We were living in San Francisco. Our son was two, and we were ready to add to our family. I became pregnant after our first try, and we were very excited.
“A doctor said to me, 'Feel lucky you live in a state that allows you to do this.'”
We’d passed all the chromosomal tests for my “advanced age” and appeared to be in the clear. Once the first trimester was over, we announced the news to our family. I’d had some spotting, but everything looked good on the ultrasound. To be safe, the doctor told us to get another ultrasound at 16 weeks. The spotting had stopped by then, and I expected another good ultrasound.
It was not. The ultrasound tech was a little quiet during the exam. The doctor came in, but that’s common. I still expected the all-clear. Instead she said, “I have serious concerns for this pregnancy.”
I started to cry, not quite understanding what I was hearing.
The diagnosis was bilateral multicystic kidney syndrome. That meant neither kidney had formed correctly—they were just balls of cysts. As a result, my son was not producing amniotic fluid. There was none. I waited for the doctor to tell us the solution. There was none.
One cystic kidney can be managed, but two is very rare (1 in 10,000) and is fatal. Because there were no kidneys, he could not form amniotic fluid and would not develop lungs. Our options were to end the pregnancy now, wait and see if the pregnancy ended itself, or wait to see if the pregnancy went to term and he was stillborn or lived for only a short time on dialysis awaiting a kidney transfer that would almost certainly not be successful. That day my husband and I decided to end the pregnancy.
We had a voluntary follow-up ultrasound to be sure we were making the right choice for us and to see what they were talking about. I am glad we did that. His kidneys looked like clusters of grapes. Also, the doctor did not see a bladder or a stomach and the deformed kidneys were so large that his heart was displaced. If the pregnancy went full term, the child would not live and if he somehow did, it would be a short life in pain. I could not do that to my son. This was our first and last parenting decision for this child.
Waiting over a week for the next available hospital slot for my D&E was the most emotionally draining experience of my life. I continued to be and feel pregnant. When my baby kicked I would feel happy, then I’d remember that I would never meet him. When dealing with this emotional turmoil a doctor said to me, “Feel lucky you live in a state that allows you to do this.” And then it dawned on me: in other states, on top of the turmoil I was feeling I would be faced with many more obstacles that would make the experience even harder.
This is why reproductive rights are important to me.