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Annalise, our angel in heaven

by Sue Mansfield

Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999)

Having recently discovered your page I would like to add my personal experience of the loss of my baby daughter, on 14th August, 1998 in the hope that this will be of benefit to other parents.

ANNALISE 14th August, 1998

When my seventh child was diagnosed during a routine ultra sound at 18 weeks 2 days with anencephaly, and spina bifida with meningomyelocele, my husband and I were in a state of shock. After six healthy children, three of each sex, with birth weights ranging from 8lb to 10lb 6ozs, this was the last thing we expected. We had just taken for granted that this baby would be born perfectly healthy like the others.

As I am 41years old my only concern was that maybe the baby would have Downs Syndrome but not that she would be diagnosed as terminal. After recovering from the shock of being told that my baby would die I asked the radiographer if he could tell me the sex of the baby. Because he assumed I would terminate the pregnancy he said "Its not particularly relevant". As I was too vulnerable at that stage just being told that my baby would die I didn't stand up for my rights. But as I never considered termination to me this was very important.

Just before 22 weeks I found an obstetrician, who was to care for me for the continuation of my pregnancy and during the ultra sound he performed, he advised us that he was fairly confident that I was carrying a girl. From that night on she was named Annalise Maria Therese.

I never felt her move until almost 23 weeks, which was really hard because even though I knew she would die it was almost as if I was carrying a dead baby already. So when she finally moved it was like a miracle and I loved every movement but it was never like the movements of her brothers and sisters, so I never had doubts that the doctors were wrong. My obstetrician had told us that he was 99% sure that she would be stillborn and that I had a 60/40 chance of going full term or over.

Our family was very open about what was happening during my pregnancy, so no one was surprised when she died. We received a lot of prayer support from our friends, relatives and our church, which gave us a lot of strength. Only a few people found it hard to understand that I wanted to continue the pregnancy, but knowing that God was going to take her from me anyway, I didn't want one day less carrying her than He would give me. Every day I carried her brought her death one day closer and I must say this was really the hardest part of carrying her. I could have done none less than give her life while God allowed it.

I put on a fair amount of weight but it was nearly all amniotic fluid. On my last visit before she died I was 27 weeks but the fundus was ready measuring 34 weeks so the problem of polyhydraminios was probably starting.

I found the internet so supportive to me reading of other parents, who had been through what I was now going through, so I didn't feel so quite alone. Plus looking at pictures of anecephalic babies on the internet prepared me for the worst so I wasn't shocked, just sad, when I finally had Annalise. So this is the only reason I'm writing of my experience in the hope that it will be of support to other parents.

By knowing in advance that my baby was going to die it gave me time to prepare psychologically as well as look into funeral directors, cemetery plots etc. so this didn't need to be done when I was most vulnerable after her birth. Annalise died in utero when I was about 27 weeks 3 days. After not feeling her move for a day, I went to my doctor to be checked with a fetal monitor. He confirmed what I knew in my heart to be true. When he asked what I wanted to do I said to have a scan to confirm it 100% , plus find out what position she was lying in (she was transverse) and then to be induced. I wanted to be induced to get Annalise out before her body deteriorated from being dead. We wanted to grieve her as our little girl not a mess. So that was how we proceeded. Gel was inserted at 4.30pm.on 13th August and a second dose of gel inserted at 5a.m. on the 14th August. Annalise was born about 6.50am. She had turned during the labor and was born head first. She weighed 560grams which is 1lb 4oz and was 10 inches long.

I was very lucky because I didn't experience any afterbirth pains and my milk didn't come in, whereas before I'd always needed ponstan and panadine forte for the pains, plus I had successfully fed the other children, one even up to seventeen months.

We took Annalise home 6 hours after delivery. This worked extremely well for my family, my children's ages range from 18 years down to 22 months. To me this seemed a natural progression from having carried Annalise for six and a half months. She was our baby and we loved her, why should she have been left at the hospital or in a funeral parlour until her funeral.

My children or any visitors could see her at anytime, but people were never forced to see her. Plus she wasn't a freak to be hidden away. Dressed up in her little dress and bonnet she looked like just a premature baby with all her tiny fingers and toes, even down to all her fingernails and toenails etc.

Our children were never scared of her and would go in and kiss her or touch her. We took lots of photos and a video tape, which we will always treasure- everyone is smiling in them all. We wanted happy memories of her, not sad ones. We didn't handle her too much but this was only because of all the body fluids associated with the open spina bifida.

Three days after her death we had a Catholic Mass where over 100 friends and relatives attended. This was the final part of the grieving process. She is buried in a cemetery with lots of other little babies, and we can put little toys, windmills etc. on her grave, and it looks really lovely.

Because of my strong faith I truly believe I will see Annalise again after I die and that she will be made perfect after the Resurrection, because she was so pure and innocent. I believe my faith helped me to cope better with her eventual death. My husband and children were all supportive of my decision to continue the pregnancy after we found out what was wrong with Annalise, but to me this was never in question. Plus, I felt a termination would have been a terrible example to my children - it would have said to them that if there'd been something wrong with them I would have terminated them as well.

Everyone grieves when they lose a baby or child, but at least there was no guilt on my behalf as I hadn't contributed to her death. I don't smoke, or drink, and I wasn't on any medications, so I'd done nothing to cause her harm. As my obstetrician said "It was an act of God".

Even though we lost her, we all say that we would rather have had Annalise to love and hold than to never have had her or never have conceived her.

Every life comes from God and when the time is right God will take it away. He knew my time with Annalise was enough at 27 weeks 5 days. My faith has increased throughout this experience and I thank God for the opportunity to carry and give birth to little Annalise, our angel in heaven.

Sue Mansfield

I would love to hear from any other mother who has been through the same experience as us, but especially if they live in Australia. I can be emailed at:

E-Mail address:
simonmanz@vision.net.au

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