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A Lifetime In Under Two Days
January 29, 2006 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Grief, Gratitude and Baby Lee. She wanted to honor her son, to celebrate his life, however short. That's why she had refused an abortion, even after doctors told her that her little boy would be born without a brain.
posted by matteo (73 comments total)

 
Danielle was not interested in weighing risks.

"I couldn't make God's decision," she said. "Everything happens for a reason."


That's stupid and irresponsible. She's too timid to tackle tough issues, so she takes no stance at all and gives the credit and blame to Providence.

A brain is wasted on people like her.
posted by Jatayu das at 3:51 AM on January 29, 2006


Very moving, very complicated story. It amazed me to see how she didn't want to choose between the two kids , eventually accepting the risk that they both could die ; I can understand she inconsciously didn't want to do any of the babies harm and that she was given a rational informed choice by doctors and she consciously refused.

"I couldn't make God's decision," she said. "Everything happens for a reason."

But that sank me into despair ! SHE took the decision, for better or worse, she took her rational bet against laws of nature that we are just starting to understand ; some could argue she took a bad decision by giving less chances to the healthy baby, others could argue that it's almost impossible to demand a mother to choose between life and death of one of her sons, yet she had a lot of information concerning the status of her unfortunately malformed child.

Yet I guess nobody would argue, except playing devil advocate, the choice was hers all along and both blaming or praising any God for that is deeply wrong ; it both removes any reponsability and praise and it hands the ball to alleged God faithful to tell more mothers what "God wants" . What if she choosed to abort the malformed fetus to give the non malformed one better chances ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:02 AM on January 29, 2006


I normally would take a similar point of view as elpapacito because I absolutely hate it when people give god credit for what they do or don't do, for their successes and for their failures. But in this case that sentiment does not feel very strong to me. Perhaps when dealing with the grand questions of both birth and death, and at the same time no less, it is very, very human to place fate in something infinite that is outside one's own personhood. I sympathize with the terrible impossibity of her dilemma and cut her some slack.
posted by Falconetti at 4:11 AM on January 29, 2006


What is deservedly suffered must be borne with calmness, but when the pain is unmerited, the grief is resistless.

.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:18 AM on January 29, 2006


Jatayu das, how about when you've had to make that decision you come back and see if you want to make the same type of callous, cold, and heartless comment.

Talk about wasted brains...

Walk carefully on this one, folks, unless you've lived through the loss of a child or this type of event I don't think you have any standing to approve or disapprove of her decision.
posted by HuronBob at 4:20 AM on January 29, 2006


Walk carefully on this one, folks, unless you've lived through the loss of a child or this type of event I don't think you have any standing to approve or disapprove of her decision.

I have lived through the loss of my child, but even if I had not, I would still have every right to point out that her "logic" is self-serving and infantile.
posted by Jatayu das at 4:27 AM on January 29, 2006


I don't think you have any standing to approve or disapprove of her decision.

Too true. If you are going to be pro-choice you have to let people make them even if you don't like or agree with the choice they make.
posted by srboisvert at 4:28 AM on January 29, 2006


People like this shouldn't be reproducing.
posted by Plinko at 4:30 AM on January 29, 2006


What HuronBoB said. If one has rtfa all the way through, and has therefore had an opportunity to gain some insight into the life of Danielle Hayworth and the courage and grace with which she has faced the death of her son, to utter comments like Jatayu das' and Plinko's demonstrates an extraordinary lack of empathy/compassion/maturity, bollocks to the religious aspects.
posted by deeplyambivalent at 4:43 AM on January 29, 2006


We'll see the argument moving to "has a mother the right to kill her offspring ? Is there a limit to her freedom ? At what point, if it is a point, the freedom of the mother interferes with that of the child ? "
posted by elpapacito at 4:46 AM on January 29, 2006


I don't think that you need to have lost a child to comment on this story - I don't need to be a teacher to comment on education - but I agree that we should tread carefully.

I found the whole story very sad and moving and, while I don't agree with the attitudes the mother expressed, particularly her fatalism, I don't think we can criticise someone for wanting to externalise something so huge and awful. I might disagree with her, but as srboivert says, we have to allow her to make that choice, even if it's a mistake.

Of course, the moment she steps outside the personal and into the political (if she became a poster person for the anti-abortion movement, for example), everything changes.
posted by athenian at 4:54 AM on January 29, 2006


Jeez, what an article. I'm sure it will be a controversial standpoint amongst the more hard-nosed realists in the crowd, but I found the honor and dignity attached to the child's last moments incredibly moving.

I respect this decision just as much as I would've respected her decision to abort. I was heartened to read that she understood why a woman would go to the abortion clinic in her situation, and seemed to hold no view of personal superiority. This hospice and an abortion clinic co-existing side by side is the true fruition of the pro-choice movement.
posted by bobot at 4:59 AM on January 29, 2006


We're in the first trimester (you know before anyone in my family or inner circle of friends knows).

Some friends lost their child just a few days prior to birth, that was a little over a year ago. No one has come to terms with that yet.

It's the unspeakable left unspoken..

It's a fairly dark shadow of reality in amongst the sacharine optimism of having a child. Always in the back of your mind, but seldom openly discussed.

Having said all that - I'm an atheist - I can't comprehend the risk this woman took in the name of the almighty, especially when presented with medical proof of the possible consequence of that choice.

And everything that athenian just said (saves me stumbling on the closing part of my comment)
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:04 AM on January 29, 2006


I could while away the hours,
Conferring with the flowers,
Consulting with the rain...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:18 AM on January 29, 2006


congratulations strawberryviagra wish you the best ! Glad we are scoop worthy :) Can I phone the tabloids now ? :D

Some friends lost their child just a few days prior to birth, that was a little over a year ago. No one has come to terms with that yet

Recently a young woman I know lost her loving exquisite mother, a person that I felt affection for because of her delicate manners, love for knowledge and attention to others. I miss her, she left a void , without having any particularly deeply attachment to her.

