Believing this fabrication of the radical right depends on one’s ability to conjure at once a perfectly unfeeling woman and a perfectly healthy child, a stand-in for the much more tragic and complex reality. Meet, instead, a real live, breathing woman who terminated a much-wanted pregnancy at almost 22 weeks, when her baby was found to have severe fetal anomalies of the brain.
My son’s condition could not have been detected earlier in the pregnancy. Far from lazy, I was conscientious about prenatal care. I received excellent medical attention from my obstetrician, one of the District’s best. Only at our 20-week sonogram were there warning signs, and only with a high-powered MRI did we discover the devastating truth of our son’s condition. He was missing the corpus callosum, the central connecting structure of the brain, and essentially one side of his brain.
If he survived the pregnancy and birth, the doctors told us, he would have been born into a life of continuous seizures and near-constant pain. He might never have left the hospital. To help control the seizures, he would have needed surgery to remove more of what little brain matter he had. That was the reality for me and for my family.
Meet, too, the many real women I know who belong to one of the saddest groups in the world: those carrying babies for whom there was no real hope and who made the heartbreaking decision to end their pregnancies for medical reasons. Meet the women among this group who had gotten, they thought, safely to the middle of pregnancy, who had been planning nurseries and filling baby registries, only to find they would need to plan a memorial service and to build, somehow, a life in aftermath.
We are not reckless, ruthless creatures. Our hearts hurt each day for our losses. We mourn. We speak the names and nicknames of each other’s babies to one another; we hold each other up on the anniversaries of our losses, and we celebrate new babies and new accomplishments, all bittersweet because they arrive in the wake of grief. We extend our arms to the women who must join our community, and we lament that our numbers rise every day.