Was I a Mommy or not?

Diagnosis: Trisomy 21

By A Single Mom

A different point of view

I've spent countless hours reading the stories of grieving parents on this website. I can identify with every single sentence, every word as I too have interrupted a pregnancy. My story is different from most of the other's however, as I am a single mother. I did not have the love and support of a caring partner while I was pregnant or now during my grieving process. I am thankful I have the support of one very good friend that is no longer a friend but a sister.

My story began July 18, 2008; the day I found out I was pregnant. That is by far one of the happiest days of my life as I have desperately wanted to be a mommy forever. At 41 I was told by my doctor that the chances of me getting pregnant were, "like the chances of throwing snake eyes in Las Vegas" *(1 in 36), not very encouraging. I had been in a stable relationship and we both wanted me to become pregnant very much. We tried for a year using the ovulation pregnancy kits to no avail. Our relationship ended and with it the hopes of ever even becoming pregnant as my odds were not encouraging and I had no partner.

I thought my luck had changed when I met a man I thought to be "The One." He was perfect in every single way, I fell in love instantly. It's like he had cast a spell on me. Looking back now I realize I fell in love with an idea of him that only existed in my mind and heart as he turned out to be everything but perfect. When we started dating I told him although my chances of getting pregnant were very slim we should still practice some kind of birth control. By this time he was 52 (I found this out later, as he had told me he was 47 when we met) and I was 42. He had a beautiful 17 year old daughter and I assumed at his age, he was done raising kids. His response to me was, "it would be a blessing if we had a baby." This must have been the moment I started to fictionalize a version of him in my mind that was not the real him.

We went on our first vacation together to Buenos Aires, Argentina one of my favorite cities in the whole world. I have worked as a flight attendant for the past 11 years and have traveled through many beautiful cities. I have always held a special place in my heart for Buenos Aires. We had a wonderful romantic time. I am certain this is where my son was conceived. Two weeks after returning from our vacation I started to suspect my body was changing. Actually it was more a spiritual change. My heart kept telling me I was pregnant. After confirming this with a pregnancy test on July 18, 2008, I was elated to say the least. I thought to myself, God, the Universe, the Fates whatever exists up there has finally smiled on me and granted me my ultimate wish - to become a mommy. I thought to myself, it took 42 years but I knew I would someday receive my recompense.

When I told the FOB (Father of Baby), he seemed surprised but OK with the fact that he would be a father again. I guess deep inside I had a pang of something not being quite right. I guess I had imagined he would be as elated as me. Now, I realize this person standing before me was just an imaginary man I had created in my mind. The man standing in front of me now was not the father I had dreamt of for my child. Four days passed and that is when he started to hint at an abortion. He decided he was too old to have another child and was not willing to assume the responsibility of raising a child at his age. This of course crushed me, how could the man that reassured me a pregnancy would be very wanted be uttering these awful words. Did he think I was going to use abortion as a birth control option? Most importantly after dating for 25 years, had I not learned when a man is lying to me? I guess I deceived myself; I wanted this baby so much with this man.

Due to the stressful nature and physically demanding requirements of my job I was put on disability early on, October 1, 2008. I also think the doctor took into consideration my advanced maternal age, by now I was 43 and the fact that I have fibroids in my uterus. I can honestly say that the FOB disappeared during this time. He told me having this baby was my choice and he could not support me emotionally or financially. Being on disability cut my income by a third, I would only have insurance for 2 more months then have to pay to keep COBRA for a year and I did not qualify for any government programs. I also had to start thinking about other job options as I could not imagine leaving my baby while I was away on a four day trip. I live in the one bedroom condo I bought eight years ago; I wondered where I would accommodate my baby. In contrast the FOB is a structural engineering staff member at a major University and lives in a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home in an affluent part of the city. I asked for help many times in emails and phone calls, most of which were ignored or simply brushed off with, "It's your choice to have this baby, not mine."

Again, I wondered when he got the idea I would use abortion as a form of birth control? There were some weeks I did not have enough money to buy nutritious food let alone prenatal vitamins to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Still, he would not help. I spent countless nights awake, worried about my baby's future. I started taking odd jobs like babysitting to supplement my income. During my pregnancy I craved orange juice and apples, my baby's favorites as I no longer crave either nor did I before him. After earning a little money I would always go buy these items. To say the least my pregnancy was worrisome but always filled with incredible joy and happiness as I could not believe I was having a little baby! This thought filled my heart with the most incredible joy and happiness I have ever felt. I would imagine my baby smiling at me while I rocked him to sleep in my arms and somehow it gave me the strength to do what ever I had to, to give him everything he would ever need on my own. Even though the doctor had told me the baby had the heartbeat of a little girl, I always knew he was a little boy. I would always find myself inadvertently calling him, he, when I referred to the baby.

The FOB attended 2 appointments in September and then disappeared. On October 20th the day I had the amniocenteses my two best friends went with me. This day, October 20th 2008 has been the happiest day of my life. I saw my baby moving around in my belly, he was so active. The sonogropher said he looked perfect. At first it was difficult for her to determine his sex as he was so active. Hearing her say, "It's a boy" made me and my girlfriends exclaim with joy. According to her and the doctors he looked perfect other than a little fluid in his kidneys, which I was told is perfectly normal and would be cured with antibiotics once he was born if it did not go away on its own. When I left, I wanted to tell the world I was having a baby boy but something in the back of my mind told me to wait till I got the results of the amniocenteses.

