Shared by Heidi Hodkiewicz
March 10, 2016
This was the day we would confirm my strong suspicion that there was indeed a baby girl growing in my belly. With each of my previous pregnancies, I exhibited specific symptoms that differed between boy/girl. I just knew this would be another girl.
My morning was filled with excitement and anticipation. My youngest had just turned four, and it had only been a few short weeks since we surprised her with the news of the new baby. She was anxiously awaiting this day as well, and felt so lucky to be joining us for the ultrasound.
As we prepared for our appointment, I received a call letting me know there had been a work emergency and Jason would not be able to get away to meet us. My heart broke. I spent a solid hour crying over it. Hormones!
I pulled myself together, and Sugarpie (my pet name for my lil miss) and I headed out. After getting lost in the hospital, asking for directions, and receiving well-wishes from our guide, we checked in and settled into our seats in the waiting room.
Today was the big day! I was not concerned in the least. Since this was my fourth pregnancy, I felt like I had a been here before. I'm good, ya know. Obviously we wanted confirmation that our baby was healthy and thriving, but I really just wanted to hear them say it was a girl!
The nurse called us back, got us settled, and she departed. The tech came in and got right to the exam. As she moved the probe around my gooped-up belly, I was clueless. I mean, naive is an extreme understatement. I actually said to the her, “It's such a relief to get this ultrasound and see my baby moving around, knowing everything is good, you know, it's just good knowing everything is all right.”
I just kept floating through this experience on my happy little cloud while the tech took her measurements and did her thing.
Sugarpie started asking, “Where’s the baby's nose?” I repeatedly assured her she'd see it soon enough, look at the baby's tiny feet… hands… legs….
I asked the tech if we would get a 3D image today. She hesitated and said they don't always like to do those at this visit, some people think they look creepy.
But I had one of Sugarpie…? Hmmm, oh well. I'm advanced in age, I've got more of these in my future. I'll get it then, I thought.
Clueless. Absolutely clueless.
The tech informed me that she was having a hard time getting a few measurements, and was going to see if another tech could come in. She joked that “sometimes those babies give us a hard time.” I was still on my clueless cloud. I asked if she could maybe at least let me know the sex. She said she knew, but being that she was still pretty new to this location she wanted to follow protocol and wait for the doctor to tell me. Sigh… Okay.
Exit tech one.
Enter tech two.
Cheery and quick to get to work, she started searching out these hard-to-get measurements. Meanwhile, I was still not picking up on the possibility that there might be a problem. I was making small talk and still hoping for some news on the gender.
Tech two says she's also having trouble. She's gonna get the doc. I'm told I have a full bladder, I should go empty it and the doc would be in shortly. Sounded good to me, I had to pee!
Sugarpie and I went to take care of business and re-enter the room.
Wow, lots of people in here. Like, not much room to move through to the chair beside the bed kind of crowded.
I get my lil love settled, and turn my attention toward the gathering in my room.
The atmosphere was strange to say the least.
The doctor introduced herself.
What an awkward encounter. All these people in my room. The doctor standing there all cold and formal. How was it not registering that something big was about to go down?
She said, “Unfortunately there are some things we need to talk about.”
Okay, do I sit, lay down, do you need to examine me again?
“No, sitting is fine.”
So, is this serious? (I'm still pretty clueless at this point)
“We believe your baby has a genetic condition called Holoprosencephaly.”
Blahblahblah… It's brain has failed to develop… Blahblahblah… Advanced maternal age… Blahblahblah… Nonviable…
Oh My God!
This, my friends, this was the moment my world changed. Forever.
Trying hard not to believe this fate my child was just handed.
My heart has shattered and my mind could not comprehend it.
I had to reach Jason!
I couldn't see through the flood of tears. I couldn't even manipulate my phone. Someone had to call him for me.
Oh My God!
What's going on here?
This cannot be my reality!
I will not survive this!
And by the way, NOBODY thought to remove my precious four-year-old from the room before destroying my life! A doctor, a nurse, two techs, and people I didn't know, all in my room, and not one of them thought this through before handing me this news. What the fuck?!
I asked the doctor if I could finally learn the gender, in the very least. Could she just finally tell me this?!
“We believe it's a girl.”
Again, I question her. So, if her brain has failed to develop, how is she even alive? How can she move, and how has she been able to grow?
Her response, I still cannot wrap my head around it.
Hands cupped together in front of her, with no emotion, no empathy, no signs of any degree of compassion, she said,
“Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to be a fetus.”
