Parents: Marcie and James
Hometown: Schertz, Texas
Born at 36 weeks lived a few minutes
Jenna Catherine’s Story
After receiving an abnormal triple-screen, Marcie and James received the news of their daughter Jenna’s diagnosis during a level II ultrasound. Marcie remembers, “Our doctor told us he was 95% sure it was Trisomy 18 even before doing the amnio.” On August 29, 2003 they received the preliminary FISH Test results and found out for certain that their much wanted baby girl had Trisomy 18. “I think I knew deep down all along that something was wrong because everything about my pregnancy was just so weird and different than my first pregnancy.” Marcie recalls, “My weight gain was a lot at first (13 pounds in the first few weeks) and then I stopped gaining.” She was showing so quickly everyone thought they must be having twins.
In considering their options Marcie remembers being sure they would end the pregnancy. The clinic would not permit them to proceed without all the test results. While they waited for the amnio to come back, Marcie changed her mind. “During the two long weeks of waiting for the results I went back and forth on what I should do. I knew deep down I could not live with terminating the pregnancy. Three days before my scheduled appointment to terminate I felt Jenna kick for the first time. To me this was a sign… she made me listen to my heart. So at 19 weeks I decided to carry to term.”
From that point on, at 19 weeks in the pregnancy, Marcie and James began to plan Jenna’s birth. Marcie read other people’s birth plans and then created her own. She talked to all the doctors who would be present at her birth and ran every scenario through her mind. Marcie recalls, “I was prepared. At 36 weeks and 4 days I was induced. Since Jenna was breech, my doctor did not want my delivery to be complicated. The next day was Wednesday, January 14, 2004; I began to dilate and was admitted to the hospital. Labor was very easy since I had been having contractions for four months leading up to Jenna’s birth. I was in active labor only about six hours and never even had to push. As they were taking me to the OR, Jenna just came out… since I had a really great epidural, I felt nothing. Needless to say everyone was surprised.”
Jenna was immediately taken by the pediatrics/neonatology team and cleaned up. Her neural tube defect was bandaged and she was wrapped in a blanket. An hour before she was born her heartbeat was in the 150’s. When they handed her to Marcie it was in the 20’s. “She died in my arms. The OR cleared out, and my husband and I were left to be alone with Jenna. He took lots of pictures for me. I mostly just remember looking at her and telling her ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you’. We got to spend about 30 minutes with her and then I was taken back to my room. The staff just let me hold her the whole time.”
About an hour later the pediatricians came in to declare Jenna deceased. The bereavement nurses bathed and dressed Jenna for Marcie and they had her baptized at that time. James left to go home to be with their older daughter, Jessie. Marcie’s mother and brother arrived at two in the morning to meet Jenna. After they left, Marcie had plenty of alone time with Jenna. She remembers, “Once my epidural wore off I was able to sit in the rocker and just hold her. It was so peaceful and truly a beautiful moment for me. I just sat there and cried over her.”
“Having had such an easy delivery, I was discharged from the hospital a few hours later. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was leave my baby there and walk out of the hospital holding nothing.” The next day (Friday) Marcie and James went to the funeral home and made all of Jenna’s funeral arrangements. Her service was on Monday, January 19th, 2004.
Marcie reflects on the time she had for making preparations for Jenna’s birth, “I made a lot of my decisions after I had read other’s birth plans. I knew from the beginning I did not want Jenna to suffer or be in any kind of pain. My husband and I came to the agreement after many hours of talking and crying that we only wanted comfort care for her. We actually made this decision pretty early on (maybe around 25 weeks or so). I always knew she wouldn’t be coming home with us so I wanted things to be as peaceful as possible while we had her. Once we shared our wishes with the doctors, they all seemed relieved and assured us they would make the best of the time we had with her.”
Marcie struggled a little at first with her faith. “I lost a lot of faith right after the diagnosis. I was so angry and constantly questioning ‘how could this happen to me and my baby?’ After time I began to pray to God to watch over Jenna. I just prayed that he not let her suffer. I understood that she was not meant to stay with us. God did answer my prayers.”
There are many things for which Marcie is thankful. She remembers special people who were so caring and who touched her heart. “Although I never got to make memories of Jenna after she was born, I do have wonderful memories of her while I was pregnant. I will never forget the second level II ultrasound I had. I asked the doctor if she had a cleft palate and he said, “No, she has a beautiful face.’ and he was so right. Also, one of my bereavement nurses made matching bracelets for Jenna and me. This same nurse is the one who took the picture of Jenna with the pink flowers. I will never forget this girl. She had lost her own baby to Trisomy 18 a couple of years ago. That experience obviously made her a better nurse. She was wonderful.
