"Living in Idaho, I had no options."

Story No. 572: Patient from Idaho

In March 2018 I found out I was pregnant for the first time in my life at 27 years old. I am of pretty good health, no family history of issues, and everything seemed to be progressing well. Everything was very “average” based on what my doctor was telling me.

I felt like I had to wait an eternity to have my anatomy scan at 21 weeks. But because everything was “so average,” there was no need for any earlier testing. I went into my anatomy scan with one thing on my mind: is my baby a boy or girl? After some measurements, the tech asked me if I wanted to know the gender. I said yes of course, and she told me it was a boy. I wanted a girl so much, but all of that quickly faded when I knew I had a beautiful little boy growing in me.

I noticed the tech kept going back to baby’s heart during the ultrasound, trying to get better angles and a clearer picture. She kept rattling off that his brain looked good, weight and length looked good, and then was tight lipped about his heart, which she kept on going back to. Following this, I sat in a room waiting to speak with my doctor. He came in and it seemed normal, he asked how I had been feeling and then started going over details of the anatomy scan. My baby’s size was great. He wasn’t too big or too small, his measurements were spot on for how many weeks along I was, my body was supporting everything well.

And then he flipped over his paper. There was a list of major parts of the body checked for during the scan, followed by a “seen” and “not seen” column. All of the checks for my baby boy were in the “seen” category except one. Aorta. Not seen.

My mind scrambled. Everything went into a blur. Aorta not seen? What? Me? I was so unprepared. My doctor said he was referring me to a specialist who would take better pictures of baby’s heart. I had to wait six days for that appointment. At this stage, I was 22 weeks along. Feeling baby move. Already so in love with him.

That next ultrasound confirmed that my baby had a severe case of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The left side of his heart was critically underdeveloped. If my son would make it to birth, he would have required open heart surgery within his first hours of life, three total before age five. No surgical intervention had a 100% mortality rate for this condition. The surgeries would not curative. Getting a new heart would not even be curative. It would simply prolong my baby boy’s battle against his own body.

I was referred to a pediatric cardiologist nearly a week later, at about 23 weeks along. They did a fetal echocardiogram and confirmed my worst fears. My baby was so very ill. I had three terrible options at this stage. Terminate my pregnancy, or carry to term and let my baby struggle and gasp for air for maybe an hour–maybe a week–as I say goodbye. Or put him through the pain and suffering of having major surgery that could very well kill him. Or leave him in grave condition with numerous complications along with it.

I spent hours researching. I read for literal hours on end. And I concluded that I didn’t want my baby boy to suffer. I suddenly found myself stepping into a category I never thought I’d be in. I needed an abortion later in my pregnancy.

Living in Idaho, I had no options. I had to travel to western Washington. Luckily the clinic I went to had a special program for families with fetal anomalies. They were very understanding and compassionate. However, my insurance covered nothing. I had to call charity organizations and get funding to terminate my wanted pregnancy. I would have much rather been allowed to deliver my son in a hospital, but my baby’s diagnosis was considered “less than lethal” therefore my options were greatly restricted. I am so grateful that organizations exist that are willing to provide funding for women facing such a difficult decision.

Until you know the pain of having to make such a decision, you should never judge someone else for their decision. I had to see protesters outside of the clinic with graphic photos while I was mourning the greatest loss of my life. Do not be so quick to judge others when you have no idea of the story.

My son will always be so very loved.