Our four month old is taking a nap while I tell my husband we’re pregnant again. Nothing but happiness, as we were very open to the possibility of having another soon after our first daughter. I half-joke that there’s a strong likelihood it’s twins.
4 weeks later
Confirming the pregnancy with an ultrasound.
As we watch the healthy little tadpole on the screen, I joke to our doctor, “you sure there’s only one?”. She continues to look around, and not 5 seconds later, there’s two tadpoles on the screen. My husband and I burst out laughing so loudly that another nurse peeked in to check on us.
2 months of excitement, panic, and planning go by.
At this point, I am seeing an at-risk OB in addition to my regular OB. This is standard practice for pregnancy of multiples. So far, this had been exciting and pleasant because all it meant for me was many ultrasounds, getting to see my babies far more often than during my single pregnancy. But at about 21 weeks along, darkness crept in. The brain of Baby A was solid black on the screen.
You cannot possibly know who you will be, how you will react when put into a horrible circumstance, until you’re there.
I never would have guessed that I’d be the mother that goes numb from head to toe, void of any emotion.
I also would’ve never guessed at how unhelpful educated professionals can be in such a crucial situation that demands decisions to be made.
The doctor didn’t say much beyond informing us that darkness in the brain on an ultrasound was pretty definitive of brain inactivity. He offered to perform an amniocentesis to check for genetic causes, in case the other twin was potentially affected. Either way, he did express serious concern for the other twin’s livelihood going forward.
Our 6 month old’s first Christmas goes by. We tell no one. We receive sets of adorable twin outfits.
The genetic test showed no cause for concern for the other twin. Baby A’s brain activity is an in-utero development issue.
We go in for the next appointment with the at-risk doctor, having decided to abort Baby A in order to ensure Baby B survives. The doctor tells us he would have done that back in December. Looking back, I think he deserved an insult for that unhelpful remark, considering how quiet he was back at that first horrible appointment.
I had one, earth-shattering, screaming sob session, between finding out at the December appointment and making a decision at the January appointment. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I left my body for a good part of it. When I finished, the numbness returned. My husband and I had made the decision together, but both of us felt solely responsible and it created a distance between us for those last few months of the pregnancy.
We felt weak.
We felt cruel and heartless.
We also felt our duty to our now-seven-month-old, and this we felt strongest.
Baby A, as we were later informed, had complications so critical, they were highly likely to die in utero from seizure, and if they had made it through birth, death from seizure was guaranteed within their first few months of life. Regardless of how long life would have lasted, they were already brain-dead, with no hope at quality of life.
The lack of information from our doctors continued to haunt us through to birth. The procedure happened around 24 weeks, at which time we were told the fetus would likely dissolve before birth. This did not happen. Baby A was big enough at birth to require a birth and death certificate, and funerary procedure. We did not officially name her, I think that would have broken my husband beyond repair. But I secretly did. I share it with no one but I speak a word of gratitude to her when I’m alone, for being her sister’s angel.
There are parents out there (maybe even reading this right now) who have decided differently than I did, who knew the challenges that lay ahead for a coming child and decided to face those challenges head-on. I hold you in the highest esteem.
I still feel the same emotionless numbness whenever I think back. But I also feel at peace with my decision. I have two happy, healthy little girls. Is there a chance both babies could’ve survived? Minimal, but yes. But it was a sure thing that Baby A would have had a mountain of health concerns on top of being brain-dead. So there was never even the slightest chance that both babies would come out without issue. There is no use in beating myself up over what could have been, but I still look to the back seat of our car and imagine a third car seat back there. A third crib in the girls room. A third set of little sneakers. I also imagine a life revolving around round-the-clock medical care, the needs of two babies falling to the wayside while the needs of one takes priority. Waking up one fateful to a still baby in one crib while two other babies babble happily unaware ready for their morning bottle. I imagine how tormented I’d be today if I’d said yes to seeing her face when she was born. I still don’t haven’t been able to analyze my own feelings enough to know whether I regret that decision. I think the guilt would have been too much to bear and that that’s my answer.
I’ve been in the position that no one would wish on themselves or their greatest enemy. I had to make that decision, one that I will live with for the rest of my days. You may leave this page with a strong opinion of me.
But know this.
You cannot know the kind of person you would be in that position, until you are in that position. You cannot possibly know what will be running through your mind when you make that decision, or even what decision you would truly make, until you have to make it.
I believe in pro-choice, but I have come out of this experience knowing bitterly well that neither side of this issue know the full realm of possibilities. That even doctors, specialists in the field, don’t provide all the facts as they should. Life is sacred. But no two circumstances are the same, so be kind and don’t make broad sweeping generalizations, especially if you personally have never had to make such a grave decision.