With our first pregnancy, we tried for 1 and a half years to get pregnant. We had to access fertility services to help us conceive. It was hard and frustrating and felt like it took an eternity.
The second time around, we knew that this might happen again. It was such surprise when, in the first month of trying to conceive, we did! I couldn’t believe my eyes when that second line appeared on the test – it was dark, and real, and very much there. I told my husband and my 2-year old daughter immediately. We were on cloud nine – the whole thing felt like a dream. We thought we were so lucky.
We were so excited
After getting confirmation, we began to tell everyone we knew. I held off putting up the crib until 12 weeks. By the end of the first trimester, I couldn’t convince our 2-year-old to wait any longer. She was going to be sharing a room with this baby, and she was so excited to get things moving.
At 15 weeks, we went in for the first trimester scan. It all looked so beautiful on the ultrasound. A few days later, our blood test came back, and it indicated a higher than normal chance of Down Syndrome. The doctor suggested we get more testing done to check things out. We did what is called a cell-free DNA test. I was actually pretty excited that we “needed” this test, because it would also tell us the sex of the baby – we weren’t going to have to wait until the 20-week scan!
I remember the phone call as clear as day.
I was home, and our daughter was playing in her room. My husband was at work. The phone rang, and I answered.
We were told that our baby did not have Down Syndrome. I could sense there was a “but” at the end of the sentence, however. The doctor rattled off words I’d never heard before. “Trisomy 13”, “Patau Syndrome”, “Incompatible with life”. He relayed so much information, most of which felt like a blur.
At the end of the conversation, he told me we would need an amniocentesis to confirm the diagnosis. I held back my tears. He asked if I had any questions. I was so caught off guard that I could only think of one: “Do you know the sex of the baby?”. It was a question that I was planning on finding out later. We were going to have the hospital staff write down the sex of the baby and do a cupcake reveal with our daughter. But I had to know. “Yes. It’s a girl”. I needed to know so I could start using her name – April Rey.
I hung up the phone and cried harder than I ever have. I thought of the crib upstairs, sitting there empty, waiting for a baby. Our world had been shattered in a matter of moments.
The hardest choice
In the weeks to come we had the amniocentesis. We found out that April Rey had full Trisomy 13. All of her cells were affected. Her tiny body started showing signs on the ultrasounds. She wasn’t going to live.
We couldn’t bear the thought of carrying her to term and making her go through surgery after surgery. We couldn’t bear the thought of her struggling to breathe, or having a life (however short) full of pain.
We knew that before 24 weeks gestation, babies don’t feel pain. She’d most likely pass during an induction.
And so, at 19 and a half weeks, we chose to spare her pain. We induced the pregnancy early and let her go peacefully.
Saying our hellos and goodbyes
She was alive when she was born. I put her tiny hand around my finger. She squeezed it, as if to say everything was alright.
April Rey was alive for 11 minutes. She was happy and calm and peaceful. We held her, read to her, and said our hellos and goodbyes.
On August 8th 2019, we celebrated what would have been her second birthday. We baked her a cake, blew out her candles, and remembered her. We read the story that we had read to her in the hospital: “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You”, by Nancy Tillman. We also raised money for the Perinatal Palliative Care team that had helped us have the best possible experience in such a heart-wrenching time.
We will carry April Rey with us for the rest of our lives. She is so missed. Our daughter, Caroline, talks about her every day. She wants to show her everything she didn’t get to see. And so we will. We’ll do it all, and we’ll take April with us.
If you would like to find out more about Katrina and Joseph's story, visit Katrina's personal blog here.