“I am thankful for the 36 weeks and 5 days Jenna was with me. I am so thankful I decided to carry to term because I got to hold this angel in my arms. I am thankful for the Trisomy 18 Support Community because that is what helped me keep my sanity on most days. Because of this organization I was able to meet Shauna who has made this journey a little bit easier for me. Having someone to call and meet with… you just can’t put a price on that.”
Marcie reflects on how having and losing Jenna has changed her family. “My husband James and I have been married for eight years. Jessie is three years old. Jenna was going to be our second and last baby. Now those plans have changed. We are now pregnant with a baby boy who is due to arrive April 10, 2005. According to all the ultrasounds and tests, everything appears to be fine with him. We have always known our children are a blessing, but having lost our Jenna made us realize even more how much a blessing and a gift a child is. We treasure every day we have and know we are so blessed to have such a special angel watching over us all. We got pregnant with Jenna as soon as my husband returned from a five and a half month deployment to Saudi Arabia. To me this was our happy ending to his being gone. It was his second deployment since our first daughter had been born. We just thought everything was finally falling into place… but we didn’t get our happy ending.”
“I learned that right after the diagnosis you should not make life-changing decisions. We tried to make decisions in the first few days, but once the shock wore off that all changed.” Marcie would advise anyone who follows on this path after her to face the grief and anger head on because it will always be there. “I am doing surprising well at this point in my journey with Jenna, although it has only been a year since she is gone. I continue to go to counseling. I continue to honor Jenna’s memory daily. I talk about her when anybody will listen. I have also made a memory garden in my backyard for her. It is a place for me to go and sit when I am really missing her.”
Marcie shares the tribute she wrote that was read at Jenna’s funeral service:
A Tribute To Jenna Catherine
As we gather here today, I want to begin by thanking you all for being part of this celebration of Jenna’s life. Although her life was not lived the way I had hoped, her life was something I treasured every minute she was with me. Today as I say good-bye to her, I know she is in a place that is free of pain and she will live in peace. I know every day she will watch over me, James, and Jessie.
I know none of you got to know Jenna the way I did, but I know you all know what a truly special little girl she is. There are many reasons I was given this angel. Jenna taught me the meaning of unconditional love. Jenna taught me the true meaning of a mother’s love. Even though I knew early on of her diagnosis and medical problems, it didn’t change anything I envisioned for her. I have dreamed of her as a baby, a toddler, growing up through the years… I have dreamed of her playing with her sister Jessie… I have dreamed of her first words, first kisses and hugs for us all. Not only have I lost my precious baby, I have lost those dreams. Even though I have lost so much, I still feel I am truly blessed because I got to experience holding an angel in my arms.
Today as I bury my Jenna, it gives me comfort in knowing she will be in heaven with my Dad. I now envision him sitting up there holding this sweet baby wrapped in her beautiful blanket and wearing her little pink outfit. I know he will take care of her, and she will take care of him. My Dad never got to know his grandchildren so Jenna is special in that she will get to spend eternity with him. What will get me through every day from here on out is knowing that my angel is up there with my other angel.
Again I thank you all for coming out today to celebrate Jenna. To James I want to say thank you for giving me the two most beautiful daughters anyone could ever imagine. We have had a tough journey the last few months, but I know we will make it through. I love you and again I thank you for understanding my need to carry Jenna for as long as it was possible. Holding her in my arms is the greatest gift you could ever give me. To my Mom I want to say thank you for all your love and support over the last few months. My girls are so fortunate to have a grandmother who loves them so much. I will never forget you sitting there holding Jenna and looking at her as if she were your own baby. To my dear friends… Heather, Brandy, Wendy, and Olivia… who always found the time to call or E-mail me to see how I was doing. Thank you for being there for me and for the love you showed my baby by your expressions of friendship and the tears you cried for my child. To Shauna I want to say thank you for being there when I needed someone to talk to. This journey has been made a little easier having someone to talk to who is traveling down the same road as me. It gives me comfort knowing your precious Jackson and my sweet Jenna are up there in heaven with all the other babies who have been chosen to be special angels.
Jenna will always be part of our family. Jessie will be raised knowing who her sister is and why she was chosen to be an angel. Although our family has suffered a tremendous loss with Jenna, our lives are just that much better because we got to experience her even though it was just for a little while. To Jenna I just want to say I love you and miss you terribly. I will never forget the time I spent with you, holding you, looking at you, talking to you, and rocking you. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift… you. As I say good-bye to you just know it is only temporary… as our paths will cross again one day. Please watch over me and let me know you are there. I love you baby.