The decision to end my pregnancy in 2006 came two days after my now twelve year old daughter, Hannah’s, sixth birthday. She was excited for the arrival of her baby sister, Emily. At our 20-week ultrasound, which was performed a week late so that my husband could come to the appointment, we received the devastating news that our baby had “serious skeletal issues consistent with dwarfism.” A week later, the diagnosis of Thanatophoric Dysplasia (which literally means “death-bearing”), was confirmed by the perinatologist.
Thanatophoric Dysplasia has a survival rate of zero, due to an obstructed formation of the lungs. In our case, pre-eclampsia and a concerning amount of excess of amniotic fluid in my placenta had already set in; we opted to terminate the pregnancy.
In the year that followed, we tried to conceive again but were unsuccessful. I was done. Both physically, and mentally, I was broken. We decided to stop trying for awhile so that I could get my health and my sanity in check. We agreed to revisit the issue when I was ready. Before the pregnancy, I was substantially overweight, and afterward, in my misery, I gained even more weight. I was very depressed, and knew I had to make some changes. I wasn’t being good to myself, and as a result, I felt I was failing as a wife, as a mother, and as a person. I did not want to be that person anymore.
I began to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and over the course of the next year, I lost a total of 70 pounds, and began to be a better version of myself. By that time, Hannah was almost nine. As agreed, my husband and I revisited the issue of trying to conceive again, but we concurred that that ship had sailed. We were happy living in the moment, enjoying being a family of three. I began to make peace with the alternate course our lives had taken.
While I never planned to have only one child, I have found that having an only child has both its benefits and its challenges. The three of us are a very close family unit, and all of our attention can be focused on nurturing Hannah to become the wonderful young woman she is blossoming into. I am now almost seven years into this journey of healing, and I have reached a point in my life that I am content and at peace. I like to describe it as being “a feather in the wind.” I feel like my life is exactly the way that it’s supposed to be, and I look forward to what each day brings.
There is one thing, though, that continues to catch me off guard on occasion. It is amazing how many times I am asked by someone, usually a stranger, “You just have one?” When I answer, a look of pity follows. It’s as if having only one child is viewed by our society as a failure of some sort. I used to feel as though I owed people an explanation as to why we chose to have “just” one child. I’ve grown past that now. I know now that I don’t owe anyone an explanation, because I love my life just the way that it is.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my little Emily. The difference now is that I no longer feel as though I’m being suffocated by the blanket of grief that came with her memory. Instead, I am able to thank her for the many lessons she has taught me about love and about life, and for continuing to teach me more of those lessons each day. Now, when I’m asked, I can say, “Yes. Just one…” and just smile.