Carrying to term. This is a phrase I had never really heard of, and never really understood the significance of it until seven years ago. December 13, 2007, at 10:30 a.m., I lay on the table in a dark room waiting to find out the sex of our first child. The ultrasound technician was moving my belly and trying to get a good look at our active baby. She said she ran out of paper to print the pictures on and went to get more. She came back pretty quickly with Dr. Peet, my ob/gyn, … and no paper. Still, at this point, I did not realize this was a huge red flag of “WARNING WARNING—something is wrong.” I thought he was just there to visit. He asked my husband to sit down and said, “Something is wrong with the baby. This baby has anencephaly, which is related to spina bifida.” I was relieved for a quick second thinking, “Oh, my baby may not walk, that is not a big deal.” But he continued with, “This baby is not going to make it.” My world then fell apart. My husband collapsed in my arms, and we held each other sobbing for what seemed like hours. Eventually a very sweet nurse helped me up, and we went to Dr. Peet’s office. He told me he was going to send me downtown to a high risk doctor to confirm the diagnosis, even though he was 90 percent sure. He also wrote “anencephaly” on the back of a card and said “DO NOT GOOGLE THIS.” Of course we went home and did just that. I could barely pronounce the word, and 12 hours later, I was an expert on it. The next morning we arrived downtown for our 9:00 appointment. We got there early, so we had time to fill out the thousands of pages of paperwork. The doctor was a hot shot doctor with an ego about as big as Houston. He was used to seeing women carrying twins, triplets or more. The women in the waiting room were HUGE pregnant! I was only 20 weeks along and still in my regular pants. The doctor did not see us until 4:00 p.m. I lay on his table, he put the Doppler on my tummy and said, “Yep, this fetus has anencephaly.” I asked him to confirm the sex, and we found out it was a girl! He then called my doctor and left him a voicemail saying, “Mrs. Drude’s fetus 100 percent has anencephaly. We need to get her into labor and delivery now and get this problem over with.” My husband and I looked at each other in horror and ran out of the room. How dare he! Termination, abortion, murder NEVER crossed my mind. Why would I end the life of my precious baby girl I had been praying for my whole life?
My husband and I went on with our new normal. We began the plan to say hello and goodbye to our daughter, Dharma Lucille. We planned her funeral, purchased and made a custom cover for her casket out of pink prom dress material. We arranged for her to be an organ donor. We purchased her burial dress, and we arranged for “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” to be at my delivery. I went to a local maternity store to buy a dress for the Life Celebration my church friends were throwing Dharma and me. While there, the manager kept trying to sell me on getting a college savings account started for my baby. I politely said “No, thank you” a few times before becoming really irritated at her. When I was at the checkout she continued with the questions. “Want to sign up for free formula? Want to sign up for free parenting magazine?” I answered, “No, thank you.” And then she once again asked me about that stupid college savings stuff. I then went off on her: “You want to know why I don’t need this crap? My baby is going to die at some point before or after birth!!!” Her response was, “It’s a shame they are making you carry IT.” I about came unglued! I then went off on her in a more Godly way, telling her all about the blessings God has done through Dharma and how she will go on to help other babies by donating her organs. She looked shocked, and I just left. As the years have gone on, I am still baffled when people say things like that to me. And yes, people STILL do. Dharma lived for 21 hours and 22 minutes—the BEST 21 hours and 22 minutes of my life! She cried, we bathed her, changed her, fed her, and I got to be a mommy! She made me a mommy! She was the most beautiful baby in the whole wide world, and I have NEVER regretted for one minute “carrying her to term.” I say it like that because I did not realize that by staying pregnant I was doing something so controversial. Dr. Peet is a wonderful Christian doctor and knew we are also Christians, so he knew what our decision was going to be. I told people all the time, “I would do it again” not knowing I would have to.
December 26, 2014, when at my NICE high risk doctor’s appointment for my 4th pregnancy, I found out we were carrying another sweet girl, Stella Darling, who also had anencephaly. My doctor cried with me, hugged me and said “I will do whatever you need me to do to make this better for you.” I did not think it was fair. I did not think it was real. I kept saying, “This is so stupid.” But I went through the motions. I planned for another funeral, I picked out another casket, I arranged for Stella to be an organ donor, too, and we picked out a place for my girls to be buried together. At my 16-week ultrasound, Stella no longer had a heartbeat. We had 16 weeks to prepare for Dharma’s arrival, but we had only known about Stella for 4 weeks. We had nothing ready! I called on my very special M.E.N.D. BFFs, and they got right to work. One even made a tiny tutu for Stella. I was induced and Stella was stillborn the next day. She looked just like her sisters and brother! I miss both my girls so terribly, but I am so thankful I made the decision to meet them, hold them, love on them, and parent them as long as the Lord allowed me.
For more information about anencephaly or to read more stories about babies being carried to term please visit http://www.anencephalie-info.org/index.php This website is translated in about 10 different languages, including Spanish.
♥ Jennie Drude, Mommy to Dharma Lucille, Stella Darling and Liza Belle M.E.N.D.—Bryan/Collage Station Chapter Director