By Caleb’s Mother
I was 23 and didn’t even know I was pregnant at first. I’d told my doctor I was really tired and I was having abdominal cramps. He felt my abdomen, said it was probably my appendix, and if it to erupted to go to the ER. A week later a coworker suggested I take a pregnancy test. In about 30 seconds it didn’t just turn pink, but purple!
Yes, I am a single mom, but I never regretted my son. I had a career and was at a very stable point in my life. By 15 weeks I had already purchased Caleb’s bedroom furniture, set it up in his room, painted little ducks and turtles on the walls, and registered for my baby shower.
I did everything “right” with my pregnancy: ate healthy foods, avoided caffeine, drugs, drinking, and smoking. They gave me a list of prenatal tests to consider and I requested them all. The first test, the so-called DNA “race test” came back negative. Then I took the AFP which also came back negative—something like a was a 1:100,000 chance that something was wrong.
At my first ultrasound they told me it was a boy and then let me leave. They didn’t say they saw a problem. After the appointment I excitedly called everyone and told them I was expecting a boy. I celebrated by shopping for little boy outfits and blankets. Then at about 5 o’clock that evening, I received a call from my genetic counselor.
She told me there was a problem with the umbilical cord and that it wasn’t anything to worry about. I was to come back for another ultrasound in four days. I waited, wondering what was going on. At the next ultrasound everyone was too quiet. The doctor came in an d started showing me everything on the ultrasound monitor. Caleb had an underdeveloped brain, a horseshoe kidney, severe scoliosis, and his heart was turned the wrong way.
I just sat there looking at the doctor and wondering whose baby she was talking about. My baby was fine. I’d seen him on the monitor. I was only there about a minor umbilical cord problem. Then someone grabbed my hand an dI snapped to reality and realized they were talking about Caleb.
They thought Caleb had Trisomy 18 (Edward’s syndrome), so they sent for an amniocentesis. The next two weeks waiting for the results were torture. I was given three options: to carry to term and keep him, to give him up for adoption, or to interrupt the pregnancy. I called every medical person I knew to ask about T-18. I wanted to know if the severity of Caleb’s problems meant that it was best that he remain in heaven. I even called someone on the East Coast that was a friend of a friend who worked in the NICU and I asked her opinion.
I decided to interrupt my pregnancy, but we still had to wait for the amnio results. I decided on a D&E because I did not know what to expect from labor and I did not want to have my first experience of labor to be a sad one.
My amnio came back normal. Caleb had a lot of severe problems, but it wasn’t because of a chromosomal disorder. They didn’t know what caused it.
Because I was 23 weeks pregnant, they recommended I have the KCL injection to stop the baby’s heart. I was given two hours to make this decision, instructed to take some valium and have someone else drive me to the doctor’s office.
The saddest part was having to give up on Caleb, but the day I actually had to go through with it, it became more than words. But when I got there, the doctor asked if I had taken anything. I said I had taken valium like I was told to. He said I couldn’t have the procedure done that day because I couldn’t sign the release papers because of the valium. I was sent home and told to come back the next day.
I wasn’t upset. I was just glad to be given one more day with Caleb.
The next day I went in and had the procedure done, and then went straight to labor and delivery. They were the nicest people. They kept me separated from the other mothers and treated me like a daughter. I delivered Caleb at 6:30 the next morning. He weighed one pound, three ounces, was 12 inches long. A big boy with blond hair.
About eight days later I had to go to the ER because I was bleeding very heavily and was passing large clots. They performed a D&C. I have never been so scared before.
I donated most of Caleb’s things to an organization that helps women escaping abusive relationships. I buried Caleb in a beautiful cemetery. I received Caleb’s final autopsy report and found out more, but not enough. Along with Caleb’s other problems, he had an extra set of ribs, fused back bones, and his facial features were disfigured (not to me, though).
I will never know why this happened to Caleb. They couldn’t find a syndrome. It is hard not knowing. One of the hardest things for me going through this was not understanding what was going on. I felt so helpless and ignorant. So I have returned to school and now I am working towards a Master of Social Work specializing in genetic counseling.
I miss my son every day. I lost the love of my life. But as I tell people, I will gladly live in pain every day for the rest of my life in order to save my son from pain. To me, that’s being a mother. I am his mother and Caleb is my son, forever.