My husband and I are lifelong Hoosiers. I grew up in Bargersville and attended Hanover College—the 35th in my family to do so. I am an attorney, receiving my law degree from IU McKinney Law School. My husband grew up in Anderson and attended Rose Hulman to become an electrical engineer.
We had been trying to conceive for 4 years and finally got pregnant in the fall of 2020. At 9 weeks, the ultrasound looked great. Four weeks later, we found out we were going to have a little boy. We felt so blessed.
At week 20 in the pregnancy, we received our second ultrasound—the anatomy ultrasound which is more in depth. It was then we got the earth-shattering news that our baby boy had an extreme birth defect, one of the worst cases of encephalocele they had ever seen. Over 75% of his brain was growing outside of his skull. The chances for encephalocele occurring are 1 in 10,000. Given how extreme his case was, he had a 100% chance of dying.
We got multiple opinions, all of them the same diagnosis and likely outcome. We had two options: lose our little boy now with a D&E procedure, or later with either a stillbirth or the infinitesimally small possibility that he might be born alive and immediately die in our arms.
This wasn’t a choice. There was no viable path to a healthy baby or birth. The emotional and mental trauma was already hitting us so hard. Words can’t express the pain and agony of carrying our son that week between finding out he was going to die and the day of the procedure. To know he may be in pain. To know our miracle was lost.
I have flashbacks to the week when I carried him but knew he would not live. I felt him move and felt the movement lessen. I heard the sincere congratulations from strangers and loved ones, just to break down in tears and tell them that he was going to die and was dying inside of me right then. Between the news that shattered my world and this one-week wait, it nearly killed me. All I wanted was to save him and I was hopeless.
We lost him on December 30th. The doctor was so loving. She had children of her own. She knew the pain I was going through. She gave me her personal cell phone number and frequently called me, even on Christmas Eve, to check in on me, to listen to me cry, to answer any questions. At the hospital, the nurses embraced me as I sobbed. They gave me a beautiful urn that was about the size of a strawberry. It was ceramic and hand painted with trees and deer in green, yellow, and white. We keep it on our mantle.
I spent months in bed. I contemplated suicide. I talked to a grief counselor twice a week. I shut out my family and friends, neglected work, and woke up almost every night hyperventilating in fits of tears.
I wouldn’t be alive if I had to carry my dying or dead son to term. What I went through nearly broke me. The flashbacks to that week between knowing he was dying to the day we lost him still haunt me. Going through 4.5-5 more months of that purgatory would have killed me, killed my family, killed my marriage. No one is that strong.
Life will never be the same. I never appreciated grief until losing my son. I regret the times that I perfunctorily passed along condolences when family and friends had loved ones who had passed because I never really understood what that person was going through. Now I do. This type of grief lives inside of you. It never lessens. It just hits less frequently as time marches on.
It took us another two years to conceive again. We just had a successful 20-week anatomy ultrasound and are due in late October 2022. We cried and cried upon hearing that our new baby is healthy. Our son will never be replaced, but we are hopeful with our new miracle. We will tell her about her brother, walk her among the trees that we planted for him, and will love her with every ounce of our being, just like we loved and continue to love the little boy we lost.
I can’t tell you how many women I have met who have similar stories—women whose babies had lethal defects, women who begged their doctors to find a viable path but it was impossible, women whose babies would die inside of them. We cherish the miracle of life. We cherish pregnancies and babies. We want to build our families. But a greater power existed and rare defects took our babies late in our pregnancies. Without abortions, our lives and our future children’s lives would not have continued. Because of abortion, we were able to continue living, try to heal, and perhaps be lucky enough to conceive again. We do not take abortion lightly. In fact, it shattered our worlds. But it was a necessary medical procedure to save our lives when our babies could not live. We are grateful for the doctors and nurses who saved our lives and were merciful with our babies who could not live.