I imagine they may be feeling the same or similar..a void where a presence should be, an affection that they already felt, but is "not realized" or not "consumed" so to say.

I guess it may take a year or more for them to adjust or to find a balance...I hope they talk about that and don't blame one or each other, because that wouldn't resurrect anybody.
posted by elpapacito at 6:02 AM on January 29, 2006


If the woman had taken the same gamble and it killed the viable child (as it could have), would you all be as reverent?

Or are you praising her for getting lucky (not losing the other child) without considering the terrible consequences she was risking for the baby with a brain?
posted by grobstein at 6:05 AM on January 29, 2006


It was very thoughtful of her to damn her first child into a live of seizures and frustration. Yes, let's praise for her and that child's good luck.
posted by Plinko at 6:08 AM on January 29, 2006


She got health insurance from the state; federal housing vouchers; disability checks for her 9-year-old, Jonathan Price, who has cerebral palsy.

I don't know if it could have been diagnosed with pre-natal screening and if she choosed consciously to have the baby knowing about his future. If so, she carries the burden of her own errors...and again I'm cutting slack for her because she may be just ignorant..but more probably, she may be under the nefarious influence of irresponsible Church "Leaders" telling them that cerebral palsy is "God Will".

If so, these Leaders should take care of the kid financially and provide for him and WORK a life with an handicapped person. That or we could just have them spend some time in the center of Saharian Desert were their God will certainly come helping with Manna.
posted by elpapacito at 6:26 AM on January 29, 2006


It was very thoughtful of her to damn her first child into a live of seizures and frustration.

Ok then let's bring back the Spartan tradition of throwing unhealthy babies down a cliff, even for conditions with which millions of people manage to live. Clearly there can be no other choice, right?

I want to second bobob: I respect this decision just as much as I would've respected her decision to abort. I was heartened to read that she understood why a woman would go to the abortion clinic in her situation, and seemed to hold no view of personal superiority. This hospice and an abortion clinic co-existing side by side is the true fruition of the pro-choice movement.

She said it was because she didn't want to play God. But even a non religious woman may make the same decision, for a number of personal reasons. Paradoxically, it can be a much harder decision to take, terminating a pregnancy because of a malformation in the baby, rather than because it's unwanted. Plus the fact there was a risk for the other child either way. Please correct me if I missed something, but it's not at all clear from the story that the selective termination would have been a significantly safer option than delivering both babies.

And while I don't believe only people who lost children have a right to comment, I do believe that if you're not a woman therefore will never have the experience or possibility of experiencing pregnancy, well, it's not like you should shut the fuck up, but maybe you need to take a further step back and think before firing off the sanctimony cannons. Cos it wouldn't be up to you to decide anyway.
posted by funambulist at 6:34 AM on January 29, 2006


funambulist:

That might give her a better chance of carrying the healthy baby to term, but there was also a chance that the procedure could harm Leah. Danielle was not interested in weighing risks.

"I couldn't make God's decision," she said. "Everything happens for a reason."


It seems that the selective abortion had a risk for the well formed children as well, but also the benefit of better chances to carry the pregnancy of the healthy kid to its natural end. I understand that premature babies have to stand more life risks and complication risks then babies carried to natural term.

Being a man I'm not entering these emotive aspect of pregnancy that are felt only by a woman, but I certainly enter the rational aspects of the fact she didn't (apparently) give toughtfoul consideration or ask other doctor, God illusion "decided for her" so to say.

That's not her evalutation ,ration and emotional..it's god recommendation, god will, god whatever.
posted by elpapacito at 6:58 AM on January 29, 2006


In this is as everything in life, not making a decision is in itself a decision.
posted by clevershark at 7:26 AM on January 29, 2006


she didn't (apparently) give toughtfoul consideration or ask other doctor

Well, we just don't know that, elpapacito.

In fact, it seems she had a lot of doctors around, got all the information about the condition, got shown photographs of anacephalic babies, etc.. So, seems she was well aware of the situation.

So I don't see why go and assume ignorance or lack of information or thoughtful consideration, just because she's talking about God.

"I couldn't make God's decision", that's one way of putting it; a woman who wouldn't believe in God and did the same might have put that differently and said "it was too hard for me a decision to make; I was not prepared to take the chance that by terminating one baby I'd risk damaging the other healhty baby or making the remaining part of the pregnancy more difficult for her; I couldn't stand the thought of having to weigh the different risks in the options I had; I wanted to see my baby alive even if only for a couple of days". There's always a mix of rational and emotional factors in such situations.

But I just don't think it's fair to assume that religious faith clouded her judgement (or that she must have been stupid to be religious in the first place).

And, indeed, the article mentions she could understand women who chose that other option, and she considered it herself. So. Doesn't sound to me like she was a fanatic.

It's one woman's choice. Another woman may have chosen the same, or differently. That's the beauty, and burden, of having a choice.
posted by funambulist at 7:31 AM on January 29, 2006


Plus in the end, the certainty was the baby would die anyway. If she hadn't been carrying twins, then maybe she would have found it less of a dilemma to have a termination. Who knows. You can only know how you'd act when you're in that situation.

