Grateful in NYC
I was told about this web site by a sister-in-law of a very close friend. Several years ago, she found out that her daughter had severe abnormalities and needed to terminate her pregnancy. I remember how upset and crushed she was, and I could never imagine what she was going through. Then it happened to me.
At 16 weeks, I went to the ob/gyn for a regular check up. The doctor recommended that I take the triple screen test. He said that if something was wrong, I would be contacted within two weeks. After almost two weeks, we had not heard anything, so my husband and I assumed we were in the clear. But you know what they say when you assume.
Eleven days later, I received a call from the ob/gyn. She said my AFP levels were abnormal and told me, “Just get an level II sonogram as soon as you can, and don’t worry.”
My mother went with me for the sonogram. We were amazed at how clearly we could see the baby’s face. We saw my baby moving, and to the untrained eye everything looked fine. The technician kept zooming in on the brain, which looked normal to me, and she even zoomed in on it in 4D. I kept asking her to tell me if she saw something wrong, but she wouldn’t say a word. I said I knew she wasn’t allowed to tell me anything, but I just needed a little hint, a sign, something.
When the sonogram was complete, I asked her for a picture. She gave me one and said she’d give more after we spoke to the perinatologist. She paged the doctor and told me to come back in an hour because he was at the hospital delivering a baby. I started sensing that something was wrong, yet I tried to keep it in. I drove my mother home, called my husband and asked him to come back with me to see the doctor.
That was when our nightmare began. The doctor told us that the baby had spina bifida and hydrocephalus. As a speech pathologist, I not only studied these neurological disorders in textbooks, I also work with children with mild to severe disabilities. I knew right away that I had to terminate the pregnancy. My husband asked the doctor about the chances of a normal life and survival rates if surgery was performed. The doctor was very pessimistic but supportive, and explained that at this stage of the pregnancy (almost 17 weeks), my only options were a D & E or induced labor abortion.
I was about to turn 30 in a few weeks. This was my first pregnancy and I knew being induced into labor and giving birth to this child could not be my first birth experience. We went home, called our parents to tell them what was happening, and then we cried.
We both knew that it would be unfair to bring a child with such disabilities into the world. We knew the consequences that the child would be faced with, the surgeries, the abnomalities of organs, the shunt that would need to be placed in its head. Children don’t ask to be born into this world, especially with a disability. It would be a tough life ahead of this little baby, and we couldn’t in good conscience do that to it. So that night, we decided to find a doctor to perform the D & E.
The next day I called at least twenty doctors. They all said that they didn’t perform the D&E procedure. As confident as I was that this was the right thing to do, I started feeling scared and helpless. I was afraid that I would have to give birth to this baby … and then what? Would I keep it? Give it up for adoption? Would it live? I was in hysterics. Then I spoke to a friend, a godsend who was able to get me an appointment with an amazing doctor on the Upper East Side in New York City. I was able to schedule an appointment for a consult D & E could be performed a full week from the day I found out. In the meantime, I was still pregnant and all I wanted was to not be.
So now I was faced with having to tell people. Should I tell them the truth? Should I lie and tell them I had a miscarriage? I wasn’t ashamed about terminating the pregnancy. I just didn’t want to have to explain myself or my decision. I know many religious people and I didn’t want to get into anything with them. My husband told someone what was happening and they told him that “God has a way of providing. God will watch over my baby in heaven, that is how you need God to provide.”
After that unhelpful bit of life advice, we decided to tell the truth to only close friends and family. They were all very supportive and understanding, reassuring us that they would’ve done the same thing. I always said that if something was wrong with my baby, I would do this, but after being faced with the reality of having to do it, I was tortured.
I had the procedure exactly one week after I found out. That was it, the baby was gone. Four months of being in mommy-to-be mode were over. Every aspect of my life for the past four months had been measured in how pregnant I was. I’d gone to Florida when I was eight weeks, and to my best friend’s wedding when I was twelve weeks, and now I’m not pregnant anymore, and I have no baby to show for it. I asked my husband to put away my sonogram pictures.
People started calling to see how I was feeling. Everybody wanted to talk about it except me. A few friends called and told me about D & C’s that they had when they accidentally got pregnant. Others who assumed I had miscarried tried reassuring me with stories of miscarriages they’d had before they had their baby. I had supportive friends who reassured me that everything would be fine in the future and that I’d get pregnant again and have healthy children.
Deep down I knew all of that, but it was not something that I wanted to hear day in and day out. Then I recieved an email from a friend. It read, “You will never forget this, but as time goes by, it’ll hurt less and less. It’ll just become part of you and part of who you are.” She was amazingly right. I read that email over and over; it was my therapy for weeks.
I am ready to start over. Mentally, I have my moments. I read my friend’s email and the stories here and I feel much better that I am not alone. Although I don’t know you women, I feel like I do. I feel like we are all part of a circle that only we can connect with. I am very grateful for today’s technology. I am very grateful for an amazing husband and a supportive family. I am extremely grateful that this happened now and not later. I am grateful to the blessed OB who performed my D & E procedure when so many turned me away. I know this could have been much much worse, and I am grateful that it wasn’t.
All I can say to anybody that has ever had to make this decision is it is hard, it is painful, it is heartbreaking. But in your heart, if you feel that it is the right one, it is. I know I made the right decision, and I know you all did too. Much love, stay strong!