There’s nothing like a positive pregnancy test to make you think seriously about your views on conception and birth. I remember staunchly holding to my stance as being Pro-Life in college. I refused to even consider the other side’s point of view, and anyone who claimed to be Pro-Choice were evil, ignorant, and enemies of God. How could anyone not come to the defense of an unborn child? How can a mother hear her little one’s heartbeat at her first ultrasound appointment, see it’s little frame, and still make the decision to terminate their life? Why should anyone even be allowed to have a choice in the matter?
These questions enraged me, and I’ll admit I secretly judged anyone who’d had an abortion, other than the alleged 1 percent that Pro-Lifers report on the amount of pregnancies aborted due to rape/incest.
…it wasn’t until my husband and I were faced with a choice that I began to understand.
A kind NICU doctor with tired eyes sat across from me, where I lay in a hospital bed; my arm hooked to an IV that pumped continuous magnesium sulfate into my bloodstream. My husband sat in a chair next to my bed, hunched over and holding my hand tightly. This was a heartbreaking, difficult conversation. But it was hospital policy for a NICU doctor to come talk to all pregnant mothers who were at high-risk of having their children before 24 weeks. This hospital contained a Level 4 NICU, the highest in the country, and at that moment, there were two 23-weekers that were undergoing surgery and other important procedures in order to prolong their fragile, little lives. At the moment, the magnesium sulfate surging through my body was successful in stopping my contractions, but I was dilated 3 cm at that point, and there was nothing else for us to do but wait. Wait and be educated on what the days/weeks/months ahead would/could look like.
We were exhausted. Overwhelmed. Afraid. Angry. And slowly being drained of hope. Despite the glimmer of optimism that the kind doctor desperately wanted to show us during that talk, he also spoke very frankly and honestly about the odds. He mentioned the two 23-weekers being worked on, as well as their success rates for survival. But survival wasn’t the hardest information to swallow. Reluctantly, but carefully, the doctor began explaining the physical, mental, and social complications that premature babies (at their various ages of gestation) are most likely to have. He wanted to emphasize these points because most parents, he said, just think of keeping the baby alive and don’t take into account the implications of life-long care that will be needed.
I’ll admit my mind hadn’t had time to make the transition until that moment. For the first time, I felt conflicted. I pictured my tiny baby needing continuous care, from being hooked up to tubes for most of her childhood, to mental retardation, and even physical and genetic abnormalities that she would live with for the remainder of her life. I had visions of cruel kids pointing and laughing at her abnormal frame or at the funny way she spoke, or her sitting and watching kids run and play outside while she sat indoors confined to a bed or a wheelchair. I thought of my husband and I rushing her back and forth to the hospital to treat another flare up of one of her chronic conditions. I felt the exhaustion fighting to overwhelm the love we’d feel for her.
I fought back tears and continued to listen to the NICU doctor.
After clenching my husband’s hand tighter, we looked at one another quickly in the eyes. I realized his mind was going through a similar train of thought. And I began to feel stronger about what our answer was going to be.
In so many words (albeit broken and scared, but passionate), we told the doctor to do whatever he and his staff could do to save our little one’s life. We were given a choice: to either resuscitate or not upon birth. Should we allow them to immediately whisk her away to the incubator to begin immediate care, or would we rather them lay her on my bare chest for my husband and I to spend her last moments with us? Which could be hours or merely minutes. The point being, is that our decision would be respected. We were allowed to choose.
Granted, it was the hardest decision we’d ever made as a family. Not because we were sure about what we wanted (life or death), but we weren’t sure about what was best. Our faith played a large role, mind you. We believe in the Bible’s principles regarding the sanctity of life. On the other hand, I’d recognized that one commonality among all parents is that they would wish that their children wouldn’t spend ONE day suffering. We didn’t want our baby to suffer. So, if we could send her quickly back to her Heavenly Father, would that be best?
…I did consider the women who have miscarried. I thought of loved ones who have lost children and those who desire them and cannot have them. Their faces flashed before me for most of my time in the hospital. I recognized the privilege & gift that I’d been given to be able to conceive. Ultimately, all of these factors went into our decision.
I am still pro-life, technically. I will still advocate for the unborn and hold to my belief that life begins the moment the baby is conceived. But I am grateful for that talk that day. I am glad that we were allowed to consider the odds and consequences. I’m glad we were given a choice. Every parent, every pregnant mother, deserves that. Probably just as much as every child deserves a chance to live.