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Gianna Faith-Dawn

Gianna Faith-Dawn, baby with anencephaly

On March 30, 2008, I discovered I was expecting my 6th baby. We were overjoyed. I had never wanted a big family, but I discovered that the more children we had, the more wonderful our family became. Expecting our 6th was just as exciting as our first was.

My husband took joy in waiting until April first to tell family members, so they wouldn't know if he was serious or playing an April Fools joke on them.

My other five children thought it was the best thing in the world to be expecting another baby. The girls, who outnumbered the boys by one, were divided on if they wanted a boy or a girl. One wanted another sister, where the oldest wanted a boy to even things out. My youngest was only 1, and really didn't care one way or the other. The boys, however were united in their desire for a boy.

I had nausea every day, starting about the third month. It only lasted about a month, but was pretty extreme. It wasn't uncommon to start the nausea later in the first trimester, for me. However, other little things were different with this pregnancy versus the other 5. For instance, the charlie horses that are always one of my first clues that I'm pregnant were not there. My gums, which always start bleeding almost right from conception, had no bleeding. Those were just minor things, but had me a bit concerned. I know that all pregnancies are different, and I tried to console myself with that thought. However, it did seem strange to not have things that I always had before, for so many other pregnancies. Worrying is no stranger to me during my pregnancies. Worry about every little thing. This time I was determined to not worry. I told myself that I don't ever have problems, so it's stupid for me to always worry. I was able to pretty much contain my worry, giving me more time to be excited. Strange how some things work out.

At nine weeks I went in for my first appointment and ultra sound. Things looked really good. I paid especially close attention to the heart rate. I was once told that if the heart is really strong at that point, there is little chance for a miscarriage. The heart was at 180 beats. The baby was strong and healthy. That didn't stop me from looking at the ultra sound picture that I was given. At that stage in pregnancy, I've always thought they either looked a bit like a peanut or a ghost. This baby had a slightly different shape on the head. But I figured it was just my imagination.

My next ultra sound was at 18 weeks. We decided to take all the children with us when we found out the gender. I was so excited. For some reason I couldn't sleep the night before, due to my excitement. I had a dream that it was going to be a boy. My husband and I had a friendly bet going on all the way to my appointment. He was certain it would be another girl, to which he smilingly said something about the expenses involved in having four daughters' weddings in the future.

As we pulled in the parking lot, my nerves became unbelievable. The kids asked what we were going to see on the ultra sound. I said we were going to be finding out if it was a brother or a sister. And then I started thinking about all the things that we would be looking at and began to fear something being wrong. I never dreamed we would discover what we did.

The doctor's office was really busy that day. All kinds of ultra sounds were being done, making the wait almost unbearable. I watched women coming out from their ultra sounds and noticed how they were all pretty big all ready. I was just barely showing, which was small even for me, and I never get big. I was finally called in. The ultra sound tech asked if we wanted to find out what we were having, to which I excitedly said we would. She put the gel on and then the sonogram thing and right away I noticed that something wasn't right. She went over the head about 2 times, pretty quickly. She looked at me and whispered "it looks like a girl, but there's a problem." I'd never heard anything so awful. I thought, well, whatever it is, it can be fixed, so don't worry. And then I saw it....her brain. That is not right! You are not supposed to be able to see a brain when looking at your baby. I asked if that was what I was looking at. She told me it was. After a few more minutes she went to find the midwife and then sent us into the exam room. The midwife explained that my baby had what could be Anencephaly or Encephalocele, Esophagele (where her esophagus wasn't connected to her stomach), and clenched fists. My baby would most surely die. I wanted to die. She was sending us to a specialist early the next week to confirm her diagnosis.

The whole way home I tried to stay strong, but I was in a complete fog. I knew that I couldn't handle continuing to feel my baby move inside of me, knowing she would die. I am completely against abortion, and have always been, but I wasn't thinking very clearly and just wanted it to end so I could move on with my life, and have another baby, a healthy one.

