Catherine Cares
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Posted By: Lauren Turley, Creator of CatherineCares.org on Jan 12, 2017

Catherine Cares
 

In the summer of 2014, I learned I was pregnant with our second child. My husband, Wayne, and I were shocked yet thrilled by this happy news! Our daughter, Madeline, was going to be a big sister. She had no idea what this meant, but she was ready for the challenge!

Fast forward to September 22. We had our 20-week ultrasound appointment that day. At the last minute, I asked my in-laws to watch Madeline. From our experience being pregnant with Madeline, we knew this ultrasound tends to take longer than a typical appointment. I figured a 17-month-old probably would struggle to be entertained for that length of time. I picked Wayne up from work and we went to the hospital. We discussed and agreed we did not want to know the sex of the baby until he/she is born. We were appropriately anxious, but confident everything would turn out just like Madeline's 20-week ultrasound: "You have a healthy baby, Mr. & Mrs. Turley. Here are your baby's first pictures. Enjoy your evening."

While the very sweet ultrasound technician, Cassie, was taking pictures of our baby, we were making small talk with her. At first she was very talkative, but that started to change as the ultrasound progressed. Wayne noticed Cassie had stopped talking and began watching her and the monitor. He saw her wipe her eyes a few times. Clueless, I continued to make small talk.

Cassie said the baby wasn't cooperating. She said she was going to give the baby a break and come back in a few minutes. Or, she would send in a colleague to see if she would be able to get the baby to cooperate. I felt this was kind of odd, and not like what we experienced with Madeline, but I wasn't alarmed. Wayne on the other hand was starting to worry. He kept these thoughts to himself.

Cassie didn't come back. Rather, a second ultrasound technician entered named Cathy. Cathy was very nice, but much less talkative than Cassie. After a little while, Wayne asked, "Is everything OK?" Her response, "Well, we have a few concerns." Being a technician she couldn't tell us exactly what was going on, but she also didn't want to lie to us. I became an emotional mess. We didn't know it at the time, but a doctor was also monitoring the ultrasound in the office area. I remember Cathy grabbing my leg as I lay on the table saying, "We will be with you every step of the way."

The doctor came in. As it turns out, I know her. Our families have known each other since we were little. I had heard she was a high-risk OB so I knew I never wanted to see her when it comes to one of my babies. Yet there she was, standing in front of us and we still didn't really know why. When she walked in she didn't recognize me right away. She knew my maiden name, but not my married name. She wasn't expecting to recognize me. I spoke before she could. I said, "Laura. Lauren Bommarito." Her shoulders dropped as she then knew exactly who I was. She also had a sorrowful look on her face as she knew she was about to crush us. She was right.

Laura sat down. Cassie had come back into the room and was sitting by me rubbing my back and handing me tissues. Wayne and I were holding hands. This is definitely not what happened at Madeline's 20-week ultrasound. Laura began to speak to us. Her tone was soft yet concerned. I don't remember exactly what was said. What I do remember is she listed six major concerns with our baby's health.

Six. Six big issues.

What was most concerning for Laura was the combination and quantity of complications. Her fear was that our baby had a chromosome defect. This would most likely mean a miscarriage, a still birth, or a short life-span with significant special needs.

This was a lot to take in but Wayne and I both wanted to know what the next steps were. Laura suggested three options:

  • Do nothing and wait to find out what we are dealing with when our baby is born.
  • Perform an amniocentesis where they would put a needle in to my uterus to draw amniotic fluid. The fluid contains the baby's cells. They would analyze the baby's chromosomes from these cells and they would be able to tell us if we are dealing with a Trisomy diagnosis or not.
  • A procedure could be performed to gather placenta blood, but we were cautioned the amniocentesis produced more reliable results.

We didn't have to decide at that moment. They knew we were overwhelmed and shocked. I wasn't really sure what to think or do. I couldn't absorb or process everything we had just heard. I could not stop crying. I'm not usually a big public crier. But, between the horrific and unexpected news we had just received and the pregnancy hormones I didn't have a chance at keeping it all in.

