It’s not easy.
I guess that’s what I really want you all to know. It’s just not as simple as it sounds. But let me back up a bit…
When I tell C’s birth story, I can typically tell it in under two minutes. To be honest, as much as I adore hearing and reading birth stories, it always kind of amazes me just how wordy women usually get with them, even when everything goes smoothly. C’s story is wild and long and full of twists, but I still wrote it in under 800 words. Maybe it’s the fact that it WAS so intense that I’m able to dial it down and tell it in a pretty straight-forward way. I don’t really know.
Admittedly, though, I typically leave things out when I tell her tale. I don’t consider them to be major details and, truly, I don’t actually think most people are that interested in me that they need to know all the nitty gritty specifics.
One thing I mention to very few people?
That moment when they asked us if we’d rather let her pass in arms. (“Passing in arms” is the medical community’s polite way of referring to not employing– or discontinuing– most support and intervention, excluding comfort care. The baby is then allowed to naturally let go in as peaceful a manner as possible. This is how cases are usually handled when there is deemed no chance of survival or quality of life.)
When I do tell people about that decision, they usually have the same response– they glance at C., look at me, and widen their eyes with horror. “How could they even ask? I mean, who wouldn’t do just what you did? I can’t believe they even said that.”
And what I want you all to know is this– as hard as it may be to stomach, it’s not that easy.
When I tell the story now, you see a happy, healthy eight-year-old girl. You see a happy, healthy mother of three. You see a family that is intact and doing well.
That may not have been what you saw on Christmas Eve back in 2005.
The doctors saw a healthy, 29-year-old woman who had a ten-month-old to care for. They saw a woman who had had no health issues whatsoever in the pregnancy and would likely bounce back (physically) from a vaginal delivery of a one pound baby rather easily. They saw a young mother who could likely get pregnant again without much difficulty and whose body was, as yet, not traumatized by surgery.
They saw a woman who had lost three units of blood already and the prospect of cutting her open was incredibly dangerous.
They also saw a not-quite 24-week gestation baby whose chances of survival weren’t great. Were she to survive, the odds of evading long-term significant repercussions were slim to none. The road to discharge would be difficult, painful, and long, should she make it. She would endure spinal taps, heel sticks, blood draws, IVs through her scalp, and more on a daily basis.
“Would you rather let her peacefully pass in arms?” they ask.
They don’t ask to be cruel. They aren’t trying to be heartless. They are not saying this baby counts for nothing.
You have to see what they see to grasp it.
They see the risks of putting a healthy young mother through a surgery that carried major risks of complications– it was not a straight-forward, average c-section. Cutting someone open, both vertically and horizontally, following so much blood loss is dangerous. Administering anesthesia in those conditions without time to prepare is tricky. Trying to maximize a tiny baby’s chances of survival means placing more risk on the mother– and they couldn’t even guarantee she’d survive the birth.
So, yes, when you see me now, obviously here and obviously healed… when you see a smiling, bounding third grader… I understand that it’s easy to say, “How could they even ASK that?”
But I want you to know that they did the right thing in asking. And I will never hold that against them.
It’s not as easy a choice to make as you might think.