I’d like to share something serious and very personal with you today, but I am nervous and afraid to address such a touchy topic. What, for lack of a better term, I feel compelled to write about is one of the most controversial topics I know of, and controversy and I don’t get along. If there is one thing that causes me to lose sleep, or to start getting ulcers, it’s controversy.
When I was young, I had a bad experience at school after I committed a trivial offense I was too afraid to admit to. The result was an austere teacher and punishment for the whole class for a week until the culprit ‘fessed up. I never did confess and was sick to my stomach for that whole week. For a long time after that, I would confess to many offenses that I had never committed, just to avoid any similar stressful situation.
But here I am facing that dread, hoping to accomplish I don’t know what, but feeling a need to write that I can’t ignore anymore. Ever since I started this blog and wrote briefly about the death of my daughter Hosanna, this topic has been nagging at me. I have been pushing it back, telling myself that nothing I have to say could be helpful for those who might be struggling with this issue.
I have been praying hard all morning, and mostly to avoid writing, I googled the words Pro-Choice Articles. I clicked on the first link. It was entitled Pro Choice as an Act of Love. I am timid to even put a link to the article for fear that the author might get wind of this and start slinging mud my way. I never could figure out how her abortion was an act of love, but it is not my intention to tear her article apart, or denounce her logic or reasoning. I mention it because it was so startlingly similar to my own story- just the flip side of the coin if I had made her choice. She was straight forward and graphic about her own harrowing ordeal in the hope of helping other women be confident in their choice of an abortion. I’m going to relate my own story from the other side.
About five months into my pregnancy with Hosanna, we were “dealt a bum hand” as the author of the above-mentioned article put it. It had been a strange pregnancy, following closely after the birth of my first son. They would have been fourteen months apart if she had lived. I felt great, and had already had a few doctor’s appointments where we had heard the heartbeat. I didn’t feel any worry, even though at five months, I was hardly showing at all. People were starting to comment on my good luck! How I carried my babies so discretely!
One day I went in to find out the sex of the baby without my hubby since he was so busy at work. The technician came in to do my ultrasound with a big grin on her face, but as she started taking pictures, the grin faded. She called another nurse in. They started printing reams of pictures and hurrying out of the room with them. I was really nervous by this time and asked the nurse if she could tell what sex it was. “It’s a girl,” she replied absently, and continued clicking and typing. Then she left me alone for quite a while. I sat there shaking on the table, wondering what was going on. Then my midwife came in with that look on her face. Something was terribly wrong with my baby, and we would need to do some further testing for diagnoses. I somehow made it out of the office, and drove to my hubby’s work where he was in a meeting. I walked in the door, and I must have looked terrible because the other man in the room excused himself as quickly as he could. Then I fell apart and the next several weeks are kind of a blur in my memory.
We went to the hospital for an amniocentesis. In my ignorance, I didn’t know what that was until they stuck a huge needle straight into my belly and took a sample of amniotic fluid. We would have the results in a week or so. When they came, the hospital called us in for a conference. The problem turned out to be a chromosomal disorder called triploidy. My daughter had three sets of chromosomes instead of two. The survival rate for such a diagnosis was zero percent. The blow was devastating enough, but what followed was perhaps as traumatic for me.
The man explaining things to us was a hospital counselor, and he had two folders on the table in front of him. He explained very clearly that there were cases where a triploidy baby had actually lived to be born and even survive a few months, but ultimately there would be no hope. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of carrying a baby full term only to lose it. We had already had an early miscarriage before our son was born and that was hard enough.
He then explained the possible complications to the mother if we continued with the pregnancy, and that word if broke through the fog of all the information he was giving us. I suddenly realized what the man was getting at. I didn’t know what to say. He never used the word abortion or termination, but I noticed his fingers drumming on one of the folders on the table. I had a sudden sickening feeling of what information was inside it and I had a moment’s horror, realizing that we were being given the option of killing our own baby. The room started spinning and then quietly but firmly, my husband held my hand and let the counselor know that termination was not an option for us.
The hateful folder disappeared under the table and the other folder was opened. Instead of a description of an abortion procedure, the assurance that the fetus was not really a child yet, and the hospital’s guarantee that it would take care of the waste discretely, it was a ready made speech about how we needed to celebrate this little life as long as we had it- that we should name her, begin funeral preparations and sign up for the “Empty Arms” support group. We even got a certificate from the hospital acknowledging her valuable but short existence.
Hosanna died a month later, and we went through the nightmare of inducing a still birth. The story of the pro-choice article was almost exactly what we experienced, except we were in a friendly hospital, not a cold abortion clinic: the labor inducing drugs, the terrible pain, and finally holding our child in our arms as we wept. We went home to bury our daughter and to be comforted by a gracious God, loving family and friends and our joyful one year old son. It took a while for the healing, and I still can’t go through an ultrasound without great trepidation, but God has granted us three wonderful boys after her loss.
What continues to haunt me is that there were two folders on the table that day, and that there are two folders set before every woman in such a situation. Many people have worked tirelessly to insure that when someone like me finds herself in such a situation, I might be given a choice to take matters into my own hands and end a life on my own terms. That when dealt a bum hand, I could, in theory, have handed the cards back and asked for a new set, just like that. There was no hope for my baby after all. Why waste so much time waiting for her to die, or preparing for all the possible complications, when you could get it all over with and start afresh with a better model? I imagine all of those women who are presented with that folder, being told it is a gift- a blessing to be able to take control of their own destiny. I can only say that this is a lie. This is no game, and you cannot hand back what you are dealt.
I’m not here to argue about whether or not a fetus is a child, or whether there is ever a situation that justifies an abortion. I’ve heard all the arguments, and as I said before, I don’t want to argue. I simply want to relate my own experience when presented with that dreadful choice. And it is a dreadful choice. The poor counselor was trying to do his job by offering it, but he couldn’t read both of those folders out loud to us. There is a reason he hemmed and hawed and skirted around the issue. He knew the contradiction was too ridiculous. I’m sure he was glad he didn’t have to spell it out for us. Do you want us to end this little life, or do you want us to help you nurture it as long as you can?
I consider myself blessed in my situation since in reality, there were never two choices for me. My beliefs made it impossible. I believe in a God who is the author of every life and I am so thankful I was allowed to leave that responsibility in His hands. I was not pressured or cajoled into taking ” advantage” of that hard earned right to choose that would have put such an impossible weight on my own shoulders. I don’t have to carry that burden with me, and I don’t think any woman should.
I have no arguments for those who have been raped, or whose lives might be threatened by carrying their child full term, or the myriad other situations that I hear so often brought forward. I simply want to say how I long and pray for those faced with such a terrible choice, to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and to know there is hope. I pray for those who have no strong husband, no supportive family, who feel they have no choice but to choose death. I weep for those who thought they wanted the responsibility of that choice but have found it to bring only despair and the never ending question, “What if?”
I feel totally inept as I write this. I wish I had answers and solutions for those faced with this choice as I was, or for those who have actually made it. But the only answer I can offer are the words that comforted me in the darkest hours- the words of the Lord of Life himself-
“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”