Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This is what I said

Yesterday I gave a testimony before my State Senate in opposition of a bill that would make any pregnancy terminations beyond 20 weeks gestation illegal with the only exception being if the mother's life was in immediate danger.  Did I ever expect to be speaking out against an abortion bill?  No.  Even though I am pro choice I'd rather not be involved with a subject with such controversy.  But I think that mostly pregnancies where there is a shitty prenatal diagnosis will be impacted with this bill and it is such an awful time when you hear that your fetus is very unwell that removing options is NOT HELPFUL.

I don't talk about this much here because I don't want to receive a single hateful comment.  It's one thing to say your opinion, and something entirely different to spew mean words just because you don't agree with the view of someone else.  I can understand why a woman would choose to carry to term but I don't think it is the best choice for every fetus and every family.

Anyway... this post may not stay up long.

Testimony for Senate Bill, March 2011
            Thank you for the time to tell you about my son today.  My name is Anna M. and the following events took place in 2007.  In that year I finished my Master’s degree, my husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary, we had already bought a 3-bedroom house with a big back yard, and we decided to start a family.  It was a difficult pregnancy nearly from the start, but those were also some of the happiest months of my life.  We already knew our baby was a little boy and we were beyond excited about the anatomy ultrasound to see images of him again and see how he was doing.  The anatomy ultrasound at almost 19 weeks gestation showed that there was no amniotic fluid and the baby was very difficult to see.  There are several causes of absent amniotic fluid and in my son’s case it was due bilateral renal agenesis, which means his kidney’s did not develop.  He was also missing his stomach and bladder.  Amniotic fluid is necessary for the development of the baby’s lungs and the absence of it leads to a constellation of physical features known as Potter’s syndrome.  Because the baby is not cushioned by amniotic fluid the mother’s organs press on the growing fetus causing physical deformities including abnormal limb growth and flattened facial features.  This is a fatal condition and babies that survive the pregnancy and delivery will die of respiratory failure once they are born.
            The doctors had to explain the diagnosis over and over to me because it was so hard for me to accept that they were describing my child.  My husband and I had spent years preparing for a family and months bonding with this baby.  Our family members were already in love with this baby.  We wondered if he would be musically talented like his dad or interested in science like me.  His nursery would be decorated with a jungle theme and he would have dinosaur pajamas.  We were going to breastfeed for as long as possible and learn baby sign language.  There are not words to describe how hard it is to switch from planning for your baby’s future to the reality that he cannot live. 
            Immediately there were choices to be considered about how the pregnancy should proceed from that point.  It is definitely surreal to be weighing the pros and cons of the terms of your own child’s death.  One good way to describe it is having to make a decision when there are no good outcomes no matter what option is selected.  When considering continuing the pregnancy, I could not imagine how I would ever leave the house or face anyone knowing that my baby was going to die.  I didn’t know how I would be able to answer innocent questions about my pregnancy without weeping and health wise, it would be safer for me to deliver early.  My husband stopped touching my stomach, trying to distance himself from his son and trying to ignore his grief.  But the most important factor in deciding to terminate the pregnancy was that I didn’t want my son’s life to be spent in an environment that was so cramped that his body grew deformed and he couldn’t move around, only to suffocate upon birth.  My son was not going to live, regardless of when he was born, and as his parents, my husband and I had to consider the quality of his short life.
            Legislation restricting all pregnancy terminations after 20 weeks gestation, except when the mother’s life is in danger, ignores the families where a fetus tragically receives an adverse prenatal diagnosis.  Many serious conditions are discovered at the anatomy ultrasound which happens around 20 weeks gestation and it can take several weeks to get further testing so it is not unusual for women to pass the 20 week mark before a final diagnosis is made.  And importantly, some time is needed to make an informed decision regarding continuing or terminating the pregnancy.  Carrying to term is not in the best interest of all women and their families for a variety of physical and mental health reasons.  Additionally, carrying to term can mean that the fetus suffers for a longer period of time and has a more traumatic death.  Please keep these families in mind when considering legislation with so many restrictions. 


Jaclyn said...

I am so sorry for what you and your family went through. You wrote a touching and moving letter, and I hope it helps leave options open for other families in your position.

still life angie said...

Beautifully put. I hope you don't receive anything negative, because what you said is so important for everyone to hear. Thank you for being brave and saying it. Sending you so much love.xo

Bree said...

How very brave of you. I'm hopeful that Toren's story made an impact. xo

Anonymous said...