The specialist confirmed that it was Anencephaly. "I'm sorry," he said, "she will die, there is nothing we can do". Those are the worst words any mother can hear. Her fists were no longer clenched, but the rest was confirmed. I would have to be on 4 mg. of folic acid every day for the rest of my child bearing years. It would decrease my chances of having another baby with a neural tube defect from 6% to 1%. To even have a 1% chance was an awful thing to hear. He told us that by law he was required to give us our "options". We could either do an ENC (much like a DNC), where they would stop her heart, and then tear her out in pieces and dump her body pieces. Or they could induce, where they would once again kill her and then I would deliver her. Or we could carry her to term or as long as we wanted. What kind of options are those? Either way she would die, but it would NOT be by my choice. I loved her already. I would carry her as long as the Lord gave her to me.

Every time I had spotting, I prayed the Lord was ending it for me, for the first couple weeks or months. I didn't want to take vitamins or even eat enough for her. What good would it do? I finally surrendered my pain and my daughter's situation to God. I prayed that if it was His will, she would be healed, and that He would help me to make the most of every day, every movement with my daughter. I suddenly noticed I was okay with whatever His will was for our lives. If she went home to Heaven, I would be okay with that. If she lived but had medical problems, I would be okay with that. I just prayed that He wouldn't make it too hard for us and that He would please help us through it all.

The days passed quickly, and without too much pain. Truthfully, I found happiness and hope again. I loved feeling her move. She listened to her big sister. If her sister told her to kick for her, she would kick. She would even move out of my ribs when her sister told her to, but not for anyone else. My husband once scared her. She had been moving too much for me to sleep, so my husband rubbed my stomach to try to quiet her down. He had slowed down and then suddenly rubbed a bit harder. When he rubbed harder, she jumped, causing my husband and I to laugh. Nobody can tell me she couldn't feel or hear. She did. She was perfect.

At 36 weeks, I went in for another ultra sound to make sure she wouldn't be too big if I waited a few more weeks. I was told that I had polyhydramnios (too much water). She was tiny though, so I could wait to make an induction appointment. I didn't want to induce, but I was told my chances of going into labor spontaneously were very slim, unless my water broke, which it never has on it's own before. We decided to wait until after Thanksgiving since family would be up for Thanksgiving. On the bright side, her esophagus had been healed (that could only be from God). He healed her, but He still intended to take her home with Him, so he left her head as it was.

The pain from the polyhydramnios was almost unbearable. My ribs were being pushed out and over by the water. I was bed ridden for a whole week before she was born, with lots of pain killers. The only relief was lying on my side.

On Thanksgiving, while giving my daughters a bath, in the morning, I felt pressure. Then an excruciating pain. It felt like the end of labor, after the water has been broken, and those painful contractions were coming every 2 minutes and lasting a full minute to minute and a half. I told my husband we had to leave. My hospital is 2 hours away and I have pretty quick labors...about 4 - 6 hours. We got to the hospital exactly 2 hours after the first contraction. I was fully dilated. I begged her to break my water right away. And then I started the pushing. She was frank breech and it took me about 45 minutes to push her out. It was longer, but not really more painful. Her cord was out for about 1/2 hour before she was born. It strangled her a bit. She was born without ever taking a noticeable breath. She had kicked me about 5 minutes before she was delivered, so I knew she would be alive, even if just barely. They heard a faint heart beat for about 49 minutes. We never did anything to prolong her life. I had already done all I could, and I loved her fully. I had fully loved my little Gianna Faith-Dawn for almost 5 months. Now I was ready to let her go Home, where she had always belonged.

I sometimes wonder what she would have been like if she had lived. But I remind myself that she was never intended to remain here on Earth. She was beautiful. I think about her all the time. We put a picture ornament on our tree. Our subtle reminder that she is still a part of our family. She always will be. I hope to conceive again soon. I don't want to replace her, I never could. She was special all on her own. There will never be another Gianna. And I'm not trying to erase her memory. She will never be gone from my memory or my heart. But I long to have another baby. Someday I hope to have many more babies, and they will all know about their big sister who is waiting for them in Heaven.

I could never regret conceiving, carrying or giving birth to Gianna. I am so glad that I was given 4 1/2 months to get to know her completely. I am so thankful that she was born, looking so perfect, and I could hold her and kiss her and love her.

Her name means "God is gracious". How true that is!

Melissa

 

Last updated December 1, 2015