Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gracie Belle

Why I Didn't Murder My Baby

       Before I begin let me just say writing this was a long time coming. I had seen the umpteenth post about pro-life or pro-choice and I guess what astounds me is that we are even having this debate. It’s no wonder our country is going to hell in a hand-basket if we can’t even agree on whether or not it’s okay to murder the innocent and helpless. Should we have choices? Yes. Agency and freedom go hand in hand. Can you choose to shoot a man on the street? Sure. But it’s illegal and there are consequences. Can you choose to take the life of an infant? But of course! And bonus, it’s legal! Heck, it’s even encouraged. What happened to logic? What happened to morality?

        The title of the post may be shocking, but its essence is true. I was given the choice to abort my baby and I refrained. I suppose much of the world thinks that every time a man and a woman create a living human being we should have the “choice” to murder them—as long as they are inside a womb of course. But it had never really been presented to me as an option until I found out I was pregnant with my fourth.
        I already had three monkeys disguised as boys. I loved them with all of my heart. And finally. FINALLY. We were having a girl. But there was a catch.
       You see my fourth baby was, as so many doctors eloquently put, “defective”. She was diagnosed with the condition Trisomy 9. For those who have never heard of that, it’s a chromosomal disorder. A more commonly heard of chromosome disorder is Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome’s. The lower the number, the more severe.
         Very few Trisomy 9 babies make it to term. In fact, it is so rare that every single doctor we dealt with in their long 30 plus year careers had never even seen a case. The few cases documented where the babies had made it to term were terrifying. Their bodies were disfigured. Some didn't have eyes or brains. It shocked us to the core.
          So. There I was. Fifteen or so weeks pregnant staring down the reality of what was now my life.
          The funny thing about these types of situations is, they crush you with the news and then, when you have dropped to your knees from the sheer weight of it all and are in the most incredibly vulnerable and least capable decision making frame of mind, they immediately expect you to make all sorts of decisions. Decisions that will affect you and probably haunt you the rest of your life.
          “So,” they said, “given the inevitability of the situation,” they said, “wouldn't you rather spare yourself and your body the pain and get rid of that defect?”
           Well not in those words. But basically.
           Let me pause for just a moment to say that this cynicism about doctors does not apply to all of the doctors we dealt with. My obstetrician, whom I adore, was loathe to even put it on the table. It was easy to tell the minute a doctor’s mouth started moving whether or not they were pro-life or pro-choice. Or maybe I’m not being fair. Maybe they are just so worn down by the indifference to human life they've lost feeling. Either way, it was disturbing.  
           My husband and I believe in God. Or at least I thought I believed in God before we were dealt this blow. We also believe that families are eternal so that even if we lose the ones we love in this life, we can be together with them one day. And quite suddenly I had to know. I desperately had to know if that was what I truly believed. For lack of a better way of phrasing it, I had to put up or shut up.
            I can’t speak for the entire population, but in my experience, the very second you find out you are pregnant, you become a mother. And even if you only carry that baby for three days or nine months, you are a mother. There is life inside your body and you will forever be connected.
           But it was true. She probably wouldn't make it to term. My body would have to go through the trauma, heck it was a c-section. My life would be at risk. The longer I was pregnant the harder it would be. And think of the baby! What about her? What would her quality of life be? What kind of a mother was I to force a baby to be born to a life of pain and imminent death?
            And so for the next few weeks I thought about it. It was a continual dialogue in my head. Yes or no, pros and cons, lists and lists and really it came down to one thing.
           Was it my decision?

Did it involve me? Yes. Absolutely. But was it my choice to make? Was it my choice to choose whether a spirit sent to us from our Father in Heaven should live or die? Should I kill this helpless little baby just because she was dealt a rotten hand of cards?

And for what? So I wouldn't get more stretch marks? So my “emotional attachment” as the physicians say, (though I like to refer to it as love) didn't get too strong? To spare myself the heartache? To spare ourselves the financial struggle?

I spoke the words out loud. I told my husband I was going to end the pregnancy. What was the point if it all ended in the same way? What did it matter if she died now or in a few months? He didn't argue or shame me he just said, I think you should pray about it. I think you should pray to know what she wants.

And reluctantly I did. But I didn't have any visions. She didn't come to me in a dream and make her wishes known. I didn't feel any closer to making a decision.

I had so many ultrasounds I can’t even number them and most of them are lost in a blur but for some reason I remember one in particular. I remember going in and lying on the table, waiting for the tech to squeeze the cold jelly on my stomach, and then I felt her move. And during the ultrasound she was active and it was like she was looking at me from that screen. She wiggled and stretched but all the while she was looking at me. And I knew.

She was a person. The phrase from that Doctor Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who, kept coming to my mind. “A person’s a person no matter how small” She was my baby no matter what. I knew she was a fighter. I couldn't betray her. I couldn't give up on her. I couldn't kill her.  
            Was the pregnancy hell? No doubt about it. Knowing that the little one you love is so close to being gone is one of the worst kinds of hell a person can go through. It pushed our marriage to its limits. It brought me to my knees, barely able to breathe, on almost a daily basis.
            But I didn't miscarry. At every appointment my doctor warned me to be prepared for the worst. And so I waited. I waited for blood. I waited for contractions. But they never came.

           Our family carved pumpkins for Halloween. Her grandpa carved one with a butterfly for her. She dressed up a skeleton. And I waited.

             I played my favorite music for her in the car during the hours and hours and hours of driving to the city for appointments and she responded. She danced. We danced together. And I waited.
             I told her secrets. I spoke to her all the time. I told her things I wanted her to know and remember. We watched chick flicks together and of course I had to eat every single one of my favorite foods because she needed to experience them. At least once. Even if was just in my mind.
             And I waited.
             I had a life with my baby girl. Nine beautiful and heart breaking, wonderful and terrible months. And then she was born. Our Gracie Belle. Our little sweetheart.

You look me in the eye and tell me we should have murdered our little girl when we had the chance. You tell me it was my body so it was my choice. You tell me that every single second of the two days God blessed us to have her wasn't worth it. To be able to smell her and kiss her nose. To feel her finger wrapped around mine. To hear her little mew of a cry. To watch as she sucked on a pacifier. To see her beautiful little eyes look back at me even if just for a moment.

Tell me it would have been better to end it and always wonder--To live with the what if’s and regrets. Tell me that it’s more important to value convenience and practicality over struggle and pain yes, but tremendous, life altering, love. If I had ended Gracie’s life that day it would have been the beginning of the end of mine.
I know every story is different. This is just mine. Abortion isn't the only way. You can choose hope. You can choose love. You can choose life.