Monday, 28 December 2015
Kate, already mom to one daughter, terminated her second pregnancy at 36 weeks. She named the daughter she lost Rose. (Photo: Rosanna U/Getty Images)
When Kate, a 29-year-old mom outside Boston, found out she was pregnant with a second daughter, she was elated. Then, at 36 weeks along, she got the news that is every expecting parent’s worst nightmare: Her baby, whom she would later name Rose, had two brain malformations. Kate decided to have an abortion, and eventually found solace in a support group on the website Ending a Wanted Pregnancy. The online community is for parents who terminate pregnancies for medical reasons (pregnancies they wanted, but chose to end after a severe prenatal diagnosis or maternal health issue) and who often feel alone or ashamed, and suffer in silence. Kate, one of the site’s administrators, shares her story with Yahoo Parenting’s Rachel Bertsche.
My husband and I always wanted a big family. We wanted to have a lot of kids and to start young and have them close together. In 2010, we had our first. A healthy baby girl. But when we were ready for number two, getting pregnant — or, rather, staying pregnant — was harder. I had three miscarriages before a pregnancy finally stuck. I was expecting a second little girl in the summer of 2012, and everyone around me said everything looked great.
Well, almost everyone. At my 18-week fetal scan, a technician thought she saw something – she wasn’t sure what, exactly — so they sent me for a Level 2 ultrasound at a local teaching hospital. “Level 2” meant that it would be more detailed than the standard sonogram, and a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist would look at it. When I went for that test, the MFM specialist said the baby was healthy. I was worried, but when I expressed my concern to the hospital’s genetic counselor, she said, “His job is on the line. He must be completely confident.”
That whole pregnancy was hard for me. I was sick for much longer than most people are. I had sleep apnea. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, she would kick responsively, and then she would take naps. It seemed logical. This baby never stopped moving, but she never did anything responsive, either. The movements were so random. I remember telling a friend, “This baby is already different than my first.” I don’t know if it was that, or my history of miscarriages, or having that seed planted that something might be wrong, but I was uneasy.
Because of that worry, at 35 weeks, my midwife sent me for a “peace of mind” ultrasound. I was eight months pregnant — huge! — and I went to the hospital thinking I was being silly. The rational side of me knew everything was fine. I figured they would tell me all was good, put my mind at ease, give me a picture and send me home.
I went to the appointment alone, on a Wednesday in May. I was so chatty with the technician while I was lying on the table. Towards the end, I said to her, “It’s funny, I keep picturing the baby I already have, but I know this one will be different.” And she looked right at me, with these serious eyes, and said, “This baby will be different. They are all different.”
While I waited for the doctor, I worked on the sweater I was knitting for my little girl. When two doctors came in, one of them asked me about it. Was I making it for the baby? I told her I was, and, with tears in her eyes, she said, “It’s beautiful.”
Then she continued. “The things they couldn’t find the last time you were here, we are seeing those things today. Your baby has brain malformation.” Right away, she said, “We might be able to arrange an abortion, we just don’t know. We can arrange an adoption if that’s what you want.”
I’m grateful that she led with that. It told me it was safe to talk to her about options, and it told me that something was very wrong. That was the only thing she said that got through to me. Everything else came up against that denial wall. Of course, she told me about keeping the baby, too.
I know she said the words “Dandy-Walker,” which I know now is a brain syndrome that has varying degrees of severity. I remember asking, “Are babies with this ever normal?” and she said that sometimes they were. She told me they couldn’t know the severity of the situation until after I had an MRI. That’s how they would determine if my baby would be OK or if she would be “incompatible with life.” Those are the words they used. Incompatible with life.