After the wedding, you are asked, “When are you two having kids?” Then once you find out you are pregnant, you tell a few close family members and friends. Trying not to get too excited, you start to envision yourself as a mother. You are told, “You are going to be the best mother.” You begin embracing every minute of being pregnant. You listen to your body as told. You try to keep a healthy diet and ignore those cravings as much as possible. You take your prenatal vitamin every day as advised. You remain active to try to feel good and minimize any unnecessary weight gain. You try to get adequate sleep and drink plenty of water.

You do everything you can to take care of that growing baby inside of you.

But sometimes, this is not enough. Sometimes, rare situations occur, and you are faced with one of the toughest decisions you’ve ever had to make.

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I was 10-weeks pregnant and scheduled for our first ultrasound. My husband and I went into the appointment excited and anxious to see our little one. Everyone told us, “Your heart will melt when you see your baby and hear the heartbeat for the first time.”

What people did not tell us was what could be.

The ultrasound technician did an external and internal ultrasound. She asked that we wait while she verified that she had enough pictures for the doctor. After 10 minutes, she came out and asked us to wait 20 minutes for the doctor to discuss the ultrasound. We thought nothing of this at the time.

The doctor came in, sat down, and said, “Unfortunately, I have some bad news.” She told us our baby had exencephaly, a precursor to anencephaly. This is a rare neural tube defect that prohibits the brain and skull from fully forming. This condition is not compatible with life. Anencephaly can be caused by genes passed by the parents, by environmental conditions, or a combination of both. A baby with this diagnosis is either miscarried, is stillborn, or passes away a few hours following birth.

With this devastating news, we found it hard to see through the tears and hear through the heavyweight that had just been put on us. But we listened to our options and tried to keep it together. We are told we had the option to early terminate, wait for miscarriage (which may not occur), or go full term knowing the baby will die shortly after birth.

I knew I could not put our baby or my body through more and ultimately, delay the inevitable. Going back and forth and struggling to accept this decision, I knew early termination was the only viable option for everyone.

I wished I could have miscarried.

I felt a miscarriage would be easier to accept knowing God took our baby away naturally. The pain of losing a baby, no matter how it occurs, is never easy. But having to walk into a procedure like this is something that truly hardens you.

Days after the procedure, I felt alone in this pain, in this sorrow, and in this grief. Because this procedure is a touchy subject and not many freely discuss, it leaves people feeling lost for words and unsure how to react to you.

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Realizing no one can release you from this pain is a horrible feeling. You, unfortunately, have to navigate this new world, this new view of life without your baby. Whether or not you experienced a loss with your spouse by your side or not, we all must deal with the loss in our own way.

I have suffered from anxiety and depression majority of my life.

I feared having postpartum depression after giving birth, but I never thought I would have to worry about depression much sooner . . . and without a baby in my arms.

It has been a struggle seeing my husband carry on his workdays. I wish there were a switch or indefinite way to know how to carry on. Trying to accept something so incomprehensible is difficult, but to accept something you still cannot believe happened, seems unreachable at this time.

I feel guilty for moving forward without my baby. I feel scared for our future and when I will be ready to discuss trying again. I do know that with time, the grief and pain lessen or dim, but I will always carry this burden in my heart. I will forever carry my baby in my heart. And one day, I will get to hold my baby in my arms and say hello. Until then . . . 

Ashlee Hunter

34-year-old contract administrator, freelance writer, mother to an angel baby, stepmother to two boys, and dedicated wife. She graduated from Rhode Island College in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Southern New Hampshire University in 2016 with a Master of Business Administration. She has always worked more than one job as juggling is her forte. She has been through a lot in her short 34 years of life but wants to begin sharing her stories with people who may benefit from hearing them. Hopefully with this being the first excerpt of many!