My husband Curtis and I found out in October 2009 that we were pregnant with our 4th child. At the time, our older children were a 7 year old daughter DaNae, a 4 year old son Noah and a 2 year old son Ian. We were so excited to hopefully complete our family with another daughter. And we were naive enough to believe that nothing could possibly go wrong with that dream. We shared with family a few weeks later that "One More Makes Four - Coming June 11th 2010!!" We had so much to look forward to.
Our doctor recommended a sonogram at 12 weeks, which was earlier than we had ever had before. The following night after this sonogram, our doctor called to tell us that there appeared to be fluid on the baby's brain and that we needed to have another sonogram with a maternal fetal specialist. We were very scared and the week up until the 2nd sono was very difficult. But we still didn't have any idea JUST HOW serious things were and didn't even tell most of our family because we didn't want to worry them until we knew something for sure.
On December 9th, we traveled four hours on snow packed roads for our sonogram with the specialist in Wichita, KS. That was the day that our world surrounding this precious new life came crashing down as we first heard the word - Acrania. We were in such a state of shock as we were told the words "fatal" and "incompatible with life" and as we were told and shown that the top portion of our baby's skull had not formed properly, leaving her brain tissue open and exposed to the amniotic fluid. It was FAR WORSE news than we ever could have imagined. We were devastated!
As they showed us these findings on the sonogram screen, we decided to ask if they could tell the baby's gender. They told us - "It's a Girl!" And we instantly broke down sobbing in each other's arms. The reality hit us - we were going to have another daughter that we had prayed for and dreamed of - our precious Karinne Claire. BUT she was NOT going to LIVE.
The doctor was kind and compassionate as she gently explained our options. I am SO THANKFUL to this day that she did not deceive us with ugly stories and push us toward termination as so many parents are falsely directed by their doctors. As Christians and as her parents - who loved her unconditionally and deeply desired to hold her in our arms - we decided without hesitation to continue the pregnancy. And we hoped and prayed with all our hearts that we would be blessed to have precious moments with her after she was born.
At first, one might expect that the following months would have passed by so very slowly and agonizingly. But when you consider that the remainder of the pregnancy was our daughter's LIFETIME - you'll understand that the time passed by FAR TOO QUICKLY.
We told our 2 older children at the end of January about Karinne's diagnosis. We had dreaded sharing the news with them, especially with as much as they were hoping for a baby sister. We slowly and carefully explained that the bones in the baby's head had not grown right and because of this, the baby wouldn't be able to live very long after birth. As the words sunk in, DaNae just buried her head in Curt's lap and cried. And Noah asked many good questions including "Will the baby go straight to heaven?"
We were truly blessed to be put in touch with a perinatal hospice group called Choices Medical Clinic in Wichita, Kansas. Part of their mission was to help families who had been given a poor prenatal diagnosis. They offered counseling, support, someone to make difficult phone calls and arrangements, and best of all - free 4D sonograms as often as we could get there. Throughout the pregnancy, we were able to have 3 of these sonograms. It was SO amazing to be able to see so many aspects of Karinne and to get to know her while she was still in the womb. We began to call Karinne our little dancing girl after seeing her beautiful little feet appearing to dance around.
At around 20 weeks we decided to open up to our small town community, extended family, and church family about Karinne's devastating diagnosis. It was our hope that although her life would be all too brief, she would be able to make an impact on many lives. It was difficult at times having everyone know. But we could feel the love poured out for us and experienced an amazing amount of comfort that came from knowing we had so many people praying for us. At that time I started a Caring Bridge Website where I could post journal entries and photos and provide the opportunity for others to get to know Karinne. The guestbook comments of support, prayers and encouragement were such a HUGE blessing to us during the pregnancy.
We decided to have a scheduled c-section for Karinne's delivery. We knew that a vaginal delivery would be very traumatic for her delicate brain tissue and that she would most likely not survive the birth. We knew that there were no guarantees either way, but we wanted to know that we had done everything we could for her - including giving her the easiest delivery possible. We also wanted for our family members to be able to be there at the time of her birth. And we made plans for a photographer affiliated with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep to be in the delivery room. Together with our doctor, we made plans for Karinne to be born via c section on May 27th at 38 weeks along. We hoped and prayed that we would be blessed to make it that far.
We tried our best to make the very most of whatever time we were blessed to have with Karinne. We wanted our older children to get to know their little sister as much as possible and create special memories of her time here. My 32nd birthday became a celebration of Karinne's 5 months of pregnancy and DaNae drew a crawling baby into the chocolate frosting. It was very cute and sentimental. We made a special family trip out of traveling to Wichita for one of the sonograms. The kids got to see Karinne dancing on the tv screen and the boys really got a kick out of listening to her heartbeat. Other fun things from the trip included swimming in the hotel pool and going to Chuck-E-Cheese. We encouraged the kids to talk about Karinne freely and they frequently made very special comments about how much they loved their baby sister. They were often such a beautiful encouragement to us and a reminder of God's love revealed through their words.
Karinne was the most active of all my children in the womb. She moved SO much! I was very thankful to be able to feel her as much as possible while she was with me. And I tried to share those movements with Curtis and the kids as often as possible. At doctor appointments, it was often quite the trick to catch her heartbeat because she truly seemed to swim away whenever the doppler came near. And it was sometimes difficult to catch her on the 4D sonogram as well. I will always treasure the sensation of her kicks, wiggles, punches and nudges.
