Moderated by Rachel Stein / email@example.com
The phone call precipitating the life-changing meeting is seared into my mind and heart. In fact, every detail of this excruciating period is etched inside me, as deeply connected to my being as my bones are to one another.
Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to share my dilemma with your readers. I hope they can offer guidance, as I am truly at a loss.
“Mrs. Black? This is Dr. Ross’ office calling. Can you come in to discuss the results of your amniocentesis?”
Icy fear wrapped itself around me. Discuss? What did we need to discuss? When everything is normal, that shouldn’t precipitate a discussion.
My husband, Rob, and I positioned ourselves across from Dr. Ross, his large mahogany desk between us. He cleared his throat, looked everywhere but into our eyes, and began.
“I’m afraid I have bad news for you,” he said.
This can’t be happening. Someone wake me up, please.
“Your baby shows signs of Down syndrome,” he said.
I wanted to scream, to jump out of the chair and run as fast and as far away as I could.
Instead, I glanced at Rob’s pasty face, turned back to the doctor and whispered, “Are you sure?”
He steepled his fingers and locked eyes with me, radiating compassion.
“There is always a faint possibility that the results are inconclusive or even incorrect. However, typically in this situation, with the results that came back, there is very little room for doubt.”
“So where do we go from here?” Rob asked, his fingers clutching the arms of his chair.
“The two of you need to make a decision. If you decide to keep the pregnancy, I suggest you read up as much as you can about Down syndrome so you will know what to expect. If you decide to terminate, I can set up an appointment for you as early as tomorrow.”
My mouth opened and closed soundlessly, like a fish. Terminate? Get rid of my baby? A living, breathing person growing inside me who has the same right to exist as every other person on the planet? Could I live with myself?
But could I live with myself and the script awaiting me if we kept and raised this child?
From that moment, I began seeing these types of people all over, from the baggers in Kroger to people walking down the street, with their differently shaped eyes, unsteady gait, slurred speech, erratic behavior.
When I left Kroger one afternoon, such a young man accompanied me, serenading me with his off-key voice as he pushed my shopping cart to my car. Tears dripped from my eyes, and I slid into my car and stared vacantly through my windshield.
I don’t think I can handle this, I sobbed. It’s just too much. Let’s just get rid of it and start fresh. We’re still young. We can have another child. Normal. Healthy. It’s not even a baby yet, for G-d’s sake!
At that moment I felt a fluttery sensation. Strong, insistent. The baby kicking. It’s alive.
Dragging myself home, I hoisted the packages out of the car.
Oh, no, G-d, please no.
Stephanie wheedled up beside me wearing a broad smile. She was pushing her daughter in the stroller.
“Lisa, say hi to Mommy’s friend,” she cooed to the child.
I pushed a smile onto my lips and bent toward Lisa. Yes, there were the almond-shaped eyes and the larger-than-normal head. Had they known beforehand? Did they ever regret their decision?
Suddenly, there was a moment of magic, like a rainbow stretched across an azure sky. The little girl’s hazel eyes met mine, and she treated me to a face-splitting smile. When I smiled back, it was real.
“How are you feeling?” Stephanie asked, glancing at my stomach.
“You know,” I said, shrugging, “the usual.”
“Hang in there,” Stephanie said.
I gazed after Stephanie. She seemed to be managing, smiling and acting normally, as if her life hadn’t been upended by her special child.
I carried her words with my groceries. Hang in there? Was that a hidden message? If G-d entrusted me with a child, is it my right to decide whether it should live? Who said life is supposed to proceed along a perfectly straight path? Perhaps this is my destiny.
Rob said the decision is mine. Ultimately the care for this child would fall on my shoulders.
Have any of you had to make this heart-wrenching decision? Please help me; a life is at stake.
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