According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three in every 10,000 pregnancies in the U.S. result in anencephaly.
This type of neural tube defect causes a baby to be born without parts of the brain and skull. Unfortunately, almost all babies with this condition die shortly after birth. This became a heartbreaking reality for Robert and Abbey Ahern when at 19 weeks pregnant with their third child, doctors told them she had anencephaly.
“The words ‘incompatible with life’ just sucked the air right out of my
lungs. I knew what he was saying, but I couldn’t really apply it to us
or to our baby,” Abbey said. But while everyone expected her to terminate the pregnancy, she and Robert decided to give birth in the hopes that their baby could save lives. When they found out she was a girl, they decided to name her Annie, which is often associated with “grace.”
Knowing Annie would die shortly after being born, her parents asked the doctor if they could donate her organs. “We knew she had a purpose even though she was not made for this world,” Abbey said.
They found out that infant organ donation had never been done in Oklahoma, where they live, but a medical team met with them and worked together to make this possible.
On June 26, 2013, Annie was born alive through a cesarean section. “She didn’t cry much, but I heard her making noise. They showed her to me, and she was so beautiful,” Abbey said.
Abbey and Robert’s other daughters, two-year-old Harper and four-year-old Dylan, were able to spend a few hours with their baby sister as well.
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Just under 15 hours after she came into the world, Annie died in her mother’s arms. Unfortunately, her oxygen levels had been too low for her organs to be transplanted, but doctors were able to donate her heart valves. Many of her other organs were donated for research. Despite being disappointed with the outcome, Abbey says she’s found peace knowing that her daughter helped put a protocol in place for infant organ donation in the future.
Six months after Annie died, Abbey found out she was pregnant with their fourth daughter, Iva, who just turned two. But they’ll never forget the baby girl they lost. “Annie was not ours to keep. Her story was meant to be shared, and I intend to do so until the day I die,” she said.
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(via Stuff / Good Housekeeping)
It must take an enormous amount of strength to bring a baby into the world knowing that she won’t survive for long. Please SHARE with others to help these parents spread Annie’s story.