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Makenna, baby with anencephaly

Makenna's story, a precious gift from God

Our story begins in late spring of 1999, we were a young couple with 2 little boys ages 2 & 4. We had just bought our house the year before & had both recently asked Christ into our hearts. My husband worked hard to provide for his family while I stayed home to care for our boys. I remember taking the pregnancy test that morning, I was hoping it was positive & it was!!! My husband had just bought a riding lawn mower a few days before & I knew that's where he'd go after work. So I put the test in a small box along with a note that said, "Congratulations, you're gonna be a daddy again!!!!". I was watching from the kitchen window with anticipation as he opened it, he threw a fist in the air out of excitement. We were so happy to be welcoming our 3rd and final baby, we told all our family & friends, everyone was very excited. I was really hoping this baby was a girl since it would be our last.

Our first appointment was on June 10, 1999, I was 9.5 weeks along. My Dr likes to do ultrasounds on the first visit to get an accurate due date. We knew the U/S tech from our 2nd son, she was excited for us. We were all chatting away when she started the scan. She showed us our baby, we seen a good strong heartbeat!! I instantly fell in love with this little peanut.

The tech got very quiet & my husband seen her facial expression change drastically, so he asked her if something was wrong, I will never forget what she said next, "Well, I can't get an exact measurement on the baby's head". Those words were the beginning of a journey that forever changed our lives. The Dr came in to take a look, he said, "It looks like it might be hydrocephaly (water on the brain) but I'm not sure yet". He made an appointment for me to come back in 2 weeks, the baby would be bigger & he could get a better look.

On June 25th I went in for the 2nd scan, this time Bob had to work so I was by myself, big mistake!!! The room was quiet, He said only a few words before he started. Honestly I think he already knew. It lasted less than 10 minutes & he shut it off. He stepped out for a few minutes to let me get dressed. When he came back in he had a very serious look on his face. He told me that the baby didn't have hydrocephaly, it was worse. He said, "Your baby has anencephaly, babies don't survive long after birth with this". I was confused, in shock & wanted to know what this thing she had was. He explained it to me, it took a few minutes to sink in that my baby was going to die. I was so upset & could not understand why this was happening to my baby, to us!!

I still have no clue how I made it home safely. By the time I got home my husband had just gotten home as well. I met him at the back gate & fell into his arms, I couldn't get the words out without crying hysterically. I said, "they said our baby is going to die!!!" I will never forget the look on his face.

We went back for a meeting with our Dr, he told us we could terminate the pregnancy if we wished. We both said NO at the same time, abortion was not an option for us, that is a choice I could never have lived with. I told him that if we aborted this baby, it would take away any chance for God to heal it, it's not up to us to end this child's life. Our Dr supported our choice to carry our baby to term.

He got a medical book from his office so we could see what a baby with anencephaly looked like. That picture haunts me to this day, it was a small picture of a nude baby on a silver morgue table. There was a paragragh explaining the baby's condition & that's it. I am so happy that there is so much more a Dr can offer today. He told me that I will probably not feel my baby kick maybe move a little. He told us a few more "facts" about anencephaly including how the babies can't cry, hear or see. I told him that doctors were only human & how he could be making a mistake & he agreed & said how he hoped & prayed he was wrong.

I did not have internet access so a very good friend was able to find info for me along with a diagram of a healthy baby's head & one with anencephaly. This & what my Dr was able to offer was all the information we had.

We told our families & friends, we were all heartbroken. From then on I never went to an appointment by myself, someone made sure they were with me, I called them my three musketeers LOL they kept me laughing while being great support. Hundreds of people across several states began praying for a miracle, along with us.

Makenna, baby with anencephaly

No matter how hard I tried to stay positive, I felt myself slipping, I started to feel like such a failure as a mother & wife. I felt as if I was the cause of this happening to our baby, a sense of shame & embarrassment came over me every time I had to tell someone that asked about my pregnancy. My husband was upset because I was blaming myself & when we are going through such hard trials in life, sometimes it's easier to tell someone you love how you feel in a letter & he did just that. Something he said in this letter touches my heart deeply because it is true:


I was worried about telling my 4yr old, how was I going to tell him & protect him at the same time??? I wasn't as worried about my 2yr old, he was to young to understand what was going on.

A few months went by & I began to feel little kicks that became stronger & stronger. I had an appointment to see my Dr at around 20 weeks or so & I told him how I was feeling the baby kick a lot. He got very excited, remember he was hoping he was wrong & from what he told me I wouldn't feel her move much at all. So he immediately took me to the ultrasound room for a scan, Bob was with me this time. When he put the wand on my belly we instantly saw this little person jumping up & down as if on a trampoline but also immediately seen that the baby did indeed have anencephaly. We watched the baby for a few more minutes in complete awe over this little life.

