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Zak Nathan


Zak Nathan, baby with anencephaly

Two years into marriage, my husband Jerwell and I started longing to have a child. God answered the desire of our hearts. We learned that I was 6 weeks pregnant on August 29, 2008 via TVS. Nothing unusual was detected at that time. And since there were no pre-existing conditions and family-related defects that need to be considered, our doctor treated our pregnancy as normal.

Five days before Christmas, we had our routine second trimester ultrasound after convincing our doctor to give us the order. We desperately wanted to know our baby's gender before Christmas. The doctor easily determined the gender because our baby was in a cooperative position. We were having a boy. I can still remember my husband's face lighting up upon hearing the news. Then, the doctor grew quiet. He stopped talking to us and stared suspiciously at the screen. I began to feel nervous. Then he asked us to move to another room so he can verify "something" through a newer machine. My heart pounded. I told my husband that it could be our baby's weight because my tummy was unusually small for its stage. After a short while, he broke his silence and instructed me to see my OB as soon as possible. He did not want to divulge the news himself. But we begged. He finally gave the most heart-breaking news any expectant parent could hear: "your baby has an condition called anencephaly. It is not compatible with survival. It is irrepairable". Cliche as this may sound, but our dreams came crashing down with that news. All we could do was cry. How can that happen?

In the days that followed, we researched anencephaly to gain better understanding and make informed decisions. A full congenital anomaly scan confirmed the diagnosis. During the scan, however, the doctor could not make our baby move away from the placenta to let us see how much of the head he had. The doctor simply thought that our baby was not in a cooperative mood. So after much prodding, we gave up.

Zak Nathan, baby with anencephaly

We continued with our pregnancy like there was nothing wrong. It was a deliberate decision on our part to will ourselves to be happy so that our baby would continue to feel loved and wanted. We thought that such was our way of giving him the best chance to live.

As my due date neared, I did not experience any sign of imminent labor. My baby did not drop. No major contraction was felt. So three days past my due date, my OB decided to induce me into labor. She was determined to deliver our son vaginally to make my recovery faster. After 8 hours of induction, I only managed a 2cm dilatation. My OB decided to rest me after that. Since no spontaneous contraction followed, an unltrasound was ordered. The sonologist saw something with my placenta which she could not determine for sure. She told us, however, that our son had moved to a complete breech position from being frank breech. With this development, we insisted on getting a CS procedure done instead. My OB did not object.

An emergency CS was done. And to my doctor's surprise, our son had a peculiar case.

Our baby, Zak Nathan, was born on April 22, 2009 at 8.58lbs, anencephalic with placental attachment. His head and my placenta grew attached together. It looked as if the placenta grew into our baby's hallow head. The attending doctors were all surprised by what they saw. They have never seen something like that before. But despite the condition, Zak made a spontaneous cry upon coming out. He took his first breath on his own and his skin color flushed into pinkish white in no time at all. Contrary to what was expected of him, he was conscious from the second he was brought out.

Zak Nathan, baby with anencephaly

Zak was an instant celebrity in the hospital. He was as cute as any normal baby. He was big, brave and strong. We had him for six full days. In those days, he never received any medical intervention nor feeding. Yes, he was not fed. We couldn't. He had a cleft palate which could cause him to aspirate if we did. We signed a DNR every single day of his stay with us. He cried, purred like a cat, smiled, responded to our voice. He even pooped a total of six times. He urinated. He gets startled by sound.

He may be deformed in the eyes of many, but to us, he was the most beautiful baby. He was perfect. He did just as told him. I told to grow big and strong and be brave because of the ordeal that is ahead. The love of the people around him is what kept him alive. He spent those six days without showing signs of weakness. He may have lost some weight, but he remained conscious and responsive the whole time.

Zak will always be our firstborn. He will be known to his siblings. His photos will be part of our home. The grief of his loss is deep and almost unbearable. But we now know that it is God who allows such things to happen in our lives. He sometimes inflicts pain in order to make us better. But God never wastes a hurt. The grief may last our lifetime. But it will be all worth it. There is greater hope in our hearts that a day will come when we will see our Zak again.

We miss our son dearly. Not a day passes by without a thought of him. Mothering him was the best experience of my life yet. But knowing that we will see him again is enough encouragement to carry on.

Zak Nathan, baby with anencephaly

We thank God for Zak Nathan. We are forever grateful for giving him to us.

P.S. Because of the placental attachment, we only got to carry Zak 4 hours after he passed away. We had the placenta surgically cut off. It was the happiest 50 minutes of my motherhood – carrying Zak from the hospital to the crematory.



Last updated July 10, 2019