind. Jesus died for her also, to give her eternal life. No matter how short her life her on earth would be. And so we named her Anastasia Grace. Anastasia, which is Greek for resurrection, that she would inheirit through Christ. Grace, that we acknowledge we deserve no favor from God because of our sin.
Annie’s kicks were initially a sorrowful reminder of what was to come. However, they quickly became very endearing. A little “Hello”, “Good morning”, or “Good night” for both of her parents, and occasionally a kick for her brothers as well. Our hearts were breaking knowing she was facing death, but we had confidence that she was completely in the care of the boundless love of Christ.
The longer I held Anastasia in my womb, the more we marveled at how much we were being held by others. Our wonderful family and friends lifted us up through their support and their prayers. We were very humbled to be the subject of so many prayers and were struck with awe at how incredible it was to see Christian love in action. God also allowed us to see that He was using Annie’s precious life as many dear to us reported that they had shared her story, witnessing to the value of life and the truths of God’s Word to those around them.
In addition to the anencephaly that was claiming Annie’s life, she also was suffering from spina bifida and cleft palate. Despite the desires of our hearts, we knew that our little sweetheart may never take a breath. Specialists warned us that she would be incapable of having senses. Yet there are many things that even specialists can not understand. She always knew when I was laying down for the night. At a high school band performance, she reacted strongly to the noise or vibrations of the percussion. Anastasia continued to be a powerful witness on her last day. She let every nurse know that she was aware of their efforts to track her. Every time they attempted to gage her heartbeat, she kicked their instruments and gave them an earful. Her stubborn reaction convinced them not to attach a fetal heat tone monitor, in favor of checking for a heartbeat by doppler every fifteen minutes.
My labor was much longer than it had been with Annie’s older brothers. It struck me that although “the end” was coming, the sense of frustration and helplessness that I had often felt when carrying her was no longer there. My heart was filled with peace.
Because I had an excess of amniotic fluid and a history of soaking my OB, the doctor clothed herself from head to toe in water proof gear. Including a plastic eye sheild. The sight of her brought a smile to our faces as we though it to be a bit of an overkill. As I continued to push, however, it became clear that it wasn’t. And as the fluid that had kept Anastasia so safe gushed out, our little fighter did a complete turn around. She was now feet first. Suddenly the doctor that had been set against doing a C section was asking me what I wanted to do. Knowing that every second that passed was crucial, my only desire was to get her out as quickly as possible. I decided to try and push, waiting for nothing. While Annie was born, the first thing everyone saw, was her precious little feet. Here was our baby girl. As soon as her Daddy cut her cord, she was wisked to the prepared basin to be baptized. My husband and I watched our dear friend and pastor administer the baptism from my bedside. It was a victorious thrill unlike any we have ever experienced.
Anastasia had been a true fighter. Despite her massive deformities and small stature of 3lbs 1oz, she was here in our arms. She had made it and she was alive. Though her eyes were dark and clouded, they were open for us to see. We gazed lovingly at her delicate frame and yes, sadly at her broken body. During one short hour, she was with us all. Many of our supportive family members were there as well, giving her all their love. We sang to her, kissed her, held her, and sent her to her true home with the Blessing.
Though Anastasia continued to live outside the womb only an hour, God blessed us through Annie by giving us clearer vision to the importance of life, the power of prayer, and the victory of baptism. Though her diagnosis and death has been the most difficult experience we have ever faced, we are grateful that God gave her to us, and we anxiously await the day when we will see her again, at our Savior’s side.