Curtis and I both wanted to make special items for our daughter. I am a high school art teacher and one of my personal art forms is weaving. I decided very early on that I wanted to weave 2 blankets for Karinne - one for her to be buried with and one for us to keep. It was such a therapeutic and beautiful time spent weaving while Karinne kicked and wiggled away in my tummy. Countless tears were shed and woven into that precious cloth as I sat at the loom listening to music and working through a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Several of those songs are now included on the playlist here. The weaving also provided something that the kids could help with and create more special memories of their baby sister.
When the 2 blankets were finished, there was enough cloth left to make special little mini blankets for each of the kids to keep in memory of their sister.
Curtis is a woodworker and decided early on that he wanted to design and build a very special casket for Karinne. It was quite the undertaking but it turned out SO BEAUTIFUL and we could not have imagined burying our daughter any other way. One evening when he was working on it, DaNae told him that it looked like a treasure box. How Fitting! A special box for the most precious of treasures! From that point on, we always referred to the casket as Karinne's Treasure Box.
Time flew by so terribly quickly. And unfortunately it was cut even shorter than we had planned. At 33 weeks I began having some bleeding and a fair amount of contractions as well as beginning to dilate. After a scary weekend of thinking Karinne might come at any time, we decided that I should stop working and take it easy at home in the hopes of keeping Karinne safe inside for as long as possible.
That weekend our wonderful photographer Brooke, from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, was kind enough to come to our house to take our maternity photos. They turned out so beautifully! Here is just a sampling of them:
We were also blessed to have a Prayer Shower at our church that weekend. A few wonderful friends had been planning one for 2 weeks later, but we suddenly weren't sure we would make it that far. So in about 4 hours time - they pulled it all together beautifully and we were so deeply blessed by the prayers from church family and the fellowship and food afterwards. Here are a few photos from the Prayer Shower:
Through the answering of those very prayers - we were able to have another 2 weeks with Karinne safe and sound. It was a wake up call to the fact that we were not in control and helped us to prepare our hearts the best we could to say goodbye. We were able to make one last trip for another 4D sonogram and we met with the surgeon and made plans for the day of Karinne's birth. It also helped us to get in gear to finish up the blanket weavings and the treasure box.
In the early morning hours of May 10th - at 35 1/2 weeks - I was waking up every hour to go to the bathroom and realized that the contractions that I had been having were not going away during the night as usual. I woke my husband, called my doctor (who was out of town and wouldn't be able to make it back in time) and we left for the hospital around 5:30 am. We called our parents on the way to the hospital and put them on alert. At the hospital, we soon discovered that I was truly in labor and was dilated to at least 6 with the bag of water bulging. Karinne was coming whether we were ready or not. We knew we still wanted to do the c section to give Karinne the best chance and to give ourselves the most peace of mind. Fortunately the doctor who was planning to be the primary surgeon was available. He said – “9 or 9:30 surgery – can your families, friends and photographer be here by then?” So we made the calls and got everyone on their way. As scared and as sad as we were, an amazing peace began to come over us, knowing that today was HER day.
They prepped me for surgery, we said some prayers, we shared some hugs and tears with family and friends who had arrived, and we listened to Karinne’s heartbeat with the older children one last time. We had held off as long as possible – time to go in for surgery. I felt Karinne’s sweet kicks as well as the contractions for the last time before the epidural took effect. Someone came in and told us that our parents had arrived. And it wasn’t too long before they told us it was time and they lowered the curtain so we could see her birth.
Soon Karinne was gently lifted from my womb and entered the world here on earth. We watched and listened as the nurses tried to get her to cry or take a breath. We saw her legs and arms move, but could tell that we wouldn’t have long. They brought her to us and we marveled at her tiny and special beauty. She squeezed our fingers and I pray she saw the love on our faces as her heart took its final beats for about 10 minutes. I remember thinking as she lay in my arms the line from the song – Come to Jesus – “Fly to Jesus - - - Fly to Jesus - - - Fly to Je-sus – and LIVE!!” And shortly thereafter – she did just that – she “danced” peacefully on to meet Jesus.
We spent the most beautiful, sorrowful, and yet peace-filled day marveling at the beauty of our precious daughter. I know the Lord’s presence was in those rooms as we shared Karinne with our other children, then our parents, my sisters and brothers (in-law), our closest friends, our beloved babysitter, and my nieces and nephew. Brooke and our friend Rhonda took such amazing photos of the day that poignantly tell the entire story. Our children were such a blessing to us throughout that day, each in their own special way. And when the time came, nearly 12 hours after her birth, to let Karinne go – we were still filled with a heavenly peace as the sweet man from the funeral home carried her off in a beautiful bassinet. Other than to have had more time with Karinne alive and to have had my sister Krista there that day, I couldn’t hardly have asked for a more special and loving day to have spent with Karinne on the day of her birth.
Our precious Karinne Claire danced, kicked and wiggled her way through 35 1/2 weeks in her mommy's tummy until her birth by c section on May 10th, 2010 at 10:20 in the morning. She spent 10 precious minutes in our arms before she "danced peacefully on to meet Jesus." She weighed a tiny 3 lbs. 3.7 ounces and was just 15 1/2 inches long. Karinne will forever be a precious part of our family and although her life was far too brief, she made an eternal impact upon our hearts. We look forward to holding her again in heaven for all eternity.