Throughout all of this, I couldn't stop thinking about our Madeline. As Laura shared more and more information with us and I became more and more upset, I couldn't stop thinking about our sweet little girl. How can I be a good mom during all of this? Madeline deserves to have a happy home life even though we are devastated and heartbroken. How am I to insure she gets that? How am I going to have the energy to meet her needs? How am I going to have the energy to have our dance parties and tickle sessions?

With our new support team's help, we decided this was enough for one day. We would be in touch regarding our decision on next steps. But for now, it was time to go. We left the hospital to go home and began talking about how to share this horrific new with our families and eventually our friends.

When we got home we walked into the house together. Madeline was glad to see us. She gave us big hugs... exactly what we needed. She asked to eat. I jumped right into action getting her dinner. This gave me the confidence and reassurance that I could take care of her even though I was devastated. She became my focus. A focus I desperately needed.

As our sad news began to spread among our family and friends, people wanted to offer help in any way they could. But what? One afternoon, we received a call from a friend. She was outside of our house with food. FOOD! I couldn't remember the last time I had been to the grocery store, a chore I usually don't enjoy even when my life isn't in shambles, and we were running low on just about everything. We were thrilled to have something already made. We didn't have to worry about dinner that night. This simple gesture meant the world to us. She filled a need we didn't even realize we had during this time of uncertainty.

We decided the amniocentesis was the best option for us. We needed answers and this was the best way to get those answers. The amniocentesis was scheduled for the following week. While the procedure was only 3 minutes long, it was a long 3 minutes for me. Once it was completed, we had to wait... again...

A couple of days after the amniocentesis, my phone rang. I recognized the number. It was someone from the hospital calling. I felt sick. I knew this was the preliminary results phone call. I answered the phone. It was the genetic counselor. She had the results. She seemed perky, but I wasn't willing to believe she had good news. I asked her to hold on a moment so I could get Wayne in the other room. As I told him, "The genetic counselor is on the phone," I began to cry knowing our baby's fate was about to be shared with us. Wayne took the phone.

It felt like she was taking forever to get to the diagnosis... or no diagnosis. I began to shake. Finally, she said it.

"We have confirmed your baby has a trisomy 18 diagnosis. Your baby has an extra chromosome 18."

All I could do was cry. We knew what this meant for our baby.

Wayne then asked what the sex of our baby is. A little girl. Madeline has a sister. A sister she will not get to grow old with. I have two sisters. I did not care if we were having a boy or a girl. But since I have experience with sisters, I was crushed to know my little girls aren't going to be able to borrow clothes from each other, giggle together, and become best friends. I have cried a great deal over the last two weeks, but knowing that Madeline has a sister, a sister who has so many complications, made me inconsolable.

The counselor could hear my sobs. She knew we were crushed and politely gave her condolences and we hung up.

Wayne and I hugged and cried. Our worst nightmare had come true. Why was this happening?

Our Catherine Marie was born at 33 weeks on December 30, 2014. She lived for an hour.

Our friends and family felt so helpless. They couldn't take away our pain. But what they could do was help us with our basic needs; take something off our very full plate.

After Catherine's funeral, meals started to appear at our front door. Unbeknownst to us, a family member coordinated meals for us through Take Them a Meal. For two full months, delicious meals were delivered by family, friends and even friends of friends. These meals were often accompanied with a lovely note giving us comfort during this trying time of figuring out our new normal. It might seem simple... food... but when your world has been shaken in an unbelievable way, having assistance with your basic needs is extremely helpful in getting you back into a new routine.

As a way to help others who may be going through a difficult prenatal journey, we started a non-profit called Catherine Cares. Catherine Cares provides restaurant and fuel gift cards as well as Heartbeat Bears to families of children facing a devastating diagnosis. To learn more about Catherine Cares, visit: catherinecares.org.

If we cannot have Catherine here with us, her short life is helping to uplift families every single day.

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