Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Walking In My Shoes

Tonight, there was a debate on Facebook about abortion. I know, HOT topic and everyone is set in their beliefs. I'm not here to convert you, convince you or belittle your thinking. I'm here to merely share MY story. See that word? It says MY. Nobody on this Earth can have it, change it or live it. I'm not here for judgement or acceptance. I just feel the need to tell another side. It's food for thought.

My pregnancy with Tommy was not an accident. It was a conscience decision made by my husband and me. I was 34 and we wanted just one more, maybe have a little girl if we were so blessed. It was a hard decision because my pregnancy with Brandon had been very difficult. So, in Spring of 2006, the stick had two lines. I went to the doctor to confirm and found my due date was around November 12. For those of you doing the math in your head, yes, my Heart Baby was conceived on or around Valentine's Day. It all sounds so perfect doesn't it? Rob and I were able to both start new jobs around the same time doing things we both enjoyed. The kids were able to get into a nice daycare that happened to be next door to Matthew's school and was on the bus route home from my job so I could pick them up.

You have to understand that life had never been this good for us before. For the first time, we were working "career" jobs and getting ahead of the game. We had a mortgage, cable tv, and a tiny bit of fun money. Not bad, because a year or two before we found ourselves practically homeless. With life this good, how could we NOT have a baby?

I had it all planned out. Daycare, maternity leave, savings, baby stuff. I even felt confident enough in my 4th month to change jobs to something literally right around the corner from home so I could walk to work. It was good for me, the baby and I loved the change.

Early in my 5th month, I was working a Sunday afternoon. It was light work, very easy on my growing belly. Until I began to bleed. My pregnancy with Brandon had been partial placenta previa, so I was upset, but knew it could be something we could treat. I was instructed to lay down for the day and come in Monday morning for an ultrasound. I had an ultrasound every day for nearly a week and nobody could explain to me what was happening. They were positive it was not placenta previa. I was scheduled for a level two ultrasound at Medical University of South Carolina. (MUSC)

I'm sorry. I have to pause.

We all know that day that Tommy was diagnosed with congenital heart defects not compatible with life. I was given some options. Do nothing, multiple surgeries on my newborn son, or terminate. I was told he would be a very sick little boy and even though surgery usually had a good outcome, nothing was guaranteed. I had three weeks to decide to end my pregnancy. I was put on bed rest, I had to quit my job. Our income was now down to half. The kids had to be taken out of daycare. I looked to my husband for support, but he couldn't cope. He told me termination was my decision.

For three weeks, I researched his heart defect. I found his particular defect was so different and difficult that I could only find bits and pieces about it. At the time, there was only an 83% success rate with the surgeries he needed. Could I put a child through that? Could I go through that? I was almost 6 months pregnant and he had never kicked. No flutters, no hiccups. Nothing. I was not his mom. I was just a woman with a positive pregnancy test and baby that would die when he was born. I sat on my porch and cried. Trying to feel SOMETHING for the child growing inside me. There was nothing there. I felt so empty, guilty, alone. What right did I have to bring a child into this world to let him suffer?

I cried more. I prayed. My doctors didn't even wait for the depression, they gave me Prozac right away. I went to Maternal Fetal Medicine and genetic counseling. Nothing. Three weeks of the most empty feeling I have ever had in my life. I was on the cusp of termination. Ready to let it all go and get back to my life.

And then he kicked me. Had he not, we would have never known Tommy. You would not be reading this blog. I would have aborted my sick baby who in my head and heart was not going to live anyway. But he kicked me.

I don't regret contemplating abortion. I'm not ashamed of my decision and I will never blame a woman if she makes that choice. Because that is what it is. A choice. It was something I had to wrestle with. Something only I could decide. In my head, I was sparing both of us the pain, and eventually, there was plenty of pain to go around.

Do I regret having him? Not for a second! Yes, he did die. He suffered through pain, procedures, surgeries, feeding tubes, needles, illness, and countless stays in the hospital. But when it all comes down to it, I had to go through the process of letting him go before he was born. I had to decide I was ready for all of it without really knowing what I was up against. Had I been a younger, less experienced mom, I don't know if I could have had him. Every moment of his life was a heart wrenching, beautiful battle. I am stronger because of him, but what if I couldn't have done it all? Should I have had a child I could not care for?

Deep, sensitive questions for another day.

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Diagram of Tommy's Heart Defects

Diagram of Tommy's Heart Defects
Double Inlet Left Ventricle with Transpostion of the Great Arteries