Losing Zachary

The more observant of you will have noticed that my blogging over the past month hasn’t been as prolific as normal. I’m now in a position to tell you what’s been occupying us for the past month and give you an opportunity to meet, and say goodbye, to our second son.

At the back-end of August we went for a routine 12 week scan for our new pregnancy. At the scan the physicians noticed that the baby had a large nuchal fold, the indicator of either a chromosomal abnormality of structural issues with the major organs. We had a blood test done for hormone levels which came back less than two days later indicating very low amounts of the normal hormones that are present in a pregnant woman. We were offered a placenta biopsy, an invasive technique where a sample of the placenta is taken and then analysed (as a baby’s placenta is genetically identical to the baby itself). Although the procedure comes with a slight risk of miscarriage, we were told from the bloods and nuchal fold analysis that there was already a large chance that the pregnancy would abort early. After prayer we decided to go for the biopsy and in the process experienced the NHS at its best, as we spoke to our specialist midwife at 10:30 in the morning and within five minutes had an appointment in one of the leading hospitals in London for two that afternoon.

That was on a Thursday, and we spent an anxious weekend waiting for the preliminary results which came back late Monday afternoon. We had a boy, but he had Edwards Syndrome (also known as Trisomy 18). Edwards Syndrome is a chromosomal condition where an extra copy of the 18th chromosome is present in many cells of the body. Later results would show that our son had a full Trisomy, which means that the genetic error occured on the first division of the newly fertilised cell, so every single cell in his body was corrupted.

The bottom line is that a full Trisomy 18 is fatal. Over half of Edwards children don’t make it to birth and for those that do the life expectancy is not even in days, but hours. In the light of this we were offered (in a professional and non-judgemental fashion) a termination, but as parents who trust Jesus and who believe in God’s sovereignty over our life and death, after checking that there was no danger to Gayle if we continued the pregnancy we decided to carry our son for as long as it took.

So as August closed we named our new boy Zachary Andreas (“God has remembered”, “Man”) and began the journey of preparing to give him life and watch him die. To say that the last five weeks have been hard would be an understatement. We have cried and cried. We have had good days but we have also had terrible nights yet throughout it all, even at the hardest moments, we have somehow known God’s presence and that we made the right choice in choosing to go through this time of suffering.

Zachary at 17 Weeks
Zachary this Friday at 17 weeks – He probably died about a week previously

This Friday we went to the hospital for a scan to see how Zachary was growing and discovered that his heart had stopped. To be honest, the first thing that hit me was a wierd mixture of grief and relief, grief that my son had died and relief that it had happened now rather than later. I think that’s a common feeling of parents who have gone through what we have and that’s OK. By any account, delivering a child that you know will die when you’ve gone full term is not an experience I envy of anybody. I know one or two couples that have chosen to do it and my respect for them is immense. We were prepared to do likewise, but it was not to be.

These next few days are going to be really tough for us and we’d value your prayers immensely. First Gayle is going to have to be induced to deliver Zachary and that may take three days or longer. Then we have to arrange a funeral and formally let go of our son into God’s gracious hands. I’ve done more than my share of kid’s funerals and now I know that unspeakable feeling that lies in the eyes of all the mothers and fathers that I’ve been with at those sad times.

I know many of you will want to share your good wishes for us. Please accept my apology now if I don’t give you a personal response but I do appreciate your love and care at this time.

I’ll leave you with a piece of music that I think sums up where we are right now and I’ll be back with you properly in a week or so.

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