By Feleica Langdon (Life Defenders)
My name is Heather. My husband and I discovered that we were expecting our second child after two years of experiencing secondary infertility. Having gotten used to the idea of our three-year-old being our only child together that we’d have the opportunity to raise, we were absolutely ecstatic and pleasantly surprised.
In February, I was experiencing extreme symptoms such as brief black outs and that feeling of having been hit by Mack truck everyday at work. Due to my history of miscarriage, the severity of my current symptoms, and the fast-paced/physical nature of my job, my OB/GYN saw me a few weeks before my first prenatal appointment. She decided to take a look with the sonogram wand to see how far along I was and the condition of our baby. I really had no idea when we conceived since I lost hope and wasn’t keeping track of anything.
My husband and three year old waited for me in the lobby and I nervously waited for the doctor to find a heartbeat. I think many women who are pregnant and have suffered a past miscarriage experience the anxiety of wondering if the heartbeat would be found.
She found a tiny baby about eight weeks in development and seemingly perfectly fine despite the complications I was experiencing. I was so relieved when I heard the sweet music of our precious baby’s heartbeat.
Just as she was about completed, she said, “Hold on a minute,” as she moved the wand over. “See that?”
To my astonishment, there were two little babies on the screen. I started laughing hysterically and crying all at once. The doctor told me that she saw the first baby and some extra body parts off to the side of the screen, so she moved the wand there to investigate. I, of course , didn’t notice anything extra because I was just so happy seeing one very much alive baby there.
Then we called my husband and daughter into the room. When they walked in, all my husband saw was me crying. Fearing that we had lost another child, his heart sank. With the assurance that everything was okay, he walked around to the other side of the table. I said, “Do you see that?!” He immediately recognized TWO babies there in black and white.
“No way! No way!” he said excitedly.
Time passed and the OB/GYN told us that our twins were Monochorionic-Diamniotic (MoDi). We later found out that these types of twins run in my husband’s family.
MoDi twins sometimes make for complicated pregnancies because they share the same placenta, so I was closely monitored. My doctor referred me to a specialist who handles a wide range of pregnancy types and had access to more advanced technology.
Before my first appointment with the specialist, I had to fill out the standard paperwork everyone does before being seen. However, one piece of paper wasn’t so standard and I had to pause to read it a couple times.
In short, it was a document with an agree box and a decline box; whichever you chose, it required your signature. It asked if you would want and give permission to abort your pregnancy if any genetic flaw was found. The examples they gave weren’t anything that warranted death. Many people who I knew with the conditions listed lived happy and meaningful lives.
I hadn’t seen anything like this before and I even texted my husband about the paper. He wasn’t there because children were not allowed to this office and he was at home with our daughter. I, of course, declined their “procedure authorization,” because abortion was not an option. I was appalled that I was being hounded with the idea of prenatal diagnoses I hadn’t yet received, and the question of abortion, before I was even seen by the doctor.
All I could think about was my niece, whose parents received the MISdiagnosis of Down syndrome before she was born, and turned out perfectly healthy. Someone’s life or death should NOT weigh upon a “medical opinion.” But even with my strong stance on the issue, for the first time in my life the thought popped into my mind:
“What if my babies do have some genetic flaw?”
My specialist went into depth about these kinds of twins and the great risks associated with them especially because they shared the same placenta.
“If anything goes wrong with one baby there is a big chance both children will be lost because they share the same placenta,” he explained.
He offered more than the standard genetic tests. They were very expensive even with insurance coverage and I wasn’t that concerned, so I declined before having the chance to discuss it with my husband. The specialist told me many scary things that could happen and told me that as my doctor, he had to give me full disclosure. I understood that, but what bothered me was that he kept pushing the extra genetic test, in spite of my incessant refusal.
I remember the short drive home, being very upset and scared about losing these babies. I went home and told my husband what the doctor said, explaining more about that paper the specialist expected me to fill out. I remember laying it all out for him and sitting across the room in silence, waiting for what he would say.
I was impressed with his great emotional stability — something I was currently lacking. He said to me that we would love our babies regardless of how God made them and we will not have our child or children’s blood on our hands. God gave them to us for a reason and He’ll take care of them.
As he was saying this to me I cried more because he lacked the fear and insecurity I was feeling inside. He said exactly what I hoped my husband would say as a man who believes in the Lord. He made me so incredibly happy and proud at that moment. I have always been the one who was stronger in my faith and could go through anything without real fear because of my faith in God and the Lord Jesus.
