A Heartbreaking Choice

I was nervous when I started reading a post from Grounded Parents titled “Abortion Rhetoric from the Perspective of a “Miracle Baby” Mom.

I’m frequently nervous when the topic of abortion comes up.  And when it is paired with the the topic of micropreemies, infertility, or stillbirth, I get even more nervous.

It didn’t use to be like this.  Abortion used to be a topic that I had a firm opinion on, and if anyone didn’t like that opinion, then to hell with them.  It wasn’t personal.

Then I started being involved in message boards with lots of people dealing with IF.  It didn’t generally come up, but when it did, it was usually in the context of something like Kelly Coffy’s “I Would Die For That” song.  It’s often heralded as a quintessential IF/loss song.  But that first verse.  They way juxtaposes abortion with IF always felt wrong to me.  But given how many people loved the song, I generally kept quiet.

Then with my oldest I became a preemie mom.  Sure, my preemie was a pretty healthy 33 weeker.  But many of the parents in the groups had micro preemies.  I can’t tell you the number of times someone would bring up the abortion debate, usually the 20 week bans, or other late term abortion media attention.  I would frequently hear them compare their micro-preemies who they fought so hard for, and they would scorn that anyone could choose abortion at such a late point.  I generally kept quiet.

At times I wasn’t sure what to think, but I always knew I was pro-choice.  On the other hand, I kept quiet, because I didn’t want to make my people, those struggling with IF or with preemies angry.  It became one of those things that you don’t talk about.  And I could brush their comments, the ones that made me uncomfortable, away.

But that all changed a few months ago when those comments were no longer abstract.  When they were talking about me.  We would have done anything for Noah.  Anything in the world if he could have lived.  When the ultrasound tech told us the ventricles in his brain were enlarged, I started planning, in my head.  I had researched, I knew about 36 week cesareans, and brain surgeries to put in shunts, shunts that would fail and have to be replaced.  I immediately started gearing up to fight for him.

And then the doctor came in and the first words out of his mouth were “This is really bad.”  And I didn’t want to believe him, but some part of me knew, right then.  But before giving us more information, he wanted to do his own ultrasound.  He spent a lot of time looking at the spine.  And as crazy as it sounds, I got my hope up again.  I knew that hydrocephalus could go along with spina bifida.  And I started praying that that was what he had meant.  That that was the “really bad.”  Something scary, something we would have to fight, and manage.  But we could manage.

But that wasn’t what he meant.  He did think that was a possibility, but it wasn’t the “really bad.”  The really bad was that the ventricle were so enlarged that there was no brain tissue visible anymore.  “Really bad” was that a cyst had prevented the cerebellum from fully forming and was crushing what had and separating the hemispheres of his brain.  “Really bad” was that he would never breathe on his own.

And suddenly that abstract choice that I had always supported.  That I had kept quiet while some of my IF and preemie friends railed against wasn’t abstract, it was my choice.

It wasn’t taken lightly.  I can tell you that if circumstances had been slightly different, the choice may have been different.  But Noah had no chance of survival.  They didn’t think he’d even make it to term.  If he did, his head would be so enlarged from the fluid building up in his brain that the only safe option for my health would have been a cesarean.  A repeat cesarean that would have meant that would couldn’t get pregnant for another year without increased risk of uterine rupture and possibly death for both me and that hypothetical new baby.

And I had been so sick.  I had a just turned 2 year old at home whose mom had been on bedrest and unable to do anything for 3 months.  I had a PICC line that was a huge infection risk.  They wanted to replace it with a feeding tube that would mean major surgery for me including stapling my stomach to my abdominal wall.

And I’d have done it all.  The feeding tube, the bedrest, all of it, if Noah had had any chance at all.  But he didn’t.  So we made the only choice that made sense for our family.  I can’t even say, like many parents can that it was to keep him from feeling pain.  With as little brain function as he would have had, I don’t think there would have been any.

Some people hear our story, and say it wasn’t abortion.  I had an induction.  I labored with him.  I gave birth to his still body.  I held him, and bathed him, and dressed him, and kissed him.  But legally, that’s what it was.

And so now, when people bring up abortion, particularly in conjunction with parents who are fighting so hard, and praying so hard to have a baby, I get nervous.   Nervous of what they will say.  What they will judge.  In the beginning I was really hesitant to contact other loss moms.  Hesitant to join support groups.  Worried that I wouldn’t be accepted because I made a choice.  Not that my choice affected the outcome, just the timing.

