In the grand scheme of life, sometimes, it goes fast, sometimes slow. When you lose a child, or a pregnancy, time sometimes stands still. I know. Almost six years ago, we found out there was a good chance our unborn child would not live. We were in for our 19 week ultrasound. After years of infertility, we were so excited, as was our 6 ½ year old Megan. She wanted a sister, and I have to be honest, I wanted another girl. Byron wanted a boy, of course, but all we really wanted was a healthy baby. God had another plan.
We had one of the last appointments of the day. I was very well acquainted with the ultrasound room at my doctor’s office. Nothing romantic in the way we got pregnant! The ultrasound tech looked and looked. Of course the usual “I think it is a girl (YAY!) but I am not 100% sure.” Then silence. More quiet. And more measuring. And quiet. Then, “I will go get the doctor. Be right back”. That is never good. The doctor came in. More quiet. Argh. I was so not feeling the way I was supposed to. I was supposed to be laughing and joking, and HAPPY it was a girl! I was nervous, scared and freaking out inside. My mom was there. It was Friday, September 7, 2007. I will never forget that day, and I loathe it.
The doctor mentioned that the baby’s legs and arms were not quite up to the 19 week mark. About 1.5 weeks off. I did not think too much of it. Ultrasounds are not 100% right. She wanted me to see a perinatologist. She called the one in Topeka. He was booked for four weeks. I can wait, no big deal. She said “NO. You need to get in right away.” I freaked. This must be serious. She called KU Med. They could not fit me in for a week. She called St. Luke’s. They had an appointment Monday September 10. Right away. Byron got the day off from work. I had the day off. We headed for Kansas City. We saw Dr. Gibbs that day, and a wonderful genetic counselor named Susan. We heard the usual “termination is an option” – I think they almost have to tell everyone that. Being Catholic, there was no way that would ever be an option for us. I am grateful now that we ended up at the hospital we did. We knew from the start that we could never choose termination, and blessedly, they never mentioned it again. I have heard stories about doctors who ridicule women for NOT choosing abortions in cases like this. I cannot imagine being bullied by someone who is supposed to protect life to the best of their abilities. We were blessed with caring and compassionate doctors and nurses. They were respectful and helpful. We will always remember and appreciate that. He looked and looked, too. She was measuring about two weeks behind in the arms and legs, and was having problems measuring right on in the head and the chest, too. Her head was measuring about two weeks ahead. He could not know what was wrong by the ultrasound alone, so he asked if we wanted an amnio. I was terrified. I had heard bad things about those, but I am a Type A personality, and I could not take the unknowing, so we agreed.
It was horribly painful, and not a good experience at all. I found out while he was doing it that I did not have enough amniotic fluid, and that is why it hurt so badly. He had to use a lot of force to get enough fluid out. I could not stop shaking, and that was bad too. It lasted about four minutes. By the end, even my macho husband was crying, and so was one of the nurses. I calmed down, and we went home. I had wonderful church friends who were praying and one made us dinner that night, even though I could not eat. We had to wait almost a month to get the results back (they were thinking Trisomy 13-18), because they had to “regrow” the cells a few times, due to the lack of extra fluid. We went back on October 15. We saw Dr. Gray this time. He was awesome, too. He was caring, yet professional. It made it a little bit easier. Mallory Grace (the name we had picked out) was still fighting! She had not gotten any smaller or bigger, and he was optimistic that she had stayed the same. He thought that might be a good sign. We had gotten the amnio back, and it was inconclusive. It was not any Trisomy, and the types of dwarfism they test for all came back negative too. He was hoping it was a form of dwarfism that was not fatal. I could live with that. I would love any type of child. A disability meant nothing to us.
We left that day in a little better of a mood. I still was not feeling her move, but since she was on the smaller side, that was normal, the doctor said. We made an appointment for the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (November 27) and went on our way, planning for the holidays. I was hoping that all of our prayers were paying off. We enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving with my family, and I went shopping the day after as usual. We went in Tuesday. Megan and my sister came with us. I was trying to be positive for Megan. We went in. Megan and Emily stayed outside. He hooked everything up and started. He turned away. (Dr. Gray) Oh no. Not good. He turned around. He knew I wanted an honest answer. No sugarcoating. He had tears in his eyes. I started to freak out. Byron started crying. Dr. Gray said, “She is in congestive heart failure. There is water on her brain, and her kidneys are not working. It is only a matter of time now.” I only had the tiniest bit of fluid left. After pleading with him that he had made a mistake, I knew in my heart he was right. He hugged me for a while, and tried to comfort me. I composed myself, and asked what we would do next. He said we just had to wait it out, and to make an appointment for a heartbeat check in a week. I should say here that I was so SO blessed to have the care providers I did. I know I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating. I was never disrespected, never lied to. I was cared for and loved and I could feel it. I am forever grateful to my regular OB, and the specialists who cared for us in those months, as well as the nurses. They’ll never know how much they helped us.
That was the worst week of my life. I held my belly. I cried. I told her I loved her and I was sorry, even though it was all out of my control. I am so glad we chose life. I couldn’t imagine NOT having those precious months with her. It was some of the best times and the worst times and I would not trade it for anything. We went in to my OB on Wednesday December 5, 2007 for an ultrasound. She was gone. I was induced on December 6th, and at 7:54 PM, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces, Mallory Grace Santacroce Fordham was born into Heaven. (She shares a birthday with my nephew Jacob, who was born on the same day in 1996, and passed away shortly after birth.) I was blessed to have a wonderful “doula” (a friend who herself had suffered four losses) with me, my mom, Byron, and my brother. I relied on family so much in the coming years, as well as my faith in God.
I think without my faith, I would not have made it through what we went through. I relied on all of that as well, when we became pregnant again months later. Our rainbow child. A scary experience, given what had happened before. But all was well, as was God’s plan for us. Noelle Grace was born healthy, alive and kicking on November 28th, 2008. A blessing that we all needed, thank you Lord! She is a spitfire who is constantly bringing us joy. I am amazed that I am a mom to her and Megan, as well as Mallory. I am blessed beyond measure. This December will be the six year anniversary. I know now why it happened. I can think more clearly. I love God wholly again. I have met so many caring wonderful women who have walked my walk. They tell me their stories, and some had not told anyone before. They can let it out, and share with someone who truly understands. I am studying to become a doula, to help women who are going through what I did. I am making it a mission in my life to help others who are navigating this scary road in life. Mallory made all that possible. A tiny soul we never knew is doing great things. I am more passionately pro life than I ever was, although I always was. I am so proud to be her mom. It is so amazing to me how such a tiny perfect soul who never breathed a breath could change the course of so many lives. I am forever grateful for the wonderful, strong women I have met along this journey. They have helped me heal. Some of them, I already knew, but some I met only because of Mallory. I am in awe of how much better my life is because of her.
As we mark the 6th birthday of the child we only knew for a short time, I grieve for my loss, but rejoice in her peace, and the fact that she has brought me so many awesome friends and wonderful life experiences. I wonder how time can feel so short yet so long at the same time. I grieve for my children who will never know Mallory, but I rejoice in the fact that her name can always be spoken in our home. She is part of us, and we won’t hide her. We will talk about her, and why we made the choices we made. A part of me will always be missing, but the void is filled with love, blessings and hope for the future. We had the following saying on her prayer card for her funeral. It is one of my favorite poems:
How very softly you tiptoed into our world
Only for a moment you stayed.
But what an imprint your footsteps
have left upon our hearts.
Love you always and forever Mallory, to the moon and back.
“She is precious in the eyes of God”
Mallory Grace: Born Sleeping on December 6, 2007