The kid with cerebral palsy, that's where I get pissed off by suggestions she was irresponsible, which means everyone pregnant with a baby affected by cerebral palsy should abort? What does that say to all the people who are living with cerebral palsy? Sure it's not easy to live with, but certainly there's a huge difference between that condition and being born without a brain and doomed to certain death, for chrissakes.
posted by funambulist at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2006


I don't think this story is meant to incite controversy, its a well written piece about the human experience. Even if that experience lasts only two days. I am not one to shy away from controversy, political or social. But how disrespectful to the little guy who lived and was loved, if only for a couple of days, to sit here and debate the value of his life.

My stance is neither pro or con on the abortion issue. But I can say I am glad my mother didn't listen to my father who wanted her to have an abortion for me. And 15 years later my mother went through the same experience as Danielle in this story, and I was there for her. Now I am 30 and trying to have a little one of my own.

There are few things worse than a 190 pound balled, tattooed and hevily pierced guy sitting here reading and wipping tears. One of my tattoos in Konji actually says "Cherish the gift of life".
posted by cdavidc at 8:23 AM on January 29, 2006


funambulist:

So, seems she was well aware of the situation

Indeed it seems like that, it could be like that, but we don't know. Maybe she didn't understand much of what was going on
and all of the doctors warning were some kind of inconsequential incoherent rambling to her..or maybe she understood that
her babies were at risk. She certainly had experience with a kid with cerebral palsy, which suggests that she had some idea
of the problem generated by mental handicap

One baby, she may have tought, was certainly going to be born with very serious malformation..we can assume that from the info
in the article that recites :Warning of severe brain damage, Danielle's doctors recommended abortion. She evidently could
TRUST doctors who were the main if not only helping/Fatherly/authority-trust figure lending an hand.

Article informs us that "But Danielle had recently started going to church; firm in her newfound faith, she decided to leave the baby in God's hands."

Apparently at this point in time God and religious faith had the chance and most probably excercised some influence on her judgment
or if they didn't directly, she weighted God/Faith teachings as opposed to Doctors warnings, the two being probably mutually exclusive.

She trusted doctors judgment, but at the same time she trusted church teachings that were likely to vehemently oppose any abortion
for any reason. Let's hypotize that the teachings said "but God says you can abort for medical reason" she would have probably said that she didn't "feel secure" or "didn't have nough faith" but she wouldn not have said "I couldn't make God's decision" ; she probably tought the decision wasn't HER to begin with, but that it belonged to God.

I don't know her enough to say whetever she used God as a convenient guilty scapegoat OR if she really believed in Church teachings in the way a baby blindly believes and necessarily trusts parents, but that's a false dilemma : if she "used" God , then God can be used as a pretty dangerous irresponsability concept, so strong people can actually believe they have no responsability. If she believed in the teachings, such blind faith teaching most likely were not posed as point of argumentation or reflection, but as pure unquestionable truth.

There's always a mix of rational and emotional factors in such situations.

True , but what about the emotion of giving more chances to the healthy baby ? It was a rational choice, a painful choice yet
she was advised that one baby would have lived only a few days and if by miracle he survived he would have been in a condition
far worse then his palsy son. The other kid was healthy and maybe could have helped the palsy older brother. It's a personal
decision a mother can make at that point... I don't see God playing ANY role at all in that, nor take ANY responsability or burden.
posted by elpapacito at 8:40 AM on January 29, 2006


The article is very emotionally written, so its hard to gather what really happened. That being said, I really do feel this woman acted selfishly. She didn't seem to want to consider the fate of her other child, or the suffering of the brain-leaking child. She decided not to decide, which is above all else, irresponsible. She wanted the brainless child to be born so SHE could be comforted in the fact that she didn't abort it. So she could feel good about it dying "naturally", regardless that it was clear the child WAS going to die and wasn't going to die well. (see the bit about warning her what it would look like as it started to die).

Is it her choice? Of course it is. But that doesn't mean it was a good one.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:52 AM on January 29, 2006


Please also put me into "this woman made a bad choice for selfish reasons" category. If you also want to put me into the "religion is the suxOr" category, I won't fight it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:04 AM on January 29, 2006


elpapacito, her child was the one without a brain, not her. I don't see anything in the story that warrants the assumption that the doctors' advice sounded incomprehensible to her.

She trusted doctors judgment, but at the same time she trusted church teachings

... and her own judgements and feelings.

Or do you think it's impossible that a non-religious woman would have done the same choice? I wouldn't be so sure.

In the end that baby was going to die anyway. And in respect to the option of selective abortion and the concern for the healthy baby, the article says: The specialists she consulted offered Danielle a "selective reduction": They could abort the malformed twin. That might give her a better chance of carrying the healthy baby to term, but there was also a chance that the procedure could harm Leah. Danielle was not interested in weighing risks.

I'm really not seeing a clearcut situation where the selective abortion would have *definitely* been the safest option, compared to delivering both babies.

So I can see where a decision like hers would come from, even in a situation where religion played no part.

Like I said, I don't think it's possible to know how one would have acted unless one is in that same situation, but in trying to put myself in her shoes, I cannot honestly say I'd have definitely chosen the termination. If there was no other baby, probably yes. But that risk of harming the healthy baby in the process sounds like a very heavy scenario to consider. So, given that both routes had their risks, it would have been an extremely difficult and heartbreaking decision either way.

She had no certainties other than this baby was going to die. No certainties about the other baby. If that healhty baby had not survived, she would have had to live with the consequences of making either decision.
posted by funambulist at 9:25 AM on January 29, 2006


That's an incredibly sad story. I'm glad to hear that the "prenatal hospice" idea is growing in the secular community.

And I get the feeling that some posters don't really understand much about cerebral palsy. Maybe I should get my cousin with CP to explain it. But she's finishing up her PhD and just got engaged, so she's probably too busy.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:55 AM on January 29, 2006


"No matter what, that's my baby."

It's a woman's sole right to choose.

