You were supposed to be my second older brother... which would make you the middle child. I'm your little sister.
But you came into this world without a brain and a brain stem. You were severely disfigured for not having a brain, a cranium, a brain stem... you were incomplete, as far as a "normal" human being goes. The doctors called you "anencephalus" - literally a no-brainer.
And then you were discarded as medical waste. There was no birth certificate for you. There was no death certificate for you. There was no funeral for you. There was no grave for you.
That's okay. You'll get a tree planted in your memory... once I own some property. I owe the normalcy of my anatomy to you. I'm short but that just really means I'm travel-sized.
This is an experience my mother does not want to talk about and it's something I'll never ask her to talk about. She had mentioned that there was a kid before me, but all she'll say is that she "lost the baby." Nothing more. (hint: if you meet my mother, don't talk about this stuff or even elude to it - she knows who knows about what happened and we'd all get some serious drama if she found out people know about it) I open up about it because people should know why it's NOT OKAY to shame women for getting something they medically need. That it's NOT OKAY to put up stupid obstructions (financial and regulatory) for obtaining them. That it's NOT OKAY to consider such a procedure as murder.
I asked about it from my father, who is an MD with internal medicine training. We were driving around town to run errands.
I asked the question because sometimes my mom says "You don't know anything since you've never lost a child" phrase to me a lot when it concerns my personal autonomy (I'm 25 years old, mom). At least when it comes to my mom, she always worries about me. I think it's overdone but, I'll just say I'm glad she cares. Howard, you are totally missing out on this part of adolescence and adulthood. You could have at least helped divide the "concerns" amongst us 3 siblings - there's only big brother and I to handle them. Anyway, it's not your fault. I'd still welcome you as my other big brother.
Mom came down with a nasty flu before realizing she was pregnant. During this time, she wasn't trying to have another child but it was definitely something for the future. Once mom suspected she was pregnant, she got it confirmed with ultrasound. She didn't get one again for a little while. Pregnancy with big brother was pretty normal so... yeah. Great! She's pregnant and going to have another child! Mom and dad were totally cool with it and were doing things to prepare for it like socking away money and knitting some more baby clothes.
It wasn't apparent then that the head end of your neural tube didn't close and that you'd be without a fore brain... that you'd be deaf and blind... that you'd never gain consciousness. That you'd never grow up with us.
Towards end of the second trimester, mom and dad got worried that mom's tummy was so small. She went to get another ultrasound and bam... it was confirmed that you, as a fetus, was anencephalus. You were a no-brainer. This news was incredibly heart-wrenching for my parents. In roughly 3-4 months, they were expecting to give your big brother a little brother. They were expecting to go through what parents go through when welcoming another newborn into the world. Well, that was not going to happen.
Regardless if she continued this pregnancy, the result would have been the same: If not for life-sustaining machines (in this case, it's futile), you would be stillborn or alive for only a few hours. On top of that, there is no way that you could have had a shot at life the way we think of it. This, if nothing else, was the most devastating part to her. This is what she cries over.
The 'abortion' was part of what's to come and not the cause of her anguish. The cause of her trauma was the sudden surprise that what she was carrying inside her was in no way a normal human let alone self-sustainable human life. While abortion was part of that painful experience, it was not something she regretted. She chose it, after given the advice of the doctors and with consultation with dad (actually, HIS dad was an OB/GYN). There were no funny scripts involved about needing to describe the fetus in a certain way that is supposed to instantly invoke motherhood. It was described as it was: FETUS WITH NO BRAIN. Recommendation: terminate pregnancy.
[I had to be redundant, yeah.]
Since pregnancy is biologically VERY expensive on the mother, she had labor induced very early to end the pregnancy quickly. Mom and dad went to counseling - paid, licensed, consented to (not this "sidewalk counseling" bullshit) - to cope with the ordeal. They also went for genetic counseling. They needed information. They wanted to have another child. They learned about things that would help them not go through this experience again.
So when it was my turn, I developed normally. I got to do all the things you didn't get to do. I also have the added bonus of being "super-treasured" so I couldn't be like your big brother and ride my bike to school. Either mommy or daddy DROVE me to school and PICKED me up from school. There might be bad guys in my neighborhood that would love to kidnap a cute little girl like me.
Howard, I'm sorry we never got to grow up together. Materially, the best contribution you may have been was organ donation or medical school specimen depending on the laws of the state. After going through what happened with you, they gave me the absolute best chance at being normal. That's what they wanted and I'm sure that's what you would have wanted too. This was your real contribution.
Thank you, Howard.
But there's more to the story. Many more years after you... there are still a number of people who think that legally, a person is formed when egg and sperm unite. The "conception" part is just the uniting of egg and sperm. They wanted to add, "THAT'S A PERSON and should have access to due process and all rights as granted by our government." Even more strange is that a legal and business structure known as a CORPORATION is also a person.
But I digress.
There are women like our mother whose pregnancies end up complicated and the best way to deal with them is to simply terminate them. For you, there was no real alternative that would have allowed you to grow up like I did. Maybe in the future, we might be able to change that... but today, medicine does not have a solution to a confirmed problem with neural tube defects like yours. Family planning and proper nutrition only go so far. There are other funky anomalies that occur with fetuses (or blastocysts) which are nearly impossible to deal with.
Our mother had access to safe and clean medical care when she needed it. Insurance covered it. No legally mandated scripts. No shaming. No intimidation. She had professional counseling, not sidewalk counseling. Lots of respect and support.
Every woman should be able to have this kind of access like my mother did... without insane obstructions. The real shame goes to the people who make these assumptions that every mother going for an abortion is aborting a perfectly good child. Shame on THEM for being so rude. Like seriously, they should shut up. They don't know what's going on.
Thank you clinic escorts for doing your job of getting patients to the clinics. Thank you abortion funds to help women in need - even if they have to pawn off their wedding ring. Thank you nurses and doctors who give women medical care that they need.
Thank you... all of you who unabashedly
1. Recognize that nothing is ever perfect and stuff really does happen. Life is not perfect!
2. Recognize a medical procedure, defined with its standard of care and performed in appropriately clean setting, called abortion is necessary.
3. Respect/support women who need one.
4. Call bullshit on the lies and misinformation to intimidate women otherwise
9:58 AM PT: Thank you for the community spotlight. I'm very humbled.