When I was seven months pregnant, I was told that my son had anencephaly – a condition not compatible with life.
I was already the mother of two living children and one baby born in the first trimester who died.
This diagnosis came as a completely devastating shock.
This pregnancy had been healthy and normal up to this point. Further testing confirmed that our son would be stillborn or he would not live long after birth.
My husband and I were faced with the biggest decision of our lives.
We knew that we would never have an abortion, but was being induced at seven months an abortion? We were so shocked and confused.
We went to our local medical community for advice. There we were told that there was no point in continuing our pregnancy and prolonging our son’s life.
I was told by my doctor that he would continue to see me as a patient, but there was no need to follow through on medical care for the baby.
Moreover, he said in hushed tones that we could deliver early, even though that decision may be considered a late-term abortion ”but under the circumstances…”
My circumstances were that I was seven months pregnant with my baby boy who I wanted more than anything!
From my point of view, my baby was perfect. He was kicking in my belly and growing more every day.
Next, we sought counsel from our parish priest. He was very encouraging and talked about how people always want to stop the pain to lessen suffering, but that wasn’t always the right answer.
His words were rather vague, but they resonated with us. If we chose to terminate the pregnancy, we’d shorten our baby boy’s life, and in return, we could avoid enduring two difficult months of pregnancy knowing our son would die soon.
Yet he was alive and well inside me!
We finally were connected with a perinatal bereavement nurse and doctor at a Catholic hospital who showed us the path we wanted to take. These professionals encouraged us to choose life.
We chose to embrace our baby Benjamin, with all the uncertainty and all the scary unknowns. We were taught how to parent our baby through his short life and how to cherish the time we had with him.
By choosing to let Benjamin’s life take its course, we gained two months with him. We were taught how to parent him and bond with him during those two months, his birth and his death.
We read books to Ben and listened to our favorite music. We had family pictures taken with my pregnant belly.
These two months gave us time for the shock to wear off and the love to flow out of us into our child.
We were able to prepare for Ben’s birth and his inevitable death.
This time was a true gift for our family and friends as well. Our family helped us with difficult tasks regarding the funeral home and burial plot.
We were grateful for the family support and the time we had to make theses difficult decisions. Friends took the opportunity to make us six weeks of dinners among other things!
Our relationships were strengthened by this baby boy.
When Ben was finally born, he was born into a room overflowing with anticipation and love. The shock had worn off, and we were ready to greet our son and shower him with attention and affection.
We were given a chance to be parents to him by dressing him, bathing him, reading to him, baptizing him, and taking pictures – lots of pictures.
These memories are imprinted in my mind and on my heart. The 10 1/2 hours we had with Ben alive are so precious to me, as they are all the time I had with him.
throughout this time, our doctor and nurses made sure that Ben was not in pain. He was gently cared for with the utmost respect.
By slowing the process down after Ben’s diagnosis, I was able to plan the birth and funeral that I wanted to have for my child. I was able to begin the grieving process and even start healing.
I was able to validate this unique life that entered into our family as a precious gift. Ben was just as special and irreplaceable as my living children, and it helped my heart heal to know that I honored my baby and respected the course of his life.
I will be eternally grateful to Dr. Pivarunis, Francine Kane, RN, and the other healthcare professionals at Sisters Of Charity Hospital who guided me through Ben’s life and death.
They taught us how to respect Ben’s life and helped us on the way to healing.
My six living children have grown up knowing about our two babies who died. Our children understand that life is sacred and precious.
We have shown our children that through sadness and grief there is hope and peace to be found.
I hope they will carry these lessons with them throughout their lives and reach out to others who are struggling and help them on their journey.