Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sanctity of Life - Part II

I'm quite aware that I'm preaching to the choir here, based on comments and e-mails I've received since my last post. But this is such a powerful post on Pam's House Blend that I have to bring more attention to it ... hopefully someone who is on the fence, or even opposed to my opinion, will at least read it and think about it. Or maybe someone will send Pam's post to such a person.

Pam quite respectfully acknowledges a pro-life story of parents who found that their baby was to be born with a fatal birth defect, and decided to carry the child to term. But she also presents parents who made different decisions - but with love and mercy in mind for their unborn child, just as every potential parent should do. I can't imagine being in this position - and honestly, I absolutely respect all of these parents' decisions and how they arrived at them.

Abortion at any time during a pregnancy isn't pretty, it isn't desirable, it isn't something joyous. But these are great stories, in the fact that they represent the "why" regarding keeping abortion legal. Every story is different, just as every reason for every decision is individual ... I'll let you make your own judgments on these stories. Heartbreaking. There is no other word.

For those who don't like to follow links to other pages, here is the story in her post that really hit me (she posted the entire story to ensure that it was read - I'm hoping that she won't mind me doing the same):

In November, when I was 22 weeks pregnant, we received news that would forever change our lives. A sonogram at the perinatologist's office revealed that our son, Thomas, had a condition known as arthrogryposis. The doctor's face spoke volumes when he returned from fetching a medical book to confirm the rare diagnosis. He explained that arthrogryposis was a condition that causes permanent flexation of the muscle tissue. The condition could be caused by over 200 different diseases and syndromes, with a wide array of severity.

He asked for permission to do an immediate amniocentesis, and for the first time he used the word "termination." It was then that I first realized the gravity of our situation.

My husband and I were shocked and struggled to comprehend what we were being told.. It would take two weeks to receive the results of the amniocentesis, which might reveal the cause of the arthrogryposis, but we already knew that the prognosis was not good.

The ultrasound showed that Thomas had clubbed hands and feet. His legs were fixed in a bent position and his arms were permanently flexed straight. He had a cleft palate and swelling on his skull - a condition that would likely kill him in and of itself. Due to his inability to move, Thomas?s muscles had deteriorated to 25% or their usual size, and his bones to 25% of their usual density.

My husband and I were sent home to grapple with the news and face an unwelcome decision: whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.

... By the time the amnio results came back, we had two days left to make a decision before hitting the 24 week mark -- after which, no doctor in Texas would terminate a pregnancy. The results were devastating. Our son had no chromosomal disorder. There was no explanation at all for his condition, and as such, no way to predict the scope of his suffering. We would have to make our decision based strictly on what the ultrasound had revealed.

My husband and I decided that we would have to use the golden rule. We would do for Thomas what we would want done for us in the same situation.

We tried to look at the evidence as honestly as we could. Even the best case scenario was abominable.. Thomas would lead a very short life of only a few years at the very most. During those years he would be in constant pain from the ceaseless, charley-horse-type cramps that would rack his body. He would undergo numerous, largely ineffective surgeries, just to stay alive. He would never be able to walk or stand; never grasp anything, never be able to hold himself upright. He wouldn't even be able to suck his own thumb for comfort. And this was only if we were lucky. The more likely scenarios tended toward fetal death and serious health complications for me.

We made our decision with one day to go and left for Houston where we would end Thomas's suffering in one quick and painless moment. Though we wanted to stay at home, _______ was no longer an option, as all of the hospitals were religiously-backed and there was no time to convene an ethics committee hearing.

In Houston, God graced us with some of the most compassionate people we'd ever met. The first was our maternal-fetal medicine specialist, who confirmed that the prognosis was even direr than originally thought. In a procedure very similar to an amniocentesis, Thomas's heart was stopped with a simple injection. In that moment, as I held my husband's hand, I met God and handed him my precious boy to care for, for all eternity.

Over the next 17 hours I labored to deliver Thomas's body. It was a painful experience, but the only option given to a woman at 24 weeks gestation. Thomas Stephen _______ was born into this world just after 6:00 a.m. on November 27, 2002 -- the day before Thanksgiving.

The loving nurse who'd helped us through labor cleaned his fragile body and brought him to us. We held our boy for the next hour as we said goodbye. Our own eyes confirmed what our hearts had already come to know: that Thomas was not meant for this world. The hospital's pastor joined us and we christened Thomas in the baptism bonnet I'd worn as an infant.

Thomas's life and death have changed our lives in ways we will never fully comprehend I know he made me a better mother, a better friend, and a less judgmental, more compassionate human being. I know he is the reason I have the courage to stand in front of you today.

Through him, I've grown closer to God, who understands what it is to sacrifice your only begotten son in the name of mercy.

During the summer and fall that followed Thomas's death, my husband and I lost two more children during first trimester miscarriages. We lost three children within the space of one year. On January 17th of this year, our prayers were finally answered with the birth of our daughter, Hannah. If anyone knows about the value and sanctity of life, I assure you, it is us.

I cannot argue at all with that. This was pure mercy and love. I can't even imagine this characterized as anything less.


Scott said...

What a sad and touching story. After reading that, how could anyone want to deny the rights of a parent to make the decision that they feel is the right one to make? The parents are the ONLY people who should have the right to make these decisions, not bible thumping Christian politicians.

Michael said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. If a story like this doesn't change people's minds, I don't know what will.

Beverly said...

How sad. I was in that same position. However, I kept my daughter. She is 3 today. She is learning to walk in a walker. She gets better every day. Stronger. Arthrogryposis is a nonprogressive condition, time is the infant's friend. My daughter is quick as a whip. Although she'll probably never run a marathon, I don't either. My daughter enjoys going to the beach, playing in the sand, painting, banging on the piano.

That said, I wouldn't know what to do if my amnio had come back with a chromosome abnormality.

Oh and by the way, Bonnie hasn't had surgeries. She is fine. The joints slowly straighten. The muscles are weak but they are getting stronger. She is watching Diego right now and saying, click, take a pick!

john said...

I am pro-life, don't get me wrong.
But I feel under extenuating circumstances, it can be forgivable (I couldn't even type out the word).

Matt said...

I'm very glad, Beverly and John, that you have commented with points of view that differ somewhat from what I wrote.

A disclaimer - I, and I dare say anyone else with my opinion, certainly do not ADVOCATE abortion. I do, however, believe it should be a legal and viable option, especially after reading the story in Pam's post.

Beverly, I am so glad that Bonnie is doing well and is happy!! And very happy that she has gotten stronger and has such a positive life (and wonderful mother) to enjoy.

And John, I do understand and appreciate your view too. I am very respectful of everything you have said and the comments you have made before, and your posts on your blog.

I only mean to draw attention to the fact that there are circumstances where terminating a pregnancy should be an option, and that the ultimate choice should be that of the mother/parents of the child, as advised by her doctor. In a perfect world, there would never be an instance where abortion would have to be an option. Living in the real world, however, it needs to be a legal option with sound, safe medical venues readily available.

I hope you realize that my opinion still holds your views in high regard and utter respect.

CondoBlogger said...

What a great mix of experiences. Amazing how when opposing points of view come together in a civil manner the issues seem so much smaller.

Matt said...

Great comment, Condoblogger. I couldn't agree with you more.