We’d known for a long time that this day was coming. And in a way we felt blessed to have been able to do out best to prepare. Through the passing weeks and doctor visits, we knew our baby’s short but precious life was coming to an end, although we still had no idea when. The waiting and the unknowns were part of what made it so hard. As awful as it sounds, we were ready for our baby to come so that we could move on, move forward. The anticipation was torture. If our baby was so sick, we didn’t want her to suffer anymore. But we had to be patient, we had to trust in God’s timing.
On February 2nd we had an appointment with the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor. All day I just had that gut feeling, that this appointment would be the one. I snapped some pictures of me before, because I just knew this would be the last opportunity for me to take pictures of myself while pregnant with this baby.
The ultrasound tech got us in right away. She was a kind lady, as was everyone at this office. As she began the ultrasound, we knew right away. While our baby had be hard to see at times because of the cysts, you could always see the little heart beating away. But this time there was no movement. And when she turned on the doppler, silence. Juan held my hand. None of us said anything for awhile. Then the tears came. Tears for our little baby that didn’t get to stay with us, but also tears of relief. That she was no longer suffering and that the day had finally arrived. The tech then let us have some time alone and said she was send the doctor in soon. So it was just the two of us, in the dimly lit room, together. For awhile we didn’t say much, just cried together. A sad, but incredibly special moment. We then had to decide what to do going forward, wait a few days or head in to the hospital that night. We both agreed that we were just ready.
We soon met with the doctor, who again was so kind and sympathetic towards us. She let us know what was going to happen and that she’d already contacted my OB. She then went over some blood test results with us, results that would give us some answers to why this had happened. The results showed that our baby had Turner’s Syndrome. Meaning, she only had one X chromosome and that the hydrops + cystic hygroma + heart defect were all connected to this abnormality. Many babies with Turner’s go full term and go on to live normal lives, but because of all the other symptoms that occurred with ours so early on, the likelihood of that was slim. Although the diagnosis sounded grim, it was actually a small miracle. The chances of us having another baby with Tuner’s would be next to none–a huge relief. She gave us a bit more info and then sent us on our way to wait and hear from our doctor. We weren’t quite sure what to do while we waited. We didn’t know whether to let our families know right away, or to give it some time. We sent out a text to our moms, telling them what was going on, and that we were still waiting to here from the doctor. On our way home, we stopped by Target. I wanted to buy a special blanket to hold our baby in, something that would help us remember her. It seemed odd, buying a blanket for a baby who would really never need it. Definitely not a something I ever thought I would have to do.
I got a call from my OB a few hours later. He’d been in contact with the hospital and the earliest they could get us in was 11 PM or the next morning. We figured we probably wouldn’t be able to sleep much anyways so we might as well try to at the hospital. My parents met us at our house later and took us out for pizza and ice cream and helped keep us company. If there’s one thing this baby loved, it was pizza and ice cream so it felt appropriate. When we got back to the house my Dad and Juan gave me a blessing. I felt so grateful for these two men in my life, for their love and their influence. I also felt such an overwhelming peace, knowing everything was going to work out, that things would go as smoothly as they could. That’s one blessing that I felt throughout my pregnancy and especially during the delivery. I’m always a huge worrier, I’m good at freaking myself out and imagining the very worst. But the whole time, I didn’t overthink, I didn’t create irrational fears, and I didn’t feel afraid. Somehow, the Lord gave me strength enough to trust that everything would turn out.
At 11 PM we drove to the hospital. Having never been admitted to a hospital, I had no idea what to expect. I had quite honestly always been terrified of hospitals. This is definitely isn’t the last time I’ll say this, but Banner Dessert completely changed my mind about hospitals and I could not have had a better experience there. Our first nurse, Mary Kay, showed us to our room and helped us get settled. She told us that I would be given a medication every 4 hours that would cause my body to dilate and that in most cases, it took 36-48 hours for it to kick in, so that we should get comfortable. She hooked me up to the IV (not the most pleasant experience), gave me the first dose (also not pleasant), wrapped me in a monitor and told me to try and get some rest. She also brought in a bed for Juan so he wouldn’t have to sleep in a chair–so nice! Even though it was midnight, Juan’s mom stopped by to be with us and it was a nice little distraction. Finally around 1 we decided to try and get some rest. I didn’t sleep too much that night. Partially due to nerves and the uncomfortable IV, but mostly due to the main dog slamming open and shut every 5 minutes. Pain wise though, I hardly felt a thing.
Around 6 AM I was woken up by our daytime nurse, Amie. Amie would end up being one of my favorite humans by the end of the day. She was young and kind and lovely. I was so happy she was there with us! She checked me and told me that I was indeed having contractions, even though I couldn’t feel them. She gave me another dose and told me to order some breakfast. For the next few hours we visited with family who came to pass the time with us. My dad came and chatted with us and my mom brought us Jamba Juice, because she knows the way to my heart. Juan’s family came by too, even Ruby! Even in such a strange and rough situation, it meant everything to be surrounded, literally, by those we love.
Just something to remember Juan’s goal for me. “T-Pain” haha.