Amen.
posted by squalor at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2006


You know...I was prepared to agree that she'd made selfish choices here, but after I RTFA, I no longer think so. When faced with a choice between potential active harm (by aborting the anencephalic baby) and passive harm (by not aborting the anencephalic baby) to the healthy baby, I don't know that I would have made a different decision had I been in this woman's shoes. I'm a bit surprised that people could actually read that article all the way through and come to the conclusion that she was "stupid", "irresponsible" and was scared to "tackle tough choices" - I'd be interested in knowing what specifically led people to these (and similar) conclusions.
posted by biscotti at 10:18 AM on January 29, 2006


funambulist:

I'm really not seeing a clearcut situation where the selective abortion would have *definitely* been the safest option, compared to delivering both babies.

If you're looking for *absolutes*, good luck to you, we'll never meet and that's fine with me. If you're after reasonable and reasoned somehow educated guesses we're in the same boat. The doctors probably had a reason to suggest selective abortion ; if we exclude pure monetary motivations, maybe there's evidence (that we both ignore) suggesting that the babies situation included an additional danger for Leah.

The doctors, apparently, responsibly and honestly warned the mother that the procedure was not risk-less for Leah but with that risk came a benefit

That might give her a better chance of carrying the healthy baby to term

considering that his previous palsy son was born 3 months premature as per article, MAYBE there's medical evidence suggesting that the selective abortion was more indicated even if risky.

She had no certainties other than this baby was going to die. No certainties about the other baby.

Correct, except that (we don't know so it's just a guess ) doctors suggested and increased risk of NOT carrying the pregnancy of the healthy baby to natural end. Wheter or not the risk is high or low I really don't know.

If that healhty baby had not survived, she would have had to live with the consequences of making either decision.

She would have to live with consequence regardless of the outcome. Luckly Leah was born healthy and I'm glad that she survived without risking the selective abortion...yet if she died because of lack of selective abortion, we would be saddened by that and call the doctor incompetent and criminal had they not suggested this other dangerous procedure. Some would also call the mother fanatic because of her rejection of selective abortion.

As matter of fact nothing I know comes without a risk : certainly it could be misjudged, badly evaluated. Yet the mother had an _educated_ not blind faith based option at her disposal but, as you suggest funambulist, she may have considered the extra risks to the healthy baby to be unacceptable.

That could have been the best decision ever, outsmarting Einsteins and other rational geniuses. Indeed even if I suspect she's a dimwit I don't _blame_ her for being one nor do I think she's _guilty_ of being one (and it's evident in my above post I don't) nor that she _deserved_ the pain she suffered, BUT I can't pardon these who instilled in her the idea of God.

What if God told her she shouldn't have aborted even if doctors were 99 out of 100 times correct in suggesting a treatement ? How do I bring AN IDEA to Court ?

Quite simply impossible, so I bring the illusionist.
posted by elpapacito at 10:19 AM on January 29, 2006


30 comments, many of them long and thoughtful, and nobody has yet wondered about the fathers of her two other children, or the boyfriend who moved out shortly after the diagnosis? She was left alone to make the best choice she could. I would never judge her decision.
posted by jokeefe at 10:20 AM on January 29, 2006


jrossi4r : lucky cousin , unlucky others
posted by elpapacito at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2006


From your own link, elpapacito:

While mental retardation and cerebral palsy do not cause each other, the two disorders are found together in approximately 20%-30% of all persons with cerebral palsy. CP symptomatology is as diverse as the individuals who have it. (Emphasis mine.)

So please don't imply that a CP diagnosis automatically means a crap life that isn't worth living. Also, CP has numerous causes and is diagnosed in infants. You can't test for it prenatally,AFAIK. The woman in this article had no idea that her child had CP until he was born.

(Sorry if I sound shrill. I don't mean to. But I've known many people with CP in my life and I know how these kinds of generalizations really hurt them.)
posted by jrossi4r at 10:53 AM on January 29, 2006


If you're looking for *absolutes*, good luck to you, we'll never meet and that's fine with me. If you're after reasonable and reasoned somehow educated guesses we're in the same boat.

No, elpapacito, I'm only looking for what's actually written in the bloody article, as opposed to assumptions and maybes about what the doctors must have thought or how intelligent she is, uh.

And the article says:

- Warning of severe brain damage, Danielle's doctors recommended abortion

- she knew she could not abort the twins

- The specialists she consulted offered Danielle a 'selective reduction': They could abort the malformed twin. That might give her a better chance of carrying the healthy baby to term, but there was also a chance that the procedure could harm Leah

(Actually it's not even entirely clear if that first mention of a recommendation for abortion referred to abortion full stop, for both twins -- cos she also says "I couldn't give up my babies. I couldn't... They're my kids. I'm going to take care of them."...?)

In any case, the mention of the selective reduction procedure is very clear in saying they told her there was a potential benefit but also a potential risk to the other child.

I'm getting the impression many of those who commented about her "irresponsibility" completely ignored that second part.

She would have to live with consequence regardless of the outcome.

Exactly, and there were risks in either choices. That's the whole fricking point and why her situation was so sad and difficult.

... [if the healthy baby had died]... Some would also call the mother fanatic because of her rejection of selective abortion.

And I would disagree with that conclusion even in that case, because there was a risk in the selective termination procedure too. It's not a fanatic thing to do to choose either one of two options that both have risks -- risks which, at least based on the article, don't seem to have been significantly different.

What if God told her she shouldn't have aborted even if doctors were 99 out of 100 times correct in suggesting a treatement ?

Well, then, obviously yes, in that case, she would have been a fanatic!

