Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sensitive Topic Ahead

There is a post I read on FF yesterday that really got to me, and I just need to express my feelings about it. It is still eating me up inside and I am hoping that if I can get this out, I can find peace about all of it.

There was a 41-year old woman who posted on the General Pregnancy Chat forum. She is/was 21 weeks along. She had just confirmed through amnio that her baby girl had Down Syndrome. And she and her husband made the decision to terminate the pregnancy. They did not want the burden of a child with special needs. She said that adoption was not an option for them and while heartbreaking, termination was her (and her husband's) final decision.

Needless to say, this caused quite a stir on the boards - as many infertile women took offense to ending a pregnancy over a condition that is not life-threatening. Parents of children with Down Syndrome also spoke up and tried to educate her about the condition. Some even offered to adopt the baby, if only she wouldn't terminate. It quickly turned into a mud-slinging, pro-life vs. pro-choice debate and was locked down by management.

I found myself in tears after reading all of the posts. So much so that DH had to comfort me. Maybe some of my outburst can be attributed to hormones but I am just so...confused. I always thought I was pro-choice, and in a way I still am. I don't believe the government should be able to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her body. I think that is a slippery slope - first, our bodies, then what? However, after my experiences with miscarriage and IF, I am beginning to also feel pro-life. I understand terminating a baby that could not survive outside of the womb. Babies with severe defects that are incompatible with life. Or even selective reduction - multiple pregnancies that risk the lives of the babies as well as the mother. But people with Down Syndrome, in the vast majority of cases, are able to lead very productive, fulfilling lives. I just don't think I could personally abort a child that has a chance at life. Maybe in my past, but not at this point, knowing what I know now.

I am not judging here, as it is not my place to say whether she is right or wrong for her decision. Or others who are faced with the same predicament. I am merely trying to sort out my own internal conflict. My baby boy is almost 21 weeks himself. And I feel him kicking me right now as I type. I can't imagine making the decision to take that away. I freak out over every little thing I do, thinking I am going to hurt him or jeopardize his life. If I eat at a buffet, I am nearly in tears, worrying that something I ate may have sat out too long and harbored harmful bacteria that could cross the placenta. If I take a medication, I worry that it may affect his health. And here is someone who has a beautiful baby and is consciously ending her life. Granted, the baby does have a chromosomal disorder - Trisomy 21. But she is just 3 weeks away from viability. So close and yet so far.

I am beyond torn up. I just find myself holding my belly and crying. I don't even know why exactly. I feel so bad for that unborn baby. I feel bad for the family who is affected by this decision for the rest of their lives. I feel confused about where I even stand on the issue. I feel eternally thankful and grateful for my baby boy, who appears to be healthy when there are many children in the world who are not. I think about all of the adoptive families who are open to having a child with Down Syndrome or special needs, and will not be given the chance. I cry for all of these reasons. I'm not sure if any of them are more dominant than another but the combination has me a wreck.

I am praying for peace about this. I know that the outcome is out of my control and there is nothing in my power that I am able to do to change it. I have to let go and accept that decisions like this are made everyday. But I'm having a hard time with it.

I guess I'm just tired of loss. It surrounds me and there is no avoiding it. But how I wish that it weren't the case.


Geohde said...

How very sad for the family involved.

It is always going to be a very personal decision.

I think the best approach is to stick to our own values but try not to judge others if they don't do what we would. If that makes sense.

I am sure that the decision to end the pregnancy is absolutely gutwrenching for a woman of her age who may never have another pregnancy.

It isn't easy. I don't know what I would do in that situation, and I wouldn't even attempt to hazard a guess. It's different when it really happens.


Holly Crosley said...

How terrible. My heart is wrenched as I read your post. There is a december mom that had a beautiful child with Down Syndrome and posted a beautiful montage. He is truly an angel and just a blessing to his mom, dad, brothers and sister. He has met all his milestones like a champ and has the most beautiful smile you would ever want to see. I wish this woman could see this montage and reconsider. I would be more than happy to give you the link if you want it to pass along to her. I am in tears. I will pray for her and her family.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to post anon - for some reason I can't sign in.

Just want to say I am totally with you on the confused feelings about pro-choice/pro-life after suffering through IF. I used to really believe that pro-choice was right, even though I knew I could never do it myself. After having miscarriages and IF, and finally having a baby last fall, my feelings are completely different. I am not religious at all, but I now find the arguments in favor of pro-choice to be so callous and inhumane - certainly not feminine/feminist, which I consider myself.

As for babies with DS, my next door neighbor declined prenatal testing because she knew she would never have an abortion, and she did have a son with Trisomy 21. He is gorgeous! He does everything any little boy his age does, and is just a little delayed.

