The Abortion Debate: What Would You Do?
Photo Credit: Melissa Anna Pinney
Overwhelmed, I just cried. I didn't feel that terminating the pregnancy was the right option for me. My decision wasn't just about religion, although our family does go to church weekly; it was about my belief that this baby's life had meaning. I wanted to honor that.
Mike supported my decision, as did my mom and sisters. Naturally, there were times when I wrestled with my choice, especially when others questioned my sanity. They'd say, "What's the point of holding on to this baby? Have an abortion. Then you can try again in a few months." Moms I met in the park were often uneasy and wondered what I was doing. Some parents didn't want me around their children, because then they'd have to explain that my baby was going to die. And I could certainly understand how they felt.
Yet every time Aubrielle kicked, it was a thrill. I'd hold my belly and read stories to her and Elise. I started to think about what others were going through in life and what problems they had, instead of thinking so much about ours. My marriage gained strength, too: Mike focused, selflessly, on what we needed as a family. One night when I was feeling sad, he held me as I cried till dawn.
Before my due date, my perinatal nurse, Suzanne, paid us several visits, discussing my birth plan and how we wanted Aubrielle's first few hours documentedwe chose photographs and hand- and footprints. I requested a Cesarean so we'd possibly have Aubrielle for a little longer, if she wasn't stillborn. I also asked for my family to have access to the recovery room. Suzanne helped us prepare Elise by showing her pictures of other babies with trisomy 13, so Elise wouldn't be shocked by Aubrielle's cleft lip and palate. Elise touched the pictures, saying the poor babies had "owwees."
A few nights before the scheduled delivery, my sisters and friends threw me a "relaxation party." We ate ice cream and listened to music, and they brought presents: picture frames, scrapbooks, toys for Elise, a pink blanket for Aubrielle.
The evening before I was due to deliver, I was taking a shower, and this terrible feeling came over methat I was going to the hospital to die myself. I fell to the ground, sobbing. What was I doing? Was I crazy to have chosen this? I wondered. I felt such raw pain; I was paralyzed by it. But afterward, exhausted and spent, I felt a sense of peace, and the despair that had gripped me began to evaporate. This was the right choice, not just for us, but for Aubrielle. I would give her everything I could as a mother.
The next day, I went to the hospital, and my OB/GYN said she couldn't find Aubrielle's heartbeat. Mike and I looked at each other as if to say, "Well, that's it, she's gone." But then my doctor saw that she was breeched, and we went ahead with the C-section.
The first time I saw Aubrielle, Mike was holding her. I'll never forget her first cry, so tiny and faint. Mike kept saying, "She's here! She's alive!" He handed her to me, and I told her how much I loved her. As if in response, she squeezed my finger. Mike gave the baby to Elise, and as she held Aubrielle, she sang a lullaby, the same one she had sung to my belly during pregnancy.
Aubrielle, who weighed 5 pounds, lived four-and-a-half hours. During that time, our family had a small party with flowers, pink cupcakes with sprinkles, a balloon that said "Happy Birthday Princess," and bracelets for Elise, the baby, and me. Aubrielle wore a white cotton dress that my mother had made and a bow in her brown hair. But about an hour after the birthday party, back in my private room, Aubrielle was starting to fade. Her chest, face, and hands were turning blue. I'd never lost anyone before. I looked down at my baby and watched her take her last breath. Then she was gone.
The funeral was a few days later. Aubrielle was wearing her special dress, and about 50 close friends and family members came to pay their respects. Both Mike and I gave speeches, as did a few others; then we sang songs and celebrated her life.
I still miss Aubrielle. I have no regrets about what I did, and I'll always have that extraordinary time I spent with my daughter. We visit her grave every week, where we sit on a picnic blanket and eat cupcakes. Mike and I waited for my body to recover from the C-section before trying again for another baby. Our son Luke was born in January. Now when I look at Elise and Luke playing together, I can't help but picture Aubrielle with them. She is always with us in our minds and our hearts.
As told to Juliette Dominguez, a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for the L.A. Times Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and the Daily Mail, among others.