My High Risk Pregnancy, Choosing Life, and the Loss of Our Baby
July 2012 - From the time our son was born, we knew we wanted more children. Andrewís birth day was the most joyful day of my life. Looking down at his tiny hands and feet, his beautiful eyes, I knew I was looking at a God-given miracle.
Going back several years, I had chemotherapy when I was a teenager. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I had a rough year of chemotherapy and a total right knee replacement to replace the bone that had been overtaken by the tumor. After chemotherapy, I had check-ups from time to time including echocardiograms, but everything looked good. I have been cancer free for 15 years.
When pregnant with my son, I had mentioned to the doctor that I had a chemo drug - adriamycin - which could affect my heart during labor and delivery. Toward the end of the pregnancy, my heart was checked by a cardiologist, and I was reassured that all would go well. I was given the impression that although my heart function was a bit below normal, I would be able to have more children.
So, we tried for another child. Toward the end of May, we joyfully found out that we were expecting. Once again, it was time to get my heart checked out since chemo can have long-term effects. This time, things did not look as good.
My ejection fraction was 40-45% indicating the beginning stages of heart failure, and my heart rate was elevated. The cardiologist recommended that I see a high risk ob asap. Since we moved out to Maryland, we hadnít even seen a regular ob yet, but when we did, we explained the situation to him, and after some prodding, he wrote out the referral to the high risk ob. I was referred to him by a crisis pregnancy center since I was looking for a pro-life doctor from the start, and we were surprised when - as he was writing out the referral - mentioned that she would probably suggest termination of the pregnancy.
At about 8 weeks along, we had our first appointment with the high risk ob. The tech did a sonogram and baby looked good. His/her heart was beating, and we got a picture of our little one. A few minutes later, the doctor came in to go over my heart condition and what it would mean for the pregnancy. She took it very seriously - which we appreciated - but then gave us the devastating news that there was a 50% mortality rate if I continued the pregnancy. I was upset - crying - and she was quick to take advantage of my reaction.
She began by holding my hand and asking what religion I was. I replied Catholic, and she said "Let me tell you what I know about God. God is loving and forgiving, and He will understand if you have an abortion." She added that she had worked in a cardiac clinic and had seen many Catholic women die for the decision to continue with a pregnancy. We had already mentioned that we did not want to terminate, yet she pressed on, even reminding me that I would not want to leave my 18-month-old son without a mother. She made it clear that I would most likely end up in the hospital for several weeks - maybe months - and we had to prepare for that. There was no compassion, no caring about my unborn child that was already loved and very much wanted. When we continued to explain to her that we were not going to have an abortion, she mocked our beliefs and told me that I had better start praying. I left that appointment distraught and beside myself. It was enough to take in that I had a 50% chance of survival, yet to be coerced to try to get me to have an abortion on top of that was just too much.
We have been staunchly pro-life for many years, and now it was time to face the facts - it was not just "the life of the mother" on the line, but it was my life, and my child. And, yes, I was willing to risk my life for my unborn child. In my eyes, it was no different than risking my life for my born child. Donít get me wrong - choosing life was not going to be easy - I was fearful of leaving my son without a mother. I was scared of dying. Yet, in my heart, I knew that ending my childís life to spare my own was not the right moral decision.
Then came the opinions from family - some supportive, others not so much. Some told us blatantly to abort. I was questioned as to whether I was choosing my son already born over the child "not yet here on earth." That my husband was choosing the child "not yet here on earth" over his wife. To me, this child was very much already here on earth as his/her soul had already been present upon conception. I had seen his/her beating heart and was excitedly looking forward to feeling the little one moving around inside me. Even if it meant weeks in the hospital toward the end of the pregnancy, I knew that I would already have a strong bond with my little one just as I did by the time I gave birth to my son. As a friend put it, at this point, it was in Godís hands, and when I felt scared, I would remind myself that God was there with me.
About a week later, we had the next appointment with the high risk ob. In the mean time, I had been trying to get in to see a new high risk ob, but since I already had the follow-up appointment with the same high risk ob, I begrudgingly went to the appointment.
First, the ultrasound tech began searching for a heartbeat and could not find one. She left the room, and brought the doctor back with her so they could both look at the screen. As the tech began looking again, Iím not even sure the doctor was looking at the screen as she was too busy talking and talking. I was staring at the screen myself, but I could hear her in the background going on and on about how God is looking out for me, and that a d&c will be easier on my heart than giving birth. Also stating again how she has seen women die, etc., etc. My baby was no longer alive, and she couldnít let her agenda go.
After the ultrasound, with a smile on her face, she once again reminded me that I would have died. I reiterated that we never planned on having an abortion, and she still kept on it - again mentioning that God spared me.
Then, she callously stated - as if there were no emotional implications - that I should go ahead with a d&c and get back to my daily activities. She said she could give me names of doctors who could perform the d&c. Yes, she added that some of the doctors might not want to do a d&c on me because of the high risk. Of course, she had never mentioned risk when she was trying to coerce me to have an abortion.
Some family members have suggested that we should "give thanks to the Lord" since our baby died and I am alive, or that God answered their prayers for my safety which resulted in the death of our baby. We honestly donít find much solace in insensitive suggestions such as these. We are devastated by the loss of our baby.
I was able to get in immediately with a different high risk ob and new cardiologist. They were so much more caring and understanding. We are getting second opinions from them as far as my risk for subsequent pregnancies, and some further testing will be done on my heart. It is probable that we will no longer be able to have children because of my heart condition. Meanwhile, we mourn our second child, and we look forward to holding him/her at the resurrection.
We think of our business more as a ministry - spreading Pro-life and Christian messages through affordable clothing which will spark conversation - and we make barely enough to pay our bills. It is not about the money. However, we are planning on traveling out of state at some point to bury our baby in the same cemetery where all of our relatives are buried. This will leave us behind in a lot of ways, but we believe it is well worth it for our spiritual and emotional healing. If you find it in your heart to donate for travel and burial expenses, we greatly appreciate it.
If you would prefer to donate to a pro-life organization in our babyís name (which we will announce when we decide on a name), please let us know so we can send a thank you.
More than donations, please keep us in your prayers. I have a long road ahead of me with my heart condition, and we are still praying that testing might reveal that my heart is strong enough to withstand another pregnancy.
UPDATE - Nov 2012
About three weeks after the miscarriage, we received news that our baby suffered from a chromosomal abnormality. Not hereditary, but nothing could have been done to prevent it. Babies with the abnormality do not survive past the first trimester. The point of getting the testing was never to determine the cause of death actually but to determine the baby's gender so that we could name him/her properly, and so that we would know who to expect to meet when it was our day to be with Jesus. We learned that the baby was a boy, and we named him Joseph. It is so amazing to me that at only 6 weeks gestation (8 weeks pregnant) and several weeks after his heart had stopped beating, they were able to determine his gender. If that doesn't prove 'it' is a person, I don't know what does.
My heart is holding steady - Praise the Lord. We are currently postponing another pregnancy until we feel certain my heart would be able to handle it. And - I know you're wondering if we use birth control considering that we are 100% pro-life - we use NFP. If you want more information on Natural Family Planning, feel free to email me.
Emotionally, our hearts still hurt. I think I personally shed the most tears around the time that we buried our baby's remains. It really hit home that his little life was with me for a short time just to be taken too soon.
Now, we fill our lives with day-to-day business, and of course, loads of fun with our toddler son who always keeps us on our toes.
We put the down payment on the headstone (almost $700), but we will need to come up with another
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