Doctors Told Me to Abort My Disabled Baby But He Has Brought Me Unintended Joy

Opinion   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 26, 2017   |   2:04PM   |   Washington, DC

In the past few days, a beautiful trend on Twitter has been highlighting the stories of women who chose life for their babies in difficult circumstances.

The hashtag #MyUnintendedJoy has accompanied dozens of stories on Twitter from moms who refused to give into the pressure to abort their child for whatever reason – from poverty to young age to career/school to a poor diagnosis for their unborn child. Some of the moms said they will march at the upcoming March for Life on Friday in Washington, D.C. to speak up for babies like theirs.

One mom, Elizabeth Gravely, wrote a column for The Federalist this week to encourage moms to choose life for their unborn babies even when their baby is likely to die shortly after birth. It’s what she did, and her son’s short life brought her so much joy.

“With time, support, and grace, my anger and devastation developed into profound love, gratitude, and hope,” Gravely wrote. “I recall a moment when I was seven months pregnant, holding my belly, carrying my son, and feeling so deeply grateful for Thomas.”

She wrote:

My son, Thomas, was prenatally diagnosed with a “fatal” chromosomal disorder at 22 weeks in utero. A fetal MRI revealed that Thomas had multiple brain abnormalities, including a dandy walker malformation, a missing corpus callosum, a malformed brainstem, and, perhaps most sad for me, he had no eyes. I was crushed that I would not be able to look into my baby’s eyes.  When advised that he would most likely pass in the womb, I was devastated and angrier than I have ever been in my entire life.

To add to this enormous burden, my doctors advised me to abort Thomas, as if he were a cancer that needed to be expelled quickly. But thankfully I had a deep sense that I could not take my son’s life. I knew that even if his life was brief, he had no less right to live it than anyone else.

Later tests revealed that Thomas’s prognosis was not as bad as originally predicted. Gravely said doctors even expressed hope that her son might live long-term.

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Thomas was born with many health problems, but his condition was “better than anyone anticipated,” she wrote. The little boy quickly captured the hearts of family, friends and the hospital staff. Gravely said he was sweet and peaceful, often smiling and cooing when people came to visit him. One nurse in particular often visited Thomas, even though he was not under her care, his mother recalled.

The Gravelys had seven months with Thomas before he died suddenly. A perinatal hospice program helped the family through their grief.

“I can attest firsthand that there is no greater sorrow than losing your child,” his mother wrote. “But I would not trade the many moments of joy and peace for all of the suffering that came from Thomas’ diagnosis and passing.”

Later, she continued: “Women who receive severe or fatal prenatal diagnoses do not need abortion but support, such as palliative care, perinatal hospice, and programs like Isaiah’s Promise. The beautiful, although often brief, lives of children like Thomas are not meant to be taken before their time with abortion, but to be celebrated.”

Gravely is one of many women who have been sharing stories like these to encourage other pregnant moms, to remind them that they are strong and their babies are a blessing.

Here are a few more posted with the hashtag #MyUnintendedJoy:

The hashtag may be a reference to a famous quote by Emmy-award winning actress and pro-life advocate Patricia Heaton, who once said: “I find it impossible to subscribe to a philosophy that believes that the destruction of human life is a legitimate solution to a problem that is mostly social, economic and psychological. In reality, most women ‘choose’ abortion because they believe they have no other choice. Women who experience unplanned pregnancy also deserve unplanned joy.”