Friday, May 04, 2007

Birthing a child destined to die

Many people think that the most "merciful" thing a woman could do for an unborn child with a severe handicap is abort him. "Why make him suffer"? They say out loud.

I have never bought that argument. I strongly suspect that aborting a child with a severe handicap is more about preserving the parents from the hard reality of facing a dying child, than about the child's welfare.

Consider this story about the Weatherfords, and their child Zeke, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 13. He lived only 35 minutes outside the womb.

More tests brought more bad news: His heart's veins and arteries were on the wrong sides. A a sack containing half his organs was growing outside his body.


Zeke's legs are moving as the doctor pulled him from Weatherford. It is 5:23 a.m.

Zeke doesn't cry. His mouth, with a double cleft lip on either side, slowly opens and closes. He has no nose.

Zeke's bluish skin begins to turn pink. Dave Weatherford places him in his wife's arms.

"Hi," she whispers. "This is Mommy. I love you."

With a finger she strokes his cheek, seeing only a tiny baby, fragile and pure, with a mop of curly hair. A baby who has touched so many lives.

She kisses him.

"Ohhhh," she coos, as if her lips had brushed against the smoothest silk.

Each time she speaks, Zeke moves his head just a little, jostled his tiny hand just a little.

Two, then three, then four more masked faces enter the room. They crowd around the bed: Weatherford's twin sister, Jacquelyn; her father; her mother-in-law, Kathy Weatherford; her minister, Rex Bonar.

Aunts. Grandparents. Friends. They hug each other, reach out to pat her.

"Do you want some skin-to-skin contact, Jess?" her husband asks.

She nods. One tear rolls down her cheek, then another.

Dave Weatherford and a nurse pull sheets down so Zeke is lying on Jessica's sternum. She smiles at feeling his little body.

But too soon, she realizes Zeke is leaving.

His cheek turns sallow, then a shade of blue.

'No, no, no,' she cries

"No, no, no," Weatherford cries. Softly at first, and then with a deep, sobbing grief, wails of pain. And every person moving or whispering or writing stops.

Dave Weatherford breaks down in his mother's arms.

To confirm what Jessica already knows, a doctor listens for life.

"He's done," the doctor says. The digital clock read 5:58.

Isn't this birth, as sad as it was, way more merciful than injecting an unborn's heart full of poison?

How can anyone believe that abortion is "merciful"?

This baby, with an extremely severe handicap, was allowed to die in peace and serenity. He slowly passed. He didn't die in awful pain, stuggling from a heart attack. He didn't being dismembered and having his brain sucked out.

Unfortunately, most people who have unborn children with such severe handicaps chose to abort their child. Perhaps they have no idea about birthing a handicapped child destined to die can be a positive experience. Certainly, it does not leave one with the sense of regret that abortion does.

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