Politicians or parents deciding?

Diagnosis: Trisomy 13

By Angie

April 13 marked an anniversary of a sort for me and my husband. Four years ago that day was when, as first-time parents, we made the decision to let go of our much-loved and-wanted baby to a place where he wouldn't suffer anymore.

Our decision: to have an abortion. I shudder at the word for all the ugliness attached to it. There was no ugliness in our decision; it was made with nothing but the purest of love and respect for our son's life.

So much happened that day four years ago. It started with joy, playfulness and excitement. I awoke early and shoved a chocolate doughnut down my throat, washed down with a glass of orange juice. Sugar gets the baby moving, I read.

The more the baby moves, the more likely we could find out its gender in the ultrasound. We waited and watched the technician's face as she moved the wand over my stomach, looking at the monitor with furrowed brows. The ultrasound ended abruptly.

She couldn't determine the gender. But we knew by her tone, her sudden lack of eye contact, there was something terribly wrong. With planet-sized lumps in the pits of our stomachs, we drove across town to my doctor's office. There we heard the problems ticked off organ by organ: backed-up kidneys, water on the brain and spine, heart defects, lungs malfunctioning. I hung on every sentence, waiting for the part where she told me about the surgeries he would need, the therapists he could see, how we could make him whole one day.

Instead there was only a dead pause, and then the words "incompatible with life." His rare condition, Trisomy 13, likely would kill him before reaching birth. If he lived to term, he would die soon after - that is, if he made it through the immense physical stress of labor and delivery. Our choice was not much of a choice at all. Either way, we would lose. Either way, our dreams for our baby were irrevocably broken. We acted quickly, without regret and never a "what if." In our hearts it was the right decision for us and our baby.

Imagine my surprise in learning this date would come to coincide with the passage of LB1103, a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. Though I was just shy of this cut-off period, the bill still has everything to do with me and mothers who might walk in my shoes.

And as for mothers who walk in my shoes, there are plenty of us. Individually, the babies' conditions may be rare, but the occurrence of "conception gone awry" unfortunately is not. Fear of judgment, backlash and stigma keeps stories like ours safely out of everyday conversation and off people's minds.

I question who this bill was really about. Mothers like me facing the most unthinkable heartache? Did our experiences not give anyone pause? Was it really about the pain of the baby?

Ironically, sparing their babies pain is exactly why women make decisions like mine. In situations like mine, no one, and I mean no one, thinks more of the baby's pain than the mother. Again I must ask, who was this bill really about? It appears politics won out again. I'm saddened that mothers like me and the suffering babies we so desperately wanted were not at the forefront of this decision-making.

Originally written for the "Local View" of Journalstar.com - Politicians or parents deciding by Angie in April 2010, and is reprinted with her permission.


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