If the selective termination procedure had been perfected to a reasonable degree of safety for the surviving child, and if carrying on with the pregnancy was going to pose a much higher risk that other child will die -- if faced with that medical advice she still had chosen to pursue the pregnancy only out of a belief in letting God/nature take its course, then, by all means, yes, that would have been irresponsible and fanatic.

But that's not how the article says it went.

So there's no point in hypotheticals about a different situation, just as there's no point in assuming things that we don't know from the article.
posted by funambulist at 11:14 AM on January 29, 2006


jrossi: you don't sound shrill at all.

I would, though, if I wrote what I'm actually thinking about those comments implying people with cerebral palsy should have been aborted.

(yeah assuming the diagnosis was possible prenatally)

I'll just say I'd rather have cerebral palsy than have that kind of ideas about disability.
posted by funambulist at 11:21 AM on January 29, 2006


Who are you people? (some of you.)

I couldn't even get through all these comments, so sorry if this is repeat...

but, as noted above, Cerebral Palsy is caused by a brain lesion that usually occurs spontaneously right before, during, or after birth. It can sometimes be caused by temporary loss of oxygen. There is no way to predict it or how significant the disability will be. That said, thousands upon thousands of people have productive, fulfilled lives.

Interestingly, it is her experience with her older son that makes her realize that this child is not a throw-away.

For the record, I'm entirely pro-choice, and not too much into "let go and let God" type philosophies. But sometimes you have so little control over a situation, that is the best anyone can do. I have been pregnant with twins and a twin pregnancy is scary and risky for anyone. I was given the option of selective reduction because of the risk of the pg on my health. It is very risky and difficult procedure to abort one multiple while keeping the other(s). I opted not to abort, I did have some mostly recoverable problems with my health, and I gave birth to two healthy babies. However, it was such a rough and trying pg that I wouldn't put having to make that decision on my worst enemy.

She DID make a choice. Her choice was to not intervene. Given the risks of selective reduction vs. the risks of a viable twin pg. I probably would have done the same thing, knowing that I was going to have to go through the anguish of watching my baby die right in front of me. If she chooses to comfort herself by saying "it's in God's hands," who am I to take that away from her? But make no mistake, she did make a choice.

I wonder if reactions would have been different if a) she was married; b) she was middle class or upper; c) the article gave no hint to race; d) she didn't already have a disabled child.
posted by Bueller at 12:51 PM on January 29, 2006


Is there a doctor in the house?

I think you're clutching at straws with that last sentence, Bueller - I can't see anything in these comments that call the race card (I don't have a feel for the American vernacular, and on reflection I wasn't able to distinguish her race, and I don't recall it being stated explicitly in the article).

On selective reduction
:
Multiple pregnancies are a greater risk to the mother and the babies. The risk is greater for twins than single babies but rises dramatically with three babies or more. Without selective reduction 13 per cent of multiple pregnancies end with no live babies, and more than 15 per cent end with premature babies.

There's no doubt that selective reduction can improve the chances of survival for the remaining foetuses. But it isn't without risks, such as:

* loss of the whole pregnancy
* infection
* stimulation of premature delivery
* permanent damage to the surviving foetuses
* psychological trauma for the mother

posted by strawberryviagra at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2006


strawberry viagra,

Yeah, you may be right regarding race, that was thin. I'll go ahead and give you that. But you know when the Lifetime TV movie that is made of this story will only be able to be simpathetic to the mother when they make her white, married and middle class.

But as far as selective reduction, each situation based on risk is different. (I was offered selective reduction because of a specific health issue that is unique to my situation.) From the article, my understanding was that her choices could be summed up as:

1) Let the pregnancy progress as she did. Assuming that she is healthy and the pg is normal despite the fact that one fetus is anacephalic, she assumes the same risk as every twin pg. The downside is that she gives birth to the anacephalic child and must watch him die.

2) Abort the whole pg and lose both fetuses.

3) Selectively reduce the pg and abort the anacephalic fetus. The procedure itself causes risk to the remaining fetus, but if it is successful, the remaining fetus would go on as a single pg and thus lose the high risk twin factor.

It's a tough call. The reason she was offered selective reduction in the first place was to save her from the agony of the birth of the dying child. Otherwise, they'd offer every mother of twins selective reduction and I don't that happens.
posted by Bueller at 2:00 PM on January 29, 2006


On the topic of race, you can see in the photogallery that she is white and the father is black. For some reason, I was able to get this from the article (note the description of little Lee, where they don't use the word "biracial" but they seem somewhat clearly to be describing a biracial baby.

That said, I don't think the choice-hating and religion-bashing in this thread is due to race. Class I might buy.

That hospice rocks. I can't imagine how hard it must be to take on that kind of work.
posted by duck at 2:27 PM on January 29, 2006


on reflection I wasn't able to distinguish her race

She looks white to me. There are pictures linked to the story if you look to the right at the top of the page. The father of the twins is African-American.

There are some misconceptions or misstatements being put about here with regard to cerebral palsy. "Cerebral palsy is a broad term used to describe a group of chronic movement or posture disorders. "Cerebral" refers to the brain, while "palsy" refers to a physical disorder, such as a lack of muscle control. Cerebral palsy is not caused by problems with the muscles or nerves, but rather with the brain's ability to adequately control the body. Cerebral palsy can be caused by injury during birth, although sometimes it is the result of later damage to the brain. Symptoms usually appear in the first few years of life and once they appear, they generally do not worsen over time.". It's very commonly caused by birth injuries (lawyers make a lot of money suing doctors for CP caused by forceps deliveries), and there are specific risk factors and causes associated with it. It is not genetic, it's not always accompanied by mental retardation, there are many forms of it, some serious, some mild, and it's almost never progressive.
posted by biscotti at 2:31 PM on January 29, 2006


Danielle turned away from the bassinet. This was all she had dared pray for: a few moments to hug her son close, to memorize his sounds, his smell, how his thin fingers felt clasped around her own.

