Texas’s New Abortion Laws Would Have Killed Me and My Unborn Daughter… and Left My Two Boys Without a Mother

Ending my much-wanted pregnancy was one of the most devastating days of my life. And my daughter’s legacy deserves more than a perverted narrative about choice and murder.

Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

November 24th, 2015. I remember everything and nothing about that day, all at the same time. On November 24th, 2015, I delivered my daughter, Sevasti, 24 hours after I agreed to let my doctors stop her heart.

My daughter’s funeral was a few days after Thanksgiving. It was private, immediate family only. I don’t think any of us will forget the image of her teeny-tiny casket being lowered into the ground.

The funeral director gave me a teddy bear. Our priest led us in prayer and attempted to comfort us. It was the first time I had seen my husband truly weep since our nightmare had begun eight weeks prior.

Everyone tried their best to offer condolences and support. There was so much food, so many visitors, so much pain and awkwardness. But everyone rallied around me, the grieving mother, who tragically lost her daughter to an incredibly rare disease.

They all knew my daughter was sick. For eight long weeks, I attended multiple appointments a week: fetal cardiologists, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, pediatric surgeons, PICU staff, and nurses.

We fought like hell, my daughter and I. They had given her a 50% chance of survival. We decided to take our chances. Everyone we knew and people we didn’t prayed for us told us to stay strong and offered the predictable platitudes. My daughter’s death was a tragedy.

But I held back the details of the final days I had with my daughter, the decisions I had to make, the shame I had felt when they handed me her death certificate, and under “cause of death,” it read, “abortion.” I refused to let the stigma and polarization of abortion belittle or bastardize my precious baby girl’s life or the endless depth of my pain and grief.

The irony of it all was that when we had received her diagnosis at 20 weeks, I had been immediately offered the option of terminating my pregnancy, and I vehemently refused, a little self-righteously at that. And yet here I was, full of shame, spawn from a societal pressure that is misguided, hypocritical, and unforgiving.

It only took a few months before my Facebook feed bore evidence of how many people misunderstood late-term abortions in particular and how they really feel about mothers like me. It turns out I’m a murderer with no concern for human life.

I started to wonder how many of them would have turned their back on me, damned me to hell, or called me a murderer to my face. How many would fewer people have empathized with my loss and trauma had they known what the hospital had listed as my daughter’s “official” cause of death?

Why is it that in the midst of trauma, grief, and debilitating pain, women are also forced to bear the weight of shame, guilt, and judgment for making the most gut-wrenching, unnatural decision of their lives? Why does the political construction of pro-life mean that anything else is pro-death?

I assure you, no one wanted my daughter to live more than I did. And yet, I ultimately had to decide to end her life. A decision that would save me and not leave my husband a widower and my 2 toddler sons motherless.

How far does your pro-life stance extend? Does it include my life? What about the lives of my young boys?

Around my youngest son’s 1st birthday, in early June, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was pregnant again. With 2 boys, 16 months apart, I figured the odds were minimal at best, but also thought, OMG…. what am I going to do with 3 under 3?

After confirming my suspicions and learning that in the year since my son was born, fetal DNA testing had become all the rage, by 12 weeks into my pregnancy, we were ecstatic to find out that we were expecting a healthy baby girl.

I considered myself a pro at this point, having spent most of the last 3.5 years pregnant or nursing. And for the first 20 weeks, I enjoyed a wonderful, healthy, and completely normal pregnancy. I was 33 years old, happily married, and was raising healthy, active 2 and 1-year-old boys. Easy-peasy.

We gave our daughter the name Sevasti Lousia, after both of our grandmothers. I could picture her dark hair and dark eyes, and I would imagine her cry, coos, and wails. Would she be colicky like her oldest brother? Or a champion sleeper like my youngest son? Would she resemble her father the way both boys did?

At the 20th week of pregnancy, you go in for your anatomy scan, an in-depth close-up ultrasound of all your baby’s parts. We were so excited to catch images of her face, see her fingers and toes, and take home some ultrasound pictures to show her brothers.

This was a routine appointment. I had already done this twice. And then, after taking the initial measurements, showing us her fingers and toes, arms and legs, the technician started to get quieter and quieter. I saw the feigned look of reassurance on her face when she said, “Ok, I’m just going to go grab the doctor so he can go over the scans and come talk to you a bit.”

I knew. I knew it instantly. Despite my husband’s confident reassurance, I knew something was very, very wrong.

Sevasti had a Saccrocoxigeal Teratoma. An incredibly rare condition that is not genetic can not be prevented or detected early. Only 50% of SCT babies make it to delivery. Almost none of them make it to full term. Some SCT babies are born and need a few minor surgeries; others have multiple difficult surgeries and suffer lifelong disabilities.

I knew that I had no control. We were devastated but ready to fight for our daughter’s life. We decided to let go and let God. “What’s next?” we asked.

Photo by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash

The day my doctors told me I was losing, Sevi continues to feel like a bad dream. When I look back on it, in my memory, the doctors all sound like that teacher from Charlie Brown.

I can recount in visceral detail the dark and isolating grief that swallowed me whole and had me silently praying for my own death; so that I could go along with my daughter.

In my more optimistic moments of desperation, I convinced myself that the doctors had been wrong all along, that my efforts had not been in vain, and somehow, someway, they would deliver to me a healthy, happy, and very much alive little girl.

I find myself nodding, crying, and looking around the room for my husband. I am freezing cold and clutching my big swollen belly singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in my mind, sure that my baby could hear me.

At some point, I started convulsing, a side-effect of the medication they had given me. My body was flailing around on the bed, the physical pain rising to meet the immense suffering in my soul. My husband came around the corner, and the last thing I remember seeing was the fear in his eyes; a few seconds later and they had rendered me unconscious.

I woke up in pain, alone and acutely aware of the emptiness of my womb. They sent me home with a box. The contents of that box will be the only evidence I will ever own that my daughter existed. Her footprints. A prayer from the priest. My final ultrasound photos.

The grief and despair that came over would last more than a year. Compounded by society’s sense of entitlement to a woman’s fertility and reproductive status.

“How many children do you have?”

“Haven’t you always wanted a daughter?”

“You can always try again…”

“At least you never got to know her…”

And on and on it went…..

After trauma and PTSD therapy, which I am incredibly privileged to have access to and be able to afford, I was able to fully understand how lucky I was to have been able to save my life and still be here to mother my incredibly beautiful, healthy, and very much alive children.

As I reflect now, I realize how very lucky I was not to have been a woman in Texas in 2021, facing the most impossible news and even more unbearable potential outcomes. Likely we both would have died, my children would be motherless, and my husband a widower…

But please, tell me again that you are Pro-LIFE.

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Mother. Writer. Work in Progress. Research Addict. Mental Health and Healing Advocate.

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Alison Valsamis

Alison Valsamis

Mother. Writer. Work in Progress. Research Addict. Mental Health and Healing Advocate.

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