What a brave, scary, amazing thing for you to do. I feel like you stood up for every one of us and I hope that your testimony made an impact on the legislators. I can't imagine how it couldn't have! People - especially those in positions of power - need to hear these stories and realize that women don't make decisions like these on a whim. There are serious mental health risks involved as well - I think I wrote on my old blog that I'm pretty sure they would've had to put me in a padded room if I hadn't been able to end my child's life in the way - and at the time - I felt that I wanted/needed to.

Anyway, I hope you don't get any nasty comments, but if you do, I'm sure you remember when I started getting all those "YOU'RE DEPRESSED BECAUSE YOU MURDERED YOUR BABY!" comments on my blog; I made a donation to Planned Parenthood for every comment he/she left. The comments ended pretty quickly after that. :)

cgd said...

You are the bravest woman I know and as a woman who was also in that position (as you already know) I thank you on behalf of my family and my baby boy. Toren would be so proud of his momma right now. I understand what you mean that pro-choice means something entirely differently. After hearing the horror stories, I am thankful every day to live in the liberal state of NY where I was welled cared for and treated at an amazing hosptial by caring and compassionate dr's. Never once did I face judgement or was made to feel like I was doing something wrong.
I have gotten some of those comments before but by and large I have received more support than I ever could have imagined. I hope you get the same.
sending you lots of love, my strong friend.

Sophie said...

Oh Anna, that must have been so hard to do. Thankyou for being so brave. People who haven't been these situations just don't understand. I get very upset when people want to blanket ban all late term terminations. They don't understand that the decision to terminate comes from a deep love of that child and an unwillingness to prolong their suffering. When I was pregnant with Jasper I knew that if the docs were to tell us he had a similar condition to Jordan that we would spare him that suffering. This is a decision for parents to make with the support of doctors.

Sending lots of love and hugs as I know you will definitely be needing them after writing this post. So proud of you for telling your story and defending your rights. xxxooo

Lisette said...

I am very proud of you. Unless you are faced with decisions such as these it is so hard to understand. You wrote this so well and it really has to make them think. Torren must be so proud ((HUGS))

Reba said...

good for you, anna! i am so proud of you! you are so, so strong and you are an inspiration.

Jenn said...

Such courage! This is beautifully written and I imagine it would have had to touch the hearts of those listening to you. xx

Danielle said...

Delurking to thank you for speaking out. The sorrow I feel about having had to terminate a pregnancy that my husband and I wanted with all our hearts and went through hell to get walks hand in hand with the fear of others' ignorant judgment of our story and of that option being taken away for families who have to make that heartbreaking choice. I am grateful to you, Anna.

Hope said...

I'm so proud of you, Anna! Good for you! Thank you for standing up for women and their babies! It took a lot of courage to do this!
Much love,

Catherine W said...

Beautifully written and very brave. I am glad and grateful that you spoke out on behalf of so many babies and families who are faced with an impossible decision. People who have never seen a baby struggle in pain might not understand that these choices are not taken lightly.

Remembering your dear Toren x

brianna said...

What you wrote is very touching and extremely important for people to hear. I commend you for having the courage to speak and write out about your situation.

debbie said...

You are so brave, Anna. I am amazed. That must have been incredibly difficult. But it was so important and i am really hoping that you changed minds.
Good on ya for standing up there. Wow.

Kakunaa said...

It was so incredibly brave of you to testify and put a face on this issue. Very well put, and very important to have been done. HUGS

Anonymous said...

Wow wow wow. That was so amazingly eloquent, beautiful, and brave. Bravo!

jill said...

This was very brave of you to do. I hope you feel good about doing it -it is something people need to hear. Thanks for posting it so we could all hear it too. So sorry that you had to live that though. *hug*

Tara said...

Your words are very powerful! Even though I am personally pro-life for myself, I support pro-choice because it's not my place to judge and this is exactly the reason why. Many women must make these unbearable, impossible decisions. Your words are well stated, practical, and show the love of your son even in this impossible situation.

In my 3rd failed pregnancy, I had to make the decision to terminate my pregnancy because at 10 weeks it was discovered that it was a cornual ectopic pregnancy (1 cm from being normal, but the fetus was in the wall of the uterus where the tube enters the uterus, instead of inside the uterus). It's very dangerous for the mother (extremely high maternal mortality rate), and regardless, the baby didn't have a chance. However, that didn't make it ANY easier to sign papers to take this beating heart from inside of me, to kill this wanted child. It was horrific.

NO law should make decisions like this for a mother, just like no mother should ever be forced to make these kinds of impossible decisions for their child.

Good work!

Quiet Dreams said...

So brave of you. Many hugs.

Ya Chun said...

Way to stand up woman!

I hope that the legislature does the humane thing.

Liz said...

You were so brave!

I'm proud of you for sharing this.