What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. (If you are new to this blog, regularly schedule programming will resume after the holidays, but you can check out the “Best Of” section in the meantime). If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Shannan..
My story feels unique. Not because what happened to us is rare (it's unusual, but not rare), but the circumstances and how we choose to resolve the issue is very very unique.
I terminated my pregnancy when I was 24 weeks pregnant. I had a second trimester abortion. I choose to tell this story because when I was going through my hellish experience, I had no one to turn to. Background: I am a born again Christian. I grew up in the LDS faith in Salt Lake City,UT. I left the church when I was a teenager. Although I left the Mormon faith, I did not leave my faith in God. A few years later, when I went to college in Seattle, I discovered evangelical Christian faith. I gave my life over to Jesus when I was 19 years old. A year later, I met the young man who would become my husband. We met at a college Bible study group. We were married when we were 21 years old. A few years after that, we had our first child, a boy. We were young (24 years old) and poor (renting a movie was a huge luxury), but we were very happy. My husband and I were quite involved in the church as we were involved in the leadership team of the middle school and high school group. We toted our baby around to camps and retreats and we felt alive and content in our role as young parents, mentors to young Christian men and women, and peers to friends in our Bible study. A year after our son was born, we found ourselves pregnant again. It was scary and exciting to grow a family so young in our marriage and lives, but we felt loved and supported by our community. Like many other soon-to-be mothers, I was excited about the possibilities about our unborn baby. Would it be a girl? a boy? How long would I breastfeed this time? Who would lend us a crib? When can I start shopping for clothes?
The day we went to our 20 week ultrasound was the day that cemented our fate. I want to make a very long dramatic story shorter here in this story, so please know that although I may sound cavalier in my approach, it was by far the most difficult day of my life. A few minutes into the ultrasound, the technician discovered a fatal birth defect in our baby. Our baby had a condition known as anencephely - or absence of a skull and brain. This condition is a neural tube defect, similar to the more common form of this defect spina bifida. But while our baby was forming, the spinal column did not close at the top part of the neural tube and therefore, our baby did not form a skull. The amniotic fluid would prevent a brain from ever forming. However, despite this, our baby had a heart beat. The lower part of the brain that controls the heart still remained. What we found out that day was that our baby would never survive life, but was still "alive" in my womb. Almost immediately after the fateful diagnosis, we were ushered into the doctor's office to make a decision. Would we carry this baby to term or would we terminate this pregnancy?
I stop at this point in the story because the following days were a blur - shock, betrayal, anger, numbing sadness. How could God do this to us? We were faithful. I was a new believer. We loved Jesus. We were "good people".
However, despite all this, I did not want to carry the pregnancy to term. The correct and right "Christian" thing to do would be to say that since the baby had a heartbeat, we should carry the baby to term, give birth, and let God take him when God felt it was time. But inside, I did not, could not carry this child for another 20 weeks, knowing that he would never live past his birth. I asked to speak with our pastor to explore what the Biblical thing to do. I could not find any other women in my community, let alone my Christian community who had faced this decision. I wanted to desperately please God with my decision and the burden and conflict of my decision was heart breaking. Our high risk maternal/fetal doctor was pushing us to make a choice since the state law only allowed second trimester terminations up to 25 weeks of pregnancy. Daily I received emails from well meaning church members telling us the consequences of second trimester abortions. I prayed constantly. I knew that even though I wanted to terminate, I could not do it unless I was at peace with my decision.
Fast forward a few weeks, only 10 day left until we missed our window. I still felt no peace. Then I received a phone call from a Christian high risk doctor in another state. She told me that my baby's condition was incompatible with life. I was not killing my baby if I terminated the pregnancy early. God had already made His decision when He formed my baby; you cannot live without a brain. I prayed and within a day, I felt peace about my decision. My head and my heart no longer felt at war.
I will not describe how our son Brock was born, but he was born a week later in the same hospital I would have given birth to him had he been full-term. I gave birth to him after our high risk doctor induced labor when I was 24 weeks pregnant. So legally, I had a second trimester abortion. I want to tell you this story because even though you, as a well meaning "right to life" person think you know everything about abortion, I suggest that perhaps you don't. I want you to know this: I was a woman who wanted her baby. I was a women who loved being pregnant and giving birth. I was a woman who loved God and served in His church and community. My baby was not cut up. He was small and perfect - he had a face and body, but the back of his head was caved in. After he was born as a stillborn, we held him for an hour. We took pictures, we dressed him in blankets and hats. Our baby met his grandparents. And yet, he was a second trimester abortion.
The day Brock was born changed my life. I want you to know that it did not change my love for God, but it changed my faith. It changed how I saw other people. Fellow believers were cruel. People who were not believers were understanding. We eventually left our church as leaders and members. My husband eventually left his faith. Ten years later, he still has not been back to church. I still attend, but I know that no one knows my story. I ask that if any of you are ever in a position to judge- please consider all the circumstances. And allow grace.
Thank you for listening to my story.