By Dave Andrusko
Oh, gosh, what follows is the kind of entry that both makes you stand in awe and makes you weep. Many of you may already know, but I didn’t until today, the story of Amanda Schulten and her unborn twin daughters which she has named Hope and Faith. (Her story was first told last week in the Chicago Sun Times.)
I will mention just a few of the many highlights I could pick from Julie Mullen’s terrific story. They begin with her opening few sentences which place Ms. Schulten’s situation (and people’s responses to it) in context.
“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them,” as the famous Victor Hugo verse goes. Facing adversity, criticism and an uncertain future for her conjoined twins, Amanda Schulten says she chose life. Despite the devastatingly low probability of survival, the single Marengo mother-to-be said that, for her, there was just no other option.”
Mullen explains that Schulten learned in April that she was carrying twins. When her doctor called her in after the routine ultrasound, she learned that her babies were connected at the torso, sharing a heart, a liver, and two lungs and kidneys. “They each have one good arm, and one has another half an arm,” Mullen writes.
“The doctor said the babies won’t make it, and termination is the best option,” Amanda said. “I broke down. I wasn’t thinking about abortion, I was thinking, ‘Will they survive?’ Not ‘I want them to die.’ ”
Amanda never returned to that doctor’s office. But dark days would follow in the form of depression and loneliness, as many around her didn’t agree with her decision.
“Some people were really supportive and thought I was doing the right thing … while others, not so much,” she said. “They would say things like, ‘the kids would suffer’ … ‘I’m selfish if I keep the babies because of how short their life span is’ … ‘they’re just going to die anyway.’ ”
The reminder of Mullen’s story is how Schulten’s family and church have stood by her, and how an obstetrician who handles high-risk pregnancies at the University of Chicago Medical Center, is her doctor. Schulten was admitted a week ago Monday to the hospital well in advance of due date of October 11.
Two other considerations, one very encouraging, the other a very poor commentary on the cruelty of strangers.
Amanda said if mothers don’t protect their children, who else will?
Perhaps really three are sharing one heart, as she, too, shares theirs.
“You know you’re really a mom when you’re willing to give up your whole life for them,” Amanda said. “I will love my kids always and forever, no matter what.”
But as noted above the blog that she started to document her journey (amanda-faithhopelove.blogspot.com) is an open invitation to people who can and will use it to say cruel things about her. That’s bad enough. But then there is the Chicago Sun-Times which used Amanda’s dilemma to tout its own “pro-choice” position.
Their editorial has a two-fold purpose: to as much as say, “Hey, she’s crazy, but choice is choice”; and to contrast their noble even-handedness (choice is for abortion, choice is against abortion, six of one, half-dozen of the other) with all those ogres—you and me—who are the reason “Abortion rights are under renewed assault in the United States.”
But that is the dividing line, isn’t it? Those who believe choosing life and choosing death are equivalents—medically, physically, psychological, or morally—and those who do not.
The twins may die in utero. They may live a short while after birth, or they may even live a few years (according to Mullen, the longest life span for twins sharing a heart is 3 ½ years).
One response to that inevitability is typified by the Sun-Times editorial: “We can all list plenty of good reasons Schulten might have chosen abortion.”
The other is contained in Schulten’s own response to Mullen: “My goal is to have the oldest living conjoined twins.”
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