I would like to share with you a story of the life of our daughter Abigail Renee Wheat. Throughout our marriage, my wife and I had discussed several times the idea of having children. In September of 2001, we decided that we were ready to try to start a family. On February 28th 2002, after several pregnancy tests, we discovered that we were expecting our first baby. Katie, my wife, called our Nurse Midwife to let her know of the results. She asked Katie if she wanted to come in and get her blood drawn to verify the results. Katie and Jessie (her mother) went to the hospital that evening to have her blood drawn at the lab. The nurse midwife called her back within an hour, at 10:30pm, to let her know that the results were positive. That was the most incredible feeling of elation and joy.
We were both so excited about the results that we began immediately looking for baby names and bedroom items. We must have spent hours on end at Babies ‘R Us. We had no problem deciding on a boy’s name. The girl’s name, however, was a completely different story. Finally, one night Katie was just rattling names off of the top of her head (or out of a book, I’m not quite sure). She happened to say the name Abigail. It seemed to strike a chord, so that was it. We had decided. We had both always liked the name Renee, and it seemed a natural fit for a middle name. That first couple of months was the happiest of our lives. We bought one of those “home use” ultrasound listening devices and used it nearly every night on the off chance that we might hear heart tones at home.
At 16 weeks, during Katie’s routine monthly check-up, the Nurse Midwife drew blood for an AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) test. This was explained as just “one of those routine tests” that everyone has drawn. We did not think much of it at the time. About a week later, in May of 2002, Katie received a phone call from our Nurse Midwife. The AFP results had come back abnormally. The results indicated an increased risk for Trisomy 18, also known as Edward’s syndrome. I was at work that night, so Katie immediately called her mother, Jessie. After calling me at work to tell me the results, and telling me where she was going, she left to meet her mother. They met at the hospital where Jessie works as a maternal-child nurse. They perused some of the maternity books available on the floor at the hospital only to find very grim statistics. Approximately 90% of babies with Full Trisomy 18 die before birth. Of those that are born alive, only 50% will live for one month, with only 10% surviving for a full year.
I began my own search to find out about Trisomy 18. I was working as a nurse on the orthopedic floor of the hospital. That night happened to be very quiet, so I took an early lunch and hit the computers. I found article after article relating to Trisomy 18. Unfortunately, everything I found was written (and rightly so, considering that I work in a hospital) for medical professionals, not expectant parents. With each new article, and each identical set of statistics, I grew more frantic and uncertain.
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