“We could’ve aborted Davis a couple months ago, you know?”
The way my husband said it, so matter of factly, stung as I felt our growing, unborn baby lodge his elbow deeper into my left rib.
We could have. In many people’s minds, we should have.
Especially those pesky doctors who, now for a second pregnancy with a second sick baby, advised, “You don’t want to do this. Especially not again. You can easily abort the baby.”
But six years ago, when a specialist suggested we terminate a baby growing wrongly in my womb, I, the protective mother, quickly sobbed, “No! I want to keep her.” Of course, my husband wanted to keep her, too. He sat next to me as we watched her 20-week-old body kick happily on the ultrasound screen above.
It was just that on that day, I was able to say it first.
Two weeks later, when a pediatric cardiologist gave us our daughter’s exact diagnosis, I again, found my voice the fastest to quip a confident “no” to the “option” she recommended.
Another Baby to Abort
I never expected to have another baby, period. Much less another baby who isn’t healthy. And even more, another baby who “should be aborted.”
Then May 2020 came. The in-depth ultrasound had been scheduled early in my pregnancy. You know, just in case, to check for heart problems like big sister’s.
In true 2020 style, no dads were allowed at the appointment. So I FaceTimed my husband in during the heart part, where the tech showed us a whole, healthy heart! Just what we wanted to see.
Except a shocking different diagnosis was being detected. Unknown to my naive, untrained eye.
We found something else…
Following the ultrasound, the flustered technician ushered me to an empty office. A doctor waited to talk to me over the phone from the safe proximity of his living room couch. (As if a pandemic pregnancy isn’t stressful enough.)
“I don’t know how to say this to a mother like you. I know your history. And why you came today. I know what we were looking for. Your baby’s heart is healthy. But we found something else. ”
He paused briefly. Not long enough for me to respond.
“Your son has spina bifida.”
Silence again. This time, I think it was for him. When he continued, his voice shook.
“I’m very sorry to tell you. From the location of the spinal defect it looks like your son might never walk. We need to find out more. But I know you’re hearing this alone. So I want to talk over Zoom with you and the father this afternoon to explain your options.”
Unless there was an option that made it all go away, I didn’t want to hear about it.
Three p.m. felt light years away. But together, Matt and I finally logged on to the telehealth conference from the corner of our bedroom.
We tuned into a video call where a man we’d never met suggested the unthinkable about a baby boy we anxiously awaited.
“I don’t know where you stand, but I know the medical complexities your family already has. It’s fair for you to know that two-thirds of spina bifida babies are aborted. That’s the majority. So obviously, the first treatment option you have in this situation is to abort the baby.”
In a way, he had a point … How would I do this again, with another child? Surgeries. Heartache. Broken dreams. Medicines. Appointments. Explanations. Medical lingo. Lifetime limitations.
Deafening thoughts swirled so loudly in my head that I hardly overheard a familiar voice declare a strong, “No.”
No. No what? I wondered.
My husband’s voice continued, “Aborting the baby is not an option for us. We want to keep him.”
We were keeping him
And just like that, the weight shifted.We were keeping him.
I still had unknown surgeries. Heartache. Broken dreams. Medicines. Appointments. Explanations. Medical lingo. Lifetime limitations ahead.
But my husband said “yes” to all of that. For our family and for our son. For me.
Suddenly, the thoughts stopped swirling. I remembered Davis and I weren’t fighting this alone. Even though I was the only one who had felt Davis kick. It was me, the mother, who detected that little, independent life inside.
His father didn’t have the physical knowing yet. Still, he publicly committed to the protecting, decisive courage that nurtures every growing child. And every mother’s love.
He was different after that day
This wasn’t out of character for my husband. After all, nine years ago he was the one convincing me to give in to his desires to start a family. Matt’s heart has been for fatherhood from the beginning of our relationship.
He’s fulfilled his fatherhood duties in big ways—leaving behind a dream career to move our family across the country for our daughter’s medical care. And in a million daily small ways: kissing boo boos, midnight rocking, firm discipline, living-room wrestling, school field trips, building swing sets, waving goodbye to stuffed animals, leading awkward family devotions, and more.
Still, when he said “no” to aborting our baby for both of us, I started seeing him differently. The confidence in his leadership, the pride in my choice of a life partner, the courage he just proved he could display all solidified our choice to try for this last baby. And he gave me permission to love our baby and fight for his life, too.
So next week we’ll bring our son into the world. He’ll be surgically pulled from my body, just like he would’ve been had we followed the doctor’s option. But because of Matt’s choice, our son will be alive.
We’ll rejoice at welcoming this baby with a bubble on his back covering a spinal defect we wish he didn’t have. We’ll send him into surgery before he’s 24-hours-old. And we’ll sit together in the waiting room hoping for the fruitful life that lies ahead for us, no matter what limitations it holds.
All because my husband said “no” to aborting our baby.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Tracy Lane is the manager of content strategy for FamilyLife. She is the author of numerous articles, coauthor of Passport2Identity, and guest on multiple FamilyLife Today® broadcasts. Tracy and her husband, Matt, live in the Philadelphia suburbs with their two daughters. Follow her special needs motherhood journey at HeartForAnnie. Find her on instagram @HeartForAnnie.