On October 30th my world came tumbling down and I lost my reason for living. I had realized in the ten days prior that I had simply been bidding my time on earth till this baby came along. He made everything so perfect and wonderful. I wondered if anyone had ever been as happy as I was the ten days I thought my baby was healthy. At that point I even dared look at baby clothes and buy some. The nurse from the UCSD genetics department called and told me she had bad news. My baby had 3 21st chromosomes, Trisomy 21 - Down Syndrome. My head and heart felt like they would explode.

I could not believe God's cruelty. He could have easily made me miscarry early on in the pregnancy. He could have left me barren, as I had reconciled in my mind I would be childless. He could have even given my baby a more serious diagnosis so that I would not have to endure so much turmoil, regret and sadness at the thought of interrupting the pregnancy. Instead I had this incredible choice. The baby was not endangering my life and would not die the moment he was born. Still, I thought about how cruel and unfair life can be when we have all our faculties about us. Then I thought about dying before my baby, who would take care of him with love and tenderness if something happened to me? His father did not want him when he was healthy, he certainly would not want him genetically challenged. I had an enormous decision to make and not a lot of time as I was in my 19th week of pregnancy. In the end I decided to interrupt the pregnancy as thinking of my baby alone in this world with only cold strangers to take care of him, should something happen to me broke my heart. I thought I was doing the loving, responsible thing and although I do not regret my decision to interrupt the pregnancy I still find myself justifying and validating my decision in various ways, every day.

When the FOB found out I would be interrupting the pregnancy due to my baby's genetic diagnosis, he came around to be supportive. I am so mad at God. In the end he granted the FOB his wish - for me to abort and at such an enormous cost to my emotional and physical health. I was ready to change my life in every single way to accommodate my little boy how could God be so cruel to me and so kind to the FOB. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Interrupting a pregnancy in the second trimester, I have found out is a very long and painful process - three days. For three days I felt my baby's life slip away. I had scoured the internet looking for reassurance in terms of my decision. I ended up reading a lot of postings put up by "pro lifers." Some of the things I read still haunt me. I wish I had known about this website during those horrible three days. I wish there was more prevalent information about women in my situation. Since that time I have realized that a lot of people do not want to admit they interrupted their pregnancies because their fetuses were genetically challenged, instead they say they miscarried. I understand why a person would not confess to their choice, but still there are people in the exact same position as I found myself that need validation and reassurance. It makes me sad that there are mostly pro life opinions out there to discombobulate a person in my situation. Given that we live in the richest and most sophisticated country on earth there should be more pro choice stories out on the web. It's ironic to me how sympathetic and compassionate we are to animals that are sick in this country but when it comes to interrupting a pregnancy with a sick fetus, even a much wanted pregnancy; people can be so cruel and rigid.

I lost my baby on November 7th 2008 a Friday. Again God at his cruelest, although I know there is no perfect time to interrupt a pregnancy, did it really have to be right before the holidays? The FOB tried to be supportive by being here at my house that weekend. Unfortunately, a Charger football game was more important to him than consoling me while putting my baby's clothes and belongings in a bag to put away. The FOB had promised me at the hospital during the interruption process that we would have our own memorial for our baby, I still have no memorial, no closure.

Although I was relatively composed during the interruption process on Friday, by Monday I felt the raw pain of what had happened and what I had lost. I never knew a human being could feel let alone withstand so much pain. I tried to numb the pain by taking a bottle of Xanex pills with a full glass of Vodka. This attempt to deal with my pain landed me in the ICU ward of a mental hospital for three days. I realized my son might have ended up as one of the patients in a place like that had I died, nobody to give him a tender caress, a loving smile. Being in that hospital made me realize, I made the right choice in the end. The most difficult choice I have ever made, nonetheless a choice made out of the greatest love any mommy can have for her child. I wanted so much more for my son. I am hoping I gave that to him. I hope he is eternally flying in heaven with other angels and sleeping in God's arms every night. I am coming to terms with God's plan, I am sure it will be revealed to me one of these days. In the meantime I pray my baby comes to visit me in my dreams often as he is a permanent fixture of my spirit and mind.

Now I wonder was I a mommy or not? I cared for my son the five months he lived inside of me but I never saw him. At the time of the interruption I did not know I had a choice: to do the 3 day process or actually give birth, look at him and hold him. In the end I just pray he felt no pain, I pray he fell asleep the moment the anesthesia began to course through my veins like I did. There are so many unanswered questions swirling through my mind all day long. Some days it hurts to think let alone function. Physically I have recovered. Emotionally every day is a struggle. I want to honor my son by living the life I was not able to give him but life just seems so gray with out him now. I know I am a different woman now and for the rest of my life. I live and breathe him every second of every moment of every hour of every day. I still wonder was I a mommy or not?

*Editor's note: The odds of having a healthy pregnancy after age 40 depend on whom you ask. According to the March of Dimes the risk of having a child with Down syndrome at age 35 is a 1-in-400 chance, at age 40 is a 1-in-100 chance and at age 45 is a 1-in-30 chance


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