I am so brokenhearted about that poor baby on FF! What a tragedy - to choose to do away with a perfect baby just because she would be a little different from what they expected. I know people say "don't be judgemental - you never know what its like if you're not in their shoes." But their baby is just days from viability, long past the so-called "ball of cells" stage. Their baby is considered old enough to be issued a death certificate. Their baby is wanted by others, so not wanting to parent a disabled child is irrelevant. No matter how supposedly grief-stricken they say they are to "have to" make that choice, no one is making them kill their baby - they are doing it of their own free will and that is just horrible.

I wonder why adoption is "not an option" for them...maybe they think giving up a baby at their age is embarrassing or something? But ending a person's life is somehow okay with them?

I don't feel sorry for them. But my heart breaks for their poor, poor baby girl. How sad.

Anonymous said...

She is giving up the biggest most wonderful blessing a person can be given...I am the mother of a baby with DS and I am indeed the luckiest person I know. She is the best thing that happened to me, not the worst!

Rachel Inbar said...

No DS parent can say they would have preferred their child not be born. It's just the wrong thing to say... For this reason, I think it is legitimate to question whether what these parents say is what they actually mean... DS kids are always different. People stare at them or avoid them. People automatically pity their parents. Most DS people never achieve independence and do not live fulfilling lives, certainly not like those we dream of our children achieving. They are more prone to illness, often have a reduced cognitive abilities and have a shortened life expectancy (49 years). A family with a DS child needs to put a lot of their resources (time, money, patience, etc.) into the child, often at the expense of other children, their career and even their marriage. Although ideally, everyone 'should' be able to cope with the sacrifices necessary to raise a DS or other special-needs child, not everyone is able or willing to make such a large commitment, especially when it is still possible to decide otherwise.

Having been faced with an AFP test that showed a relatively high risk for DS with my 4th child, I spent close to 2 weeks thinking about how we would live with the decision we would make (and the decision was clear to us both). Neither deciding to continue such a pregnancy or to terminate it is an easy one - and that's the point I feel is important not to forget.

The fact that other families say they would be ready to adopt is nice, but it isn't the point. Not being willing to raise a DS child doesn't mean you would be willing to give her up for adoption.

I absolutely agree with Geohde - try not to judge others if they don't do what you would.

The decision is too complicated for there to be one right decision for everyone.

Fertilized said...

ACK- what a horrible ting to read!'

I am sending you hugs and prayers

Barb said...

Oh man. That is just so hard and heart breaking. One of my good friends has a baby with Down's, and she's a beautiful, healthy, loving baby. Having Down's CAN be connected with many life threatening defects though. Heart problems and digestive defects to name a few. I also know the Down's child of a friend who had to have a vent forever, can't talk, can't walk, and has major allergies, heart problems and thyroid disease. He is the light of their life, but his time on Earth is definitely limited more than others, and financially they struggle horribly and you can see how hard some people would take that.

Lots of hugs for you.

Kim said...

I'm with you on all of the confusion. In my personal opinion, people get a little too hung up on this 'I just want a perfect, healthy baby' thing. I've wanted another child for *so long*, and if I were blessed with one (which I have been), then them being completely perfect and healthy really isn't an issue for me. If they're not so perfect or not so healthy, I will still love them and want them just as much. I'm fully aware that it's "easy" to say that when you're not in the position, but I mean it so wholeheartedly that we chose against genetic testing. We wished for and wanted this baby, and there is no way that we would unwant them just because they aren't the stereotypical 'healthy, perfect baby'.

I used to nanny for a family with three boys. The oldest had DS and was nonverbal. Yes, it was a challenge. No, he couldn't communicate "normally". He had to be reminded to go to the bathroom and helped (he was 9) and there are some things that he couldn't do that his younger brothers could, but to them - he was just James. And to me, he was just James. He was a sweet, loving, fun boy who just so happened to have DS. So yes, he couldn't talk... but ya know what, he learned to sign. He 'road the short bus' to school, but he loved to learn. He wasn't completely independent, but he embraced others who were willing to come inside of his world. He could play, laugh, and learn... just like "normal" children, just in a different way. He loved life and he was happy. I'm just not convinced that being a parent to a child gives you a right to decide what kind of quality of life is 'good enough' for them.

