(Excerpt from my upcoming book, Unshattered Grief)
Whitney lost her son in November 2017. He was diagnosed in utero with Anencephaly, a genetic abnormality in which a large portion of the brain and skull do not develop and the baby cannot survive more than a few hours outside the womb, though the vast majority with this diagnosis pass in utero or don’t survive delivery. She carried him to 25 weeks when they decided to induce early. Since his brain never developed, he was not able to process the amniotic fluid and Whitney was starting to develop some health risks because of that.
Her son passed in the womb before Whitney even delivered him. Afterward, many invoked their faith on the situation:
“People who were trying to help said God is watching us. They would say a prayer or tell us ‘God needed an angel.’ All of that made it worse. I don’t believe in God or prayer and my only thought was that I needed my baby more than he did…. Someone told me it was an abortion in the eyes of God. They knew nothing about what we were going through, the risk factors involved, or my emotional state. It took everything I had not to strangle her.”
For 15 years, I have done photography for families whose baby likely won’t survive birth or already passed in the womb. For 15 years, I’ve walked the journey of grief with these families. While I personally don’t support ending pregnancy as a means of contraception, I have watched hundreds of families who desperately wanted their child over the years face impossible circumstances. Just like Whitney, these parents find out their child has absolutely no chance of survival outside the womb. Many have been told that the baby won’t make it even to full term. So they induce early in the hopes of getting fleeting moments with their child on this side of Heaven before they pass.
Others are told their baby won’t survive and choose to carry to full term, choose to see if the doctors might be wrong. And sometimes they are — through my work, I know several MIRACLE children that have lived for years and completely defied the odds.
But until you’ve been in there exact shoes, or until you’ve watched hundreds of families grieve for the rest of their lives over a child they loved but could not bring home, I don’t believe you get to say one way or another what is the right decision. I don’t think that should be forced upon them. And I certainly don’t think that it should be illegal for them to do what is best for their family.
For these reasons, I was at first discouraged by the possible overturn of Roe vs. Wade. But then I realized that maybe, just maybe, this affords us an opportunity to finally be heard on a state level. For there to be movement toward REFORM. We have vilified the word “abortion” which medically means “the end of a pregnancy.” In the medical records of a mom who has a miscarriage, it says “spontaneous abortion” — because that has always been the medical term for it. We, as a society, have given that medical term so much meaning that it now has shame, judgement and hurt attached to it, no matter the circumstances under which it’s put in a medical record. For political gain and agenda, all of these circumstances — miscarriage, economic hardship, unborn children who have no chance at life, the aftermath of physical attack, a mother who is in medical danger — have been shoved in a box and deemed the same. BUT THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. And until appropriate distinctions are made, I will continue to speak out for the families who feel forgotten. For their right to do what is best for themselves and their child.
1 in 160 pregnancies result in stillbirth – 24,000 annually. 1 in 2500 pregnancies result in trisomy 13/18 –1 in 6000 of those is born alive and the average lifespan is two weeks when there are no options for medical intervention due to the severity of their condition. Birth defects overall impact 1 in 33 babies, many of those life threatening.
I’m not for the mother OR the child. I am for BOTH. #timetolisten
Photo taken by me as part of the services provided through On Angels’ Wings.