I have something a little different to share with you today. Earlier this spring I had the honor of meeting Aubry and photographing her family through their experience. I wanted to give Ariana a chance to tell Aubry's story exactly how she wanted it told. I'm so glad Ariana and Ben has chosen to share her with the world, and for asking me to document their experience. This family is so strong, and amazing, and Aubry Rose is a very special girl. Thank you, Ariana and Ben.
"On August 31, 2013, the day after my husband Ben’s 31st birthday, the positive pregnancy test told us our family of 4 would become a family of 5. Our children Noah (4) and Everly (2) had been asking when we would finally get them a baby brother (or sister…but a brother according to Noah) and we loved announcing our new “pumpkin” due to arrive May 2014.
When the four of us went in for the 2nd trimester anatomy ultrasound on December 19, the day of our 9th wedding anniversary, pink or blue were the only “surprise” we were anticipating. We found out our baby was a girl, but when my doctor came in, she sat down, looked me in the eye, and calmly explained they detected a major heart defect. I was so shocked I asked, “So she might have a defect…but maybe not? You aren’t really sure are you?” Yes, she said, the baby definitely had a hole in her heart and continued talking about baby’s measurements being less than 2%, meaning a possible marker for other conditions, mentioning words like “Down syndrome” and “dwarfism”. Through my uncontrollable tears, we arranged tests and appointments with specialists to find out exactly what to expect.
One week later, the day after celebrating Christmas, I went for a specialized ultrasound. The doctor had more bad news: yes, she had a heart defect, and also a stomach defect called duodenal atresia (a partial or complete blockage between the stomach and small intestines). Also…he strongly suspected Down syndrome. Twenty-four hours after the amniocentesis, we had our answer: yes, she did have Down syndrome.
The specialist explained what the conditions meant, his concerns for her viability, and the multiple surgeries she would need at birth if she did survive. It felt like the world fell apart. All the excitement about our new baby was drained and replaced with uncertainty how long she would live, concern about her life beginning with surgeries and pain, worry about raising a special needs child, and grief over the ways our family would be influenced. It was a strained, exhausting season as reality sunk in.
Then…slowly, our outlooks changed. We still felt shattered, but determined not to be stuck in mourning for what could have been. We began gathering information on her conditions, meeting with specialists, learning about the care she would need. My weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests showed her growing and doing better than expected and the doctors were reassuring that she was doing well, so it became “when” she arrived rather than “if”. We prayed and made room in our hearts and our home, anticipating her arrival. Noah & Everly’s excitement about their sister was contagious. They talked about her constantly and chatted with her throughout the day. It began to feel less like a crisis, and more like part of our story. By the time she reached full term, we were truly excited about meeting our daughter and looking forward to her induction date.
Monday, April 28 was my final appointment before scheduled induction on Friday, May 2. I was dilated 4 cm and having consistent contractions, but my doctor sent me on my way with a cheery “We’ll probably see you in labor before May 2!” By that night, contractions were uncomfortable enough that we re-booked grandma’s flight and put a friend who would help with our kids on alert.
On Tuesday, labor grew more intense. That afternoon when Ben walked in the door, I turned him around and we headed to labor & delivery, texting friends and the photographer it was “go time!” Triage took one look at me and checked me in to a delivery room at 6:02 pm. The external monitor was not getting a great read on the baby’s heart tones, so without time for an epidural, the doctor broke my water to attach a fetal scalp monitor. Everything was a scramble of activity - a call for ultrasound machines and an OR to be prepped - overlaid with immense pain. Her heart rate was decelerating and the doctor decided on a crash C-section at 6:14 pm. I was put under general anesthesia as the fastest way to get the baby out. Aubry Rose was born at 6:22 pm. The NICU team spent 15 minutes, 20 seconds attempting to resuscitate her. Ben held his daughter for 30 minutes until I regained consciousness.
My husband brought my daughter over and placed her in my arms. Later, Ben gave her a bath; nurses weighed, measured her, and made footprints. She was 4 lbs, 11 oz and 18.5 inches long. She felt petite and delicate. We held her and cried. Noah & Everly met their sister and laughed at how tiny her feet were. Noah told us later he was blushing because he was so in love.
At Aubry’s memorial on May 6, I read this letter to her:
I was so ready to be your mom. To finally see you after staring at so many grainy ultrasounds trying to make out what you would look like.
It was all over before I woke up. My body hurt, my neck hurt, and a nurse was leaning so close to my face saying, “Your baby didn’t make it. She’s gone.” They said I kept asking “Really? Are you sure?” because that was not supposed to be the outcome. That’s why we watched you so closely and drove to the best hospital that could care for you. From the time we arrived at the hospital, full of nervous energy from labor, to the time you were born, to the time they declared you gone – less than 30 minutes. That’s such a shock to change the plan we were creating for our lives with you.
The comfort is, while we were surprised by what happened, God wasn’t. He was ready for you all along. And while I am SO thankful you had no pain and avoided so much suffering, it has caused me so much pain and suffering to lose you. But in that, I feel like I am able to be your mom. Because what parent wouldn’t take those on themselves instead of their child.
I read in Habakkuk 3:18 “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” So...I will choose joy. I will choose to turn towards God, even if I can’t see Him. To let God’s story for my life, Aubry’s life - the bigger story - define me. Not chasing the life I will never have, or letting this tragedy define me.
Now we are learning to mourn as we go on living, turning towards God and each other in the tragedy. I am thankful I was able to hold her, kiss her face and hands and rub her back, and for Ashley taking these beautiful pictures to remember her. We are grateful for the love people give as we share her story, putting words to the pain; and we are hopeful for the future as the rest of her story is unfolds."