By Beth Fox
Honorable Mention, Prose, Create | Encounter 2021
On a hot and humid spring morning, Rhonda prepared for her 20 week anatomy scan appointment. She sipped a cup of decaf coffee and enjoyed the rare moment of silence. Her husband had left for work a few hours ago and her energetic two year old was spending the day with his grandparents. She wasn’t thrilled about going to the ultrasound appointment alone, but Kevin’s limited vacation time needed to be saved for after the birth. Her first pregnancy had no complications; she had no reason to expect anything different this time, but she was a worrier by nature. To calm herself, she chose to focus on how exciting it would be to get to tell her boys the sex of her second child and show off the ultrasound images that evening. She got in her car, thankful that this child wasn’t dancing on her very full bladder as her son had before every ultrasound, and drove to her OB-Gyn’s office.
Rhonda laid down on the examination table, and held her breath as the sonography technician squirted the cold jelly on her stomach. That was the part she hated more than anything, but she knew it would be worth it in a few short moments, when she’d get to watch her baby squirm around on the monitor. The technician chatted with her as he moved the wand around. Rhonda felt her body relax as she heard her tiny baby’s rapid heartbeat. That sound held a special place in her heart, rivaled only by the laughter of her toddler. As her mind wandered to her son, she realized that the technician had suddenly gotten very quiet and was taking an awfully long time to get the baby’s measurements. Her anxiety had been creeping in again, but she reminded herself that it only seemed to be taking so long because she was so eager for him to turn the monitor, so they could count her little one’s fingers and toes. But the calmly excused himself without giving her so much as a glimpse of her baby.
The minutes creeped by agonizingly slowly as she waited alone in the cold exam room. She crossed her goose bump covered arms over her chest and took a slow deep breath as she reminded herself that she had just heard the baby’s heartbeat. It had sounded clear and strong. Her baby was fine. Her baby had to be fine.
After several minutes, the doctor entered the room, with the now oddly timid technician trailing closely behind. He picked up the wand and began pressing very firmly against her pregnant stomach. Finally, he turned the monitor toward her. Rhonda’s heart flooded with joy when she saw the profile of her baby’s face. This was the moment she’d waited for. She was so captivated by the person on the display that she didn’t notice the grave expression the doctor wore.
Seeing her smile, the obstetrician knew she couldn’t see what he had. He cleared his throat and began to give this woman the news that would shatter her idyllic pregnancy. He explained that there appeared to be a problem with the fetus’ development. She wasn’t growing properly and had measured several weeks too small. As he continued to explain possible causes, Rhonda was overcome by a tidal wave of emotion. She tried to comprehend what was happening, but she was only catching snippets of what the doctor was saying.
“…may be Spina Bifida… should have miscarried… rare complications…” Filled with fear and sorrow, Rhonda looked back to the monitor. She looked at her child and moved her hands to protectively cover her abdomen. She didn’t understand how this man could be talking about her child in this way. Her baby was very tiny and unmoving, but she looked perfectly formed from her little head to her tiny toes. Rhonda was looking for anything, other than the size, that was noticeably wrong with this beautiful child, when the doctor’s next words sent a shock of terror through her. “…fatal anomalies… schedule a termination..” Confusion swept back in. Had he just recommended abortion for this child she’d carried for months and was so madly in love with?
She shook her head and echoed the word aloud, “Termination?”
“At this point,” the doctor responded, “your most merciful option would be to terminate. It is not likely that you’ll be able to carry this pregnancy to term. If you do, the child will have such severe disabilities, she won’t have a life worth living.”
Rhonda was speechless. She simply stared at the doctor, mouth agape in abject horror.
The doctor continued, “I know this may be overwhelming right now.” His tone held a mixture of compassion and condescension that seemed impossible to coexist. “A D&E is really a simple procedure. I know you were excited for this pregnancy, but it wouldn’t be long at all until you and your husband could try again for a healthy child. It is an option you need to consid-”
“NO!” she cut him off. Rhonda had heard enough. This man was advocating the death of her child. She couldn’t bear it anymore. “No, termination is not an option. Look at my baby,” she pointed to the image still frozen on the monitor. “I know you see all the scary possibilities, but all I see is my beautiful little girl. She’s perfect to me. I have already loved her for months and no medical prognosis is going to change that, no matter how grim. I believe in a God who works miracles and is sovereign in all situations. If He takes my child before she is born…” Her voice caught in her throat as the gravity of her situation hit her. Fighting tears, she continued, “We will face whatever challenges lie ahead. But ending this pregnancy is not my choice to make. I want to give this little girl every chance for the best possible life. No matter what that looks like or how short it will be. She will know she is loved, and I will fight for her every day of her life. If you’re not willing to do the same then I will find a provider who is”
As she sat up and began wiping the ultrasound jelly from her still exposed pregnant belly, my mom felt the weight of the doctors words and mingle of unbridled emotions that were flooding her. She felt fear that she may not get to watch her child grow up, worry about what this little one would face if she did survive, hurt and confusion as she continued to process what this doctor had wanted to do, but also a new found boldness and courage. What she felt most of all, though, was a deep love for me, a love that only grew stronger over the 25 years we had together.
In that doctor’s office, she committed to giving me the chance to fight for my life for as long as I could. She delivered me on my due date in the middle of a hurricane. Together we have fought for my rights. I’ve beaten the odds. My life isn’t perfect. I face challenges every day as I navigate this world that is clearly not designed for someone like me who is reliant on a wheelchair and ventilator, but I love my life. No one will convince me that it isn’t worth living, and today, I’m still fighting, for my life and the lives of others, like me, who are being threatened before they even take their first breath. I will do everything I can to ensure that every child has the chance to fight because life is worth every battle.
This is the fictional retelling of a true story. My story. Because my disabilities were detected in utero, I was selected for abortion. My mom took a stand for life and gave me the chance to fight for mine. Unfortunately she is no longer here to check the accuracy of this piece. Some of the details had to be recreated from my imagination, but the conversation with the doctor and her response to the proposed abortion are genuine. I hope this piece will help raise awareness of the terrible situation that many moms of disabled children find themselves in. I’m so grateful that my mom had the courage to fight for me and want to empower other women to choose life for their children.