Given, there are varying degrees of any abnormality... but I'm not one who would make a conscious choice to eliminate my child's potential based on societal desires for the quintessential "normal, healthy baby". Not to mention, in my personal opinion, when you choose to have sex (or do IF treatments), you're doing so knowing full-well that your child could easily NOT be "normal and healthy". So by going through with procreation in any sense of the word, you're choosing to take that risk. And quite frankly, if you're 41 and attempting pregnancy, I *highly* doubt that you have not been warned about the very HIGH risk of DS, which Dr. Google quoted as 1/85. 1 in 85 is a BIG risk to take if you're concerned about the outcome, and in all honesty, if you're not willing to accept and love a child with DS or any other chromosomal disorder, then you have no business procreating to begin with, especially with an increased risk of advanced maternal age.

Natalie said...

Even after being what I've been through.... I don't think I could condemn someone for making that choice. What a horrible position to be put in, and either way I think their life would never be easy. I feel bad for them, really.

Mel said...

This is such a sad story and one that is impossible for anyone to understand or even begin to judge from the outside. I have to pray for peace over things like this all the time, too. Our decisions in life are our own to make and there is only one place we have to which we have to answer. I pray that this woman finds peace in her decision and the strength to do what she feels is right.

Jessica said...

To Rachel Inbar-You just don't get it. You sound like an expert on Down syndrome but I am guessing you don't know the first thing about it. I urge you to look at RECENT data regarding Down syndrome. The life expectancy is at least 55 and many live well into their 70s. Last I checked, there was no guarantee I would live to be 100. Parents of children with DS may be pitied by people like you but not by people who have actually known or raised a child with DS. Do you not invest time, money, and patience into your SIX children at the expense of your marriage, career, and other children? I have heard IVF is relatively expensive but I am not an EXPERT. Did each of your children come with a list of guarantees? I would just ask that if you are going to post something that appears to be factual, you have a responsibility to ensure that they are actually facts. I have no idea how you can make a sweeping generalization that "DS people" (would you like me to call your kids "IVF people"?) don't lead fulfilling lives? My daughter is the happiest, most loved and loving little girl you will ever meet. She seizes each day with passion, makes strangers smile, and exudes joy. And you know what? It would never and will never be for me to decide if her life is worth living or not.

chicklet said...

I find these situations so hard, because I myself don't know that I want a child with special needs, but to be so far along and find out, to feel he/she kicking and then end it, I just can't imagine how hard that would be for anyone involved. Gawd.

Seven_Shades_of_Red said...

I have read many similar posts by desperate women... and the thing about pro-choice vs. pro-life is that we have to educate ourselves on what it all really means.

Pro-choice is all about the woman. Pro-life is all about the unborn child, who IS a human being. If I cannot murder someone who comes in and wrecks my life, then I cannot murder an unborn child. I have many links on my site that tell you how abortion procedures are done. And if people KNEW what happened during abortion, they would not be pro-choice.

This woman will have a LOT to deal with psychologically and I don't even think she realizes the impact this will have on her for the rest of her life. Abortion is devastating in more ways than one.

*HUGS* to you! I know it is difficult reading posts like that. Hopefully she'll change her mine. All you can do is pray. And if she still chooses to have an abortion, let her know she can lean on you. She's going to need someone to HELP her.

Seven_Shades_of_Red said...

Also, an anonymous poster said this baby is just past the viable age. That really doesn't matter. Life begins shortly after conception and even abortionists will admit that. A life is a life.

However, I do agree with what she said later---they won't put baby up for adoption but they'll kill it instead? How is that less embarassing?

Anonymous said...

I wonder why adoption is "not an option" for them...maybe they think giving up a baby at their age is embarrassing or something? But ending a person's life is somehow okay with them?

and the difficulty of raising a child with a handicap, the shortened lifespan, etc makes it ok to kill a baby? one with a beating heart?

wow, I hope that each of you mothers out there goes and looks into the eyes of your children tonight, and wonders if they had been born with downs, would you have killed them?

those of you, who like me are struggling with the losses of babies, or those struggling to have a baby at all, I hope you rethink what being "pro-choice" means!

Anonymous said...

I believe one of the confusions about being Pro-choice is that it is NOT synomonous with Pro-Abortion. Instead it means that you understand that the ultimate decision needs to be the woman's decision (not the government's decision and not a man's decision).

Being Pro-Choice can be a difficult stance to take because it requires you to support the woman's decision even when you don't agree with it.

Mary Kate

Kym said...

What a sad situation. But I do think, what if the test is wrong? A girl I went to high school with brought it up in class one day that her mother had that test done on her pregnancy with her and it came back positive for downs and she ended up not being a DS baby. It a one in a million probably, but it proves those tests aren't fool proof and I would always be thinking...what if? Since I had gone through two losses of my own, I could not abort a pregnancy I believe I'm prolife as well. But we cannot judge is their decision. As sad as it is.

