Why My Wife and I Decided to Abort Our Daughter at 18 Weeks | Opinion

We were so excited to become parents that we even invited our mothers to join us at the 12-week appointment.

My wife Lauren, herself a resident at the hospital, and I had done all the typical things—repeatedly taken pictures of her belly and read about the size of the fetus each week of a typical pregnancy (from the "size of a poppyseed" to a blueberry to a plum.)

Like most parents, we knew anything was possible. But there's no way to be prepared for what happened next.

The technician performing a nuchal translucency (NT) test abruptly left the room. Soon after, a doctor came in, studied the images on the monitor, pressed some buttons, and then asked, "Moms, could you excuse us for a few minutes?"

After they stepped out, he informed Lauren and me that the fluid level behind our baby's neck was too high, indicative of a chromosomal deformity.

What followed was not a simple, clear diagnosis. Instead, there was a six-week long emotional and physical rollercoaster composed of multiple tests in which Lauren was prodded by what I found to be shockingly long needles. Fear, confusion, moments of hope, and full-time exhaustion filled our days.

Then one day, as I walked into the house after taking the dogs for a walk, Lauren walked up to me in tears. She didn't say a word, but just handed me the phone. It was a doctor. "The baby is going to suffer from severe mental retardation and numerous physical deformities," she explained in what I believe was the kindest, most empathetic tone she could.

For the first time in years, I began to cry as well.

Shell-shocked, we sat on the couch. Then, steadily, we tried to consider our options. In one way, it seemed like a simple decision. We hadn't been "trying" to get pregnant and already felt that we could barely take care of ourselves, let alone a healthy, "normal" child. We were not at all prepared to raise a special needs child.

Thoughts raced through my head. I remember thinking, "I'm pro-choice. Aren't I? But how can I let them kill our baby? I just saw her moving in the ultrasound. Should we ask people for advice? What if they judge us for considering terminating the pregnancy? Actually, who gives a s--t what they think?"

We wondered whether it would be fair of us to bring a child with such severe disabilities into this world. Life is hard enough as it is. I'm barely getting through it, and have battled depression for years. Would we be doing the right thing by saving her from such a difficult life? Or was that just us rationalizing terminating the pregnancy for our own selfish reasons? And who are we to play God?

We changed our minds at least twenty times. Ultimately, we decided to terminate.

My wife and I know that some people, including the pope, argue that abortion is murder. Meanwhile, in some parts of the world terminating pregnancies due to less severe diagnoses, such as Down Syndrome, is becoming common. A counselor at a hospital in Iceland told CBS that there, it's seen as ending "a possible life that may have had a huge complication... preventing suffering for the child and for the family."

In 2016, the issue gained renewed attention because the Zika virus was creating catastrophic birth defects. Recently, laws passed by some U.S. states threaten to "force women to carry pregnancies to term despite the detection of painful and deadly fetal anomalies," columnist Jennifer Senior wrote in the New York Times. Planned Parenthood has shared some couples' stories online.

Today, Lauren and I have two children. Our daughter, the oldest, is "normal" and healthy; our son has been diagnosed with CLOVES syndrome, a different genetic defect. The doctors spotted something during the pregnancy, but didn't know what it was. And we did not consider terminating.

He's now 2 years old, and has spent much of his life in hospitals. He's had to undergo all sorts of treatments. In addition to some physical deformities, he has certain vessels inside his body at risk of clotting or worse, including in his brain, spine and leg.

To us, both our kids are amazing. Yes, all parents feel that way, and we know that on some level it's our biased perspective. But so what? We're crazy about them.

When we look back now, we don't regret the decision we made all those years ago. As painful as it was, it was our choice to make. And we made the best decision we could.

Brett Grayson is a lawyer in New York City, and author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​