To get back to the blog post I linked above, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while she focused on the “letting them go when they are born alive” portion of the debate (one that I can’t even believe is a debate, honestly) she understood the situation perfectly.  I

l’ll leave you with a quote from her post.  The quote is about a family that chose to let their preemie go without painful medical interventions that wouldn’t have saved him anyway.  But in my mind, it could describe any termination for medical reasons (TFMR) as well.

It was a brutal choice in a place where the harsh reality of biology clashes against our underdog-loving tendencies and fairy tale mentality that everyone gets a happy ending.

Everyone doesn’t. Some endings are short and terrible. This family made sure that their son and grandson felt only their love and warmth during his short life.

Take a moment and imagine the awfulness of making that decision about your own child.

The choice these parents had to make was tragic, but according to a segment of pro-life advocates, it also makes them murderers.

And that makes me sick.


9 thoughts on “A Heartbreaking Choice

  1. Sweetie, in my eyes, there is no abortion in your case. You made the only choice that you could. Period. Either way you would have given birth, but the way you chose was on your terms, would provide less intervention later and would be easier on your mental state then carrying a baby you love longer who won’t make it. I’m sorry for everything.

    • I understand, and many people have told me similar things. I think that s some what dangerous though. Because it allows anti-abortion rhetoric to go unchecked, and laws restricting late term abortion to go through because people think it won’t effect situations like ours. And yet it does. Over 95% of law term abortions are for medical reasons. So those laws are truly specifically targeted at us. But when the average person hears about the laws, they support them, because they don’t think so.

  2. You brought me to tears with your post. I remember so vividly the room going silent during my ultrasound, and the doctor gently putting her hand on my shoulder and saying “I’m so very sorry.” I cannot describe the emotions of that moment because it hurts so much to think of it, but you have done so.

    I absolutely agree with you about late-term abortion laws, and it’s upsetting to think that they would draw out the pain of a situation in which a family is already in mourning and make it that much more painful. I cannot see the greater good in that.


  3. No matter the reason, I fully support a woman’s choice to do with her body as she feels is the right thing for her. We can never know what a person is going through. I’m so sorry you had to choose what you did. Thank you for speaking up and sharing even more of your painful experience. hugs I know it will help someone who needs it.

  4. Yes, I think everyone has to admit that a TFMR is an abortion. Not not an abortion because you loved your baby so much you had to let him go. And the discussion also has to focus on the medical care for the baby. It’s not just what I did with my body, but what I did with my son’s body, and the choices I made for his medical care. Who else would make a resuscitate or do not resuscitate order?

  5. Here kinda late from ICLW. To me, all of this debate about the rightness/wrongness of this seems like a non-argument…if biology trips you up like this, then you have to do whatever you can to minimize the suffering for everybody involved. I also believe that all the body is is a garment for the soul occupying it, and my bottom line is that I want my baby gets a good dress, with no rips and tears. But that is my take on it. At the end of the day, everybody has to do what they feel is right for them while taking into consideration the medical advice offered.

    I’m so very sorry for what you went through with Noah. To me, you made exactly the right choice, but what I think does not matter. As long as you were okay with it, whatever anybody else says is utterly irrelevant.

  6. What a powerful and heartrending post. You did the best you could for Noah and my heart goes out to you. Please don’t let others biases dictate your feelings about the choice you made to honor your baby. Until someone walks in your shoes, they have no business telling you what’s wrong/right. Hugs to you!
    Elizabeth via ICLW

  7. I am so, so sorry that you had to go through such a terrible, difficult, painful situation. Thank you for so powerfully writing about this very personal and tough topic.

    I have to admit, infertility has actually made me much more pro-choice personally, oddly enough. Because I know people who would tell me that doing IVF and discarding any embryos – even those not growing properly, even those that wouldn’t survive if I’d conceived them ‘naturally’ – is wrong. Because having dealt with IF I know – pregnancies don’t always turn out the way I want, the way I hope. It’s so personal in many of these cases. And so very, very painful.

    I’m sorry you had to make that choice. Thinking of you.

  8. There are simply no words. My heart aches for your loss, and for the need for you to have even made such a heart wrenching choice. You have honored your child, your children, and you and your husband in the choice you made from a place of pure love. May the days slowly get easier, though I know all too well just how long the road to healing can be.

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