I asked the U/S tech if she could tell what the sex was? "It's a GIRL" she said, but I became very angry. This was the little girl I had hoped for but I was going to lose her!!!! They gave us one picture showing her sex & said they couldn't give us any of her headshots, I crumbled it up in my hand out of anger. They allowed us to leave through a side door, I cried the whole way home. He held me close that night & many more nights to come.

As the months went by I tried to enjoy her kicks & wiggles. I was the only one that knew when she was awake, asleep or having a jump-a-thon on my bladder, all of which I couldn't get enough of. One day I decided to put headphones on my belly, she was very calm but when I turned on the music, she started moving & kicking like crazy. I remember thinking to myself, can she really hear this???? Daddy loved to poke at my belly & she loved to kick him back, we were amazed because she could feel us, yes FEEL!!! My baby girl was acting just like my boys did, I was not wanting to believe that this was happening. I had my husband set the crib up but had him take it down two weeks later, I couldn't take looking at it. I picked out a baby dedication dress for her to be blessed in or buried in, along with a beautiful white blanket that had rocking horses on it with a matching pillow that I still have.

I was 7 1/2 months along now & she was head down now & as active as ever. I was sitting on the floor folding laundry when she started to kick me very hard, I thought this was odd. Then her entire body stiffened out straight & was shaking. I had to almost lay down to give her more room, it lasted 30-45 seconds or so & was over. I told my Dr what had happened & he said it sounds like she may have had a seizure.

At 8 months we started seeing him weekly. During one appointment a friend remembers him thanking me for allowing Makenna to educate him about anencephaly. In a healthy pregnancy, mom & dad are wondering with excitement about who the baby will look like & they talk about ten fingers & ten toes, exactly the way we did with our boys. We took life for granted. This time we were terrified of what our baby would look like & didn't care if all ten fingers & toes were there, she could live without those. I tried so hard to have complete faith in God, but when faced with a situation like this, it's hard not to question Him & ask WHY...

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

On my last appointment I knew it was time, I told my Dr that I was ready. I had carried my baby the full 40 weeks & it was time to bring her into the world.

On January 10, 2000, I was admitted to the hospital at 6pm. We had a birth plan & my Dr made copies & made sure all nurses read it & followed every detail. I wanted her treated no different than any other baby being born (with some exceptions), no one was to be turned away, she was not to leave our room except to have her picture taken. We chose not to have her heart monitored during labor, I didn't want to hear if my baby died on some machine. At 8pm the induction was started, my cervix was not ready at all & that is very common with our babies, so they had to administer a cervix softener over night to help my body go into labor. Early the next morning Pitocin was started & it wasn't long before I started feeling contractions. I chose to have an epidural, my boys were very painful births & I wanted to be able to keep focused & make decisions with a clear head. A lot of family & friends came to the hospital to support us, we were all praying for a miracle.

Besides my husband, my mom was of huge support, she made Makenna a beautiful blanket (the one she is wrapped in), every single inch made with love for her granddaughter. She never left my side. Around 10:30ish that night, I started to feel pressure & let the nurse know. I was fully dilated, it was time. A fear unlike anything I have ever felt came over me & was uncontrollable. I refused to push, even though I had faith that God could heal her, I knew He was choosing not to, a mother knows. I kept yelling "No, she will die" over & over! I finally calmed down enough to bring my daughter into the world at 11:30pm Jan 11th.

The room was quiet, the nurse gave my husband the signal he asked for if she did have it. There was no sound from her. The nurse came to my bedside, with tears rolling down & said, "She doesn't have her brain, I am so sorry." I guess I blacked out or something because the next thing I remember was her in my arms. I was so scared when I first seen her, I kept telling her how sorry I was & rubbing her little chin. My heart was filled with a complete unconditional love for this beautiful child, she had her daddy's blue eyes, his nose & my lips. I lifted the blanket to make sure she was a girl, that seemed to give a few in the room a giggle. I was so afraid to see the top of my baby's head that I allowed others to get my baby dressed, I regret that because I don't know what her little feet looked like, her bottom, back, belly & only caught a glimpse of her legs. She had on the outfit her daddy & I picked out, of course it was pink. She was wrapped in the beautiful blanket my mom made her with a white hat that had to be pinned to fit her tiny head. She was breathing pretty good in the beginning but wasn't moving much.

Makenna, baby with anencephaly

Our oldest was let in to see his sister, he was the proudest big brother ever. He got to hold her hand & talk to her. I explained to him that Jesus would take her soon to fix her head, he said, "ok mommy" but was still in awe of his baby. Daddy was able to hold her & fell in love immediately. She amazed us by grasping our fingers, looking around the room & the many many smiles she gave us just blessed our hearts so much.

Many people came to see her, anyone that wanted to was allowed to hold her. I don't remember much that went on in the room that night, I don't remember people that came in to see her, but they have told me they were there & how beautiful she was. I was so focused on her that I blocked everything else out. Several hours went by & many went home. Bob & I were left alone with her. We passed her back & forth. Then while daddy was holding her she let out a very loud cry!!! We were amazed because we thought it was impossible, the nurse came in quickly & said, "Did I hear what I think I just heard??" I shouted, "yes you did!!!" I was so astonished by her ability. A little while later she started having difficulty breathing & would pause longer between each breath. We were not ready to let go of her yet, so we blew on her & she would take a deep breath in & be ok for a while. She started spitting up fluid, I didn't know at the time but she was going into respiratory failure. The nurse told the family & friends still in the waiting room it wouldn't be long, so they all came in one last time to say goodbye. We were left alone one last time, she started to have a real hard time breathing & I knew it was time to let her go, as much as it was ripping my heart apart, I couldn't see her struggle anymore. We didn't blow on her anymore & just watched her peacefully drift into Jesus' arms. She passed away in her daddy's arms at 4:43am on Jan 12th. I took her from him & held her so tight & cried so hard, my baby girl was dead!!

We had a small graveside service for her, many friends & family came to show their love & support for us & our baby girl. My Dr cleared his schedule so he could attend, that meant a lot to me, she wasn't just another delivery to him, she changed him as well. My dad sang Amazing Grace. We had several pink balloons with her name on them that were released after her service.

Makenna, baby with anencephaly

The first year was the hardest after her death, I was very angry. I was angry at God for taking my daughter. In Sunday school the subject of Jesus bringing a little girl back to life came up. Well I lost it in class, I couldn't hold my anger in any longer, I was able to pretend until then. I let my true feelings be known. People began to pray for me & it was then I began my very long road to healing. It has been a rough road to get to where I am today. We moved on with our lives & had to find a new "normal" without our daughter. We tried a support group, but that just made things worse. We were struggling coming to terms with what happened. Family & friends seen we were having a hard time & did all they could to help us. In time I came to understand that God did not do this to us or her, but He carried us through it, He was always there, I just couldn't or wouldn't allow myself to feel His love & comfort. When I allowed God back into my heart, I started to see things differently. I started to see how He was able to use Makenna's life to change the lives of others. My doctor viewed these babies completely different now & knows he can let women know they have the option to carry their baby to term. Yes the experience with my daughter was very traumatic for me & my husband but the way she changed our lives & the lives of so many others was worth every tear. I am proud of the choice I made to carry my daughter to term, I am proud God chose me to be the mother of one of His precious Saints, I am proud of my daughter!!!

Many years have passed since we lost Makenna. Our boys are now teenagers, our oldest remembers his sister very well. He wrote a poem many years after her death. I think he was around 11. I'm not changing a thing, sharing it as is, it means so much to me:

To Makenna:

In the spring of ninety-nine
everything seemed to be fine.

My mother was to bear another child
She was so happy she almost went wild.

But then came a day of fear
when bad news she had to hear.

Something had gone wrong
and you was to not live very long.

One day she did see
something that wasn't supposed to be.

While inside her womb, you did kick
even though the doctor said it was impossible for you to kick.

This was a sign of hope
for she thought God was telling her to no longer mope.

Then in the first month of the new year
the time had come for you to be here.

The day seemed dull
as they prayed for a miracle.

When the time came for your birth
it was the saddest sight on earth.

All hope was gone
it was like the world's most depressing song.

Even though you came into this world alive
we all knew you wouldn't survive.

You let out a scream so loud
and mom and dad wondered how?

Even though you would die
God let your mommy hear one cry.

I held your hand
though I was five and couldn't understand.

About six hours had past
before you breathed your last.

You went to a place far away
how far I cannot say.

Even though I miss you greatly
to see you, I may have to wait till I'm eighty.

But for little time on this earth
many will never realize what it's worth.

Some call where you live heaven, where you are always free to roam
but to you, it's always been your home.

For you to come back to us, there is no way
but wait! I have one more thing to say.

Jesus promised eternal life to those who obey
and I promise we will be there with you someday.

Love, your big brother

5 1/2 years after we lost Makenna, we welcomed a healthy baby girl into our family. I can't help but praise God for "unanswered prayer". Makenna was supposed to be our last baby, I begged my doctor to tie my tubes after she was born but he refused. Now when I look into the eyes of my 7 year old daughter, I am thankful to her sister. I wouldn't have her if it weren't for my sweet Makenna. Praise you Jesus in the good times & the bad. It is with a thankful heart that I will always remember my little girl with, thankful to see her smile, feel her grasp & hear her beautiful voice. So thankful for this precious gift I call my daughter.



Last updated January 12, 2020