New Mama Musings

Monday, April 24, 2006

Having a Baby Changes Everything

I've always, since learning about abortion, been on the side of pro-choice. It wasn't that I was completely comfortable with the idea of a pregnancy being terminated, but I felt strongly that the issue wasn't as clear-cut as the strident pro-lifers acted like it was.

I mean, right to what kind of life? One of violence? Abuse? Poverty? Resentment? Neglect?

I also always thought that the woman's needs should figure prominently into the equation. It just seemed unfair that someone's whole life should be turned upside down because of one mistake, especially when the other person involved didn't have to face the same ramifications.

And then there was the question of when life actually begins. I never believed that it began at birth, but I would have argued that an embryo was only truly a baby when it developed some kind of an awareness.

Having Henry, though, has made me re-visit my thoughts on this topic.

I haven't blogged much about this -- someday I will write an entry about it -- but Henry is a test tube baby. My husband and I went through infertility treatments for two years before getting pregnant. We were successful with our first try at in vitro fertilization, in which eggs were extracted from me and injected with sperm from my husband.

Because my husband has a daughter with Down syndrome we were concerned about the possibility of chromosomal disorders, so we opted to have genetic testing done on the embryos. We ended up with three viable embryos; two were placed in my uterus through a catheter and one was frozen. As we all know, one of the embryos "stuck" and became Henry.

Right before the embryo transfer my husband and I got to see them under the microscope, projected onto a TV in the doctor's office. They were multi-celled organisms and looked like this:

I sometimes think about the one that didn't make it, as it could have been Henry that hadn't implanted. Would it have had dark hair and eyes like Henry, or been blond like me? Was it a boy or a girl?

And then I think about the one that we opted to freeze. Is it a Henry, waiting in stasis? My husband and I have agreed to only have one baby, but this frozen embryo haunts me. Neither of us are ready to let it go. When the one-year free storage pass lapsed and the bill came to continue preservation, we paid it.

At the risk of sounding like a Veritas Society commercial, I wonder, if it isn't a baby, or a potential baby, frozen at a few days old, why do I feel such reluctance to dispose of it -- especially when the odds of one thawed embryo implanting are so slim anyway? Is it a baby before it has any consciousness?

Suddenly, the other arguments don't seem as compelling.

Because if that five-day old embryo is a baby, does it make any sense that the needs of the woman supersede the rights of the embryo? I keep thinking about the bunch of cells we saw on that screen. Abortions are done long after that stage, when the embryo is actually starting to look like a baby.

As for the kind of life some embryos may be destined for...don't some children overcome their miserable childhoods? Mine certainly wasn't the happiest. Do we have the right to validate such a permanent act based on conjecture?

And so while I'm still offended and disgusted by the gaudy pro-life display a neighbor a block away has in their front yard, and you won't catch me picketing outside Planned Parenthood, my feelings on the topic of abortion aren't as clear-cut as they used to be.

I guess having a baby really does change everything.


  • Hi newmama, it's CarenSwan from MDC (August moms thread). I just wanted to chime in and echo how having a baby really does change everything, especially regarding life and death issues. I have always considered myself to be thoughtfully and compassionately pro-life, and in many ways having a baby has deepened my reverence for life and the resilience of even such little ones. However, having a child is also overwhelming much of the time, and I have a loving and supporting partner with a stable income! When I think of so many women getting pregnant without these things, it breaks my heart to imagine the fear they must feel. I guess I would like to see the debate on this issue moved from a polemical "us vs. them" war, to a creative and passionate discussion on how we can support women in unexpected and unwanted pregnancies, and how we can support their children as well. There must be an answer somewhere in between the 2 highly politicized and polarizing camps!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 PM  

  • Hi New mama,

    I just want to say how I've enjoyed reading your posts. I stumbled upon your blog a couple of days ago and it just made me feel so much better on a not so good day. I'm a new mother too, to a 9 month old boy. I had to give up my job to look after my son since my husband is in graduate school. Both of our familes are abroad so I'm doing this alone, kinda. I get a little frustrated sometimes when I feel like doing this alone, though I know my husband is in this with me. Its just that he's so busy with work that its tough for him to contribute as much. I do believe though, that I want to look after my son as long as I can just cos' its the best care he's going to get, but it does leave me a little frustrated at times, being confined at home. Reading your posts make me realize again that its a blessing to have my son and yes, although it does change everything, its a good one. I tell people that this is a conscious life choice, to give up several years' of work to raise a new life and I do mean it. I guess I just feel envious sometimes of friends, peers, who have gone so much further in their career than I have. I've only worked for a couple of years after college before settling down to have this child, so sometimes I do wish to work a little bit more, but reading your posts, remind me how I felt before. That nothing is more amazing than raising a child and its such an important job and that I really should cherish it. Yes, they do grow up fast toO! Before you know it, he'll be running around and going to college. The last thing I want to do is look back 20 years from now regretting that I didn't spend enough time with my son. So thank you for the inspiration and keep writing!


    By Blogger cambriant, at 12:02 AM  

  • Thank you so much, Cambriant, for the feedback on my blog. I love hearing from people who can identify with what I'm going through! I too sometimes feel like I'm missing out on things because of my new role as a mom, but when it comes right down to it, there's nothing I'd rather be doing.

    By Blogger New Mama, at 2:09 PM  

  • I personally won't have an abortion but there is no WAY! I am going take that choice away from women. That is part of being part of a free country.

    Carefully with the back. I know that is such a horrible pain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:26 PM  

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