I recently spoke to someone who had opted for a medical termination for a baby who had a terrible illness known to be incompatible with life. It really got me thinking about what I would have done in that situation where there was a clear diagnosis and certainty of loss. With Silver it was the unknown in some ways that kept us going and gave us hope, yet at the same time that uncertainty and no answers was also the cause of so much fear and dread during our rainbow pregnancy with Leilani.
I’ve always said I’m 100% against termination unless there is a medical necessity where someone’s life is at risk, this includes where the trauma of a pregnancy (such as a rape case) would cause such distress the mother would be at risk due to her mental health. I personally accept life from conception and don’t like to use the word foetus rather than baby. Having experienced a miscarriage at 6 weeks and a neonatal loss I know just how precious life is and find it hard to understand at times people’s justifications for terminating a life.
With Silver we were offered a termination however the choice was pretty easy for us. I’ve never really gone into detail in a blog or social media about the day we first went to see the consultant and were told the bad news. We’d had our twenty week scan locally which first flagged up issues on the Friday. Typical! There was almost no amniotic fluid, she was measuring very small and her bowels were echogenic (bright). We had a worrying weekend, especially since the sonographer couldn’t answer me when I asked if Silver was going to live.
We saw the consultant on the following Wednesday and I can honestly say besides the day we actually lost her, this was one of the most painful moments in my life. The consultant was very apologetic but was quite sure she would not survive yet he had no idea what was wrong with her. After we had both cried our eyes out the consultant gave us four options. Terminate before 22 weeks via medication, terminate before 24 weeks with an injection through my stomach and straight into her heart, continue the pregnancy with a natural delivery and palliative care, continue the pregnancy with all the bells and whistles knowing she is still likely to pass away.
We were actually offered to terminate in that appointment which I found sickening that they could so easily offer the option to take away life there and then. They did however suggest we went away to think about our options and wouldn’t have recommended doing it so soon after finding out. Within the appointment we immediately said we knew we only had two weeks to decide. No way in hell were we injecting her heart, it just sounded so cruel and callous we couldn’t even consider this option. This is when at first, I felt very confused. In one sense we knew the odds were not in our favour and continuing the pregnancy would still result in a painful loss but I was so against termination that I found it hard to believe I was now taking it into consideration.
We left the appointment feeling shocked, distraught and confused. I think it took me a little longer to make the decision than Fabian purely because it was my body which would have to go through with it. I say it took me longer, by that I mean about an hour. We actually made the decision on our journey home. I had to align the decision with my morals and thankfully the lack of a diagnosis and certainty meant we were allowed that glimmer of hope. That glimmer of hope made it an easy decision and I was disappointment in myself for the fact I had even considered any other option.
You may or may not believe in fate but we actually saw a truck on our journey home that day which had overtook us and pulled in front just before we exited the motorway. Written in the dirt on the back was two special words. Choose life. When I think about it now, I wonder if this was actually a message for people feeling suicidal but either way, at that moment we believed it was a sign meant for us.
You might ask me now, do I feel misled and that it was in fact just a coincidence. After all, we still lost her. My response is absolutely not! Choosing life was the best decision we ever made. We always knew there was a high possibility of loss and so each day which we had with her we actually saw as a blessing. I have immersed myself within the loss community and seen the heartbreak stillbirth has inflicted on couples. I feel so lucky in some sense that I had the freedom to make decisions which enabled a live birth and allowed us the time to get to know her personality. I will always have many what if questions about who she was going to be or what she would be doing now but I feel so privileged to say I do know exactly what her personality was like which in itself is more than many loss parents have had the pleasure of knowing.
Choosing life was more than just that one decision. It was undergoing many things which terrified me. I finally felt like I was a mother. I had never been challenged with Beau or had to face fears for his safety thankfully. For Silver however I made many choices which I never hesitated on despite the fear factor and personal risks. I undertook a CVS test which involved a very large needle going through my bump to take samples from the placenta for genetic testing. I am a huge needle phobic! I also opted for a caesarean birth despite knowing it would leave my womb scarred, effect future pregnancies and I would basically be going through major surgery knowing it could all be for nothing so to speak.
I made that choice, despite a desire in the future for a natural pool birth knowing she was my priority and with the health concerns she had we were aware she would almost certainly die during a natural birth. The only way to ensure she was born alive and given every opportunity was to commit to a life and body changing surgery. These were all decisions that were easy to make, we chose life, we chose hope.
If god forbid this ever happened again in the future should we decide to get pregnant, we already know we would make those very same decisions again. I can’t however say how I would respond or feel if for example at an early screening it showed signs of a condition completely proven to be incompatible with life. Would I go through an entire pregnancy for the possibility of a stillbirth or a birth which resulted in only minutes or hours before loss. It would go against my morals to terminate but at the same time I am aware of the toll three pregnancies have taken on my body and I’m aware of exactly what it feels like to be told your baby is dying and to watch as the life exits their body. It’s something I can only pray I never have to experience or make a decision on.
We not only chose life from a medical aspect, and by which, I mean opting for the tests and the caesarean birth with all the bells and whistles, but we also chose it from an emotional aspect. And by this, I mean how we made the most of every moment through the pregnancy and despite the circumstances still felt she deserved all the things a normal pregnancy would have. As such we had a gender and name reveal which you can view here. We also cherished every kick and celebrated the life inside me. My good friend was also kind enough to do a maternity photoshoot for us to have to remember this beautiful life.
You might question me when I say we chose life and yet at the same time we also were the ones who made the decision to withdraw her breathing apparatus and support when she was sixteen days old. Does this mean we chose death? I don’t want to go into too much detail about that night or decision in this post but I do want to say that in that moment I still feel we chose life. We always said as long as she was still fighting that we would continue to fight too. At this moment the doctors had run out of options and she was not responsive to any treatments they gave. She was deathly pale and we knew her body was no longer able to fight. Unfortunately, on this occasion her bravery and tenacity were not enough to fight the debilitating ailments she was facing.
In that moment we chose quality of life and love. We chose to remove her from her incubator, so she could be comforted in our arms, surrounded by familiar voices. Our priority was her comfort, for her to feel safe, secure and loved. We both knew it was the right thing to do and it was unfair for us to keep fighting, keeping her in the incubator for the risk of her passing away alone. We were blessed with her opening her eyes in this moment despite being highly medicated and felt this was her way of letting us know she felt safe and loved and that she trusted us. We made the decision to move her with only ventilation support to a quiet room so she could pass away surrounded by only love.
I personally feel we were brave to continue, risking heart break every moment whilst knowing we were giving her every chance. I feel proud of her for fighting so hard and being so brave through much prodding and poking and I’m proud of myself for staying strong and never once giving up on her. I suffer mental health problems and often have a pessimistic outlook. Most people including family expected this to break me. I was instead the strong one. I can be quite determined and stubborn at times and this was one of them. I refused to give up on her and would not accept defeat until I had no choice.
We chose life.
Until next time,