I vividly remember that next morning in the waiting room, pleading with God,
telling him I would do anything to make this a bad dream.
The devastating choice: to abort
or not to abort our unborn child with a lethal condition.
December 14, 2011 (thepracticingcatholic.org) - Brad and I were expecting
our first child and received some potentially devastating news at our
20-week ultrasound on November 11, 2005. Up to that point, the pregnancy was
textbook. We had been joyfully anticipating the arrival of our new baby and
all the things that go with being first-time expectant parents.
It was an amazing experience to catch a glimpse of our baby with the
ultrasound. The baby's arms, legs, and head — he or she looked perfect.
A few minutes into our ultrasound, however, the technician's demeanor
changed. She became really quiet, very short with answers to our questions,
and then excused herself saying she was going to talk to the doctor. After
what seemed like hours, the doctor finally came in and explained to us that
the measurements were off and the baby had a potentially lethal condition.
They scheduled an appointment to see a specialist the next day and then sent
The unknown was hard for both of us to comprehend. That night was one of the
longest of our lives.
I vividly remember that next morning in the waiting room, pleading with God,
telling him I would do anything to make this a bad dream. We were called
back to an exam room for an ultrasound and shortly into the scan the doctor
came in to get a look at the baby. After our experience with the first
ultrasound, we learned that when a doctor comes into the room, it's
generally not good news.
The doctor confirmed that our baby had a lethal condition: thanatophoric
dysplasia. Time stood still and I could literally feel my heart drop. We
were devastated. They took us to a private room where we were given our
Option #1: Abort the pregnancy right there and then.
Option #2: Continue on carrying the baby as if it were a typical pregnancy
with a little more monitoring.
My immediate reaction . . . how could I abort this baby? I could feel him or
her moving and growing . . . How could I end this pregnancy, one that we
wanted and waited our entire lives to experience?
Our lives were turned upside down. Our families came to our home that
afternoon and we cried more than I can imagine anyone has cried before. Brad
and I had previously decided not to find out the sex of our baby until
delivery but under these circumstances decided we should know. Given Brad
nor I could manage a complete sentence, my sister called the doctor's
office and found out our baby was a girl.
So now back to our options. How do we make this life-altering decision? Most
of the men in our family wondered how I could go on carrying a baby girl
that we were told would not survive. We were handed a pamphlet from the
doctor about a perinatal hospice program at our hospital, so we decided to
contact the nurse. We talked to her about our baby and our choices, and her
response made me mad. We were told that we could not have the baby at Mercy
Hospital (a Catholic hospital) if we chose to abort the pregnancy because of
the hospital's pro-life beliefs. That made it seem wrong . . . and I am
Catholic. That was one of many signs.
I began to wish we never even had that ultrasound, and that we could have
continued on thinking everything was fine. How could we end a life? What
if the doctors were somehow wrong? How would we ever know?
We called the deacon who married us and asked him to come to our home.
Shortly after he arrived and heard what was going on, we began to discuss
what we would do. While we referred to ending the pregnancy as termination,
he called it abortion. I was so mad. I would never have an abortion. But
this was different. (Or was it?). That word, "abortion," offended all of
us so much that my dad asked him to stop using it when talking about our
little girl. (As Brad and I are writing this now, it seems so ridiculous
that we even felt that way.) We became so angry with the deacon and the
church for not even considering our feelings in this unimaginable situation.
(We now realize how selfish that was!) Before he left he asked if he could
pray over both of us. As it turns out, he had never done this before. I
can't remember his exact words, but I do remember that both Brad and I
began to shake and cry even more. When the prayer was over almost
immediately, a sense of peace came over both of us. I looked at Brad and he
looked at me and we then knew that it was God's will, not ours. We knew
what we were going to do. Nothing. Let it be. Give our baby girl a life,
whatever that looked like.
Something changed in us during that prayer. This did not by any means
indicate a smooth road ahead, it was anything but. Over the next four months
we had so many highs and lows (honestly more lows than highs), but we tried
to keep up a positive outlook by giving our baby girl a life through
experiencing everything we could with her. I ate everything that little kids
love, mostly sweets and desserts — and she seemed to love cheesecake and
Dairy Queen the most! We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas and tried to
focus on the fact that she was alive and healthy while protected in my womb.
Brad bonded by talking to her and feeling her move.
As the delivery date approached, we became more anxious. It was hard to keep
positive when strangers would ask me about my pregnancy. I constantly had a
battle of what to tell people — should I just pretend that everything was
ok? Or do I just blurt out that our baby was going to die? No one wants to
hear that, but it was the reality. Part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe,
the doctors were wrong and that God had a miracle in the making. Maybe our
baby girl would live.
We were induced at 37-weeks. Our family was there to welcome her, along with
our priest and deacon. Through hospice we were able to have a separate room,
and our favorite hospice nurse was with us throughout the entire labor and
delivery. It was so bittersweet: on one hand we were excited to meet our
little girl, but we knew that it would be a quick "hello" for now. On
the other I wanted to keep her with us for as long as I could. We were
scared of what was going to happen.
The labor was long and strenuous. It was such a heavy day but the atmosphere
was peaceful. We tried to joke around and laugh as we wanted her birthday to
be a day of celebration. We wanted to have memories to look back on and
Sophia Marie was born on March 22, 2006, at 10:28 p.m. and took her first
and only breath in the loving arms of her daddy. She was baptized
immediately with our family present, and we prayed the Lord's Prayer. I
remember thinking how lucky we were to have our family there with us. My
prayer had been answered — Sophia wasn't in any pain; she seemed at
peace. I was so tired but wanted to stay up and hold her for as long as I
could. We wanted to remember everything about her: her hands, her chubby
little feet, her face. I didn't ever want to forget. We gave her a bath
and dressed her in the outfit and matching hair bow we had bought for her.
We took family pictures. I fell asleep with her in my arms and the next
morning we said goodbye to her for the last time.
Looking back, Brad and I can't even fathom what our lives would be like if
we had chosen to abort. We still celebrate Sophia's life and know that she
continues to have an impact on many. We are now blessed with two amazing
little boys and are grateful for every moment with them. And I thank God
everyday for giving us that moment of clarity in our darkest time for
guiding us to make the right choice.
Join a Facebook page to end abortion here.
This article first appeared at thepracticingcatholic.com and is reprinted
The support, information and encouragement provided by the PPFL parents is not meant to take the place of medical advice by a medical professional. Any specific questions about care should be directed to a health care professional familiar with the situation.