‘Everything they said turned out wrong’: mother

“These were dark, dark trying times for me,” Bernadette says about her
pregnancy with her 8th child, who doctors repeatedly pressured her to abort.

BY {related_entries id=”alternate_author”}‘Everything they said turned out
wrong’: mother of 8 recounts pressure to abort disabled

September 12, 2011 (rtl.org) – Pregnancy was a natural and normal part of
life for Bernadette and her husband Phil. After having seven children, the
Grandville, Michigan couple thought their family was complete, but the
couple received a surprise when they found out they were expecting their
eighth child, Hannah.

Though the pregnancy was unexpected, Bernadette and Phil were happy to be
blessed with another child. But during the first ultrasound, the routine of
another otherwise uneventful pregnancy was replaced with anxiety after the
surprised sonographer left the room to consult with a doctor.

“What I see is not good,” the doctor told the Smith’s after looking at
the screen.

Bernadette said the doctor needed her to make an appointment with a
specialist to see what the problem was, but he didn’t give them any
details. While parents are not prepared to hear a troubling diagnosis for
their child, Bernadette and Phil were even more unprepared for how
differently this pregnancy would be treated than the first seven.

The building that housed the specialist was the first sign of trouble in
Bernadette’s eyes. She said she clearly remembers how obscure the office
building looked as they walked in, and said she felt very unsettled from the

“It didn’t feel right, that’s the only way I can express it,” she

After a long series of questions probing their health, eating habits and
family history, the Smith’s finally received a diagnosis for Hannah:
Trisomy 18. The genetic disorder, also known as Edward’s Syndrome, is
caused by an extra copy of a chromosome in a person’s DNA. The disorder
can cause several types of birth defects, and according to the National
Institutes of Health, only half of unborn babies diagnosed survive the birth
process, and those who do survive have an extremely poor prognosis.

Bernadette said the specialist told her that Hannah had a grim outlook and
would either die during the pregnancy or would die shortly after birth. The
specialist told the couple bluntly that they had a “choice” to make.
Bernadette said that though the specialist didn’t mention it, everyone in
the room knew that “choice” meant abortion. Phil said very clearly that
they would not abort their child, but that was not good enough for the

“Then the specialist said to just me, ignoring Phil, ‘You have a choice
to make,’” Bernadette said.

Fortunately for Hannah, Bernadette and Phil both strongly believed in the
right to life for all unborn children. Being firm in their convictions
didn’t make it any easier, however, when the specialist continued to
badger them about making a “choice.” Bernadette said the doctor told her
that with seven children who needed her it would be wrong for her to be
spending time in the hospital dealing with a miscarriage.

“Fear tried to grip me, but I did not receive those words,” she said.
“I heard a voice say ‘you can choose to fight.’”

Bernadette said she continued to feel embattled by medical professionals
throughout and after the pregnancy. She said even her obstetrician seemed
like he didn’t want to deal with the situation, and had to be convinced to
carry on as Hannah’s doctor. Bernadette developed a constant refrain,
“she will live,” to counter all of the negativity.

“These were dark, dark trying times for me,” Bernadette said.

Despite the prognosis and pessimism, Hannah was born on June 19, 2007.
Doctors had said Hannah would likely die before birth, but she was born a
week late during a caesarean section. Hannah wasn’t breathing at first,
but Berndatte’s faith that Hannah would live continued.

The Smith’s experience with medical professionals wasn’t completely
sour. As Hannah was lying in intensive care, the hospital was very reluctant
to let them take her home. Fortunately, Bernadette was able to befriend some
nurses and even led Bible studies with them while recovering in the hospital
from the birth. One nurse in particular promised Bernadette she would help
her bring Hannah home. She also received support from her own doctor after
Hannah was born.

“Our family doctor was good through it all, he was the encourager,” she

Years after the birth, Bernadette ran into one of her former nurses. She
said the nurse was very tender, thinking all the predictions of Hannah’s
fate had come true, but was shocked to discover how it turned out. Now, four
years later, Hannah is a joy and constantly laughing, Bernadette said.
Hannah has had several problems, including a hole in her heart that
eventually healed and difficulty walking and talking on her own, but she’s
a smart little girl who is most definitely alive.

“Everything they said turned out wrong,” she said. “What if I had an

Bernadette said she thinks the doctors who were being pessimistic throughout
the pregnancy thought they were trying to help. She said they refused to
believe that Hannah had any hope, and thought a child with disabilities was
too much for her family to handle despite their faith that God would see
them and Hannah through.

“They were not happy with me because I didn’t do what they wanted me to
do,” she said. “They thought I was in denial.”

Bernadette is emphatic in her desire to help others facing crisis
pregnancies, and is working on a book to tell her full story. She said the
most important thing for people facing a troubling prenatal diagnosis is to
not listen to those preaching doom, and to never give up hope or faith in

“Your baby can make it, your baby can live,” she said. “Do not give
this baby over to death.”

There is hope and help for women and families facing an untimely pregnancy
or difficult diagnosis. For a list of pregnancy support services, call
1-800-57-WOMAN to be connected to a local center or click here for an online

Reprinted with permission from Right to Life of Michigan.


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