What kind of worthless pseudo-journalism is this?

Oh, right. It's the LA Times.
posted by bingo at 2:50 PM on January 29, 2006


So, she was irresponsible not to selectively abort one, but if she had decided to abort both because she didn't want to have these babies for whatever reason, that would have been okay?
posted by konolia at 3:33 PM on January 29, 2006


biscotti: I'm a bit surprised that people could actually read that article all the way through and come to the conclusion that she was "stupid", "irresponsible" and was scared to "tackle tough choices" - I'd be interested in knowing what specifically led people to these (and similar) conclusions.


I'm always surprised too when someone looks at the same data as myself and draws a different conclusion. I mean WTF? They looked at the same material I did, why can't they have the same opinion as me?

I read the fucking article, and then drew my conclusion. Perhaps it was bad journalism, but the article suggests she decided to keep the child because of some underlying need to feel she had done right by the child, not because of any of the medical hypothetical situations a posed later in this thread. The first line of the article says that, not complications or risk to the baby, or anything else.

The thing that the article doesn't say was considered is the possible suffering of the child, both in the womb and as it was dying for 43 hours after birth. An animal would have met a more dignified end, but a human child is somehow better off languishing away until its body can no longer support it.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:49 PM on January 29, 2006


The thing that the article doesn't say was considered is the possible suffering of the child, both in the womb and as it was dying for 43 hours after birth.

There was no possible suffering of the child. The child had no brain. A brain is a prerequisite for pain and for anything we would recognize as suffing.
posted by duck at 4:21 PM on January 29, 2006


According to the article, the entire brain would not develop, but had enough of the brain stem to regular bodily functions. It seems likely then it could have had enough to have the most primitive of feelings, including pain and fear. It obviously tried to suckle, so had hunger as well. the article did not talk once about the babies suffering, only that of the mother. So maybe it didn't have the ability to suffer. Or maybe the article was more concerned about the tragedy the woman had to face, and not the really tragic story; the baby itself.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:43 PM on January 29, 2006


the article did not talk once about the babies suffering, only that of the mother.

"Stringfield had told her that anencephalic infants can't feel pain, but it looked like her baby was suffering."

To be honest, I'm more concerned about the living twin, Leah. You think she's going to have a semi-normal life?
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:04 PM on January 29, 2006


According to the article, the entire brain would not develop, but had enough of the brain stem to regular bodily functions. It seems likely then it could have had enough to have the most primitive of feelings, including pain and fear. It obviously tried to suckle, so had hunger as well.

The article specifically said the baby didn't feel pain. Suckling is not related to hunger (and regardless, Lee was fed every 2 hours). Suckling is a reflex, meaning it doesn't come from the brain, the signal to suckle comes from the spine. As does the signal for grasp reflex (which is why babies hold fingers).

I think Leah will be ok. All the more treasured for her parent's understanding of how fragile life can be.
posted by duck at 5:10 PM on January 29, 2006


Other spinal reactions include the snugging-up of the ballsack when the inside of the thigh is stroked. If you alternate sides, you can get your boyfriends' body to juggle its own balls!

IIRC, orgasms are also spinal.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:41 PM on January 29, 2006


Wow, pretty sad.
posted by jne1813 at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2006


They looked at the same material I did, why can't they have the same opinion as me?

The article discusses the risks and benefits of aborting the anencephalic baby which were discussed with the mother, the article also discusses the pain issue. The fact that the first line of the article is a somewhat clumsy attempt to sum-up what was no doubt a very complex series of decisions does not mean that the decisions were not considered and complex. It's not that I think you should have the same opinion as me, it's that your opinion seemed to overlook some of the information presented in the article in favour of a snap judgment of this woman - would she have been less "timid" to your mind if she'd decided to abort the anaencephalic baby and the healthy one had died too? It's not like there was any guarantee EITHER way, it's not like she was deciding to harm the healthy baby, there were risks to the healthy baby regardless of which path she chose.

"The specialists she consulted offered Danielle a "selective reduction": They could abort the malformed twin. That might give her a better chance of carrying the healthy baby to term, but there was also a chance that the procedure could harm Leah. Danielle was not interested in weighing risks."
posted by biscotti at 7:49 PM on January 29, 2006


I'm about as pro-choice as one human can be, and were I in the same position, I can honestly say that I don't know what my decision would be, but I tend to believe that I would have made a similar choice.

Because I am fairly well educated, capable of reading medical studies and monographs, trained in bioethics, and fully cognizant of the mechanics of pregnancy and the termination thereof, I certainly would be better armed, theoretically, to make this sort of decision...and what it would come down to for me is what would cause the least amount of harm. Selective reduction is a great risk to a continued gestation.

I thank the gods and the stars above that I've never been faced with such a difficult decision. I'm astounded that some of you would toss off aspersions as though you could possibly understand what it feels like to be faced with something like this.

Pro choice is just that...the right of a woman to make choices based on her own interpretation of ethics and values. My heart goes out to this poor women and all the other women faced with this tragedy, but I wouldn't presume to second-guess their decisions.
posted by dejah420 at 11:36 PM on January 29, 2006


I'm male and gay, and past the age I'd consider (for long) raising a child. In other words, unqualified to have an opinion. However, I'll offer mine.

When I was 20, a friend had an abortion. I dried her tears as she struggled to decide. Abortion is no easy choice. Fuck you all with your cold logic, join the human race sometime.

