Have a question for Ending a Wanted Pregnancy? Email us.
During a routine ultrasound, my sister’s baby girl was diagnosed with a fatal birth defect called anencephaly. My sister, her husband and our whole family were devastated. She decided to continue her pregnancy, and five months later gave birth to her little girl. She was with us for four days. The impact she had on so many people, doctors,nurses, friends, and family will never be forgotten. Neither will the strength my sister and brother-in-law showed during those months of pregnancy.
Thirty-one weeks into my own third pregnancy, my little boy was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumor. Three weeks later I delivered a 5 pound boy with a 6 pound tumor attached to his back. He died during surgery. Although my son’s tumor was very large, many babies survive surgery to remove this type of tumor and live normal lives, yet many women have chosen to abort their babies.
Another woman I know who received an anencephaly diagnosis, chose to terminate her pregnancy. She suffers from depression. She shows absolutely no emotion, not happiness or sadness. Her marriage to the baby’s father ended in divorce four months into her next pregnancy.
The devastation and fear that I lived with through the last three weeks of my pregnancy was almost unbearable at times. But now I can look back on those days and say “Yes, I would go through this again if I had to.” God does not will suffering on us, but if we unite our suffering with His and submit to His Holy Will, there will be a little one waiting for us in heaven to say, “Mom, those very brief moments I had in your arms were worth waiting for. Thank you.”
First, I am very sorry to hear of your loss, and that of your sister. You both have my condolences. I know firsthand how difficult it is to learn that your pregnancy has gone horribly wrong. I know how hard it can be to decide to continue the pregnancy and risk your child suffering, or decide to end it and risk your own suffering.
Those of us who chose to suffer emotionally so that our sickly babies did not have to suffer physically really do understand and sympathize with what a difficult choice this is either way.
The stories you read at Ending a Wanted Pregnancy are from women who made a different choice than you did. Just like you, we know in our hearts that the choices we made were the right ones for our babies, our families and ourselves. Like all of us here, it was not your fault your son was sick. Like all of us here, you did the best you could with the information, the support and the hope you had at that time.
It was hard to muster the courage to end my wanted pregnancy, but I did it to spare my baby pain. I was not so self-aggrandizing to presume that a few moments in my arms could have justified his agony. I was not so selfish as to think that my own longing to hold him trumped his right to be spared a painful death. I was not so prideful as to presume that he would eternally thank me for letting him suffer needlessly when I could have spared him that. And I am not so desperate as to hang around a support site for women who are carrying to term and lord my very different choice over them.
The way I see it, what others might “learn” from watching a doomed newborn’s pain and bewilderment doesn’t justify putting the baby through it. There are plenty of avenues for personal and spiritual growth that don’t involve an infant’s unnecessarily agonizing death.
As for this woman you know who chose to end her pregnancy because of anencephaly and now suffers from depression: sadly millions of people face depression whether they’ve ended pregnancies or not. Certainly the loss of a wanted baby, whether through miscarriage, lethal birth defects, surgical failure, pregnancy termination or even accidental drowning would be enough to touch off serious depression in one who is prone to it.
The same is true for divorce—which is no more common among couples who’ve ended wanted pregnancies than it is for the rest of the general population. Statistically, the divorce rate is actually lower for us than it is in couples who’ve lost an older child, or couples who have children with severe medical conditions and disabilities.
I am deeply concerned about the well-being of this woman you mentioned, and hope you will send her over to Ending a Wanted Pregnancy’s private support group. It may help her tremendously to realize that her choice was a valid and compassionate one—the same one made by the nearly all women who are given the hopelessly grim prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly. It may also help her to know that you are not sitting in judgment of her decision, feeling morally superior to her, or smugly blaming her depression and marital problems on her abortion instead of offering her the loving support she needs.
Sadly, grief and depression can be seriously compounded by the judgmental, self-righteous condemnation and gloating of others. I sincerely hope you are keeping your negativity to yourself and not contributing to her pain.
You said, “Yes, I would go through this again if I had to.” But the real question is not whether you would choose this path again, but would your baby? He was the one born with a tumor bigger than he was, only to endure a surgery that failed to save him. Only he knows whether all of that was worth a little time in your arms. May you someday learn the real answer to that question. In the meantime, may it bring you great comfort to put those words of thanks in his mouth.