“It’s difficult to find out you’re pregnant at the age of 18. You’re so young, unsettled, and far from financially secure. But what if the baby you’ve been carrying for the past 4.5 months never grew arms below the elbows or legs at all? It was earth-shattering.
I knew I was pregnant a week before my missed period because of my intense pregnancy symptoms. I finally took a test when I was three days late. I sat on the toilet in my boyfriend’s grandparents’ mobile home in South Georgia, staring at the test with mixed feelings.
My greatest ambition since I was a child has been to become a mother. I remember laying out all of my baby dolls, 16 in total, and giving them all names and cuddling them. Nothing made me happier than having a lot of babies to love on.
My heart began to swell with joy as I stared at the two lines. Fear quickly overwhelmed what should have been the happiest moment of my life. I was aware of the type of relationship I was in. Unfaithful and abusive. ‘Perhaps this will make him truly love me and desire only me.’ And he can’t hit or shove me while I’m pregnant,’ I reasoned. My happiness began to return.
I was such a gullible young lady.
I opened the bathroom door and stepped across the hall to mine and my boyfriend’s room. I fell onto him crying, to protect myself from his reaction, and told him it was positive. He wrapped his arms around me and told me he would do whatever he needed to help me with this baby and promised me security. I felt whole in my heart. My hopes were coming true.
But during my early second trimester, my boyfriend broke up with me. And we got back together. And broke up again. And got back together. I don’t even know how many times or the reasons why, to be honest. So, I decided since I was most likely going to be a single mom, I needed to get my GED so I could go to college and give my baby the life he or she deserved. I received my diploma one week before my anatomy scan. I finally felt like I had control of my life.
The day of my anatomy scan finally came! Excited is an understatement of what I was feeling. I just KNEW I was having a girl! I was going to name her Kaylin, but I had the name Camden for backup just in case the baby was a boy. My boyfriend and I picked up my 15-year-old sister from school so she could find out the sex of my baby with me. Finally, a part of my security blanket to celebrate with!
We were summoned from the waiting room. Millions of butterflies were swarming in my stomach. Would we be able to see distinct features on my baby’s face already? Would my child resemble me? Is my baby sucking their thumb?
I leaned back against the table and lifted my shirt to show the technician. She placed the wand on my stomach, and there was my baby’s head! Lovely and round, with a sweet little button nose. She moved down the baby’s body and became silent. Repeatedly moving the wand. The baby is being jiggled. I’m requesting that it move. My joy began to fade once more. She promised to return shortly. Panic. But I told myself that any baby of mine would be stubborn, just like me, so perhaps she couldn’t see the baby’s sex.
My nurse walked in and my doctor followed. Right as my doctor stepped in the room he said, ‘Things aren’t looking good. Things are looking really bad.’ I didn’t process his gentle tone properly and thought he was joking and was just going to say I have a very stubborn baby and we needed his assistance to figure out the sex.
‘Who are you?’ My doctor asked as he looked at my sister. She said she was my sister, and he asked her to step into the hallway. Heart stop.
I don’t remember my doctor’s exact words after that, but as he looked at my baby with the ultrasound he told us that they couldn’t find any arms or legs on the baby. I couldn’t hear anymore. My whole body was numb. I felt like I wasn’t even living. This was limbo. A cruel limbo.
As I lay there in a mental state of nonexistence, it hit. Like thousand tons of bricks right into my chest.
My baby doesn’t have arms or legs.
‘I want to see my sister!’ ‘I need her right now!’ My poor 15-year-old sister entered the room and saw my expression and the tears streaming down my cheeks. She was well aware of the situation. I couldn’t even find the words to explain what was wrong to her. She, on the other hand, held me and cried with me. Then my boyfriend said quietly, ‘The baby has no arms or legs.’ I’m not sure what my sister thought when she heard that, but she was my rock and my only source of comfort and safety during the worst time of my life.
My doctor informed us that an appointment with a specialist would be scheduled to confirm what they saw, or didn’t see, on the ultrasound. We were then escorted out of the back so that no one could see our anguish.
When we returned home, there was immediate discussion of abortion. My boyfriend begged and pleaded for me to have an abortion. ‘Having a baby like that would be cruel. He’s a beast!’ ‘When my father offered to pay for it early on, we should’ve gotten the abortion.’ ‘You are not allowed to have this baby, especially if it is a boy. That would be even more disastrous. He’d never be able to compete with me.’
If the specialist confirmed that the baby was missing limbs, I was eventually persuaded to have an abortion. That entire day, I held my belly and prayed to God that my baby was not stubborn and had simply balled up so tightly that seeing the arms and legs was impossible.
The next day, we went to see the specialist. My father and stepmother joined my boyfriend, his mother, grandmother, and me. In the waiting room, I rested my head on my father’s shoulder. I don’t remember a single word he said if he said anything at all, but I remember his warmth and love completely enveloping me like a protective shield. Only the best fathers have magical abilities.
My name had been called. Every step of the way to that room, I prayed that my baby had arms and legs. But that’s not what the expert said. My baby had no legs and only arms that reached the elbows. The specialist also stated that some or all of my baby’s organs could fail during pregnancy or shortly after. There was also no way to tell whether the brain was working properly. I’d essentially give birth to a vegetable. I didn’t want to know the sex because that’s what I agreed to do. But we told our parents in case we ever wanted to know.
My boyfriend exited the room to speak with his mother. I knew he knew when he returned. And the look on the baby’s face told me he was a boy.
