The Pregnancy That Couldn't Be
Content Note:This article describes the author's personal experience with pregnancy loss.
I was 2 weeks late... I was never late. My heart soared... I was elated when I took the test. It was positive. It was happening... The one thing I wanted in the world: I was pregnant and going to become a mother. It happened while on birth control - obviously, that was not foolproof.
My dream to be a mother
I told my family and together we planned on how we were going to raise the baby. I happily went to my first OB appointment and was given the troubling news that I had to be referred to a high-risk pregnancy doctor due to my disability and the possible complications I could have.
Unable to carry the baby to term
I went to that appointment and was told that my body and its restrictions caused by complications of my spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) were not viable to carry the pregnancy to term, there was just no room for a baby to grow.
It was not the SMA that made me unable to have children. It was my body and for the longest time, I have carried that I failed my baby with my whole being because I was not strong enough. In fact, my spinal muscles were never strong enough to hold my own spine from collapsing, so I had a full spinal fusion when I was 12.
Though the spinal fusion had protected my lungs from being crushed by my scoliosis, it had not protected my ribcage from sitting too close to my hips and I grew while my abdominal cavity stayed the size of a 12-year-old and could not flex or bend. The fusion kept my organs too close together and a growing baby would not physically have room to come to term in my abdomen.
My life was at risk too
My heart sank. I went to another high-risk specialist for a second opinion, and they confirmed the other doctor’s findings, that the baby had no chance of coming to term and that I was also personally at risk of dying if I tried to carry it much longer.
I was too weak with too little room in my body to bear a growing child inside of me and still fill my lungs with air and breath once the baby got much bigger. The baby would crush my vital organs as it tried to grow its own but doing so would cause us both to suffer and possibly perish. There was also fear that the rods in my spine would break and puncture my uterus and immediately kill us both as well. There were several ‘no win’ scenarios that did not turn out well for the baby or myself.
I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that my most cherished dreams were never something I could attain, I was never going to be a mother biologically.
Deciding with my family
With the support of family and friends who were concerned about my wellbeing, I had the conversation of what would happen if I tried to carry the baby and it was able to be delivered but I was lost because of it.
My family was supportive of my choice and said they would care for any baby, but that they did not want to raise a baby without me, and that’s even if the baby could survive to the point of birth which the doctor had already said was not possible.
Still, I wanted to know that I had options if I wanted to give my own life for a possible birth.
The doctors advised abortion
In the end, we decided that it would better for me not to put myself at risk for a baby that had no chance of growing and I made the dreaded appointment to have an abortion at a clinic near my home. It was something I never thought would happen to me, but my family was certain they did not want to lose me no matter what it took to protect me.
Because of the abortions laws in my state at the time, I was forced to listen to the heartbeat of my baby and had to be given options for adoption, even though the clinic knew my circumstances and all the doctor recommendations I had and that I was having a medically necessary and wholly unwanted procedure to end my pregnancy. I was distressed enough knowing I was the reason for my baby’s termination because it was my ribcage, my back fusion, my hips that would not allow him room to grow. My body failed him.
I felt guilty because of my disability enough without having to be bombarded during the medical procedure with his heartbeat which I had already heard at the last specialist’s appointment.
I am still sad that the last impression I have of my pregnancy was at this clinic, forced because of laws, and not the beautiful heartbeat when I was still hopeful to meet my baby one day.
I grieve the child every day
And though my abortion was medically necessary, I am still sad every day. I think of my unborn child every day. The grief will live with me where the child could not. However, I do not regret my decision to choose my life and the sanctity of my life over letting myself die for something unattainable. It is important to me that I was able to make this choice, which is never easy, through a thoughtful discussion with my healthcare team.
Do you have unanswered questions about SMA treatment options?