Abortion and Graduation
I am sitting outside on our front porch, beside my husband, eating frozen yogurt out of the carton, impressed by the magic of fireflies rising and glowing in the dusk. We watch our neighbors walk home from the high school graduation ceremony. Though it's hot, dads are dressed in long sleeve shirts and ties. The moms are in heels that catch in the cracks of the sidewalk.
In my mind, I am fast forwarding to this point in our future. When it becomes real that Sophia is leaving us for whatever comes next. I can feel the loss. The pain. I am bereft in this moment, watching these other parents make their way home from school with their children for the last time. My toddler is upstairs, already tucked in for the night, a good sixteen years away from graduation. But still, I mourn her eventual loss.
And though my husband and I have made the decision to not yet decide whether we will have a second child, I find myself wanting another. A replacement child. One that will fill the void I am feeling. Occupy this empty womb, Sophia's empty room. It's not so much that I want another child really, but I want to fill the absence of Sophia. This hole that she'll leave in my life when she's gone.
I know this is not a good reason to have a child.
Just this morning, I was driving home listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross thorugh one ear bud on my ipod, while Sophia rocked out in the backseat to a Raffi CD. Terry was interviewing Ayelet Waldman, author of the memoir Bad Mother. I was prepared to dislike this woman, who is best known for declaring in a New York Times article that she loves her husband more than her children. I reject this kind of hierarchical thinking, as if one kind of love can trump another. But I was interested in what she had to say about it. She wound up speaking very little about the controversial article and more about the experience of her two abortions. During her third pregnancy, she had an amniocentesis which revealed that the fetus had a rare trisomy. It was unknown whether the baby would be cognitively impaired, prone to certain cancers, and face a number of challenges in life. She and her husband made the incredibly difficult decision to have a second-trimester abortion.
I never want to have to make this decision.
As a former teacher of children with autism, I am well acquainted with the joys of having a differently-abled child in your life. I learned so much from my students. Patience. How to be satisfied with the smallest of accomplishments. And above all, never to make assumptions baout what people are or aren't capable of doing. Thus, when I made it to 20 weeks, despite my advanced maternal age of 37, I opted not to have an amnio. After three previous miscarriages, I knew I would keep whoever I got. I was ready to devote my life to the child I might be fortunate enough to bear. And then, I was blessed with a "neurotypical" healthy baby girl. Now, two months away from 40, with the memory of the miscarriages still bright in my mind (eggs that, perhaps, were chromosomally abnormal and spontaneously aborted for this reason), I am not ready to roll the dice again. I do not feel confident now that I or my child could bear the weight of a child, a second child, with a disability. I have witnessed too many marriages dissolve under the strain of caring for a child who has special needs. I am no longer prepared to make the sacrifices that I know parents of differently-abled children make every day.Continued on the next page