Gracie Jo

It was September 15th, 2001 when my husband of 7 years and I left for a much needed seven day cruise to the Caribbean. We were so nervous to go, or I was anyway, because it was the first day of regularly scheduled flights after the terrorist attack on our country on September 11th. My parents, sister, niece, and good friend from college and their husbands all went with us. It was a much-needed vacation because we had suffered through 4 1/2 years of infertility and the stress that it causes. After we got back from the trip, my husband, Tim, and I were going to look into adopting a child.

Tim and I tried to get pregnant for 11/2 years on our own. I then went to the gynecologist who put me on the fertility drug, Chlomid, for 6 months with no success. We then went on to a fertility specialist. After going through two attempts with artificial insemination, a laparoscopy, two or three ovulation induction’s, and numerous other tests, it was discovered that I had premature ovarian failure. That means that my eggs were running out early and that the quality of them was not good. We were told that it would be better for us to look into adoption and that they couldn’t help us anymore.

The new was devastating to us. I couldn’t believe it. God is much more powerful than any fertility specialist and if He gave us the desire to have children I knew that we would have them. I read a book about a woman with the same condition as me. She took the alternative medicine route and conceived that way. I then found a doctor that practiced ancient Chinese medicine and underwent three months of acupuncture and taking many different types of herbs. This happened in the three months prior to our vacation. If the alternative medicine didn’t work, then perhaps God wanted us to adopt. We would worry about that after our trip.

I was supposed to have started my period on the day that our flight left. I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I just prayed that we all could just get there in one piece. It was a Saturday and our ship left on Sunday. I thought about it Monday that I was actually 2 days late. Being down that road before, I decided not to get my hopes up only to be certainly disappointed later. I was sure it was the stress of the terrorist attack and flying right afterwards that was making me late. By Wednesday, I started to be concerned. Early that Thursday morning, I took a pregnancy test on the ship. I was pregnant!! My husband and I couldn’t believe it. It was so wonderful to have family and friends with us to share in our celebration!

I went to the doctor as soon as I got back. They took a blood test and it showed that all of my hormone levels were good. The fertility specialist wanted to do an ultrasound at 6 weeks since we had so many problems just to make sure the baby was implanted well. We heard and saw that long awaited heartbeat! Everything looked fine except that the gestational sack looked a little small which is common. He then sent me back to my gynecologist for the rest of my pregnancy care with a recommendation for an ultrasound at ten weeks just to make sure the baby was growing okay.

We were so excited for this ultrasound because we knew the baby would have arms and legs by then. When the baby came up on the screen, we could see the little arms and legs moving. However, with a background in radiology, I had some experience looking at ultrasounds and something didn’t look right with the baby’s head. I didn’t think too much about it because I had never seen an ultrasound of a baby at ten weeks gestation. Then, my entire world came crashing down. The ultrasound tech asked me if I had ever heard of anencephaly. I told her that I had and that she had better not tell me that my baby had it. She then left the room and left us there alone. My husband was very concerned about the frightened look on my face. I explained to him that anencephaly was a rare condition in which the baby’s brain does not develop and the baby is born without a skull or a brain. Of course this meant that the condition is always fatal. The doctor came in and checked and confirmed our fears. I wanted to die. How could this be? She told us how the baby can survive as long as it is in the womb but could die any time from now until shortly after birth.

After the long emotional roller coaster of infertility, this was more than we could take. She referred us to perinatologist. They specialize in high-risk pregnancies. We had another ultrasound at 13 weeks with him. We had hoped that the 10 week ultrasound was too early to diagnose such a terrible thing and that this ultrasound would find the baby healthy. Our worst fears were once again confirmed.

Our faith in the Lord was the only thing that helped us through our difficult road ahead. A friend from our Bible study found an article in the paper about Alexandra’s House. It was exactly the help that we needed. Patti Lewis, the founder of Alexandra’s House, helped us immensely. Alexandra’s House specializes in the care of emotional needs of people expecting a terminally ill child. We met a number of other people who had either been through or were going through a similar situation.

A suggestion of some people outside Alexandra’s House was that we should terminate the pregnancy. Since we discovered the problem so early, and abortion would cause very little physical trauma and would allow us to try to conceive again since the life of my ovaries was not certain. Our baby was very special to us no matter if she was very sick or not. She was still our baby to parent as best we could with the short amount of time that we had. We already loved her so much.

Our decision to carry her to term was a very good one. Subsequent ultrasounds revealed that we were expecting a girl on May 26th, 2002. Since it was only November, we knew we had a long road ahead.

The questions from strangers about my growing belly and the look of confusion over my lack of enthusiasm sometimes seemed too much to bear. Patti and some of the other girls from Alexandra’s House went with me to buy maternity clothes to help me with all of the questions from store clerks. Aside from that, some special things my husband and I experienced was feeling her kick and watching her grow. It was something we would never have gotten to share had we terminated the pregnancy.

On February 26th, I felt her kick for the last time. She had gone through a couple of days without moving before. I would rush to the doctor’s office only to have her start kicking again while I was in the waiting room. Something inside told me that this time was different. During the previous week, I noticed that her movements were slowing down. I told myself that she just was running out of room. I had my regularly scheduled 28 week visit on Friday, March 1st. She hadn’t moved in three days and I was worried..

The doctor listened for her heartbeat and didn’t find one. She then did an ultrasound and found that she had passed away. I was hoping for a miracle and it did not happen. I was induced the following morning. After 42 hours of labor, I gave birth to our daughter, Gracie Jo, on March 4th, 2002 at 5:29 a.m. She was only 1 lb., 6 oz. and 12 inches long. She was beautiful and she was a miracle. In her short lifetime, she brought hundreds of people together in prayer and taught them the meaning of love and faith. We are so thankful for her. She had impacted so many lives. We were able to spend a few precious hours with her. The hospital made plaster castings of her tiny hands and feet. We took pictures of her with us and other family members. It was a peaceful feeling to be blessed with this type of closure. We knew we did everything we could and that she was in heaven with Jesus waiting for us.

Her funeral was the following morning with most of our family and many friends present. There were at least 70 people in attendance. Patti Lewis made most of the arrangements. Without her, I don’t know how we could have done it. We weren’t expecting her to go this soon so we hadn’t made any funeral plans. It was a beautiful service.

The months following were spent grieving our daughter. With the help of the people in Alexandra’s House, we were able to get through it. I was never supposed to get pregnant. We wondered if this was our only chance at having a biological child. It was something else we had to grieve. Eight months later, after more fertility treatments and Chinese medicine, we found out God had blessed us with another baby! We are now the proud parents of a healthy baby boy named Matthew. He was born July 26th, 2003.We are so happy and extremely grateful. Our family is not complete without Gracie with us physically but she will always be with us spiritually. One day, we’ll share our memories of Matthew’s big sister with him.