It Will Always Hurt
The political climate, and more recently the introduction of what amounts to a federal heartbeat bill (H.R.586), have again raised the issue of late-term abortion and its associated fallacies. I want you to know the faces of the issue. I am the issue. Peter is the issue. Our daughters are the issue.
Peter and I struggled to get pregnant. When other treatments failed, we decided to travel from our home in Texas to the Czech Republic to use donor eggs. On Feb. 9, we transferred our only two beautiful embryos. We were simultaneously over the moon and terrified when we found we were having twin girls. Every ultrasound made it more real. We learned our girls already had their own personalities: our little diva, Olivia, and camera-shy cuddle bug, Catherine. We already loved them more fiercely than I ever thought possible.
Our 20-week anatomy scan was on Friday, June 10. I remember being anxious to get through it because, with twins, the 20-week mark is as safe as you can get in terms of miscarriage risks. After a routine scan, the doctor took over an hour to come in. He asked me to sit down next to Peter before telling us that Baby B, our Catherine, had a number of issues, including an encephalocele (a neural tube defect -- we later found out it was open and brain matter was leaking out), slow growth, small head size (eventually classified as microcephaly), a very large cleft lip/palate, and possibly fused digits.
We saw two additional specialists over the course of multiple appointments throughout the next 12 days. All of the appointments and scans confirmed our OB’s suspicions and more. Her cerebellum was so underdeveloped that one doctor had trouble finding it. Her brain's midline was shifted, which indicated "severe disorganization" (I will never forget hearing those words...). And her sac was growing and restricting the growth of Olivia's sac. Both of our girls were in danger now.
Our doctors counseled us throughout the ordeal. If we carried to term, the restriction on Olivia's sac would likely mean an early delivery. If Catherine survived delivery, she would face a barrage of surgeries, starting with removing the encephalocele and placing her brain tissue back inside her skull. She would be severely disabled if she wasn't a vegetable. And we didn't know what an early delivery would mean for Olivia.
Our other option was a late-term abortion of one of our girls. Catherine's death would likely mean a safe and healthy remaining pregnancy with Olivia.
On June 22 at 3:30 pm, the doctor let us see and hear Cate one last time. I remember she danced for us. And then, guided by ultrasound, the doctor injected a medication into Cate’s heart, stopping it. When they checked for a heartbeat 30 minutes later, the silence was deafening. And then they found Olivia's strong beating heart and we cried. We cried for Olivia’s survival and for Cate's loss, our loss, Olivia’s loss.
Ours is the story of late-term abortion. We are the issue that pro-birthers debate without knowing, without having been there. Our daughters' lives are the lives they claim to value even though Cate wouldn't have had a life, and Olivia might not have either. Ours are the children they would rather have seen both die needlessly because "abortion is murder."
I have always been pro-choice but said that abortion wasn't a choice I would make for myself. And then I was told my children could both die if I didn't do this. So, we decided to take our daughter's pain and suffering upon ourselves. She passed away peacefully, feeling my love and hearing my heartbeat. Given the situation, I could ask for nothing better. This wasn't a choice of convenience, and she wasn’t unwanted. Catherine was so wanted that it will always hurt that we can't have her. But Olivia was wanted, too. And we wanted them to have a life that was actually lived. Quality of life is just as important as a beating heart. No matter the rhetoric being spewed, never think that we went into this with eyes closed and made our decision lightly. I promise you we did not.