I was 18.5 weeks pregnant for the anatomy scan. My appointment would have fallen around 20.5 weeks or so; however, I asked my obstetrician if I could be seen sooner, as we were eager for the ultrasound and to learn the sex of our second child. The technician couldn’t get all the images she needed. We met with my Ob after the scan, and he explained that we would need to see a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor for better pictures of the brain and stomach. We tried to be hopeful and did a cupcake gender reveal with our almost 3 year old son that evening. We learned our baby was a boy, which seemed so meaningless without knowing if our baby was healthy or not. I Googled the night away, not knowing what to expect.
Thankfully, we were able to get a next-day appointment at the MFM. The ultrasound images were clearer, and we were able to see the cause for concern without the technician pointing it out to us. It looked like there was a golf ball protruding from the back of our baby’s head. The doctor came in to do more scans, and then he told us the devastating news: our baby had an occipital encephalocele, a rare neural tube defect with an extremely poor prognosis if he happened to be one of the 20% that are born alive with this diagnosis. His brain was growing outside of the back of his head in a sac, which caused many brain anomalies. The options were either to have an abortion or try to carry to term and then do palliative care if he survived birth. And, if we wanted the abortion, we needed to decide soon, as our state has a 20-week ban. We were in shock but also so thankful that I had asked for an earlier appointment for our anatomy scan.
The second opinions we sought did not bring us hope; rather, they confirmed how sad our situation was. We didn’t want our baby to live a short “life” knowing only pain. While we didn’t feel like there was much choice in the matter, we chose peace. We wanted our baby to only know peace. I had an abortion a week after learning the news, at 19.5 weeks. We were lucky to have good insurance that covered the dilation and evacuation procedure (D&E) at our local hospital. I had compassionate medical care and did not have to walk past protestors. We realize how lucky we were to find out when we did so we could take action in time for a decision that should never be rushed. Ending a wanted pregnancy was the hardest thing I never imagined I would have to do.