Like most parents, I never thought I would need to make this decision. While it has been explained to you that there is the possibility something could be wrong, it isn’t something you truly consider.
I was 37 years old when I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I were both shocked with the news. We had both been married before. His daughter was 16, my daughter was 10 and my son 7. We did not plan on having anymore children but soon became excited about that news. Our 16 year old wasn’t much interested with idea of a new baby (typical teenager) but my son and daughter were both really looking forward to it. My daughter was especially eager to help with the new addition. I went into labor early with both my children so my husband and I fully expected to have this baby much earlier than my due date. We quickly began making room in our home.
Because of my age, we both decided it was best to have an amnio. I had one when I was pregnant with my daughter so I knew what to expect. My ultrasounds seemed to be fine and at about 16 weeks, I had the amnio done. I was told it would take approximately 2 weeks to get the results back and my husband and I both wanted to know the sex of the baby. My only thought of the test results were finding out if we were having a girl or a boy. I was starting to feel the baby move and had started to show pretty early on.
Two weeks later while I was at work, my doctor called. She said my test results weren’t good. The baby had Down syndrome. I could barely speak to her and after our brief conversation, I called to tell my husband. He could hardly understand what I was saying through my sobs, but somehow I managed to tell him. Anyone relatively close to my office could hear me crying. My boss brought me into a private office, hugged and cried with me. All she could say to me was “I’m sorry.”
I left work early and when I got home, my mother was there with my kids. I gathered myself together enough to say hello to them without showing the pain I was feeling. I brought my mother upstairs to tell her and again broke down. My mother and I cried for a while and I tried to compose myself before I faced my kids again. They asked why I was home (it was still early in the afternoon) and I only told them I wasn’t feeling well.
I went my room and waited for my husband to come home. When he came in, he put his head on my stomach and cried. I had never seen him cry before. At this point, my daughter began to realize something was going on. We were both home in the middle of the afternoon during the week. When she asked what was wrong, I once again broke down. She asked if there was something wrong with the baby. Telling our kids so hard. I knew how much they were looking forward to our baby.
I saw a genetic counselor the next day, in the same office as my OB/GYN. I sat in the waiting room with happy expectant mothers, and mothers with newborns, coming and going. I couldn’t look at them, I was falling apart. I knew they were looking at me in horror, knowing something was wrong.
The counselor talked to me about the challenges we, and our child, would be facing. My husband and I had decided that it was best to terminate the pregnancy. She was able to set up an appointment for us the next day with a doctor who could do the procedure.
We went on a Friday and again had to sit in a waiting room filled with expectant mothers. My husband and I naively thought that we would be having the procedure done that same day. It felt like torture when the doctor told us that this was not going to happen today. We weren’t able to get into the hospital until the following Tuesday. The next three days were a nightmare. My heart felt like it was breaking each time I felt the baby move.
On Monday I had the laminaria insertion to begin the process of opening my cervix for the surgery on Tuesday. I was now almost 5 months pregnant. Going over our paperwork, the nurse asked if we were going to make arrangements to dispose of the fetus or if we wanted the hospital to handle it. I felt like a train had hit me. The guilt of it was overwhelming. Who could prepare for something like that? This was our choice, this wasn’t nature taking its course. I don’t know that I will ever be able to let go of that.
It has only been a few weeks, but I still can’t look at babies or expectant mothers. I had to tell my best friend, a woman I’ve known for over 20 years, that I couldn’t be her son’s godmother. I knew I wouldn’t be able to celebrate his baptism, even hold him or look at him, without feeling the guilt and pain.
For all those parents who have had to make this decision, I know the difficulty you’ve been through and I’m sorry.