Giving Birth Knowing Your Baby’s Going to Die

Abortion, under any circumstances, comes with regrets

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Try to imagine the agony of being pregnant and knowing that your baby is going to die shortly after birth, or maybe even sooner. Imagine your doctor advising you to schedule an abortion, suggesting that you spare yourself the grief of continuing the pregnancy.

What your doctor might not tell you is that your suffering would likely be significantly diminished if you choose not to abort.

A piece in the Journal of Clinical Ethics, called “’I Would Do It All Over Again’: Cherishing Time and the Absence of Regret in Continuing a Pregnancy after a Life-Limiting Diagnosis,” took a look at such cases.

Here’s some of what the authors wrote about their study:

“Some – or perhaps many – people assume that ending a pregnancy shortly after a diagnosis of an LLFC [Life Limiting Fetal Condition] would subsequently relieve regret and lessen the grief parents anticipate from carrying a baby with severe problems.”

But what they found was the complete opposite: “[T]his study and others suggest that more profound regret comes from failure to spend as much time with their children as they would like, even during pregnancy.”

And here’s more:

Absence of regret was articulated in 97.5 percent of participants. Parents valued the baby as a part of their family and had opportunities to love, hold, meet and cherish their child. Participants treasured the time together before and after the birth. Although emotionally difficult, parents articulated an empowering, transformative experience that lingers over time.

Read these extraordinary quotes from mothers and fathers about their experiences:

  • “All my son knew was love.”
  • “We are rich in love because of her.”
  • “We would not trade those six hours for anything in the world.”
  • “I will always cherish the time I had with her.”
  • “My family was able to be present when she was born and everyone got to meet her and hold her while she was alive.”
  • “I got to hold my baby for an hour… no regrets.”
  • “I got the chance to see her, hold her and honor her sweet life.”
  • “This became perhaps the most profoundly positive experience [our] family has ever had. I think nothing else has ever strengthened our faith or drawn us closer together.”

Although you’ve probably never heard or read about them, other studies have found similar results. Authors of one such study in the Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health cited these examples:

“During pregnancy Melissa was not ready to plan his birth/death, she just wanted to enjoy the pregnancy and feeling Caleb alive inside.”

“Even after the birth of her stillborn son this mother enjoyed being with her baby, ‘It was wonderful. We had him all wrapped in a special blanket and I held him. We had some family come in and our priest came in. I got to like show him off. I was kind of like introducing people to him and everybody has said to me that they were kind of in shock. I promise you. I was gloriously happy.’”

Researchers in a study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine wrote that they were “surprised to find that the majority of parents were so happy to meet their baby, even joyful and at peace, even if he/she was stillborn or died within a few hours.”

Christopher Kaczor, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, writes about these and other studies at The Public Discourse. “Unfortunately, doctors sometimes pressure women into getting abortions and do not share with them the information that is necessary to make an informed choice.”

The same could be said for women who have unplanned but healthy pregnancies and consider abortion. Doctors are unlikely to inform them about the real possibility that they’ll experience pain and suffering if they choose abortion. In my book, Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids, (scheduled for release this spring), I write about an interview I did with Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry for women experiencing post-abortion suffering. She told me that typical manifestations of post-abortion trauma include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, nightmares and difficulty with intimacy. Some reactions are delayed for years; others are immediate. “I think most women, if they knew it was going to impact them in such a negative way, would never, ever in a million years have chosen to have an abortion,” Burke told me. “Having a baby would have been a breeze compared to trying to deal with all the problems that were borne later.”

Women have the right to know that abortion – under any circumstances – usually comes with regrets.