And speaking of Juan, he deserves all the gold medals and prizes and awards in the world. He hardly left my side and when he did, it was because he was getting me more ice or more food. He is too good to me and I could not in a million year have done this without him. Again, in such an odd and somber circumstance, I couldn’t help but look over at him and be filled with all the happiness in the world. Around 11, I started feeling things and began to get very uncomfortable. Our visitors headed home and Juan and I watched a movie to try and get my mind off of the pain. Around 12 they checked me again and gave me my third dose. Thankfully things were progressing and it seemed like we may not have to be there 3 days after all. By 1 o’clock I was pretty miserable and was having contractions every 30 seconds. Amie said I could get an epidural whenever I wanted and that it would probably help me to get some rest. Not long after that, I gave her the go-ahead and she brought in the anesthesiologist. She and Juan helped distract me while he did his magic. I was probably the most scared while all this was happening. I didn’t love the pressure on my spine or the thought of it, but it was such a relief. I had the shakes for a few minutes but was finally able to relax and take a nap. Although, I had to have Amie and Juan lift me up because I kept sliding down the bed and I wanted to sleep upright so I could keep progressing.
Around 3:30 Amie checked me again, I was progressing quickly. This time she said she could feel the baby and said wouldn’t be surprised if she came within the hour. She told me what I might feel when the time was close and then went to call the doctor. Not much time had passed when I started to feel pressure, and then both Juan and I heard a tiny pop. My water, or what little amniotic fluid I had, had broken. Now we just had to wait for the doctor.
We had let our moms know that it was close to time and they waited patiently in the lobby. It just felt like a moment I wanted to share between Juan and I. Once the doctor arrived, he, Amie, and another nice red-headed nurse got everything set up. Even though the baby was so small, her cyst was so big and I still had to push. Juan and Amie, my biggest cheerleaders that whole day, were on either side of me holding my legs. I loved that they were there. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did not feel afraid. Whatever strength or bravery I was feeling was not my own. I pushed for about 10 minutes, not quite sure if I was doing anything, but soon enough, our perfect little baby was born.
Mara Marie Zazueta was born on February 3, at 4:45 PM. She weighed 1 lb. 13 oz. and was 11 inches long. I’ll never forget the feeling I had the moment she was born. The biggest wave of relief and happiness and tears. I immediately wanted to see her and hold her and be with her. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way because throughout my pregnancy I didn’t really feel a connection to her. The first time we “met” her in the ultrasound was when we found out she was sick, so I had a hard time knowing how to feel. I was also scared that I wouldn’t want to look at her. We had no clue what she would look like and had prepared ourselves as much as possible, knowing she would not look like a normal baby. But she was perfect. Even at 23 weeks she had the cutest little nose and lips. She even had dark hair. I loved her instantly. I felt like she was mine and although I knew I would never meet her in this life, I felt like I already had. She was familiar. I know that it was only her body, but I felt her spirit so close. I couldn’t help but think of all the times in my life where I’d felt goodness, little magic moments and I know that she was there. She’s been with me all along. I don’t quite know how to explain it.
The gave her to us in the sweetest little basket. For awhile it was just Mara and Juan and I. We held her and talked about her. Cried and laughed together. It’s hard to explain the sorrow we felt, but also the overwhelming peace. I felt God close to us in that moment. In all of these moments. Soon we invited our parents in. Another moment I’ll never forget. It was so heartbreaking seeing our parents grieve for Mara and for us, but it something that brought us even closer. I loved that they got to meet her and be with her. I felt like the more people that saw her, the more real her memory would be. The love in the room was undeniable.
We spent the whole evening with Mara. The hospital and nurses were so good about letting us do what we felt and spending as much time with her as possible. They took her away periodically to help preserve her body and to take pictures and make keepsakes–like a plaster of her tiny hands and feet. I’ll never ever forget their kindness and my nurses were truly angels on earth. I know that God allowed me to be matched up with them specifically. We had a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep who came and took photos for us. Everyone I talked to who had been through something similar could not stress enough to take as many photos as possible. They are truly photos I will cherish forever and something I’ll never regret!
Later that night we were moved to the recovery room, a strangely quiet section of the hospital. Again, we took Mara with us in her little basket. It just felt good to have her close. In the middle of the night, a nurse woke me up to put a chilling blanket inside the basket, again to help preserve her body. The nurse walked over and handed Mara to me so that she could change the blankets. It was such a happy little shock because I hadn’t actually held her without the basket. We had assumed since her body was so fragile that it would be difficult to, but we were so grateful the nurse gave us the opportunity! I immediately woke up Juan so that he could hold her and we could spend more time together, just us three. We spent the whole morning while waiting to get discharged, holding her as much as we possibly could. I loved how eager Juan was to hold Mara and touch her and be with her. The love I felt for both of them in those moments was overwhelming. I had completely polar opposite feelings about leaving the hospital. We were exhausted, in need of a shower, and so ready to sleep in our own bed. But leaving the hospital meant leaving Mara. Leaving the people who took such good care of us, the few people who have memories of her. The nurses assured us that we could come back to the hospital at any time of day to come see and hold Mara again until the funeral services. But that didn’t make things any easier. And in those tough moments I thought about all the strong women in my life, and all the moms everywhere that have had to endure such heartache. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy but it gave me incredible strength knowing that I wasn’t alone.
The days and weeks that followed were hard. It’s still hard. But through it all we know that God is not far away. Mara’s story may have seemed short, but will impact ours forever. She allowed me to be strong in a way that I truly never thought I would be able to. She allowed me to draw closer to my Savior than ever before. She allowed me to feel overwhelming amounts of love towards my husband and family members and has strengthened those relationships. Her perfectness is perfecting me and motivates me every single day to live my life in a way so that I can see her again. And most importantly, she made me a mother, my biggest dream. ❤