In that moment I couldn't respond, but these were some of my thoughts: Are you kidding me? I'm at my twenty week ultrasound. Half way through this pregnancy, learning the sex of my baby, and to you…. A neonatal specialist, she's still “just a fetus”? Unfathomable.
I was given a picture of my baby's head, looking down from above.
“See all that black space? That should all be filled with her brain.”
My heart. How did I not just die right there in that room? How would I survive this?
I was also given a printout of what that photo should have looked like. There was just no doubt to the severity.
A few more instructions were given, and I was sent on my way to follow up with my OB the next day and go from there.
Somehow, I was able to gather enough composure to drive back home.
Upon our return, I had to explain to Sugarpie what just happened. No parent should ever have to do this.
I held her in my arms and explained that baby Finn’s brain didn't grow. She can't live without a brain. She's going to come out of my tummy and go live in heaven.
We both just cried.
Holoprosencephaly Alobar. The most extreme degree of this diagnosis. Complete with the most severe facial defects, Cyclopia, and a small proboscis on her forehead trying to be a nose.
After a sleepless night of prayer and talking with Jason, we agreed that if induction was a possibility we would opt for that. I needed to be able to deliver this baby. To hold her and kiss her. There was no other option I could accept.
After a series of doctor visits, phone calls, three locations and three doctors later, as well as a possible placenta previa, I was induced at exactly 20 weeks.
I delivered a lifeless Finn Catherine on Monday, March 14, 2016 at 9:40pm.
I held her tiny body in my hands. My instincts were no different than in the births of my full-term living babies. I brought her to my chest, kissed her, and was in complete awe of her.
Her tiny perfect everything, except for all the things that were not.
Her feet! Jason, she has your feet!
Amazing. At 20 weeks, weighing in at 10.2 oz and 10 inches long, we could very clearly discern who she favored biologically.
Her tiny hand. I held it on my index finger. I can still feel it there in my mind. Tiny, perfect fingers, complete with the tiniest fingernails and fingerprints.
I took pictures, wanting to capture every little part of her, every moment we spent together, as if I could just freeze time. Then I stopped. The reality hit me. I remember saying to Jason, “I can take a million pictures, but none of them will change this outcome.” I just held her while the hot tears slipped from my eyes.
More than anything, I wish I'd taken those million pictures.
The time came for us to say goodbye.
I chose to leave in the middle of the night. I was not required to stay, and the thought of being anywhere close to all the happiness of healthy new babies was far too much to ask of myself.
Saying goodbye to Finn was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced.
We kissed her one last kiss. I clung to Jason's arm, and silently we walked out of the room, through the labor and delivery department, down the elevator, and down the longest hallway ever known to man—into the darkest of darkest nights.
That walk will forever haunt me.
How I even managed it is still beyond my comprehension.
Looking back, I see myself broken down into a sloppy mess, puddled on the floor, drowning in a pool of my own tears. That's how I felt inside. The reality was a numb, half dead me, clinging to the arm of my man, putting one foot in front of the other as we exited the building.
I honestly did not believe I would survive. A piece of my heart, a piece of my soul had been torn from my body. The breath siphoned from my lungs. Hot tears stung my eyes and face. Every thought and emotion waged war on my mind.
How could I ever recover?
In the days following, and out my desperate need to share my story and connect with anyone that knew my pain, I started a page on Facebook. “Pink for Finn.”
My hope was to share my story and my journey, in an effort to connect to other mamas also finding themselves in this new and lonely world. It would be three weeks before the infant loss support group would meet. I could not wait that long to find some relief, an outlet, a common ground with anyone that could possibly understand.
I've documented many parts of my journey on my Facebook page, and the support group I joined has brought some of the most amazing people into my world. They've become my people. Both the page and the people have become priceless pieces of my journey.
I'm a year and a half out from losing Finn, and five months out from losing my rainbow baby to a miscarriage at 9 weeks.
In the time that's passed, reminders of them surround me. Cardinals, butterflies, elephants, sunsets, rainbows… I could go on and on. In a recent Pink for Finn post, I concluded by stating, “Remembering you is easy, because I will never forget.” These reminders are everywhere to me.
Every day, I'm grateful for the parents of loss that have come alongside me in this journey. The loneliness of those early weeks amplified the pain I was in. I never want another mama to feel the way I did. From the beginning, my purpose was to seek beauty from these ashes. Finn, and now my rainbow angel, have a purpose here. I will carry them through this life with me. They are a piece of me and a part of my story. Perhaps this journey will bring hope and healing to another? Perhaps together, as we remember our little loves gone too soon, we will bring beauty and honor to their names. A voice in the silence that says, I see you, I love you, and you are not alone.