Woman carries baby to term just to hold her for a few hours
Abbey and Robert Ahern had met shortly after high school, fell in love, and soon were married.
Not long after the wedding, Abbey got pregnant. Except for some minor blood pressure problems, this and her second pregnancy both went smoothly.
When the couple found out that Abbey was pregnant for a third time, they were delighted.
When they went for a routine ultrasound in the 19th week, Abbey and Robert didn't want to find out the baby's gender. They knew that, no matter boy or girl, they would love it just the same.
As the couple looked at the image of the fetus on the ultrasound, they counted its tiny toes and fingers and chatted with the technician. But suddenly the technician stopped talking and a very serious look came over her face.
Abbey and Robert waited anxiously for some kind of explanation. The technician called in the doctor who began to examine the images. Unfortunately, his diagnosis confirmed the technician's worst fear.
The doctor turned to the couple and told them as delicately as possible what he had seen: "What I have to tell you isn't easy. Your baby has anencephaly." In other words, the baby had no brain and was missing the top of its cranium. It would only live for a few hours after birth.
Abbey and Robert were devastated and immediately decided to ask about the baby's sex. When they found out it was a girl, it didn't take long for them to choose a name: Annie, which means "grace."
In situations like these, the parents are always heartbroken, and some will choose to terminate as a mercy to the baby, who in these cases is most likely to die in the womb. Sometimes for the health of the mother as well. Unfortunately for most people though, late-term abortion isn't available where they live.
But after a long period of soul-searching, Abbey — who is deeply religious and struggled with the idea of abortion — decided to go a different route.
Abbey and Robert decided to carry Annie to term and give birth to her.
One reason was that they wanted to donate Annie's organs, which all appeared to be healthy.
From that point on, it took all of Abbey's strength to get through the rest of the pregnancy. Fortunately Robert was able to support her every step of the way.
It was a very trying time and every decision was difficult. Eventually the time came to choose an outfit for Annie to wear after the birth. Abbey was overwhelmed considering that this would be the only outfit her daughter would ever wear.
Abbey and Robert also prepared their other children for the birth. They explained that their sister would look very different, and that she wouldn't be with them for very long. But they wanted the whole family to be together for as long as Annie was alive. They wanted Annie to be surrounded by love during her brief life.
When the big day came, Annie was delivered by C-section.
The family welcomed its newest member and, amazingly, the prevailing mood was not what you would expect. "No one was sad. We were all so happy," remembers Abbey.
They shared some precious moments together, with Abbey reading Annie and her sisters a nursery rhyme while Robert held his newborn daughter's hand.
But Annie grew weaker by the hour and it was clear that she didn't have much longer to live.
And when it was time for Annie to go, Abbey held her in her arms and stroked her head as she took her final breaths.
But when Abbey saw that her child was no longer breathing, she panicked and called for the nurse. It was an instinctual reaction from a mother whose baby had just died. A moment later, however, Abbey realized that this was the inevitable thing she'd prepared herself for, for months.
After 14 hours of life, Annie died surrounded by her loving family.
When it was all over, Abbey and Robert held their daughter one last time and then placed her on the examining table. It was time to say farewell.
Unfortunately, Annie's blood did not contain enough oxygen to support her organs properly and they couldn't be used for transplants. The couple donated them for medical research instead.
Abbey and Robert didn't wait long to try again and soon Abbey was pregnant again. This time the pregnancy went smoothly and she gave birth to Iva, an adorable little redhead.
And as a tribute to little Annie, they even have this beautiful slideshow...
Their's wasn't a choice everyone would make, and that's understandable. But for Abbey and Robert it was the right one and it clearly did their family good to follow through with it.
When it comes to family, there's simply no one right size, shape, or answer!