Day of Voices: Margaret

I am a mother. I am not one of the legions of devastated women who have previously spoken up on this site and others. I’ve never been raped, had a tubal pregnancy, or had to seek treatment for infertility. But like these women, my story is a little different from most other mothers in this world. My pregnancy turned out to have a mostly happy ending with a beautiful mostly healthy girl. However, it could have turned out so differently. I feel like I walked the terrible line many of these women unfortunately fell over and though I did not, it makes me vehemently understand their fight against MS26 and join them in that battle. My reason for voting No on 26 comes down to one word and one moment. The word is choice, and this is the moment….

I became pregnant in 2000 a few months before my 21st birthday . I was on the pill and it was not planned or entirely welcome at that time in my life but I accepted that it was done and kept on trucking. Everything rolled right along with my pregnancy until That Day,y when my road would hook left and go off into the wild blue unknown.

When I was about 6 months pregnant, I was in the sonogram room, waving the magic ultrasound wand over my stomach and waiting to oooh and aww over the results. Except the oohing and awwing never came. Baby girl was turned just right for us to see the blurry image of her little face. Just right for the ultrasound tech to fixedly stare at it before starting to busily take still shots and measurements of everything she could see.

Growing up as the daughter of a doctor and nurse gives you a kind of medical ‘bad news’ sixth sense. All your life you’ve heard and seen your parents voices or faces make the subtle change that means bad news is coming to a patient. It helps you recognize when that news is coming for you. I looked at Shellie’s face and suspected that Something Was Wrong. And when she asked my mother to step outside while I de-gooed myself, I knew. Unknown trouble had arrived for me and my baby.

You know how it goes when something terrible happens to you. A million little thoughts go through your mind at the speed of light. They’re individual sentences that flash so quickly they form a wordless stream of panic. When my mother walked out of the door of that room, the next moment was an endless series of questions running through my mind. What was wrong with baby girl? My first instinct from the way the sonographer studied her face and head was Down’s Syndrome, or maybe anencephaly. Those were the first two horrible things that crossed my mind but I knew they weren’t the only, or the worst, possibilities. And it lead me to consider in an instant. Consider what might happen to this baby. Was she doomed? Would she be crippled, a vegetable, or even die in utero?

Or worse yet…would I be forced to make the choice to go ahead and end her life if it was not viable for her to survive? In my mind it was a real possibility. God forbid, I might have to do that. And as it flashed through my mind I knew that if I had to, I could. In that moment I became a mother. And a mother will do anything to keep her child from needlessly suffering. I could make the choice to end my baby’s life if I knew it would save her the pain of being born only to die. I would not put my child through that.

You make think that’s an exaggeration. That it was a kind of crazy overreaction when I didn’t even know what the problem was. But it wasn’t you in that room. And chances are if you have born a child, you probably had a perfectly normal, unevenful pregnancy. So you probably don’t truly comprehend how easily it’s possible to have those thoughts. You don’t FEEL it in your heart like I do. And I’m glad for you if that’s the case. Never would I wish that moment on anyone.

Thankfully, it was not any of the terrible tradgedies I had been picturing. Instead, baby girl had a cleft lip and palate. I didn’t really breathe much of a sigh of relief because I instantly realized that at the very least my child was resigned to a lifetime of painfully surgeries and procedures. A lifetime of possible rude stares and ridicule by others. At worst there were other medical conditions related to cleft palate more serious than cosmetic damage that would have to be confirmed or denied with further examination. But at least I knew at that moment that she would almost positively live. I would not have to make that horrible life or death decision. Which brings me to my point in sharing this story with you.

I cannot imagine living in a world where that choice would not be mine to make but rest on the views of anyone simply old enough to vote. People with no experience in the matter, people without the intelligence to understand what they’re voting on, people who can not even have children, people who simply don’t care and will just check the box because it’s on the paper and go their merry way. Doesn’t that scare you? Doesn’t that make you stop and think? A woman’s choice over her own body could be taken away. It could be a world where poor unfortunate women are forced to bear a child born only to suffer before dying. Because that happens. There are children conceived who will not live, no matter how much they’re wanted. And it’s inconceivable to me that a mother would not be able to make the choice to prevent that child from the suffering.

I can’t understand people who want to take away a woman’s inherent right to bear or not bear children. It’s the most basic and personal of rights. It’s not your business to decide for me. Not your body, your life, or your family but mine. You may pat yourself on the back and think YOU are above that choice, that you would never make that decision. If you do, stop and think. I mean close your eyes right where you are and really put yourself in the room and moment I lived. What would you do if tragedy struck? If you vote yes on 26 it won’t matter what you would do. Cause you wouldn’t be able to decide.

That’s a horrible idea, isn’t it?You have never stepped in my shoes…and the shoes of these other women who understand the dangers of MS26 and share their painful stories with you in the hopes that you will understand too. But I hope that you will realize the hard thought behind these stories, all the hard decisions that were made, and then decide that it was our right to make them instead of yours. And vote no on 26.

About Atlee Breland

I'm a Mississippian, a Christian, a computer programmer, a wife, and -- thanks to infertility treatment -- a mother of three wonderful children.
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