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Empty Arms

by Christine McClay

Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998

Three weeks ago my husband and I were at the hospital for our 20 week ultrasound. My pregnancy, our first, had been going relatively well. Yes, I had morning sickness, not severe but certainly an annoyance. The sciatica was getting worse as well, but I knew there would be an end in February and a beautiful baby to show for it. However, the perinatologist cut to the chase. "Your baby has a horrible birth defect - anencephaly". He didn't have a brain. From that moment on Robert and I were on autopilot. Though I'm religious, I'm also realistic. We knew that there was no way this poor little boy could ever live on his own, and if we chose to continue the pregnancy something could've happened to me. You know, during the ultrasound we saw his hands and feet, arms and legs, beating heart and movements (though he didn't have a brain, he had a cerebellum which controls the heartbeat and basic movements). Then he looked right at us on the screen. In hindsight, I think he was looking at us almost as if to say, "I know what you have to do and it's ok". We so want a family and what would the point have been to continue the pregnancy and put my own life at risk?

The D&C was performed the next day. Our pastor met us at the hospital to bless Robert and me and our baby boy. We named him Ian. Naming him was probably the wisest thing we did, because his name is all we have. I know that I have a little boy in heaven, an angel to watch over us and help us conceive his siblings. I have to believe that this won't happen again, though in the back of my mind I can't help wondering, "What if?" Though there were complications with the procedure, I went back to work after 1 1/2 weeks, just so that I wouldn't be alone at home. Times alone and nights in bed after Robert has fallen asleep are the worst. I'll never get to see or hold Ian. I still look pregnant and have a number of pregnant friends. I listen to the news and can't believe that there are teenagers out there giving birth to healthy babies and throwing them in garbage cans. We want a child and truly believe that we will be better parents because of this. Life truly is a miracle. The fact that a healthy baby is even born at all is a miracle. The one positive thing that has come of this tragedy, though, is that I know that I married the right man. Losing Ian has brought us closer together and opened up parts of ourselves that the other has never seen. All for the better.

Ian, your Daddy and I love you from the bottom of our hearts - you will always be our #1 son and your name and memory will live on throughout our lives and the lives of your future brothers/sisters. We don't understand why this happened to you, but we know that you're well taken care of now. We can't wait to meet you someday.

Much love, your mother,

P.S. Molly, if you're reading this, you WILL get pregnant again and you WILL have a healthy child. Please think positively. Because of what you went through you'll be a better mother. Talk to people. You'll be surprised at how many people out there, that you know, have gone through something similar. Pray for strength and pray to your baby in heaven for help. Send me an email if you'd like ( My prayers are with you. Please pray for me, too.

Here's an update to "Empty Arms" by Christine McClay from October, 1998.
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999

My only child, Ian, was taken from me on Sept 25, 1998 at 20 weeks because he had a neural tube defect and would be unable to survive. So five months go by, and though my body is ready again to get pregnant, I have this bizarre pain in my left hamstring. I have to take strong pain killers in order to sleep. Since I'm considered high risk, we can't risk getting pregnant again while I'm on the pain medication. To make a long story short, after 1 1/2 - 2 months of life with pain killers and no additional advice from my doctor other than "sciatica", I was finally referred to a specialist and after an MRI and other specialists and another dozen tests, it's discovered that I have a type of cancer of the immune system. A growth inside of my sacrum, which has been putting pressure on the nerves going down my leg. They say that this type of cancer is very responsive to radiation therapy and I should be able to kick it.

However, because they can't block all of the radiation from other areas of my pelvis, my ovaries will cease to function. So we are seeing an infertility specialist, I'm getting daily injections of follicle stimulating hormone and we hope to harvest some eggs by the end of the week to fertilize and store and hope that someday we actually may be able to have a child.

I ask all readers to please keep my husband Robert and me in your prayers. I will kick this thing, but I need to keep a positive attitude and need lots of strength. So will Robert. Then, maybe in a year or two, I will have a positive story to tell about a Baby McClay for a change. Many thanks.

Christine McClay

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