I’m a Democrat, so it’s probably no surprise to anyone that I’m also pro-choice. What you may not know about me, however, is that I’m anti-abortion. While I respect the many reasons a woman would want to end her pregnancy, I always felt strongly that my baby was my baby and I’d figure things out one way or the other. Abortion was never really a choice for me—until the day that it was.
At our anatomy ultrasound at 19 weeks, the tech was strangely quiet. I was working hard to convince myself that I was being paranoid, but it turns out I wasn’t. We looked at the little face, we looked at the little heart beating, and we learned that our precious baby was a girl. (Another girl, we were really in for it!) Then the doctor came in.
Our daughter, Violet Selene, had skeletal dysplasia. My husband squeezed my arm and smiled at me. Our baby girl was a dwarf, and she was perfect. It was nothing we couldn’t handle. I can’t say that I wasn’t shaky, but everything would be OK. I knew that. And then the doctor said the word “lethal,” and it slowly dawned on us that Violet wasn’t going to live.
Babies with dwarfism don’t usually look different than other babies on ultrasounds until they are in the third trimester, and sometimes the condition isn’t diagnosed until after birth. The fact that Violet’s arms and legs were so noticeably short at 19 weeks signaled just how serious her condition was. The problem with her skeleton would continue to get worse, and while I had a chance at carrying her to term, once outside in the world, her rib cage would prevent her lungs from functioning properly and she would die within hours.
We had two choices: We could terminate the pregnancy now, or I could carry her to term knowing that I’d have to watch her suffocate to death within a few hours of her birth. To us, there was no choice at all. Not only would it be traumatic for us all (our young children included) to watch her grow and then have to say goodbye, we couldn’t imagine putting her through the inevitable suffering that she would go through if she was born. I would get the abortion.
No one ever thinks that something could be wrong with their child. I found myself wishing that she would be born a dwarf—what a blessing that would be! We could have her and love her and let her know how wanted and perfect she really was. But I couldn’t, not for a second, let her suffer, even if it meant that I had to suffer instead, and that’s what the road ahead held for her.
I was completely blown away by the immediate support we received from friends and family. Lots of people we know who identify as pro-life told us we were doing the right thing for Violet; this wasn’t your everyday abortion situation, and while we knew it, society in general didn’t agree.
Although we were making, what we felt to be, the best decision for our little girl, the powers that be were against us. Insurance would only pay for our expenses if I carried her to term and she died naturally. We had already determined that watching our precious girl suffocate to death wasn’t an option, so now we had to face going into debt to have a procedure done. We weren’t just throwing our baby away because we deemed her not good enough. We wanted her. We still want her, but she wasn’t made for this world.
My procedure would last two days. On the first morning, I was completely petrified. There was nothing about this that wasn’t devastating. I cried all morning, but I didn’t lose it completely until I was on the table. My husband laid his head on my belly and said, “Daddy loves you, Violet,” and the depth of our loss sliced through any semblance of strength I had left. Although the procedure was for me alone to endure, I was just one of many, many people who were being affected.
They gave me some medicine to keep me calm and reduce the pain while they put laminaria in my cervix to expand it; then they injected Violet to stop her heart. I wouldn’t feel her move again.
Afterwards I was tired and sore, and the medicine they gave me allowed me the respite of unconsciousness for most of the rest of the day. The next morning I woke up crampy and uncomfortable and already empty in so many ways. Within a few hours, the cramps would turn into full on labor, and we’d rush to the clinic two hours ahead of schedule.
Protesters on the street yelled at us while they held graphic images of babies torn apart by the procedures, but I was completely unfazed. Silly people, didn’t they know I had seen this already? I had done my research, and although I was going in full of emotion, I wasn’t going in blindly. I wasn’t some silly little girl who had made a mistake. I was a full-grown woman, and I knew what I was doing even if it hurt me to do it.
Within 60 seconds of walking through those doors, my water broke, and a minute or two later, all the seaweed sticks came out in rapid succession. They rushed me back to a room, set me up with an IV, and the evacuation procedure began. I wasn’t scared anymore. Violet was already dead, and her life was the only thing that had really mattered to me.
The last part was a blur, but it wasn’t a nightmare for me as many people describe it. When it was over, the nurse helped to clean me up, and the doctor brought me my baby. Her little face had been torn up from the procedure, and the doctor suggested that I keep it covered. I trusted her judgement and spent the next 10 minutes caressing her legs and counting her toes, telling her I loved her and staring in wonder at how beautiful and perfect she really was.
The days since she was taken from my body have been nothing short of strange. I find myself talking about her as if she will be here in a few short months as we had originally planned. Although I went through the procedure and held her in my hands, I still don’t really feel like she’s gone.
I won’t call her “the fetus” or say that I “terminated my pregnancy” because I don’t mind straight talk. Her name is Violet, and I ended her life. She’s my daughter, and I had the chance to prevent her suffering. I took it. This isn’t a statistic or political ideology—this is my life and hers. Everyone has the right to their opinion, but no one has the right to persecute me for mine. This has been the most horrific experience of my life, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I will feel the loss of Violet every day for the rest of my life, but she didn’t have to suffer, and as her mother, I will always take comfort in knowing that all she ever felt was the warmth of my womb and the loving pressure of her father’s hand.