Living the life of a single mother after getting divorced by the age of 21 gave me strength and courage I never knew I had. I had put myself through school, and worked 3 jobs at times, just to get by. By the time I met my husband at the age of 29, I didn't know the meaning of the words, "I can't or What if I fail?" I was fearless. If someone asked me, "Are you ever afraid?" I would answer, I am afraid of being afraid. Fear is the only thing to cause anyone to fail.
I had accomplished so much in my 20's that I felt I could take on the world. Marketing Director for a large security company in an industry dominated by men, and motivationally speaking at marketing training sessions, I was in the midst of what I felt was my perfect life. Then in 1997, I met my husband, married and had 2 beautiful children. Our household was a little different then your usual Connecticut middle-class family. My husband stayed home with the children and I continued to work.
September of 2001 holds many meanings for many people in our country, but for me, my life would change forever.
My husband and I had been planning a trip to Italy. I had been trying to take off those last few baby pounds from when we had our daughter in May of 2000. I couldn't lose the weight after the initial 15 pounds. I went to the Doctor's Office and had my thyroid tested to see if I had inherited my grandmothers' hypothyroidism. Instead, I found out that on September 10th when the tests came back that my thyroid was fine but I was pregnant. I was shocked at first, as this was unexpected, but then I was filled with joy as we contemplated the next year of pregnancy and childbirth. My husband and I decided we would allow this child's sex be a surprise, as we had found out what our first two were beforehand. We already had one of each, so this child we would turn into our little surprise baby. Our trip to Italy turned into a due date and we had to cancel. No worries. We would just go the following year.
In March 2001, I had a routine doctor's appointment for an ultrasound to check the size of the baby. The Dr called me into his office when the test was done and I heard words that struck fear into my heart for the first time. Your baby has fluid in its head and we need to send you right now for an emergency level 2 ultrasound. Fear was not an emotion I was used to dealing with.
As I sat in his office, he made a phone call to the hospital for the test. I began to sob. I'm not a person to cry but I couldn't stop. I had to call my husband and tell him to come meet me for this test. As I walked out into that waiting room, I told my mother and two children they would be going home alone and I would pick them up later.
An hour later, I was in the hospital and within moments my life would be falling apart. The Doctor performing the ultrasound within moments confirmed my Doctor's concerns. He told us that not only did my daughter have fluid in her head that he could find no brain, at all. He quoted a word I had never heard before "anencephaly" he then went on to tell us our child would not live past birth and we would need to speak with a genetics counselor. That was when my husband broke down and started to cry. I felt his despair and shock. My only thought was that I must get hold of myself. One of us would need to drive us home. My normal reaction is to be the strong one.
At the genetics counselor's office, I can remember little of what he said. It was all a blur. I do remember him telling us cremation was not an option as babies are too small to make ashes. I was so upset that I would not be able to bring my child home with us. We left the hospital and headed home. We didn't make it very far as I went into labor. We headed back to the hospital and had a long talk with the Doctor.
They had wanted us to wait until after Easter was over to schedule a C-section. He wanted me to go to a different hospital that had a neo natal unit. I begged him to perform the C-section himself and allow me to deliver the next day. He finally agreed when the baby's heart rate got dangerously low. They felt sending me home with a child who could possibly die before birth was not safe for me, so they scheduled surgery at 7am for the next morning.
I had to do something that night that I know in my heart completely changed my outlook on life. I had to make funeral arrangements for one of my children and I had to call and try and donate the organs. I rationalized in my own head that God had done this to save another child. Maybe my child's heart, kidneys, liver, or lungs would help another child live. I had told my husband by doing this, we could be saving the life of someone who will grow up and cure cancer someday. God would only do something this profound to us for a reason. I had to believe it was for a good reason. Many people would blame God and say it was a cruel thing for him to do. But the way I see it is, who am I, to question God? He had never let me down before.
After being up most of the night, my husband and I fell asleep around 2 am. At 5 am, the phone rang and it was the doctor. He told me that the hospital pediatrician would not allow us to have this baby in that hospital because if my baby lived longer then a few minutes, they weren't equipped to handle a situation like that. The doctor suggested we go for an MRI and make sure we had the right diagnosis.
Two days later, on Good Friday, we went for an MRI. I'm 8 months pregnant and inside of an MRI tube. It was not the most pleasant of situations, but I will cherish that MRI till the day I die. Two hours later, my cell phone rang and it was the doctor who had told us our child had anencephaly. He was beside himself with excitement and burst out, "I made a mistake. I am so sorry. Your daughter (that's how we found out it was a girl) has hydrocephalus, which means, she has a brain."
We got the news as my husband and I were purchasing Easter eggs for our other two children. There we stood in the middle of this very busy store, arms around each other and crying. I remember one woman stopping and asking if we needed help. After she heard about what had just happened, she said, "This was our Easter Miracle."
It's been four and a half years since that day. We are now the parents of a beautiful daughter named Christiana Grace. Christiana stands for Christ and Grace because of how she has blessed us. I have been home with my children ever since as a full time mom. My daughter was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. She is severely developmentally delayed. She has her share of issues, but we are not afraid. We know what the alternative could have been. We thank God every day for giving us our Easter miracle.
When faced with the issue of what I am afraid of now, I would have to say that I am still fearless in my personal endeavors. But being home with my children and looking at the turmoil of the world around us, the only things I fear are the things that will affect their future on this planet; especially Christiana's. I can honestly say, my children have inherited their mothers' "Can Do" attitude. So, I'm sure they will be fine.
Amy Domestico can be heard on this podcast.