Husband & Wife Articles


A Life Story

Our stillborn child still lives in our hearts

By Patrice Athanasidy

When my husband, Bill, and I went for our first sonogram, the only thought in our minds was that we were going to see pictures of our first child. We never expected the news to be complicated.

After only a few minutes in the darkened room I could tell the tech’s chatter had changed. Suddenly my doctor was in the room and they were looking at the picture on the screen with concern. To us, it barely even looked like a baby yet. We were at the 10-week mark or so. What could they see already?

Patrice Athanasidy relaxes at home with her husband, Bill.

With my heart pounding in my ears and Bill holding my hand tighter, we were ushered into the doctor’s office. He did his best to tell us that he could not be sure yet, but it looked like the baby had something wrong in the brain area. It could mean many things at this stage, but the prognosis did not look good.

We left devastated and went around tearful and stressed until we could get more information, praying for the best scenarios the doctor had mentioned. The next three months were a whirlwind of testing, including an amniocentesis and more sonograms. At almost every test, someone would suggest to us that the best option would be “termination.”

I quickly discovered that “pro-choice” often meant only if you choose abortion. A number of medical professionals shook their heads and treated me with what felt like disdain for choosing to let nature and God decide what would happen with our baby. I felt real pressure from them to choose termination, but Bill and I had made our choice.

We were blessed with a wonderful doctor and staff. They understood what we wanted and respected our choice from the beginning. The doctor even gave me a break from testing when I asked if it was going to be helpful for the baby. When he said probably not, I asked for some time to just be pregnant, to slow down the stress of appointments and battling other medical professionals. I also asked him to put somewhere on my chart that my decision to not terminate was final, so others would stop talking with me about it.

It worked. Bill and I did all we could to be pregnant as normally as possible. We visited the ocean. We played music. He talked to my belly and we got the kicks we should expect. Each moment was somewhat bittersweet because we knew we were probably saying good-bye before we would truly get to say hello.

At about 22 weeks, my doctor decided that things were deteriorating and we should monitor the heartbeat every couple of days. In about a week’s time, we went for a doctor visit and there was no heartbeat. The silence felt so loud.

Since our baby was over 20 weeks gestation, Magdalene Elizabeth was considered a stillbirth. We were able to have a Mass and burial at a Catholic cemetery. They had a special section for families to honor their babies and show respect for the little life that was lost.

Bill and I have three more children now, ages 11 to 15. Our time with Magdalene taught us to appreciate all the moments of parenthood — the good parts and the challenges. In case we hadn’t already known it, the gift of life is truly a precious one.

Patrice E. Athanasidy writes from Westchester, New York.