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.