When faced with the news that their unborn babies had spina bifida, two couples made very different decisions about their babies’ lives: One chose a late-term abortion. Another chose to value their son’s life, despite his disability.
Last week, LifeNews reported the tragic story of Joy Freeman who had a late-term abortion after her unborn baby boy was diagnosed with the spinal disorder. Freeman said she and her partner were told that their unborn son probably would never walk or talk or survive past childhood. Though Freeman said she supports abortion, she never thought she would have one herself. Afraid, she wavered about whether to abort her unborn son, but her partner “was so certain that termination was the right thing.”
“But my partner felt without a shadow of a doubt that, through abortion, this baby would not suffer, that he would return to God, the ball of energy that magics us into creation or whatever you believe in, and that there would be no regret for that infant, no actual loss beyond the hopes and dreams we had for him,” she said.
Since then, Freeman said she has been “haunted” by the vision of her unborn son’s coffin – “as do the words: I did this.”
Brittney Baumgartner’s story is very different. Her unborn son also was diagnosed with spina bifida about half way through her pregnancy, and she admitted that she also was devastated by the news. However, she chose to believe that her son’s life was still worth living.
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“I cried and grieved for my son, who was still otherwise perfectly healthy and alive,” Baumgartner said. “We thought the worst, because that was what we were told. We had little to no hope with the odds already set for my son.”
She said her son was diagnosed with the “worst type” of spina bifida, myelomeningocele, which causes the spinal cord to protrude through an opening.
LiveAction News reports more about Baumgartner’s story:
Still, they never considered having an abortion. “The only time it was brought up was when my first OB asked if I had wanted to get one,” she explained. “Needless to say, we left him without a second thought. I had a lot of support from Aaron, and we both wanted Oliver, regardless of his new diagnosis.”
Through support groups and other spina bifida families, they were able to find acceptance and peace. Just ten weeks later, at 30 weeks, Oliver was born. He spent 45 days in the NICU, and surgery did have to be performed. “This included surgery at 1 day of age to close his open back lesion and place a reservoir in his head to drain the excess fluid (hydrocephalus),” Baumgartner explained. “Once he gained enough weight, he had this reservoir removed and had his permanent VP shunt placed. He has also gone through serial casting of his legs for his clubbed feet. He had his fourth surgery then, which was a tenotomy of his Achilles heal. This released the tightness, allowing his foot to move freely.” They also had to undergo testing, but since then, she said things have calmed down, and have moved to follow-up testing, rather than checking for new issues.
As for what raising a child with spina bifida is like? “I could not say if life is harder or easier raising a child with spina bifida. Oliver is my first, and all I’ve ever known. It’s… routine. It’s our life,” she said. “We have the usual pediatrician visits along with a bundle of specialist visits. We still get colds and boo-boos. Although he is paralyzed from the knees down, he has still learned to crawl. If anything, life with Oliver has shown me how much will and strength can empower such a small human being.”
Baumgartner and her fiance, Aaron Hinkley, are expecting their second child, according to the report. If this baby also has spina bifida, the couple said they will welcome him or her into the world with joy.
“I have changed for the better since having Oliver,” Baumgartner said. “I am his spokesperson until I can teach him to speak for himself. I can’t imagine life without him [or] if I had chosen to end it before giving him a chance to shine.”
Baumgartner and Freeman took two very different paths after facing similar situations. One ended in sorrow, the other unexpected joy because she chose life.