Would you treat a dog better than my sick baby? My late-term abortion

By  | October 20, 2016 |  Comments | Filed under: Feels

This really isn’t the way I thought I’d tell this story. In the three years since it happened, my family hasn’t heard it. I didn’t plan on the internet hearing it at all, but here we are. I think it’s time.

The part you do know, if you’ve known me at all, is that we lost a baby named Ruby. She was the fraternal twin of our last daughter, who is by contrast, vibrant and very much alive today.

In 2013 with my belly big and full of hope and pizza, I had ordered two sets of matching crib bedding for the nursery. I had bought a twin baby carrier and traced the names Ruby & Ivy (matchy!) to go with their big sisters, Bianca & Stella (different matchy!). I was going to have a house of four girls. Everyone made the “outnumbered daddy” jokes and we got excited for a life of endless braids.

Along the way, we discovered the pregnancy was fraught with trouble. Ruby’s organs were on the outside of her abdominal wall. Maybe we could fix it, we thought. She’d have a surgery or two and we’d be on our way. But then her skull wasn’t right, her fists were clenched, her legs were the wrong length. We discovered she had a chromosomal error. Not a small one (trust me, I bargained to hear the answer I wanted – that maybe there was some hope). But no, a large portion of her DNA was missing. As time went on and her sister grew into a mostly healthy fetus we realized we couldn’t hold on to any more hope for Ruby. She wasn’t going to make it, but how long did she have?

We faced a heartbreaking choice. If we left things alone i.e. “let nature take its course”, the doctors explained that we faced one of two scenarios: Ruby could die in utero at a later time when her weight, that of heavier dead tissue, would trigger early labor and we would lose both twins. Alternately, the pregnancy might continue to near term but we’d have to watch Ruby die anyway at birth.

Can you imagine watching your child gasp and choke for air? Literally starving to death in the absence of the ability to ingest food? Now imagine your other children watching that.

You find out it’s a choice between dragging your family through even more hell or letting your child go peacefully and humanely with a dose of medicine so she can die warm, surrounded by people who love her more than anything.

As the needle went in to inject the medicine, I was blind with heartbreak. It was a private, dark moment that nobody on this earth could judge me harder for than myself. I “knew” it was the “best” thing to do, but I was still losing my daughter. This was a life. I knew that. Her sister’s life was a life too, though, and we could’t risk it. My husband and I closed our eyes as tears ran down our faces. The nurses were sensitive. The doctor was solemn, but firm. We had made the choice which “had the best chance of preserving as much life as possible”. Ruby didn’t feel an ounce of pain and her little body stayed intact.

We then focused on the remaining twin for the rest of the pregnancy. I gave away the twin carrier, sent back the 2nd crib set, changed the healthy baby’s name to Greta so she could match her living sisters. Greta was born alive and I delivered Ruby’s smaller body too. I didn’t look. Her remains would have spoiled my mind’s image of a perfect, gorgeous child. Was that wrong? To look away from the horror and focus on the joy?

There were more complex emotions and questions in the aftermath that would take a book to fill. Did I deserve my grief? How many other families suffer with this secret? If this baby had been a singleton, how would things have been different? What would we have done with the millions of dollars in medical bills if we had put her through the numerous, excruciating surgeries just to force her body to stay alive as she stared at the ceiling? Is that a quality life? What if there were systems in place to support families who go through this devastation?

I cried every night for two years, but slowly, I started coming to the same conclusion sooner and sooner after the tears would begin: I just wish Ruby had been healthy. She wasn’t and I couldn’t change that.

I don’t wish I had made a different choice. In fact, it terrifies me to think of the path not traveled – to think of my joyous three-year-old not being here to fill our lives the way she does.

I sure as hell don’t think that anyone who hasn’t walked in these shoes, or who doesn’t have the medical knowledge to understand the complexity or nuance of these situations has ANY right to judge, let alone legislate how a family deals with these incredible losses. You will never feel the pain for someone else’s child they way the parent does.

Donald Trump and his nightmarish description of ripping apart healthy babies the day before their due date like some blood-thirsty devil clown makes me seethe with sickness. That is not what late term abortion is about. People don’t just change their minds about letting a baby live when they are 9 months pregnant. That scenario is a hypothetical, never a reality. The law only exists that way because you have to draw the line somewhere and the moment of birth is the arbitrary, but concrete way of doing so.

Donald Trump would treat a dog better than my sick baby. I’m not worried about him becoming President so much as I am saddened by those who agree with him. It’s pure misinformation. I don’t believe there’s a doctor in the country who would kill a healthy, full term baby on its due date even if the mother begged for it. We have to trust the medical establishment that they are guiding these situations with their knowledge and adhering to their hippocratic oath to “do no harm”. No one is joyfully aborting late in pregnancy. No one.

Thank you for listening and trying to understand this issue.

You can see Squirt aka Ruby on the left with her little belly parts sticking out.

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