I never thought I'd have an abortion - but life had other plans

Baby April Rey lived for 11 minutes.
Baby April Rey lived for 11 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Katrina Villegas

There are things in our lives that we are sure of - 100 per cent certain about our feelings on the topic. I felt this way about abortion.

I knew that I was pro-choice, but that I personally would never get an abortion. I knew this as factual information. Truth.

But life had other plans.

Katrina and her family will never forget baby April Rey.
Katrina and her family will never forget baby April Rey.  

During my first pregnancy we were offered all sorts of genetic testing. We declined most of this testing. I remember thinking to myself, and even saying to my husband that it didn't matter.

Even if it came back positive for something, it's not like we were going to terminate the pregnancy. We weren't going to have an abortion. So why test?

All turned out great and we now have a healthy toddler on our hands.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy, and I again knew how I felt about abortion to be truth. Except this time something happened.

This time I found myself down a path that would terminate our daughter's life. My truth as I'd known it went out the window and I am now medically considered to have had an abortion.

When your 'truth' is shattered

I tell you this history and my "truth about abortion", because I need to get one point across: your truths are not truths until you are faced with a decision. 

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I know, not you, right? You would never change your mind on a topic that you are so passionate about. But you just might, and I'm glad I did.

In my 15th week of pregnancy, we did the first trimester screen, the nuchal translucency test.

The ultrasounds looked beautiful, but the blood work came back as a 1 in 77 chance of Down Syndrome. We were advised to test further, and so we did.

We did what is called a cell free-DNA test. This test examines the DNA from both you and your baby that is found in your bloodstream. This test came back as an extremely high probability of our daughter having, not Down Syndrome, but rather a fatal condition - Trisomy 13.

We got as much information as we could. We did an amniocentesis. This is a diagnostic test.

It diagnosed our daughter, April Rey, with full trisomy 13. 100 per cent of her cells were showing the defect. A fatal condition.

Our daughter was going to die. It was just a matter of when.

Our choices with regards to this pregnancy were outlined for us:

1. Carry to term and fight

Fight like hell for her life. Have her undergo surgeries and hospital stays. She'd probably be on a feeding tube and hooked up to machines. She'd die quickly regardless and lead a poor quality of life.

My health was also at risk if we carried to term. Trisomy 13 doesn't just affect the baby, it can affect your placental function as well, which puts mum at risk of serious complications. She was not a candidate for organ donation.

2. Carry to term with palliative care

Do no life saving measures. With this option we knew that not only my health was potentially impacted by the lowered placental function, but April Rey could be in pain.

She'd die, but how peacefully and quickly that would happen we didn't know.

Her organs were not suitable for donation.

Carrying to term seemed like a path that didn't make sense. It would be physically hard on April, physically hard on me, and emotionally traumatic on everyone, including our two-year-old daughter, Caroline.

3. Early induction

We could choose to terminate the pregnancy for medical reasons. We could hold her and donate her body to science. She'd be in no pain and we could let her go peacefully.

4. Undergo a typical abortion procedure

We could choose to do a D&C (the abortion procedure). We could end the pregnancy. With this route her body would not be able to be donated to science, and we'd not be able to hold her.

Our path to termination

We hated every single part of making this decision as parents. Ultimately, we chose to induce early, at 19.5 weeks.

As we started the induction process, I had to take a pill to terminate the pregnancy. I had to sign papers that stated we were having an "abortion".

I felt empty. I felt sick to my stomach. This was the most unfair terminology in my mind. Our daughter was and is loved, and this was a very much desired pregnancy. I hated those words and still do.

When I thought of abortion, I hadn't equated it to this.

There's this community of women that can't find each other. They have no one to talk to. They suffer with the pain of losing their child every minute of every day. They can't find each other because they all fall silent. They fall silent in their choice to terminate very wanted pregnancies.

Why? Because they never thought they would. They fall silent out of fear of being judged from friends and family and those closest to them.

So today I am proud to speak. I am so proud that April's story is being shared.

I am proud to be a voice. So I'll say it. I'll stand up and say that I had an abortion - even though those words cut me to my core.

Those words make it sound like I didn't want my daughter - make it sound like we didn't honour her life - make it sound like we don't love her. But they shouldn't sound that way. That's solely the social stigma talking.

I am proud

I am proud to say that our daughter lived a life with no pain. I am proud that the 11 minutes she was alive, she knew nothing but love. I am proud to say that she was comfortable, happy, and peaceful in our arms.

I hate that we were put in a position to make that choice. But I am proud that we were strong enough to make it. I am proud that my husband and I were able to support one another through the most difficult time of our lives and that we are closer and stronger than ever.

There are hundreds and thousands of us that never thought we'd be here. I refuse for our voices to be silenced.

Read April's full story at terminationsremembered.com.