Our Trisomy 18 Journey: The Impossible Choice

A mother faced with an impossible choice or decision after being an ultrasound revealing fetal abnormalities and the genetic disorder known as Trisomy 18 or Edwards Syndrome. She has been given the option to terminate the pregnancy for her own health or to go full term knowing her baby will die after birth.

Frankly, my choice when facing a Trisomy 18 diagnosis is no one’s business but my own. But being put in a position where I was asked to make an impossible decision has opened my eyes and my heart to others and I urge you all to do the same.

Throughout this process, I was given four options. The first was to terminate the pregnancy by stopping my baby’s heart and having a D&E (Dilation and Evacuation) at an abortion clinic. I would be put to sleep and everything would be “taken care of” by the time I woke back up. The part that really upset me was when the doctor told me that during this process, babies are removed with forceps and a vacuum. When I asked if they were dismembered, she said that at least in some states, that can actually be a requirement. After seeing, hearing, and feeling my baby for so many months, the thought of taking that route was too much to bear. Even if the D & E was best for my health due to my medical history, it was not something I could personally live with.

To be candid, I am a Catholic by faith but also an advocate of social justice and equality. With that being said, I have never advocated for or against abortion and personally believe that choice should be made by the pregnant woman and her medical team in correlation with her ethical and religious beliefs. It angers me that men even have a say in a woman’s rights to her own reproductive system. But back on topic. This is the one time I wish I didn’t have a “choice” and that God would make the call for me. I couldn’t understand why he gave me a baby whose body wasn’t feasible for life after birth, yet asked me to carry it in my womb. Parts of me wished I would just miscarry and let God’s will be done while he was still safely in my womb. Another part wanted desperately to meet him.

I will say that this process has shaken me to the core, though. I couldn’t stomach the idea of having to go into one of those offices and potentially having to sit in a waiting room with a young woman who was using abortion as a form of birth control. While one woman could be there to end a pregnancy she desperately wanted, another could be there for a quick procedure, just for the sake of convenience. It was an odd feeling that really made me question abortions in general, but particularly late term abortions.

I then thought about women who had already lost their sweet babies in their wombs and who were then forced to endure the agonizing task of waiting until an appointment was made available to help. Even if the baby had already passed, I cannot even the fathom the heartache of needing to have it physically removed. No mother should have to go through that and yet I knew that at any minute, that could become my fate.

Nonetheless, these “abortion” clinics must be full of woman who are there for so many different reasons. From making irresponsible choices to being raped by a family member…to having miscarriages, maternal health complications, or fetal demise. Who are we to assume that everyone there wants to be there? It isn’t a safe assumption to make.

Although the D & E was never an option for me for a variety of reasons, I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like to show up and face hateful messages. Having a miscarriage and needing a child removed from your womb is obviously a highly emotional time in a woman’s life, as is having to make a choice about your health or the health of your unborn child when faced with fetal demise. Judging others for making impossible choices doesn’t seem very Christian at all. I suppose it just reminded me to be more empathetic and to hope others would do the same. We all have a story, and unless you have faced the same circumstances, you truly should not judge how another person handles their hardships.

Back to my choices. The other available options involved the early induction of labor and delivery. One choice would involve stopping the baby’s heart pre-delivery and the other would be to induce labor and wait to see if he was born alive or if he would be “born sleeping.” While the thought of stopping his heart initially seemed so cruel, I do have to admit that my mindset eventually shifted after I learned more about his genetic disorder and what it could entail. I wasn’t sure if stopping his heart and letting him pass away safely in my womb would be that bad after all. At least I would know he never experienced pain and that every moment of his life was spent surrounded by love.

I spoke about these choices often, especially to other mothers who knew how hard of a decision it would be. When contemplating early induction of labor, I was terrified that I would be “messing up” God’s plan. I didn’t want to hurt my baby and was fearful that inducing labor was the equivalent of me essentially killing him. My cousin lovingly reminded me that when we give our children vaccinations, we are trying to help them… not hurt them. She encouraged me to think of early induction as a way to do something “FOR my baby, not TO him.” That mindset really helped me to at least open my mind to the idea, especially considering the montage of medical risks I was facing if I went full term.

No matter my choice, a D&E and/or early induction of labor is only allowed up until the 24th week of pregnancy. Since I was 21 weeks when I found out, that didn’t feel like much time to decide the fate of another person’s life.

The last option was to wait. Since 95 percent of babies with Trisomy 18 do not make it to birth, there was a high chance that our baby would miscarry and we would never get to meet him. On the other hand, by waiting, there was a possibility that he would come into this world alive, and potentially very soon. Alternatively, he could also be born at full-term, with a slim chance of survival. There really was no way of knowing for sure.

I was reminded many times that, whether he came early or at 40 weeks, there was a large possibility that he would be stillborn because the process of childbirth is often too much for these little ones to bear. It hurt to hear that, but I also needed to prepare myself for any and every scenario.

If there is one take away from all of this, it should be that no one or nothing can you prepare you for this type of scenario. People will have their opinions no matter what option you take, but until they have actually walked a mile in your shoes, their opinions are irrelevant. Until a parent has to make this impossible choice, they have no idea what it feels like physically or emotionally, nor can they possibly comprehend the impact of your decisions. A mother in this circumstance needs to take into account what she feels is best for not just for her baby, but for her health, as well.

What are your thoughts?

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