“Your baby’s head is big! I don’t want to alarm you but just be prepared.” These words from my sonographer changed my life forever. A few hours before the sonogram, l was anxious. I kept visualizing walking out of my 20-week anatomy scan with reports of a perfectly healthy baby. Little did I know that, instead, I would be frantically calling abortion clinics to schedule an appointment to terminate my pregnancy.
The baby that we thought would complete our family was diagnosed with hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis. The doctor showed me the baby’s large head, referring to the fluid flowing into his brain, and looked me in the eye to say that he was very sorry. He explained that my baby’s brain was not developing well, and that the prognosis was very poor. He would need a shunt in his head to balance out the fluid in the brain and would need to be resuscitated at birth. He would not be able to walk or talk, would potentially require a ventilator, and there was a 90% chance he would have developmental delays and intellectual disability.
As the doctor continued down his list, I just wanted to yell at him to stop. I knew in my head that I could not carry on with my pregnancy. I did not want to welcome a new life into a world of pain and suffering. I asked the doctor what my options were. He gave me two options; one of which was an abortion. I was secretly relieved. To spare a child from known pain and suffering is one of a parent’s greatest wishes. With the political climate surrounding abortion in Texas at the time, I asked him if it was still legal to terminate. He said I had seven days left to legally terminate and that when the new law passed the termination would be illegal at this stage in my pregnancy.
I rushed home and frantically called the abortion clinic closest to my home to schedule an appointment, but the earliest they could see me placed me out of the state’s gestation limits for termination at that time. I was devastated. After hours of searching and calling abortion clinics outside of Texas, I finally landed on a clinic that was over 800 miles/1280 km away. Once my appointment was booked, I finally had time to let my emotions sink in. I was terrified for my safety and worried about the cost, but my nerves calmed after researching the clinic and speaking with the doctor beforehand.
As the doctor continued down his list, I just wanted to yell at him to stop. I knew in my head that I could not carry on with my pregnancy.
The days leading up to the procedure, I struggled and wondered if I was making the right decision. There was not much time to follow up with additional testing as the longer I waited, the more expensive and inaccessible abortion care would be. I followed up to get a quick second opinion, and the doctor confirmed that the findings of the anatomy scan were indeed devastating. I pored over scientific journals looking into the morbidity of a baby born with congenital hydrocephalus and my findings confirmed my heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregnancy.
When the day finally came for us to pack our bags and head out on what seemed like the longest road trip of our lives with a little toddler, I felt a sense of calm and peace. I could not help but think about those who were placed in a position like me but did not have the resources and support to do what they felt was right for them. To this day, I will never take for granted the privilege I had to be able to seek a safe and legal abortion. When I arrived at the clinic all alone without my mobile phone, surrounded with tall fences and bullet proof glass due to constant threats from anti-abortionist groups, I was welcomed by the most caring team of professionals. I am thankful that I was able to receive the care I needed in the most compassionate way and walked out of that clinic alive.
As I write this story I know the days that come will be difficult and the thought of bringing in a new life into this world will be overshadowed by the trauma that I have experienced. In fact in just a few weeks, I will be preparing for the birth of another child. The past 9 months has been a long journey for me mentally but I am glad I have made it this far and I am almost able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is indeed true that we can never understand the miracle of life without death!
I write this story so that other people navigating the challenges of termination will find their voice, will see that this is not a political but rather an intensely personal choice that belongs with individuals. I hope that my story will help others understand why people might make the hard decision to terminate a pregnancy and help further make the case for safe and legal options for those who choose to end a pregnancy.