At five weeks gestation, Victor and I were so excited and happy to find out we were expecting a new little one to add to our small family. My job offers a first-trimester screen where they do an ultrasound and blood work to check for common chromosomal abnormalities like Trisomy 18 and 21. We had no histories of these conditions, and I didn’t think our baby had it, but I did the first-trimester screen just so I could see my baby during the ultrasound. It was such a thrill to see my little one moving inside of me, kicking and punching away.
I didn’t realize what the ultrasound tech saw right away as she seemed to be taking more and more time just measuring my baby’s head. After the ultrasound, we went to see the specialist and the first words she said were, “Your baby’s not normal.”
I felt like my heart stopped. Victor and I said nothing as she explained our baby had anencephaly and would not live outside of my womb. Anencephaly is when part of the brain and skull are missing. Babies born with anencephaly usually only live for a few hours after birth. I couldn’t believe my perfect little baby was not “compatible” with the outside world. The specialist began talking about how terminating the pregnancy would be the safest option for me and that 95% of her patients with this diagnosis choose abortion. I don’t remember much after that as it all seemed to be happening so fast. I remember crying a lot and just wondering, “Why me? Why my baby?” My midwife called me and scheduled me for an appointment for the next day to talk as well as a follow-up ultrasound three weeks later to confirm what they already knew.
I saw my baby again at 15 weeks and received the same diagnosis along with the news that it’s a girl — the little girl we hoped for, the little girl who we dreamed of raising next to our little guy. She seemed so perfect. I could see that her head wasn’t like other babies’ heads that I had seen in ultrasounds or like my own son’s when he was in the womb. It didn’t matter to me, she was my little princess.
From the beginning, I had wanted to continue my pregnancy. Anencephaly or not, she was my daughter. Her medical condition didn’t change that. My blood ran through her veins; my womb helped her grow and fed her; she was a part of me and her dad. Even if the safest option for me was to terminate, I couldn’t do that to my little girl. I had accepted that I would never comb her hair for her first day of school or get to hear her call me Mommy, but I couldn’t let her go just because of that. If her being in my womb was the only time I was going to get with her, then I was going to make the most of it and cherish every day being pregnant.
I don’t have a choice in my daughter having anencephaly, but I do have a choice in how she would pass. I choose to have her pass on her own in the comfort of my womb, listening to her brother scream or her dad’s loud car engine, or in my arms as I tell her how much I love her. She isn’t going to die to the pain of an injection and metal instruments or a strange doctor’s voice as he takes her life.
It hasn’t been easy and I’m terrified of the day I’ll give birth to her, knowing our hello will also be our goodbye. But I know in my heart I made the right choice for my family, for myself, and for my daughter, Angel.
Editor’s Note: This story was shared with Live Action News by Angel’s mother, Lupe Reyes.
While there is an increased risk of infection for the mother if the amniotic sac were to rupture early, new strategies to prevent these infections have been introduced. In addition, because of the lack of research, there is no conclusive evidence that carrying a child with anencephaly to term is of significant health risk to the mother. Plenty of doctors are willing to see a woman through an anencephalic pregnancy and care for her life and the life of her child.