Abbey Ahern was 19-weeks pregnant with her third child when she heard words that no mother wants to hear.
“What I have to tell you isn’t easy. Your baby has anencephaly,” an Oklahoma University Hospital physician told Ahern, Good Housekeeping reported.
Anencephaly occurs when the uppermost portion of the neural tube does not completely close during embryonic development, according to the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute. The etiology is unknown, possibly resulting from hereditary or environmental factors, and there is no cure. Most babies with this diagnosis either die during delivery or soon after.
Despite the news, her parents decided to carry full term and to name the child Annie, which means “grace,” the report continued.
“When we found out I was pregnant again, we were thrilled. But after the news of Annie’s diagnosis, we went to my OB to discuss our options. Late-term abortion is the option most women in my position (around 95%) choose, but we decided against it,” Ahern said.
“I am fortunate enough to have an incredibly selfless and supportive husband, a faith that kept me going when I wanted to fall apart, and two healthy and vibrant daughters to hug when I couldn’t stop sobbing. From the first moment, we hoped for a live birth and planned a C-section. We wanted a few precious memories with our girl,” she continued.
Annie was born, and the family did share several previous memories with her, reading the book “Heaven is for Real” and meeting her two older sisters who delighted in her birth, according to the report. But she did not live long.
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“If she had to die, I’m so glad it was in my arms. She lived a beautiful and incredible 14 hours and 58 minutes. She spent her entire life surrounded by love, joy and peace. There was no sorrow, even when she passed away,” Ahern said.
Before Annie’s birth, the family made an amazing decision for her to be an organ donor, to bless the lives of others despite her life being cut short.
Ahern said: “They were able to donate her heart valves for recipients and many of her organs for research purposes. Honestly, it took me a while to come to terms with that. I guess I wanted the closure of knowing her kidneys went to this person who’s alive.
“But there’s no way I’ll ever know all the people who have been impacted by her story. I will never know the number of lives she was able to save — because not only were her organs donated, but the protocol was also put in place for other infants to donate their organs. Once I started thinking that way, I had peace.”