When Brandi Rogers learned she was pregnant for the third time, she knew things would be hectic. Brandi and her husband Michael were already parents to a toddler and a seven-month-old baby. But the couple quickly got used to the idea, and their excitement grew for the new addition. However, when a problem was spotted on a routine ultrasound, Brandi and Michael had a heartbreaking decision to make. Indeed, the doctors had advised her to have an abortion.
It was an unexpected pregnancy for Brandi, a mom of two from Effingham, South Carolina. No doubt her three-year-old son, Lawson, was keeping her busy enough. And so when she found out she was expecting again just seven months after her daughter, Haigan, arrived, Brandi knew she was facing a tough challenge.
But it didn’t take long for Brandi and Michael to get over the shock, and the young couple grew excited for their third child. Unfortunately, however, their excitement didn’t last long. Because during a routine scan when Brandi was 11 weeks pregnant, doctors saw something gravely wrong with their unborn child.
While performing the ultrasound, the technician saw what they believed to be fluid on the baby’s brain. Despite the seriousness of this complication, however, the specialist believed the baby still had a 75 percent chance of survival. Indeed, the doctor gave the couple plenty of hope that the little baby would be okay.
As it happened, however, the doctor’s initial diagnosis of fluid on the brain was mistaken. Because at the 20-week scan, the outlook for Emersyn – as the baby girl was named – was far worse than previously thought. It was then that Brandi and Michael were told that their little baby had anencephaly.
“I just kind of froze,” Brandi told The Washington Times. “They told me her head was cut off at her brain stem. When somebody tells you that, I don’t even think you know what to do.” But doctors believed they knew the best course of action. With little to no chance Emersyn would survive, they advised a termination.
Anencephaly occurs when a significant part of the skull and brain fail to develop. There is no treatment available, or a known cure for the condition. And although in some exceptional cases babies with the condition have lived for several years, many survive only hours or days. Indeed most babies, sadly, do not even survive the birth.
In the end, however, the couple decided that terminating their baby just wasn’t an option. “You’re in a room and you’re listening to your baby’s heartbeat and then you go into another room and they say, ‘Well, you can stop it,’ That’s extremely hard,” she told theDaily Mail. “We decided on the spot that it wasn’t something we were going to do.”
“I think I kind of sat there when they told me,” Brandi told ABC. “It’s just one of those things you don’t think could ever happen to you, especially when I have two healthy children.” The 25-year-old mom went home with her husband and faced an incredibly tough decision.
And so with this difficult decision made, Brandi and Michael began researching anencephaly. But the facts were there in black and white and the prognosis for little Emersyn wasn’t good – the condition affects around three in 10,000 pregnancies and death is highly likely. Still, the couple wanted to find other parents who have experienced anencephaly to fully understand what lay ahead.
Through Facebook groups, the couple managed to connect with other parents who were dealing with an anencephaly diagnosis too. They spoke with parents who had opted to terminate their pregnancies, as well as feeling out other choices available to them. And after a few difficult days weighing up their options, the couple made a decision.
Brandi and Michael wanted to carry their baby girl to full term. Emersyn wasn’t a case study or a statistic to them. She was their daughter and they loved her regardless of her imperfections. And although she may not make it through delivery, the parents nonetheless wanted her to have a purpose.
“When we got home and we were researching, I was looking for a voice of someone who went full term and didn’t regret it,” Brandi told ABC News, “I want to be that voice. It’s OK to celebrate Emersyn even though she’s not going to survive. She’s still our third child and she’s still very much loved.”
Although they’d ruled out termination almost immediately, another option was to induce early labor. However, their doctor informed them of the legal hoops they would have to jump through if they went for this option, including out-of-state treatment. It was then that they decided to see the pregnancy through as far as they could.
“I made a promise to myself after we decided not to induce that as long as she hung in there I would too,” Brandi told ABC in May. “I’m going to have my pictures with her, I’m going to have my time with her and I’m going to get to say goodbye to her the way I want to on my terms and I think I that’s important.”
Initially, the Rogers had wanted Emersyn’s organs to be donated for transplants. Even if she survives the birth, however, doctors feel she may not be a suitable donor due to her tiny size. And so instead, the parents are considering giving over their baby’s organs to medical research.
“She’s going to matter for something,” Michael explained to the Washington Post. “I want her to have some sort of a legacy.” Brandi added, “I want people to know about her and think of her as a baby and not as anencephaly. She’s going to make an impact in just hours of life. I find a lot of peace in that.”
Wary of the impact this ordeal will have on her two other children, Brandi also intends to turn Emersyn’s life into a celebration, whatever happens. She wants her family to meet their daughter, and even promises birthday cake when the day arrives. They plan, as best they can, to make this a day of celebration rather than devastation.
Brandi is due to undergo a C-section on September 11. Until then, the expectant mom is already working to forge Emersyn’s legacy. Not only does she hope to raise awareness of anencephaly, but also hopes to become a voice for infant death, miscarriage and still births, providing support for other mothers who identify with her story.
And as Brandi told Inside Edition, “If something good can come from using Emersyn’s organs to look into what could cause anencephaly, maybe one day they’ll have a cure and another family doesn’t have to feel the way we’re feeling. There’s a lot of good in that.”