My friends, family, even my own children have voiced passionate opinions over the recent uproar and rhetoric regarding conception-related choices.
While I tend to keep my personal opinions on heated topics to myself, I do want to share a bit about what I know.
I know what it feels like to watch an ultrasound monitor while the doctor says no heartbeat is detected, and I have to resist pressure to medically intervene, hoping and praying for a miracle. And I know what it feels like for my 11-week, lifeless fetus to pass naturally after my body decided it was ready to release it.
I also know what it feels like to sit in an OB office during a routine 21-week ultrasound and to be told by the tech, “I see some issues with this baby. I’m going to get the doctor.”
I know the fear of waiting in that dimly lit room, and then hearing matter-of-factly that my baby only has half a heart, enlarged bladder, and other anatomical abnormalities likely incompatible with life.
I know what it’s like to go to a Level-2 OB specialist for an amniocentesis and then to hear potential “choices” — induce early and deliver this baby vaginally or to be anesthetized while they remove my baby limb by limb. And that at 22 weeks I legally have two more weeks to decide.
I know what it’s like to visit pediatric surgeons who peer into my belly and determine if there may be a way to fix her.
I know what it feels like to think that I must agonize over such unbelievably heart-and-soul-wrenching decisions, trying to get help from those around me — from my spouse to my rabbi to my psychologist.
I know what it feels like to lie in a hospital bed as a doctor places medication onto my cervix to induce labor, and then to immediatly regret my choice.
I know what it feels like to deliver my premature baby as my hospice doula tries to comfort me, and I beg them to take my baby to the NICU. “Maybe I can still nurse her, maybe she can still survive,” I say in my pain and confusion.
I know what it feels like to hold my precious 1.5 pound baby for 40 minutes until she passes away, and then to send her tiny blanket-wrapped body away to the hospital morgue.
I know what it’s like to visit her little grave. And to cry for her constantly, and then less and less as the months and years pass.
I know what it’s like to still talk to her, and to say, “I’m sorry Chaya, please forgive me. I’m a different person now. If I had it to do over again I would let the pregnancy take its course and give you a chance.”
You were in my body, Chaya, but it was never my choice to make. Yes, you were connected to me. But you were your own being.
Psalm 139: “You covered me in my mother’s womb. I shall thank You for in an awesome, wondrous way I was fashioned; Your works are wondrous, and my soul knows it very well.”
I’m sorry Chaya, and I’m sorry for all the other mommas who know what making these choices feels like. May G-d grant us all peace, love and light, even in our darkest moments. And may we never again feel the need to make such decisions.
I now know what it’s like to believe in myself, to release shame and blame, and surrender to my loving Creator. And for me, that has been the most powerful choice of all.