Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life and Death - Deciding Whether Or Not To Terminate A Pregnancy

I am no movie critic but I want to talk about a movie I fell into last night and ended up really enjoying.
It was called “Tiptoes”. This story follows a man and his girlfriend who are living together and very much in love. They talk about a future together, having children and are planning on getting married in the near future. Then she ends up getting pregnant and he starts to change. She doesn’t understand why since they had spoken about having a family and is confused by his ambivalence & distance. When he goes away for a training session she discovers why.
Although he is tall, his family is one of dwarves. He did not get the recessive gene but his twin did, and so did every other family member we meet of his. This is a tiny detail he neglected to tell his lover and when he is asked why, he didn’t really have an answer other than, “it never came up”, or something along those lines.
Of course the girlfriend was shocked. Her new relative brings her to his family, who all try to comfort her through her uncomfortable feelings and worries. She educates herself on the possibilities for her unborn child and decides to go ahead with the pregnancy. Her boyfriend is not so sure. He wrestles with his demons. He knows what it’s like for a dwarf; all the medical issues each individual can develop, how common it is that infants are in intense pain, the social aspects of being different.

What stood out to me was the reactions of each character as they realized they were about to enter a whole new world, a whole new level of existence with this baby. The girlfriend was initially shocked upon meeting her boyfriend’s twin – not only had she never heard of him but he was a little person! She was upset that he hadn’t told her he had a family of “midgets”. Part of their interaction is him correcting her. “If you keep using the word midget you’re gonna piss off a whole lotta people” is what he told her. She eventually did the right thing.
She also addressed her feelings of embarrassment that she would question whether or not to bring this baby into the world based on the fact that it may be a dwarf. She was sitting at a table with this family who had fed her, talked to her, comforted her and she was trying to decide whether she should terminate a pregnancy because it may be like them.
This is something that goes through the minds of parents-to-be if they discover that there is a genetic issue with their unborn: Intense fear over the difficulties that may lie ahead for them and for the baby and guilt over feeling this way. I know many of you reading this have had to make such a decision. And everyone has heard of a new story somewhere where parents had to make decisions and then were judged on their decision.

When we were pregnant with my son, the 20-week sonogram showed an abnormality in his brain ventricles. They were larger than normal and on top of that, they were not even so one was larger than the other. I remember being hit with the same sensation one gets when they do a full belly-flop into the pool. My ears were ringing and I thought I would vomit through all the sobs. All I could think was “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” My husband is much calmer, at least on the outside. He refused to believe anything was wrong until they were definite because through the several sonograms and prenatal MRI, all the specialists saw something, felt it probably wasn’t anything to worry about, but couldn’t be definite.
Amongst all this, we went for genetic counseling. We were given information and then sent home to think about things. In the car ride home I could barely keep myself together. I kept thinking about how we were so happy to be pregnant. I thought about all the “firsts” I didn’t get with my daughter because of her disabilities and how I would get to have them now (those of you who have children who are disabled know about this). I thought about this adorable baby, bundled up in my arms in the hospital bed, not in the NICU with tubes coming out of every limb, including the head. Then I thought about all that happening again. All the specialists, doctor visits, therapy, equipment. 

My daughter was injured at birth and lives with cerebral palsy because of doctors' errors. I did NOT want that. I barely survived the first time around. The fact that I still walk this earth is a miracle. How could I possibly be expected to do it twice?? I knew that I couldn’t and I felt so guilty and like such an evil person for wishing I never had gotten pregnant in the first place. I couldn’t say it out loud at that moment but I knew I would probably terminate the pregnancy. I was counting in my head how many weeks I had left to decide. Then I would start bawling again at the thought of doing that with a child I so wanted just days ago. I was torn.
We ended up having the baby. And my son has been fulfilling his job of giving me all my firsts   =D
He DOES have a genetic mutation which has zapped half his immune system. My world is now doubled with specialists and doctor visits. It’s not how I imagined it would be, though. It’s not like my worst-case-scenario & it’s not my dream-come-true. I guess this time, instead of going to Holland I made it to Sicily; almost Italy but not quite. And that’s okay. I have discovered that Holland is quite beautiful and that Sicily is just more of that beauty.


  1. First, allow me to compliment you on your honesty. Few people are willing to share in a public forum their pain, their doubts, their decision-making process and finally the wisdom that it has brought them. Your words are living words for all of us.

    Second, your choices and commitments are beyond simple admiration; they are exceptional. I am sure there are many days when ecstacy and sorrow blend in the perfect dance. Not an easy road we travel but we manage. Probably because it's right!

  2. Thanks, Phil.
    I actually deleted that section then re-wrote it after thinking about it. I made a commitment to be honest even if what I have to say is controversial. Not everyone will agree with me just as I don't agree with everyone else but that's what makes the world go round, as they say!

    Your words are always so graceful!!

  3. I have just discovered your blog. Loved your honesty. It sets us free. If you ever find the time, you might take a look at the other side of the story:
    Thank you for the courage! <3

  4. Thank you for reading along. I have checked out your site and I enjoyed what I have read so far. Thanks for sharing!!