Miranda*, a Los Angeles-area mom who is now in her 50’s, was about 16 weeks pregnant when she learned through amniocentesis testing that the fetus growing in her belly had tested positive for Trisomy 21. Miranda was 36 at the time of the test and already had a two-and-a-half year old daughter. When she had her daughter, getting the amniocentesis test — a test in which a sample of amniotic fluid is taken from the uterus through a hollow needle — was a no-brainer. So when she got to 16 weeks on her next pregnancy, she and her husband had it again. While Miranda and her husband had an idea of what was coming — an ultrasound showed complications before the test results were revealed — they were forced to make a decision for their family, for their existing child, and for future children they might want to have later on.
According to her amniocentesis doctor, there were more abnormalities that wouldn’t become clear until the baby was born. So Miranda her husband made a decision they felt was necessary for the family they already had. They chose to have an abortion.
Fatherly spoke to Miranda about the decision, how she thinks about it 20 years later, and why being open with her family about her abortion was always a no-brainer.
How did you arrive at this decision?
I had already had one child, and one miscarriage after our first child. I got pregnant again. At about 15 or 16 weeks, it was time to do the ultrasound and the amniocentesis test. The test had actually been available earlier, but I was working, so I didn’t actually get it done until 16 weeks. The doctor, at that time, once she saw the ultrasound, said she thought there was something wrong with the baby.
What did she tell you?
[We learned] when the results came back that the baby was a Down’s baby, with other complications that they didn’t know about for sure. But it looked like, based on the ultrasound, that there were other complications. So my husband and I made a very, very hard decision: For the good of the family, and not knowing what the complications were, we would have a late term abortion. It was very emotionally difficult, as well as painful. It was also sad in that the place that we had to go to had to be hidden behind shrubs, it had to pretend it wasn’t a place for abortions.
How do you feel, looking back on it all?
To this day, it’s very hard. This decision wasn’t something either of us took lightly, but we did make it. That baby was named Eli. We got pregnant again and named our new child Eli in honor of the first. And then we went on to have a third child, and so we do have three healthy children. I don’t regret it. I’m sad about it. But I don’t regret it.
When you got the amniocentesis test, had you already had discussions about continuing the pregnancy if you got bad news?
When the doctor did the ultrasound, she said, “I have to be honest with you guys, there’s something wrong with this baby. And if you guys don’t plan to do anything about it, there’s no reason to do the amnio. There’s a danger to amnio, and if you plan to have this baby regardless, you should not do the amnio.”
My husband and I had to make a decision then, before the amnio, and we hoped upon hope that she was wrong, but she wasn’t.
There’s a saying in the medical world that bad news travels quickly, and good news travels slowly. A day and a half later, we got a call from our doctor. So we did have a day and a half. She’s one of the top amniocentesis doctors in Los Angeles, and she said, “I’ve seen thousands of these, and I’m telling you there’s something wrong with your baby.” So it was very quick. We both knew going in [that this was a risk] and we agreed [on what we’d do].
My husband and I spoke for about 10 minutes before we did the amnio. It wasn’t like we hadn’t discussed this previously. I was 36 at the time, and that’s always a risk as you get older. We knew that, with our first daughter, we did get the amnio. Again, there’s no reason to get an amnio if you plan to do nothing about it. So we had conversations about it previously.
How old are your kids today?
20, 22, and 26.
Were you always open about your decision to terminate the pregnancy?
Was that a choice to be open? Is it just in your nature?
We didn’t tell the little kids when they were young-young, but as they got older, we told them about it. We talk about it because we weren’t embarrassed by our decision. We made the decision, in our minds — other people may disagree with this — for the good of the family unit. And for the good of our lives, you know? So, again, we didn’t come to this lightly, but we don’t look back and say that that was a mistake.
So how did you talk about it?
My friends all knew, my parents knew, but my kids were too young to even understand. My daughter was two-and-a-half at the time. I was considerably pregnant when this all came about. I was showing. It wasn’t like people were like, “What happened?” I just told them.
What do you think people don’t really understand about all this: about pregnancy, about choices in pregnancy, about choice in becoming a parent?
I think it’s a very personal choice. I think that it’s not for everybody. I think that people should never disparage people who choose to go ahead with [either option.] The other side of that is that you should never disparage people who choose not to. I think that’s a big problem in our country. Both sides make the other side feel bad. I think that’s wrong.
*Names have been changed