By Rita Lomio
Stanford University Community Service Writing Program
Nineteen weeks into her pregnancy, Kris learned her unborn baby had Trisomy−18, a serious genetic condition.
“We weren’t even sad at first, we could not believe that news.”
Monday night, Kris’ husband took the call. The doctor had scheduled the operation to terminate the pregnancy on the Friday of that same week. In the few days between hearing the news and undergoing the procedure, Kris felt helpless and alone.
“You want to think it will all work out,” she states, “but there wasn’t much of a decision to make. There’s no question, no hope, nothing really to decide.”
Laurie received similar news in the beginning of her third trimester. Her baby was diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. One week later, the pregnancy was terminated.
“Henry (the unborn son) wouldn’t have walked or talked,” she explains. “It just seemed to us our child would have no life. It wasn’t like there was any kind of hope.”
For some women, there is a decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. For others, like Kris, the doctors have already made arrangements for termination. Regardless of the situation, the time between diagnosis and termination is short, as the baby is growing each day.
Sharing the news with friends and family and accepting their reactions are especially difficult.
“At first there were congratulatory cards, but after that . . . silence.” Kris recalls. “Or people would just start avoiding you.”
You can’t be truthful with some people because they have strong feelings against it, Kris explains. She still hasn’t told her best friend about the termination. She hopes someday to be able to, but explains that it’s “kinda risky.”
Laurie sent out an announcement to friends and family, alerting them to the situation.
“Most people didn’t do anything,” she says. “It’s hard to get support from people because they don’t always know what to do or say, so they don’t do anything.”
To help cope with the loss, many people write in journals, read books on the topic, or attend support groups. Support groups exposed Kris to people whose losses happened a couple years ago.
“You say to yourself: ‘they look okay, they look normal.’ ”
Both Laurie and Kris agree that supportive friends are invaluable after the termination. Kris had friends who had a similar experience five years before. After hearing the news, Kris was not in a state of mind to think about what her options or needs would be. Her friends helped her realize what questions needed to be asked and what actions needed to be taken. Her friends told her, for example, that after the delivery, the child might be disposed of like a removed kidney.
“ For the medical community it’s a procedure,” Kris explains. “Nowhere did anyone say it was our baby.”
With the aid of her friends three days before the operation, Kris was able to make arrangements through the Neptune Society to cremate the baby. She was also able to obtain a death certificate. The certificate, for Kris, gave cialis professional
“There was going to be another baby in this family,” she explains. “That was so important.”
Kris advises parents going through similar situations to get in touch through HAND or genetic counseling to find out what questions to ask because she only had three days to make some really important decisions.
“You don’t want to have to live with that regret,” she says. Laurie advises parents contact HAND or other people who are supportive.
“Don’t be too disappointed if people you feel close to don’t reach out to you or meet your expectations.” she says. “Others will.
“Try to be kind to yourself. Don’t go to that baby shower or to the mall where there are so many kids and strollers.”
Parents, family and friends are not left unchanged. Many find themselves more sensitive, more empathetic. It can bring families closer.
One day, Kris says, she will tell her daughter about the pregnancy termination. She will also tell her daughter that she would have been a great sister.