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"All My Son Knew Was Love": Parents Who Carry Terminally Ill Children to Term



Pro-abortion activists often say that when someone is pregnant with a baby expected to die, abortion is the compassionate answer. For example, when criticizing various pro-life initiatives, Jessica Valenti wrote:


The activists that decimated abortion rights have quietly rolled out a new initiative to pressure and force American women to carry doomed pregnancies to term. 
It's difficult to articulate the scale and cruelty of their vision…

When pro-lifers encourage people pregnant with terminally ill babies to give birth rather than abort, are we being cruel? Not if you look at research. Study after study shows that parents of terminally ill babies who give birth do better psychologically than those who abort.


Post-abortive parents wrestle with guilt and don't have the closure of meeting their children and saying goodbye. 


In a study in The Journal of Clinical Ethics, researchers asked parents who chose birth for dying babies if they had regrets: 97.5% percent said no. 


Parents valued the baby as a part of their family and had opportunities to love, hold, meet, and cherish their child… 
Although emotionally difficult, parents articulated an empowering, transformative experience…

Some comments from the parents include:


"All my son knew was love."
"I will always cherish the time I had with her." 
"We would not trade those six hours for anything in the world."
"I got to hold my baby for an hour … no regrets."
"I got the chance to see her, hold her and honor her sweet life."

Another study, in the Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, found similar results.


Researchers found that, "After the birth, and at the time of the baby's death, parents expressed thankfulness that they were able to spend as much time with their baby as was possible."


One woman says spending time with her baby was "wonderful" and that she was "gloriously happy" when she got to introduce her child to her loved ones. Another mother says, "I wasn't sad for hours…I just basked in his angel glow."


Another mother described her husband carrying their baby's casket at the funeral. She says, "He showed more strength and love and sacrifice in that moment than I have ever seen. As awful as it was, there was beauty at that moment."


Authors of another study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine were "surprised to find that the majority of parents were so happy to meet their baby, even joyful and at peace, even if he/she was stillborn or died within a few hours." 


They wrote: 


One surprising finding was that many couples felt that their baby's birth was joyful, even if the baby was stillborn or died shortly after birth…We were impressed by the parents' resiliency and ability to find something positive to offer, even in the presence of their grief. 

The authors noted their findings were "consistent with" the results of other studies. 


These parents grieved the loss of their children. But they found comfort in meeting and loving them. This stands in contrast to the findings of studies of women who aborted terminally ill babies. 


In one, researchers wrote that women found abortion "traumatic, regardless of the prenatal test revealing the fetal impairment or stage in pregnancy in which the termination occurred."


These researchers wrote:


The strategies women used to reconcile conflicts engendered by selective termination—denying the personhood of the baby, limiting the information they sought about the baby, transferring agency for choice to others, adopting a stance of moral relativity, avoiding disclosing or selectively disclosing the event to others—worked briefly, but the women ultimately felt as if they were betraying themselves and their babies.

Another study in Prenatal Diagnosis compared women who aborted terminally ill children to women who carried to term. 


The study found those who aborted "reported significantly more despair… avoidance…and depression than women who continued the pregnancy."


The study's authors wrote:


Pregnancy continuation was also associated with less psychiatric distress in women… [W]omen who continued reported significantly less despair, avoidance, and depression than women who terminated…
[I]tems related to guilt were significantly associated with termination in women. The active choice involved in termination does appear to increase the likelihood that guilt will be experienced, even in the case of lethal fetal anomalies.

Australian mother Teresa Streckfuss lost two children to anencephaly, Benedict and Charlotte. Streckfuss rejected abortion and held her babies while they were still alive. She says she wouldn't trade her time with them for anything. 


Saying goodbye to her children, Streckfuss says, was the most painful thing she ever endured, but also "the most beautiful."


She says of Benedict, "He cried out, made facial expressions …. His face was so sweet; he looked just like our other children at birth…We marveled at how perfect he was."


Streckfuss has no guilt. She says, "Benedict spent his whole life in the arms of people who loved him; who could ask for a better life?"


After Benedict died, someone asked Streckfuss if giving birth to him had been worth it. She replied:


Oh, yes! For the chance to hold him and see him, and love him before letting him go. For the chance for our children to see that we would never stop loving them, regardless of their imperfections? For the chance to give him everything we could? 

Finally, it's always possible that doctors are wrong. Mothers have been told that their babies would die at birth, only to have them survive. 


Kim Parry was told her daughter Esmay would die at birth, but she survived. Parry says, "She is beautiful – she has a beautiful personality and a great big smile. She lights up the room and makes everyone laugh."


Gemma-Sarah McCusker was also told her daughter would die, but she's now three and, Gemma-Sarah says, "bright as a button." According to her mother, Karlie's favorite things are "Peppa Pig and cheesy pasta 'noo-noos.'" 

Doctors are sometimes wrong, but abortion destroys all hope. 

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Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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