Yes, I see your cold logic. I even agree. But I have seen the grief called choice. It's good that women are strong.
posted by Goofyy at 6:37 AM on January 30, 2006


I think Leah will be ok. All the more treasured for her parent's understanding of how fragile life can be.
posted by duck at 8:10 PM EST on January 29

I'm not convinced. This is, after all, a woman who did not pay her electric bill--even though she had two children living with her-- in order to have cute outfits for the new borns. I question her priorities and her parenting skills.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:42 AM on January 30, 2006


I'm not convinced. This is, after all, a woman who did not pay her electric bill--even though she had two children living with her-- in order to have cute outfits for the new borns. I question her priorities and her parenting skills.

Who didn't pay her electric bill so she could give her baby the only thing she would be able to give him in little bit of time that she would have with him. And who wanted her babies to have cute outfits in which to take the only photographs she would ever have of her twins together.

Have a little compassion.

There's no reason to think that her not paying the electric bill would have any effect on the two kids living with her. Your electricity doesn't get shut off for paying your bill late or even for missing a payment altogether. It's months of leaving the bill unpaid that costs you your power. There's no indication she ever let that happen.

What in the article makes you question her parenting skills?
posted by duck at 8:20 AM on January 30, 2006


Let's see...the fact that she has two children and can't pay her bills but she gets pregnant with twins. I can accept that she got pregnant accidentally once, maybe twice, but this lady has had at least 4 accidental (unplanned) pregnancies that we know of (3 pregnancies brought to term and one abortion.) Is she leaving her baby's conceptions in God's Hands?


Not only that but:

Danielle found out she was pregnant in May when she dragged herself to the emergency room, weak from days of vomiting.

That to me is a sign this woman is incapable of learning anything. She has to go to the ER to find out she is pregnant even though she has been pregnant 3 times before.

And the cute little outfits? Had to be more than a few bucks. They were on layaway (meaning she had already paid enough to hold them) AND she opted not to pay her electrical bill. There is no reason why she had to buy such expensive clothes for a photo-op. Don't forget: Danielle didn't have a bed for her 3-year-old, Dashon Starr; he had to share with her. A baby would need a crib, a car seat…. She lay awake nights

And this is one of my biggest beefs: But Danielle didn't trust any man to stick around once the responsibilities of parenting caught up to him(...)
Nor would she consider adoption.
"I couldn't give up my babies. I couldn't," she said. "They're my kids. I'm going to take care of them."


But the truth is she is heavily dependent on the state to take care of them. She got health insurance from the state; federal housing vouchers; disability checks for her 9-year-old, Jonathan Price, who has cerebral palsy. Still, there was never enough money.


I'm just saying that putting the question of a possible abortion to one side, this woman does not make smart choices. Which doesn't bode well for the future of her children.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:42 AM on January 30, 2006


Electricity bill, funeral, oh what to do?

You're questioning the priorities of someone who'd let bills go unpaid when they have to prepare for the death of their child? I've done that for far less valid reasons.

And buying those outfits is also part of the funeral arrangements. You don't bury a child in a kitchen cloth. He's entitled to some dignity.

But maybe she's irresponsible for being poor too...
posted by funambulist at 8:42 AM on January 30, 2006


And buying those outfits is also part of the funeral arrangements. You don't bury a child in a kitchen cloth. He's entitled to some dignity

My newborn was cremated in the outfit I made him myself. Dignity does not mean spending more money than you can afford.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:10 AM on January 30, 2006


Ok, fair point. I'm sorry about that, SoLG.

You're right, and I didn't mean to imply she absolutely *had to* spend that money. But I'm not in her shoes, and I don't see a reason to condemn that particular decision either. People don't all act the same and I just don't think that paying a bill late is *such* a big deal, especially in those circumstances. It's not like she sold her other child's favourite toys.

The article is focusing on the story of that one particular child, so everything in there is told under that perspective. I don't think there's enough to assume she is careless about the others.

As for smart choices in general, well, maybe it's also a fair point to say it's irresponsible to have kids at all, or more than one or whatever, when you're not well off, but that's a relative concept and I'd rather not go down that route myself. I don't feel in a position to judge there.
posted by funambulist at 9:34 AM on January 30, 2006


I agree with Secret Life Of Gravy - wholeheartedly - regarding this woman's "choices" regarding conception.

But as a mother of (knocking heavily on wood) healthy 5 1/2 month old twins, I can tell you that had I been in the same position, I would never have risked the life of one healthy child. Ever.

We, in fact, chose to do non-invasive pre-natal testing on our kids in utero, but did neither CVS nor amnio because if there HAD been something wrong, there wasn't much we could do about it, other than wait it out.

And I'm not religious and fervently pro-choice.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2006


This story represents what I despise most about religion. People feeling that there is some being out there who's always looking out for them and will take on their burdens. This sort of irresponsible action and mentality turns my stomach.
posted by Qubit at 10:00 AM on January 30, 2006


Danielle found out she was pregnant in May when she dragged herself to the emergency room, weak from days of vomiting.

That to me is a sign this woman is incapable of learning anything. She has to go to the ER to find out she is pregnant even though she has been pregnant 3 times before.

The article doesn't say what her other symptoms of pregnancy were, that she had any other symptoms, or whether the symptoms she had were the same as those of her past pregnancies. It does indicate that her due date is in January -- 8 months after she finds out she's pregnant in May. Not any later than most women figure it out, I would venture.

As for her having to go the ER, the sad state of US health care is hardly her fault.

