Chapter 22 » 22.56

Parents and children

Difficult decisions in pregnancy

Modern genetic techniques place us in dilemmas not experienced by previous generations. When, after years of trying to conceive, I found I was expecting a baby, I insisted that it have its chromosomes checked. This was not because I thought that anything was wrong, but because I believed it to be irresponsible knowingly to bring a severely handicapped child into the world.

When the bad news came a decision had to be made quickly. I knew that even if it was born, my child would probably live for less than six months, unable to feed normally. Perhaps we would be advised to leave it in the hands of hospital staff to await its fate. Meanwhile I faced the rest of a pregnancy, supposedly a happy time, constantly telling people and convincing myself that my child was not going to be healthy. There would be no joyful preparation of cradle, clothes and toys for us. I also knew that the majority of babies with serious abnormalities abort naturally in the early part of pregnancy; but this time nature had left me to make the cruel choice.

With family support, I decided to end the pregnancy. I never saw my child – I was afraid to. There was no funeral, indeed to this day I do not know what happened to the body. We were left bereft: of the normal child we had longed for, of the child I had carried within me for those months, and, after a long waiting, of the possibility of another child. These griefs were hidden; we were not offered professional support; a pacifist among pacifists, I did not feel able to ask my meeting for theirs. Friends do not discuss the subject of abortion easily.

Then, from the darkness, came our miracle child, healthy and much loved. But I still look at those of an age that my first one would be now, and I feel the wound will never close.

Jane Heydecker, 1994

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