The amazing Allison Gauvin mother to Julia (7), Beckett (08/05/11 - 12/13/14), Clementine (08/16/12 - 10/14/14) and Wilbur (18 months).
Allison conceived Julia before she and her husband married, much to the surprise of their families. She went into pregnancy and birth not knowing much and really just allowing things to happen as they came without much of a plan. She was very relaxed going into labor. She sat at 4cms for 12 hours but after opting for an epidural she dilated fully and was ready to push. Julia was born without complication and nursed right away very easily. Allison was young and exhausted, though and decided to stop nursing at 6 weeks.
She got pregnant again when Julia was 1, just before her husband left for Afghanistan but she miscarried at 10 weeks. Her husband was able to fly home for her D&C but then had to return so they couldn't try again for a whole year which was hard on their marriage. Two weeks after he returned home, however, they conceived Beckett. At the first appointment Beckett's heart beat didn't sound right so she began to worry. Then at 20 weeks, they had to have an anatomy scan due to cleft lip and palette on her husbands side of the family. During the scan they saw one thing that was a little off so they wanted to recheck in 4 weeks. And every time they checked there was one thing that was just a little off so they continued to watch but she was reassured that everything would be just fine. At 38 weeks she went in for a non-stress test and a growth ultrasound and leaned her baby had stopped growing entirely and was told her she was going to have her baby that day. They had to drive an hour away to a hospital with a NICU and she spent 30 hours in medically induced labor. Allison's sister and best friend were in the room while she was laboring and she says she remembers them laughing and laughing while she got the epidural then she laid back and doesn't remember anything until she was woken up by the nurses moving her side to side, pushing the emergency button and putting an oxygen mask on her face. Both she and Beckett's hearts had stopped beating and she was rushed for and emergency cesarean.
Becket looked great when he was born but soon had to be taken to the nursery and then the NICU and then he had to be ventilated so he could breath. He was transferred to a hospital in Boston that evening and she was discharged the following morning to join him. When they arrived in NICU they still didn't know what was wrong and doctors were coming left and right to talk to them. They sat down with them and their nurse began crying. They were told that Beckett had a metabolic acidosis mimicking pyruvate deficiency and likely only had a week to live; and that if he lived longer he would be severely disabled. They grieved the child they thought they were going to bring home but then they made it to a week, and then two weeks and then ten weeks and they were ready to go home. Life was different but no less awesome and they made it work.
Allison had delayed her postpartum follow visit to 10 weeks, when they were all home and was shocked to learn at her follow up that she was pregnant again. She thought there had been a mix up but they confirmed she was pregnant again. They knew at this point that both she and her husband had the same mutated recessive gene but weren't able to test for any related complications with this baby in utero they just had to wait. They spent the whole pregnancy worried and undergoing testing - echo's, MRI's, CAT scans and non-stress tests to see if they could find anything but they had no idea until 32 weeks when she stopped growing. They transferred care and delivered in Boston via induced VBAC.
When Clementine was born they let Allison hold her for a bit and then they tested her at 2 and 4 hours old and both tests came back positive for the same genetic mutation that affected Beckett. She was then transferred to the NICU but Allison says they were so much more prepared. They went into this time knowing that she would need a G tube, glasses and eventually a wheel chair and before she knew it they went home. She was thrilled in time that her kids were not the prognosis she had been given. They were busting out of the ceiling that had been built for them, laughing and interacting and full of life.
Soon after, they were in the middle of moving when Julia learned she was pregnant again. Their support group was not okay with them having more children and when she was pregnant with Clementine they had been told to have a vasectomy so they didn't have anymore children but they didn't feel that way. She never felt that their children were a burden as she saw the beauty in them. Still, they chose to terminate the pregnancy which she says in hindsight was a horrible decision and she would never do it the same way again. When they conceived Wilbur, soon after, it felt like a gift.
In the interim they began to realize that both Beckett and Clementine were living on borrowed time. They had to make the choice as a family to acknowledge how they would deal with things not if they died, but when. They found a church family, made a plan and decided to move forward with this pregnancy.
They decided not to have any testing through this pregnancy knowing whatever the outcome they'd know what to do. She was induced again at 38 weeks and labored for 25 hours, again with an epidural after stalling out at 4cms. They were thrilled to know that they had another boy.
Just before Beckett's second birthday his ammonia levels went off the charts and had to have emergency dialysis. Every 4 to 6 months they were back in the hospital and just before her second birthday, Clementine began having the same episodes. They eventually realized that they couldn't keep ahead of what was happening to their children and went home on comfort based hospice care. Clementine and Beckett passed within 8 weeks of one another and she admits they learned along the way. When Clementine passed things moved very quickly but Beckett's death was longer and more difficult to navigate.
After Beckett died they took end of life photos and allowed Julia to hold him wrapped in a heated blanket to say goodbye. Allison says that if there is anything she can impart on other families it's that they should do all of the things they can, even if in the moment they don't want to. She says to take the pictures, even if you put them in a box and never look at them, because there may come a day you want to and you can never have those moments back.
A year after Clementine died, Allison feels the rest of the world is ready for them to move on while they are grieving every day. She misses them, not just in a sad way, but in a heartbroken way. They continue as a family to do what they do and find their own way even if that looks differently than other peoples journey. She says she isn't sad for Beckett and Clementine, she's sad for the rest of them.
Allison has the body of a mother who has given birth to four kids, without having four kids to show for it. When people see her, they see her two living children and have a hard time understanding. They consider themselves a big family, but now people see four instead of six and they feel a stillness. This can be so difficult to navigate but she says she's trying to fill the void that has been in left in her life recently. She wants other women to know that they can celebrate all of their children and they can talk about the fact that sometimes children die. "You did the work of creating life and another star is added to the sky, it will always be there, even if the light burns out."