We continued on that afternoon and into the night discussing all of this. We just agreed to hand it over to the Lord, because no matter what we discussed or studied online about outcomes, we just didn’t know what the Lord would have in store. I, more than him, was losing my mind a little reading about what other MoDi moms had gone through.
More time passed and everything was looking good at our appointments. The babies were actually measuring the same size, which the OB told me is somewhat rare, we went on to find out at 14 weeks we were having two girls, which added to our three-year-old and my seven-year-old step daughter.
Further along in the pregnancy, we started to continually receive bad news. It was becoming apparent that there was a size discrepancy growing between the girls. Every visit the little one was barely growing at all and the “healthy” girl was on target for her estimated gestational age. The frequency of my visits increased and the opinion of the specialist was always apparent that he believed the little twin, twin “B,” had Down syndrome or possibly other genetic flaws.
At every appointment, the option of “selective reduction” was pushed on us. Our doctor spoke so cavalierly about ending a human life, it was almost as if he was telling us where we should go for dinner. It was pushed with the enthusiasm you’d expect from the finance guy at a car lot trying to get you to add on that extra warranty so he can bonus.
Every time, we declined and told him this was not a option. He’d scribble something down on my [chart] and said he was recording that he offered selective reduction to us again and we declined. He continued on that the likelihood of us losing the whole pregnancy was very high if we kept both, adding that in the miracle that they both survived the pregnancy, odds are that twin “B” will have genetic flaws and may not live anyway.
It felt like he was trying to lay a guilt trip on us and we really didn’t appreciate that attitude. I remember one particular visit I really wasn’t in the mood for his usual routine of death talk. I was very tired of being depressed so often – especially after leaving his office.
He was again laying out the facts that my twin “B” wasn’t looking good and we should act to try to save the life of the other – even though selective reduction could kill BOTH because of them sharing the same nutrient and blood supply. It was apparent that this specialist really didn’t care about either of our babies, so we finally said to him that we wanted to seek a second opinion because this clearly wasn’t working out. He sent us to a very well known university that has some of the best prenatal doctors. He said he was very confident in his findings and was sure they’d find the same, but was happy to humour us.
Our twin girls were born at 32.4 weeks with no genetic or health problems besides what you’d expect being born prematurely and small from the start. Our twin A (Cora) was born 4.07 and the little miracle, twin B (Daisy), was 2.93 pounds. Initially, in the NICU, the large “healthy” twin had the hardest time breathing on her own. Cora (A) was released from the hospital a month to the day after being born and Daisy (B) came home three weeks after that because she had a lot more growing to do.
In hindsight, I wonder if when I’d hear crying down the halls, if those were other mothers being coerced into making that incredibly heavy decision. Heavy doesn’t even give it the right meaning. How many other families weren’t as strong, chose to take their child’s life, and there was nothing wrong at all?
Our babies are happy, healthy and home now. We have all the stress of any twin parents who already have a toddler running around. We can’t entirely sum up in words our gratitude and the overwhelming feeling of blessing we carry with us because the Lord gave us twins, the faith to carry both babies to term, and the steadfast will to protect them from those who would rather see them dead. Regardless of their imperfections or how they were conceived, our children are deserving of life, and it breaks my heart that people would try to convince any parent otherwise.
Every time we are holding Daisy (B), we can’t fathom the thought that if we had not fought for her, she wouldn’t be here today. Had we followed through with that man’s wishes for her, she would be dead, and we would have to live with that for the rest of our lives. People today tell me that we were very strong and they admire our steadfastness in spite of insurmountable pressure. We really didn’t feel like we had a choice and what we did was the only way.
The babies were born a few months ago now and a strong part of us would like to send that specialist a letter with a picture of my complete, happy and whole family. I wonder if he or his staff ever feel any guilt or have a hard time coming to work knowing what they will try to persuade families to do. Medical opinion is just that: opinion. This has been proven time and time again with many families, like us, [who] refused the “final solution” and had healthy children. I call it “the final solution” because it was one of Adolf Hitler’s mantras. He had a strong system in place to kill any person of defect or anyone who didn’t fit HIS idea of perfect. This same ideal is evident in society today hidden behind the guise of “choice” and “mercy.” Too often a parent’s choice to carry to term is NOT respected or supported, but the choice to abort has many cheerleaders.