Among the controversies and arguments out there, the issue of abortion is always there at or near the top. This has included the barbaric topic of using abortion to “cull the herd,” as it were of less desirables.
This is one topic I have never wanted to comment on, as I’ve felt everyone’s opinion on this is based on either personal experiences or deep-set values, rather than on “facts and figures.” I am no exception. I can now say I am pro-life, but I understand the desperation of some women facing unexpected pregnancies.
Do I want to judge others on their stance on the abortion? No, I don’t. We all have our own paths to take, and I can’t possibly walk it for someone else. That doesn’t stop me from feeling abortion is the wrong path.
Do I think abortion is a sin? Yes, I truly feel it is a form of murder, and in no way want my tax money to go towards someone else’s abortion.
I have pro-life friends. I have pro-choice friends. I love them all, and am not going to get into a clashing or words with anyone on why they are right are wrong. However, my stance came from my own dark place, where I fully confess I contemplated what I now feel is unthinkable: abortion. For what it’s worth, here’s my story:
My first pregnancy happened about seven years after my husband and I were married, and it went pretty smooth. I was 33 at the time, and we were well prepared for the moment. We were (more or less) financially ready, and I had recently quit a very time-consuming job to continue working out of the home. My parents lived in the same city, so we had plenty of support. Our first, amazing daughter was born, and all seemed rosy.
Move ahead seven more years, and I found I was pregnant with my second daughter.
My mother had died suddenly just one year prior, so it at first seemed like blessing. Unfortunately, we were now making payments on a house that was barely big enough for myself, my husband, and our young daughter. My still mourning father was undergoing a parade of back and hip surgeries, and other health problems. He was hardly in the mind set to want to babysit if needed, especially with my mother gone. My husband’s parents all lived way across the state; and we live at the edge of Texas, no less. My editor job, although allowing more time to be with my very independent seven year old, who was used to being an “only child,” didn’t pay incredibly well. I didn’t feel confident on being able to support surprise child Number Two.
Finally, I was 40. Again and again, I heard well-meaning friends, read articles, and listened to doctors’ suggestions about have my children before that hypothetical “cut-off” date. We’ve all heard those tales of all sorts of pregnancy ills could affect women of age 40 or older.
My first thought was, “We can’t have a second child now.” Life is too busy, too filled with responsibility, and too financially strapped. I have too many other people to take care of. This was my first teetering on the edge of whether or not to “keep it.” At this point, I couldn’t see or feel my daughter, other than via the “plus” signs of multiple pregnancy tests. I even posed the idea to my husband, who immediately looked terrified and hurt at the thought.
In a couple of weeks, my panic was eased, as we begin to make adjustments, little by little, to make life as two-kid family possible and easier. Everyone was now getting excited for this new addition, and life was once again rosy pink. Then the phone call came.
Once a month I have to go into my boss’s office to work on a calendar, and I was sitting at the desk, when the very impersonal and very matter-of-fact call came from my doctor’s receptionist: “Your initial screening was positive for Down syndrome.” She recommended an amniocentesis, in case I wanted to “do something” about it. “Do something about it” was her diplomatic way of saying “terminate the pregnancy.” I was around three months pregnant at the time.
I couldn’t work. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even focus. This little person inside of me was now, in the horribly evil dark dungeon of my fear, a burden. I thought my life was over, and my husband and daughter’s lives would be severely ruined. I know this is a terrible thing to think, but I couldn’t help it.
The next Monday at my regular appointment, the doctor told me receptionist was a little brusque, and this was just another factor to be aware of. It wasn’t 100 percent accurate, but I needed to consider this possibility.
Over the next few months, he quietly did several ultrasounds, but said nothing to me about Down syndrome again. Only my husband knew the results of the initial screening. When I was about six months along, the joys and expectations I had with my first child were festering into pure dread with my second. Every minute of my pregnancy was consumed with thinking my child might be better off, well, not existing if she was going to have to face life in a l world cruel to those with mental disabilities. My brother, who worked with Down syndrome children, assured me they are as happy to be alive as anyone is, and are, in many ways, a blessing reminding us to love life.
No matter. I cried to myself every night. I teared up every morning, and during work. When I watched a dance performed by special education students during my older daughter’s school recital, I couldn’t take it any more. I just didn’t have it in me to raise a child with Down syndrome. That night, I would tell my husband I was thinking of getting an abortion “for the better.”
It was also that night I received a call from a friend who was the wife of our youth minister. She was also in her 40s and expecting her first child. My husband had told him about the situation, and asked for prayers. My friend, who was also a nurse, called to give me reassurance and encouragement. When I mentioned abortion she old me: “God said ‘yes.’ who are we to say ‘no?’”
This didn’t stop the nightly crying or fears, but it did make me reconsider abortion. Due to other complications, I was due for a morning c-section in early August. On our way to the hospital, the sun hadn’t yet risen, and my husband and I rode in apprehensive silence as “big sister” snoozed in the back seat.
Right in front of us on the horizon passed a shooting star. “I take that as a good sign,” my husband said.
While they were prepping me in the hospital, I was almost in a panic, which remained until the Doctor pulled my daughter from me. I heard myself saying to my husband. “Is she okay? Is she…normal?”
“She’s perfect,” he told me. No, she did not have Down syndrome. I wasted an entire pregnancy contemplating killing my little girl, who I now realize would have still been “perfect” if she had been born with Down syndrome. I still cry thinking about my selfishness.
Today, as I sit here finishing this article, my youngest daughter, now eight, sits behind me at her desk finishing her homework. She is stubborn and lively like her big sister, scary smart, artistic, and life loving. More than anything, she is a person. Her journey into this world, for better or worse, started the very same day I found out I was pregnant.
While I was worrying, feeling sorry for myself and “weighing my options,” she was breathing, growing, feeling, and relying 100 percent on me for her survival, whether she knew it or not.
Every mother’s journey is different, and some are in much worse circumstances than mine, but if there was one thing, just one thing, I leaned from my own experience, it wasn’t just my journey. It was my child’s.
Who was I to end her journey?