And the cute little outfits? Had to be more than a few bucks. They were on layaway (meaning she had already paid enough to hold them) AND she opted not to pay her electrical bill. There is no reason why she had to buy such expensive clothes for a photo-op. Don't forget: Danielle didn't have a bed for her 3-year-old, Dashon Starr; he had to share with her. A baby would need a crib, a car seat…. She lay awake nights

I didn't have my own room or bed til I was 11. That's not indicative of my parents' being irresponsible or having poor priorities, its indicative of the fact that their priority was paying off the mortgage. Perhaps Danielle's also had bigger priorities, like caring for her kids and giving them things they needed more than a bed (they no more need their own bed than they need expensive clothes).

"They're my kids. I'm going to take care of them."

But the truth is she is heavily dependent on the state to take care of them. She got health insurance from the state; federal housing vouchers; disability checks for her 9-year-old, Jonathan Price, who has cerebral palsy. Still, there was never enough money.


She is taking care of them with the help of the state, just like all parents take care of their kids with the help of the state. (Though the amount of help and specific programs they rely on may be different). Again, the sad state of US health care is hardly her fault, nor is being poor the same as being a bad parent.

I'm just saying that putting the question of a possible abortion to one side, this woman does not make smart choices. Which doesn't bode well for the future of her children.

The only thing here that I can see that doesn't bode well for the future of her children is that she seems to be poor. Poverty is bad for a lot of outcomes, but that need not be the case. The fact that it is the case is not something she can control.

You may be right that she should be more careful with her contraception, but I think it's a bit of leap to jump from accidental pregnancies (2 that we know of) to bad parent. I would be particularly reluctant to assume someone is a bad parent, as an adult, based on decisions they made at 16, which was when she had her other accidental pregnancy.

What we do see in the article about her parenting suggests that she takes care of her kids, reads to them, plays with them, talks to them, gets them the things they need and otherwise parents them. Though yes, she is poor (I imagine a decent bit of this poverty is driven by having a disabled son. Even with insurance and even if the insurance were great, which it probably isn't, a disabled child can cost a lot of money).
posted by duck at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2006


Dignity does not mean spending more money than you can afford.

And btw, she could afford it. What she couldn't afford was her electric bill that month.
posted by duck at 10:31 AM on January 30, 2006


.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2006


I'm sorry about the loss of your child, SLoG, and it is wonderful that you were able to make clothing for him/her.

However, perhaps for her that would have meant buying a sewing machine, a pattern, all the accoutrements of sewing, taking a sewing class or purchasing a how-to book, fabric, etc.

I sew a bit, and it only pays off after you've done it for a while and have all the stuff and skills. So judging her for not home making her children's funeral clothes is pretty weak.

People can live w/o electricity. Millions of people do it around the world. We don't know that she lost her electricity, but even if she did...maybe it was worth it to her to have those moments with her children. Dressing them in something she picked out, taking their picture, burying him.

You people are heartless. People have a right to make decisions about their money, even if you don't agree with it.

And before someone tells me it's not her money, it's the state's, give me a break. When we provide mothers any decent options such as affordable health care and child care, family planning, etc. instead of giving the vast majority of our welfare to corporations and wealthy execs, then we can talk about her bad decisions about money.
posted by Bueller at 1:18 PM on January 30, 2006


Whether or not Danielle made a choice you agree with, it was her choice. Be grateful you live in a place (as I believe most Mefites do) where that's possible. I'm glad I've never had to make such a decision.

I hope Danielle and her family find life less trying in the future.
posted by deborah at 2:39 PM on January 30, 2006


There but for the grace of good contraception go I.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:21 PM on January 30, 2006


This sort of irresponsible action and mentality turns my stomach.

WHAT sort of "irresponsible action"? Deciding not to undertake a risky procedure which could have killed both the anencephalic child and the healthy one, and which had no guarantee whatsoever of actually making any positive differences to the healthy child anyway? How is that "irresponsible"? This woman was between a rock and a hard place, there was no clear-cut choice here, there was risk to the healthy child no matter what she did, so she opted to do nothing, and I likely would have done the same in her shoes. Her use of religion to help her deal with the decision has nothing to do with how valid the decision was. And I am an atheist and pro-choice.
posted by biscotti at 3:44 PM on January 30, 2006


However, perhaps for her that would have meant buying a sewing machine, a pattern, all the accoutrements of sewing, taking a sewing class or purchasing a how-to book, fabric, etc.

Well I didn't have a sewing machine, but no, I wouldn't expect her to make her children's clothes. This is America and we do not expect our poor to make their own clothes or cook their own food or limit the size of their families.

It is all moot at this point because just by virtue of her story appearing in the paper, strangers have undoubtedly started sending her money. Hopefully she can get her electricity bill paid up to date.

I didn't have my own room or bed til I was 11.
Dashon, her three year old, was sharing her bed along with her boy friend presumably until he moved out. Let's hope she has enough money to buy her daughter a bed before she turns 11 so that Leah doesn't have to share a bed with Mommy and the new boy friend.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:27 PM on January 30, 2006


I find it interesting that everyone is focusing on the mother's choices in the article, and yet no one has commented on this:

Dr. George R. Tiller specializes in terminating late-term pregnancies after the fetus has been diagnosed with a birth defect: a deformed heart, missing kidneys, Down's syndrome, anencephaly.

There's a world of difference between anencephaly and Down's Syndrome.
posted by anastasiav at 8:24 PM on January 30, 2006


This is true. However, the plain truth is that not everyone is prepared to make the sacrifices required to raise a Down's kid. We must trust that those who are choosing abortion are deciding rightly for themselves.

Choice is always ugly on some level.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 PM on January 30, 2006


I hope someone tells Danielle that if she's going to get pregnant again, she should take folic acid supplements. This entire terrible situation could have been avoided had the child received the proper building blocks to seal his spine and skull.
posted by Scram at 12:30 AM on January 31, 2006


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