Monday, June 1, 2009

I love my baby no matter what

Ter`mi*na"tion\, n.

1. The act of terminating, or of limiting or setting bounds; the act of ending or concluding; as, a voluntary termination of hostilities.

2. End in time or existence; as, the termination of the year, or of life; the termination of happiness.

The word felt dirty to me, wrong in my mouth, for the longest time. To this day, I hesitate before saying it out loud. It is so harsh, so final, so totally void of the emotion and agony that went into the decision. Certainly, in the early days after the diagnosis, I resented the word, I danced around it, always calling it something different, because it was different, it had to be. In genetic counseling, it was always "ending the pregnancy" or "interrupting the pregnancy," as if those were any better. I worded it in any other way I could find, I still do. But then there it was, scribbled all over my discharge papers from the hospital, closely followed by fetal anomaly, fetal demise, 21 weeks.

It wasn't until one day, after the diagnosis but before your birth, when I decided to type the word, hating every letter, into the search field of the Baby Center Community, that it began to resonate with me. There it was, a group full of people going through exactly the same thing I was. Suddenly I was not alone. I was not a monster for even considering it.

I cringe when I see people say that termination would never be an option for them. It was not an option for me, either. Even in the initial phone call when Patricia mentioned that the specialists would be discussing my "options" with me, my head spun. What options? This was my baby. There were no options.

And then...well, everything changed. What happens when all the options are awful? What happens when life is not necessarily the best option for your own child? What happens when you have to choose their well being or yours? Just like any mother, you choose your child's.

There is so much misunderstanding surrounding termination for medical reasons. Those who have never been in our shoes and never plan to be, claim that they will love their babies no matter what. As if the decision is simple, black and white: if you love your baby, you will keep them, no matter what. But choosing to let a baby go is perhaps one of the hardest, most sacrificial demonstrations of love there is. I do not know of anyone who has taken the decision lightly. Choosing to let a baby go who would otherwise be born into a life of suffering (or no life at all) is a sacrifice. I will suffer my whole life so that you do not have to feel one moment of pain. I will spare you, even though it hurts more than anything I could ever have imagined. I carry the weight of this so you will never have to.

It is not easy.

As we get further into the pregnancy with your sibling, I have been thinking a lot about how I will handle things if there is a problem again. Some part of me wants to say it doesn't matter, I will keep this baby no matter what. But then, does that mean I love this baby more? And if I consider putting my own well being before this baby's, does that mean I love this baby less? It is so tempting to say that love has nothing to do with it, but essentially it is all about love. You are both my children and I am constantly humbled by the amount of love I am capable of in my new, unique motherhood.

I love you both, no matter what.


Hope said...

This is a beautiful post! And I have to say that I know what you are feeling because I've been here. And with the recent events in my life, I can say that I've been thinking about this a lot too!
You put everything that was swimming around in my head beautifully!


kay said...

Dear Alenia, Your post is so true and beautiful, as I have been in the same position myself, and I am so sorry for your loss of your precious daughter Layla, as I lost my precious son Nicholas in 1994, and I still deeply feel the pain of having to make that choice. In memory to Nicholas, I have set up a memorial blog to honour our precious lost loved one's, its called 'Eternal Names By The Sea', and while I was at the beach recently, writing names by the sea, I was thinking of you and precious Layla. I hope you don't mind, but I wrote Layla's name by the sea, and have taken some photos of this and would love to email them to you. If you would like to know more about my memorial blog, and what its all about, the link is:
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kay xxxx

Cynthia said...

I came here via Glow in the Woods and was so moved by your post.

My son was born and died a little over a year ago, due to body stalk anomaly, which is a fatal neural tube defect.

Earlier in the pregnancy, we had declined to pursue any bloodwork or ultrasounds, so did not know of his condition until my waters broke at 30 weeks. He was delivered via cesarean section, and died shortly thereafter.

We had declined the tests because believed nothing was wrong (we have a healthy 4 year old daughter), and even if something were wrong, believed the information would never affect our decision. We would love our baby, no matter what.

Yet had we had the ultrasound earlier, finding out at 20 vs. 30 weeks that he would never live, we would have terminated the pregnancy then, I am sure of it (as I never was before). Because, as you so eloquently describe, loving means bearing burdens so that your child never has to.

I do not wish to cast our initial decisions as based in naivete, because as it played out, our ignorance of his condition bought us 1.5 hours to hold him, to kiss him, and to say goodbye. Our ignorance protected us from ourselves, and allowed us the only time we would ever have with him. Indeed, we debated long and hard during my current pregnancy, whether to have any prenatal testing done this time.

But it is also true, that for those 1.5 hours, what remains in my memory, are visions of watching my son gasp painfully for air, and I know that vision is what my husband is thinking of as well, when I occasionally hear him let out a soft moan of despair. It was also our selfishness to have him with us, even briefly, that caused him the only pain he ever experienced in his life.

Life isn't black and white, we wish it were.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing post. Thank you for articulating this, the hardest of choices, so beautifully.

I'll be following your journey through this new pregnancy and remembering Layla with you.

Love Jess

sweetsalty kate said...

Aleina, other readers have beaten me to it but we've given you the spring award for Glow in the Woods... this post was so beautiful, and we were so grateful to find it.

I know you may feel that your writing helps you to heal, but always remember that your writing helps others to heal, too. Isn't that an amazing thing? Thank you so, so much.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like the Glowing in the Woods badge for your blog - the link to the post is here.

Anonymous said...

I came over from glow in the woods. I have been there.... Your post is beautiful. A year and a half later the pain is still there and I am learning to just live with it..

Hope's Mama said...

Here from Glow in the Woods. What a heartbreaking yet stunning post. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of Layla. I will keep you in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Also here from Glow and so sorry to hear of Layla. What a beautiful post, your love for her resonates throughout.

Googies Girl said...

No one can truly understand what it is like to make this heart shattering decision, until it is a reality. I denied all genetic testing because "it didn't matter" if our baby was sick or handicapped. I also loved her "no matter what". I would never ever make that decision. Only, as fate would have it, I had to & I did. I agree there are so many misunderstandings surrounding this situation. It is ALL about love. A love I never knew existed until I let our daughter go. I'm so sorry for your loss of Layla. It is hard to walk this road. Your writings are so very beautiful, honest & full of grace. Please know you are in my prayers.

KWT said...

My husband and I chose to "let go" --I, too, despise the word terminate-- of our beloved firstborn son. And, spelled out to what medical extremes (or not) we would go if something went awry in my subsequent pregnancy.

For these painstaking, prayer-led, heartfelt, tearful (hell, let's be honest: vomit-inducing) decisions we were berated and made to feel like less than the faith-abiding, compassionate human beings I believe we strive to be.

Talk about pouring salt into the wound; the second guessing and judgment anytime we shared his story... Most times it was just easier to say he was premature and had died: yet that suggested a peaceful passing...

I can't --won't--, even share what the last hours of my 4-day old son's life were like, because if you're reading this blog you know.

And so I *do* talk to everyone; maybe not as indiscriminately as before, but from 3 years out, I reach out across the divide-- and share why I believe what we "chose" to do was the right thing.

Thank you for writing this.

Much love,
Mom to ^Jonathan^, Joshua, Jaydan

C. said...

Thank you for this post. I've been filling myself with words today, stories, hard-to-read but necessary things to face the difficulty of loss. Choice. What a loaded, impossible, terrible word for so many of us. Thinking about you and Layla on this eve of Oct 15 Remembrances.