Charlotte and Attila Szakacs got married in 2015 and longed for nothing more than the birth of their first child. In April 2016, the day arrived — the day before Charlotte’s 21st birthday — that they knew they would soon be parents. Charlotte was pregnant.
The overjoyed couple looked forward to every step along the way, until the 20th week of the pregnancy…
Then an ultrasound gave them some terrible news. The fetus — a girl — had a condition that would prevent her brain from developing properly and cause severe malformation. The young pair was shocked and utterly devastated.
Doctors worked out that the baby suffered from a genetic defect in which two chromosomes change places causing some genes to over-replicate and others to go missing. Charlotte had to go in every two weeks for new scans. In the 37th week the situation became more grave and the doctors saw that they had to act.
Blood flow to the placenta was decreasing to dangerous levels so on December 13, they performed a C-section and Evlyn was born. They had to hook her up to a ventilator immediately so it was seven hours before Charlotte was able to see her new baby. Only three days later could she hold her.
“Not being able to hold her for so long was really difficult and even when we could hold her, the nurses had to pick her up and place her on us so you don’t really feel like you’re being a mum,” Charlotte recounted.
Evlyn’s brain was undeveloped, exactly as feared. Because of her too-narrow airways she couldn’t breathe on her own, and thus they couldn’t perform a life-saving heart operation. Even if she somehow survived, doctors explained that she would always face terrible problems with her sight, hearing, and ability to speak, not to mention mental and physical disabilities. But her parents weren’t ready to let her go.
Charlotte described the experience: “After she was born the doctors told us we should think about moving her to a hospice but I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to believe what they were saying.”
But as Evlyn’s condition deteriorated over the next several weeks, the parents realized: either they had to watch her go, hooked up to all manner of machines, or they could allow her a peaceful death in hospice care.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but on January 10, 2017, they placed Evlyn in hospice care. “I have never seen her so calm. We got to hold her and cuddle her properly for the first time for an hour before they turned off the ventilator.”
Just a few moments after turning it off, at the age of four weeks, Evlyn passed away without ever having taken a breath by herself.
But that was when the story took its most unusual turn. The hospice offered the parents the chance to spend more time together with their deceased baby daughter, to prepare themselves better for her loss and complete the bonding process that made her part of the family.
The way they were able to do this was with an air-conditioned infant bed made for the purpose of keeping newborn babies together with their parents for a time truly sufficient to say goodbye.
Thus Charlotte and Attila spent 12 extra days with their daughter in hospice, then taking her home for four days prior to burial. They were even able to go walking in the park with her. The opportunity helped them immensely to cope with bereavement.
Check out this documentary report made about the unusual and moving story: