Guest post: When things go very wrong with a pregnancy

This is a guest post by Stephanie Arzi, who describes herself as a Church member, social worker and the author of  “High risk pregnancy and foetal diagnosis; your journey.”

My name is Stephanie and I am a convert to the church which I joined at almost 20. Having children and raising a family had always been one of my great wishes.  In 2002, my husband and I had decided to have another baby with the other two we had. This was just before Christmas. I remember taking my temperature and telling my husband the ‘day’ would be January 8. Indeed it was, and I waited a couple of weeks before doing a pregnancy test at my doctor’s. I remember having mixed feelings and couldn’t quite pinpoint why.

I was really excited to have the 18-week scan done. I guess our main concern was to decide whether or not we should ask the sex of the baby. Over the course of the ultrasound, I had three different doctors looking at the baby, and I assumed they were not very good at working their machines. It never occurred to me that my baby could be sick. No, not my baby, I was a healthy 25-year-old with two previous perfect pregnancies; how could anything be wrong with my baby? I remember sitting in a small office wondering what kind of problems my baby could have? An extra finger? Down syndrome? What kind of operation would she need? The doctor was really sorry and announced that my baby had some kidney disease and would die at birth, if she even survived until then. Then, I don’t really remember what happened.

I know I saw at least three doctors who all told me different things and was given many choices but I left knowing I had to come back the next day to see a genetic counsellor and discuss a termination. The next night was endless. Nobody around us could understand what the “big fuss was about. It was only a fetus; an abortion was the best thing to do for all of us. We could try again; we had other children…” I was devastated. My baby was alive and I loved her, I couldn’t contemplate having a termination, just because some doctors I had never met thought she had a kidney disease… My beliefs as an LDS member were sound and clear. This was my baby, sent to me for a purpose and I would find out what that purpose was.

We decided to go on with the pregnancy. The pregnancy was happy enough. We told our children that the baby was sick, that her body was broken but that her spirit was really happy and special and that she would go and live with Jesus. They seemed content with that.  On August 13 2002 early in the morning and after two days of unexplained contractions at only 34 weeks gestation, Talina was born in our home. She lived for an hour before she fell asleep in my arms.

I became extremely curious as to why I had seen and read so many information packs about prenatal testing in libraries, bookshops and doctors’ surgeries and none at all on carrying a child with an abnormality despite the fact that this affects three per cent of pregnant women every year worldwide.  I began to realize that there was a taboo surrounding long-term or fatal diagnoses in our society.   About 6 months after Talina’s birth and death, I developed, with my sister Caroline, a website for families who were going through such a pregnancy and launched a support group named “Families Forever” which can be found at www.stephanieazri.com.

After much praying and reflecting, I felt that I may be able to provide support for families by writing a book for parents currently expecting a baby with a poor diagnosis. And so I did write that book.  “High Risk Pregnancy and Foetal Diagnosis; your journey” was published by Free Association Books in 2006. High-risk pregnancy and foetal diagnosis: your journey was intended as a practical, useful and supportive guide for parents who found themselves confronted with a poor prenatal diagnosis and a resource for professionals in the field. It outlined the common issues, questions, and options families may have. And finally it also had spiritual and strengthening accounts of women who went through this experience, both who terminated and carried to term.

I no longer wonder what Talina’s purpose was. I know she was sent to me so I could use this trial to help my brothers and sisters through their own experiences. I acknowledge as an LDS clinical social worker that prenatal diagnosis issues are misunderstood by our society. Families who receive a prenatal diagnosis love their babies already; they are devastated whichever option they chose and the impact of this diagnosis will remain with them for the remainder of their lives.  As a whole church, we can make a difference by supporting and acknowledging our sisters who have received a prenatal diagnosis and refer them to appropriate resources and support groups. To parents who have lost a baby, I hope you find the support that you need, and know that you will always be welcome in our support group.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

11 thoughts on “Guest post: When things go very wrong with a pregnancy

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. We had our own set of trials with builiding our family, and thru those expereinces I learned that there are so many different things that can happen during a pregnancy. I know your expereince will bless many lives. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom with M* readers. What a hard trial to endure. Thank you for having the courage and tenacity to launch your website, write a book and seek to help others. This is truly “mourning with those that mourn”.

  3. Thank you for your kind words. At times, I struggled accepting that it was in God’s plan to let Talina die, but I know deep down that it’s ok. We both agreed to it and knowing that God’s plan is so perfect that things will work out, no matter what that means.

    I hope that your trials all turn into lessons and blessings soon!

  4. What a wonderful deicsion. I have watched very heartbroken and numerous friends of mine have gone through this experience. Finding support in those times is so helpful (as a woman who had 7 m/cs I can appreciate that feeling of being alone when things go wrong and others can’t really relate.) I applaud your decision, turning those personal experiences into opportuntities to help and support others goign through challenges.

  5. I would love to read your book, my experience almost paralled yours, with discussions among my children of a very similar nature. They still frequently discuss and openly embrace their brother who we lost. It was a long hard year and I tried to make the best of it in accepting God’s will. Sharing our experiences is one of the best things to help further understanding and support for others. thank you for your strong desire to help!

  6. I began to realize that there was a taboo surrounding long-term or fatal diagnoses in our society. About 6 months after Talina’s birth and death, I developed, with my sister Caroline, a website for families who were going through such a pregnancy and launched a support group named “Families Forever” which can be found at http://www.stephanieazri.com.

    Wish you well with that.

  7. Stephanie I got a chance to take a look at your website. It is very informative and honest. Very worthwhile to anyone who has/will suffer such a loss.

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful picture of your family including your daughter Talina. What a blessing to know what her earthly vessel and to have the photos.

    Once again thanks for your post on M*.

  8. @JA Benson
    Thank you. I plan on adding more information but I don’t want to overload it either. When I look at the pictures of Talina, it seems like a dream, sometimes it seems almost un-real.. I am glad I am 7 years later and not going through it. It was the worse experience I had to go through and this is this knowledge that keeps me going trying to support women currently going through it. I believe Talina’s death was not in vain and that she had many purposes. This, being one of them.

    I appreciate that you took the time to visit the site. It is really nice of you.

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