Cheyenne's Sweet Nellie Mae
My name is Cheyenne.
In 2018, I found out I was expecting my first child. Instantly my life changed for the better. I started planning every detail from how I was going to tell my family to the outfit I would bring him/her home from the hospital in. It didn't stop there- in a single moment I was planning a first birthday party and what kind of cookies we'd "leave out for Santa" in the coming years. To say my "motherly instincts" kicked in immediately would be an understatement. Two lines on a single test, that is all it took.
I went for an additional "fun" 3D ultrasound at 10 weeks. All my friends recommended this adorable, privately owned place. I was so excited to see my baby. I "coo-ed" and sat in awe as I watched the baby wiggle around and even jumped, as if saying, "Hey, Mom!" I left more in love than when I arrived. That was the last day of my life that I could breathe without a knot in my throat.
The next day we found out we had some complications with our sweet baby. My regular OBGYN called and said I needed to come in immediately. So, I went. Of course, the first thing you do is go straight into denial. "There's no way that this is happening to me- not MY child." Then as if a switch is flipped, you immediately need answers. You need a "game plan." You need to know what the situation is, how it will unfold, and what are we going to do about it.
The baby had a cystic hygroma. This could've meant multiple things for my child's outcome. I knew it wasn't good, but I held onto hope. I leaned on my faith more than I ever have before. God was the only thing I had to count on at that moment. After endless amounts of blood draws and testing, we were referred to a Fetal Maternal Specialist. We had weekly ultrasounds done to keep track of the baby's cystic hygroma. We proceeded with an amniocentesis. At 10 weeks we found out we had a sweet little girl- but not just any little girl. 1 in every 2,500 baby girls get diagnosed with Turners Syndrome. 99% of them do not make it to birth, but over 80% of these little girls don’t make it out of the first trimester. You learn everything you can about the statistics and listen very carefully to specialists at every appointment. But nothing could've changed my mind about carrying my sweet baby. We knew God had a reason for everything, and we knew she was given to us exactly how God wanted her to be.
Through the next few weeks, it seemed like every appointment I went to, I came home with more bad news. Her cystic hygroma quickly worsened to fetal hydrops. Her kidneys quit functioning, my amniotic fluid levels were dangerously low, and her heart was surrounded by fluid. She was in heart failure.
I was told to spend every second I had with her as if it were my last. Even after weekly ultrasounds, I wanted something more. I wanted a "final" hour with her that I could just watch her and take in all her movements, smiles, and hiccups one last time. I made an appointment with Lil' Pirates Preview, where I first did her 3D ultrasound. That hour was one of the best hours of my life. We felt as if everything was going to be okay. It was one of our very few "normal" moments together- just her and I. At the end of this appointment, I was gifted a pink bear with her heartbeat inside of it. The sound of that little heart beating is a sound that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Every day I listened to the strongest little heartbeat at home, talked to her, and felt her move. For 6 months, she taught me what it was like to witness a miracle handed straight from God. But God had other plans for my fierce little girl. He needed her more than I did.
November 21, 2018, I went to my appointment to check on her progress. I was by myself, as I had been for almost every appointment. The technician looked at me and I knew right then that she was no longer with me. I will never forget the way she covered her mouth when she looked at the monitor. After she walked out to find the doctor, I got off of the bed and instantly dropped to my knees. I began praying. I didn't try bargaining with God or begging for Him to change the outcome. But instead, I thanked Him for all the time I was blessed with. So much more time than the doctors had given us. I asked Him to keep watch on her until it was my turn. After what felt like years, my doctor came in and confirmed that there was no longer a heartbeat. I slid off the table and walked to an empty room. There I made the decision to go to my regular OBGYN and local hospital to be induced and deliver.
Nellie Mae Norris was born sleeping on 11-22-18 weighing 10.8 oz and reaching 8 1/2 inches long. After 23 hours in labor- she was in my arms. She was beyond perfect and had the sweetest little body I’d ever seen.
Knowing that the first thing she ever saw was the face of Jesus has comforted us in so many ways.
If I could say one thing to her today, it would be, "Nellie Mae, the strength you showed and bond we had is something I’ll forever cherish. A purple butterfly and ribbon represent Turners- it’s something we will proudly wear for the rest of our lives." She’s not 1 in 2,500.... she’s 1 in a billion to me.
Since Nellie Mae's passing, I have gone through every stage of grief. I have felt every emotion humanly possible. Life goes on. I had to quickly remind myself that just because my world came to a halt, everybody else's did not. Learning to live my life after losing my daughter has been my most difficult challenge I've faced so far in this life. Every day I face challenges- rather it's getting behind a pregnant person in the grocery store, seeing another pregnancy announcement online, or having someone I'm close with over joyed from bringing their sweet child home. These are things that I have had to learn to cope with in the last year. I have had to allow myself to be angry and hurt and jealous in order for me to be happy for them today. I had to learn that it is okay to not be okay. Some days are harder than others.
The only things that have gotten me through this last year has been knowing that I am going to see Nellie Mae again someday. I look for her spirit each day. It may be in a butterfly crossing paths with mine or the sun setting, painting a marvelous scene across the sky. I look at her ultrasound photos every day. Her My Baby's Heart Beat Bear sits on my nightstand. Even though she is in another place, a piece of her is still here with me every day.
If I could speak to any other parents going through this now, I would encourage them to stand tall in your faith, find something (somebody) to lean on, and fight for your child. Fight for their memory and their place in this world. Write down what their tiny fingernails looked like and what their cheeks felt like on yours. Play back the sound of their heart beat through the bear before bed. Look for signs of their spirit in the clouds. Speak to them before bed. Say their name in a crowded room...
Keep the feeling you had when you saw those two lines for the very first time in your heart forever.