I could not drive by the neighbors’ houses because all the little girls were outside playing and my daughter would never do that.
By R. V.
I had always wanted children very much, and went through the beginning of fertility treatments with my first husband. After 10 years, that marriage ended. A few years later, I met the love of my life and current husband. He had two children already, 10 and 12 years old, but agreed to try once more so I could experience the joys of motherhood.
Finally at age 40 I got pregnant. There was never a more desired child. At three months I went for an ultrasound. They told me that I needed to come back in a few weeks because they couldn’t get an accurate view of the kidneys. I know now that they already knew something was wrong with my baby, but for some reason chose not to tell me that day.
Two weeks later I went back fro the second ultrasound and amnio. Instead of the tech doing the ultrasound, the doctor came in to do it. She casually asked what my plans were in case something was wrong. I asked if there was something to be concerned about and she said no. Another couple of weeks passed and my OBGYN called to tell me that my baby had some serious defects. It has been so long now that I don’t remember the exact name of the syndrome, but it was very rare. Some of her genes had too much information, and some not enough. The chromosome involved was “broken” and had kept trying to repair itself. She would suffer extreme mental impairments and some physical deformities. I asked if she would be in pain, and they could not say, but kept telling me that children with these types of abnormalities don’t survive outside the womb for longer than a couple of weeks and that they were surprised that I hadn’t miscarried. I cried so hard I had to carried out of the room.
I didn’t know what to do. My husband kept pushing me to have a D&E abortion, but they would not stop her heart before the procedure so could not bring myself to do it. (Editor’s note: anesthetic administered to the mother for these procedures effectively passes through the placenta to anesthetize the fetus.) But I didn’t want to bring this pregnancy full term. I didn’t want my stepsons to go through the pain of losing a sister. I also had a close friend who had a son born with a brain tumor. That little boy lived four painful years before he died. Toward the end he was in so much pain that he could not stand to be touched. The thought of bringing my baby to term only to suffer was intolerable.
They offered me a different termination procedure, early induction (labor & delivery). They told me that the babies generally die during the birth, and that it would be a painless way for her to die. So I decided to take that sin upon myself, to end her life in that way. I would take that sin if it meant sparing her from pain and suffering.
From what I understand, this procedure is now illegal in Illinois, which is where I live. They inserted a cervix softener to start the labor process. I went home for about 12 hours. When labor began I went back to the hospital. It took about four hours. But the unexpected happened. My little girl survived the labor and delivery. She was born alive, weighing 1.5 pounds at almost five months gestation. I held her in my arms, cuddled her and kissed her until she died. She stayed with me a whole five hours. I named her Emmanuelle, which means “walks with god.” Her little face was beautiful; her body was misshapen.
The weeks and months after were unspeakable. I hated to leave the house. I cried all the time. I could not find solace. I could not stand driving by the neighbors’ houses because all the little girls were outside playing and my daughter would never do that. I would run out of stores crying if I saw a baby. I would burst into tears at my stepsons’ school events.
My husband couldn’t understand the extent of my grief. One day we were arguing about it, and I explained that it was devastating to me to see those children playing outside, that all I could think of was Emmanuelle and what would never be. He said when he saw those little girls it gave him hope, hope that they would be able to have a good life where his own daughter could not. It helped me look at it a little differently.
About six months later I was rounding a corner in a store and almost tripped over a baby in a carrier. The mom had set the carrier on the floor while looking at something. The baby was about six months old, and we made eye contact. The baby gave me a huge smile, and I was able to smile back. That was the beginning of my healing.
At 41, I got pregnant again. This pregnancy was also filled with problems, but I delivered a small but full-term healthy boy. He weighed 5 1/2 lbs and was very weak, but today he is a wonderful and healthy 15 year old and the joy of my life. I was 42 when he was born.
Losing my daughter affected me in so many ways. I lost my sense of humor and I now tend to be pessimistic. I lost friends, people who could not understand what or why I did what I did. My marriage almost ended, as my husband didn’t grasp the depth of my grief and was unable to comfort me through those months. My own father was banned from my house for a few weeks due his lack of sympathy and callous attitude. It did bring me closer to my stepsons. They were the ones who sat with me while I cried, wrote me poems and tried to console me. To this day, I am extremely close to them, and they have been wonderful with my son. He adores them, they are more like doting uncles than brothers. They have never called themselves half-brothers, just brothers.
Even though my loss was 16 years ago, I still cry when I think about her. I had four children; three are alive. But I wish I had all my children. I think about my daughter all the time, and I keep her ashes in an urn my sister, who is a potter, made.