Courtney said...

This is such a sad and controversial topic. I guess in the end, it is to each our own in how we conduct our lives but that doesn't mean our actions don't effect the hearts of others.

Anonymous said...

quote: I believe one of the confusions about being Pro-choice is that it is NOT synomonous with Pro-Abortion. Instead it means that you understand that the ultimate decision needs to be the woman's decision (not the government's decision and not a man's decision).

Being Pro-Choice can be a difficult stance to take because it requires you to support the woman's decision even when you don't agree with it.
end quote

being prochoice IS synonymous with proabortion!
sure, you may not kill your own baby, but if you are supporting another womans right to abortion, you may as well call yourself "pro-abortion" or "pro-murder"!

Lets say a man broke in to your house, and killed you. you are pregnant and your baby died as well. In many states the man could be tried on a double murder charge. Choice is the only difference!! Either way it is murder.

Baby Blankenship said...

Wow...what a powerful post girl...makes my heart ache for that little one :( I think every child is a miracle...I'm not one to judge, so I'm just not going to say anything about the matter, just sending my prayers to that little baby that God watches over it!!!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't judge anyone for it. Terminating a pregnancy in general isn't right for me personally, but I don't know what anyone else's situation is so I can't say what's right for them. I don't know what I would do if I were in a similar situation. It would be very difficult to speculate. Everyone just wants a healthy child. Her body, her choice, to decide if she wants to commit to the responsibility that comes with having a special needs child. Some people aren't cut out for it, maybe it's more responsible that they make that decision in advance.
I agree with all the posters that said, just know what is right for you and your own values and stick to that.

The Fried Chicken Yacht Club said...

Being pro choice is recognizing a womans right to choose and is an affirmation of her right to control her own body without interference from the government or a third party.
The legal basis for this decision ( 14th amendment) also protects a womans right to carry a child to full term and not be forced or coerced by the government or anyone else to have an abortion. Remember China's one baby policy. You can't have it one way. (I personally think we should use the term "pro 14th Amendment" instead of "pro choice". )
In addition, there is no definition universally or scientificlly accepted as to when a fetus becomes a human being. It is and has always been defined culturally by humans in many different ways through out history
and this is still the case today.
When we are confronted by this decision we must draw on many complex personal issues that are unique to us and our individual backgrounds. To try to universally impose the conclusion of what is right or wrong by one person onto another crosses a line that I, personally, would never want to see crossed.
In conclusion, I am sure when considering this option with her doctor, she was educated and well informed. It seems many people offered help that came truly from their hearts. This advice can become misplaced , but should never be considered a bad thing if it comes from a loving place.
I am sure it was heartbreaking for her to see comments come from angry, ugly places in people.

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

That is a tough situation and heartbreaking story. I hope you are able to find peace with it. HUGS!

Trish said...

This is a hard one.
I'm somewhere in the middle, too.
Legally, it's very gray to me. Whose rights come first.
Morally, I'm absolutely pro-life. So it's tough.. I'm sorry it's disturbed you so much, but I suppose that's the stuff that teaches us who we really are..

Southern Comfortable said...

I find it ironic that there are so many people out there-- including commenters to this post-- who say they "can't judge" a mother who decides to abort a child with Down's or some other prenatally diagnosed health problem. This mother, though, is the one doing the judging. She is casting the ultimate judgment against her unborn child, and she is judging him to be unworthy of life. How very, very sad.

I am also so confused as to how she could turn her back on those who would gratefully and lovingly bring this child into their home. How is it that she could not bear to give birth to this child and allow him a loving, supportive home, but she can somehow bear to kill him?

It is estimated that at least 80% of children who are diagnosed with Down's syndrome in the womb are aborted. We have federal laws that protect individuals with disabilities once they're born, but apparently it's acceptable-- even encouraged-- to kill them off before birth. The medical establishment is complicit in this tragedy; one of my colleagues and his wife found out before their daughter was born that she had Down's, and they received tremendous pressure from their doctor to abort.

My heart is breaking for this child.

Kim said...

Oh so sad. My prayers go out to the family. And I personally don't think that you were judging. There were no rude comments or name calling, only your feelings. Just as they are allowed freedom in their decisions, you are allowed freedom in your speech. I too am torn between both sides. But agree that I don't think that I could end a life kicking inside me for any reason.Especially since I have dealt with infertility and loss, there were times when I was so upset. Thinking I would never have a child. I would have and still would welcome a DS baby. But I do not hold it against others that make the choice that is best for them. I guess the only time I would consider termination was if my life was in danger. Such a deep topic.