‘Is it a boy, or a girl?’
Wow. I have a child.
I was told to schedule the appointment as soon as we got home from the appointment. I called a Jacksonville clinic and scheduled an appointment for the following Thursday. The next morning, I awoke to cry. Cries from the heart. I was in mourning, and it hurt more than I could have imagined. I could feel the darkness seeping into my soul. My baby not only has a severe birth defect, but I will never meet him. I’ll never know the sound of his cry, the softness of his skin, the smell of his hair, or whether he resembles me.
My boyfriend woke up from my cries. ‘No. You are NOT doing this! You aren’t going to cry like that! And you are getting an abortion anyways!’ He didn’t understand why I was crying, but he was right. I was getting an abortion. I started to distance myself from my baby. I didn’t need any emotional ties. It would only make things harder.
A couple days later, my dad asked if I would go on a beach trip with him and our family, to Jekyll Island, where he was having a business conference. A beach trip sounded nice, especially after the unbelievably heartbreaking past few days I had. My boyfriend didn’t want me to go. He didn’t want my dad to talk me out of the abortion. Part of me hoped my dad would. My boyfriend tried manipulating me into staying and said that if I went, then he would break up with me.
‘Who do you think will want to be with a single mom with a deformed baby?! No one!’ I thought about it for a second, but I was still going to have an abortion. That was the most fair thing I could do for my baby. It would be cruel for me to let him live a life as a vegetable for my own selfish wants.
I decided I was going to go anyways. I was throwing all of my belongings into a large black garbage bag and came across the card I gave my boyfriend for Father’s Day. ‘I can’t wait to meet you, Daddy!’ it read. He didn’t need that anymore. I left.
We arrived at the beach and my brother and I decided to go to the pool. We dipped into the hot tub where we met a nice couple. Come to find out, the wife was due with her baby boy right around the same time I was due. I decided to share about my son and that I scheduled an abortion. I don’t remember all that she said, but she told me she didn’t think I would have an abortion, just because of how I talk about my son. She could tell that I loved him very much. Her words got me thinking.
The weather was so nice and it was so beautiful at the beach. I wanted some time alone walking in the sand, feeling the water run beneath my feet, and smelling the air. During my walk I did something I hadn’t done in a few days. I rubbed my belly. He immediately began to move all around.
I started to pray. I needed peace with my decision to end my pregnancy. Ending my son’s life. But I had no peace. I hated everything. Myself. My boyfriend. The doctor. Existence. God. Why was this happening to me? Why was this happening to MY baby? Why? What’s the purpose? Why am I the one who has to live in a state of grievance for the rest of my life? Why couldn’t my baby just have all of his limbs and organs we KNEW would work so we could live a happy life? Why?
No peace. I got back to the hotel and saw on my phone that my boyfriend’s dad wanted to talk to my dad about paying for part of the abortion. I knew my dad would say no, but I let them call him anyways. My dad said no. He would not pay for something he doesn’t support.
We went back to my dad’s house the next day and my heart was in so much pain. The deepest and darkest pain I could ever imagine. My abortion was the next day.
Everyone left to go to a school event for one of my sisters. I was alone. I started crying and screaming, holding my belly tightly because I didn’t want to end the life I was carrying inside of me. My baby boy. Camden. I wanted him, but I didn’t want to be selfish. I screamed to my baby boy that I love him and I just wanted to do what was fair for him. I screamed to God asking for peace. I needed peace or I was going to die. My heart wasn’t able to bear the pain.
I expressed my feelings to my mother and cousin. They did nothing but listen. I’m not trying to persuade you in any way. I just needed someone to listen to my heart and be there for me, and that is exactly what they did. A switch was then flipped. What if I make the decision to be selfish? What if I simply missed the abortion appointment? What if I just wait and see what happens?
Then I’ll be able to meet my son. I’ll be able to keep him. Examine his odor. Feel his smooth skin. Hopefully, I’ll be lucky enough to hear him cry at least once. I can tell him how much I adore him and have always desired him. I’ll get to see if he resembles me.
I made the decision to keep my child. Peace. Sweet, warm tranquillity. The peace that only God can provide.
I went from crying tears of deepest and darkest sorrow to tears of greatest joy! I get to keep my baby, which I will cherish even if it is only for a second!
To get away, I went to my cousin’s house. My ex-boyfriend and his mother attempted to convince me to accompany them to Jacksonville for my abortion appointment. I’m not sure if I said no or ignored them. For the first time, I was at peace with my decision and wanted that entire family and their negative influence out of my life.
I left my cousin’s house and returned to my father’s house once I felt safe. My ex-boyfriend would call and beg me to have an abortion so that we could be together. He claimed he told everyone our baby had died so that everything would be fine and no one would know. I didn’t fall for his trickery.
When I was 24 weeks pregnant, I decided to relocate from Georgia to Texas to be closer to my mother, who could assist me in caring for my child. We didn’t know how much extra care he’d require, so it was best to have assistance from the start.
After I got settled in my new home, I chose who my new doctor would be and he set me up with an amazing perinatologist. My perinatologist assured me that my baby was perfectly healthy, he just happened to not have arms or legs.
Months passed. It was October 2nd, 2013, 2 weeks after my 19th birthday, and I was 38 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I went in for my weekly sonogram. As she was checking out my baby on the ultrasound, I noticed I had significantly less fluid than normal, so I mentioned it to her. She said I was right. My perinatologist made a call to my OB to see what he wanted to do. She came back into the room and said that today is the day I will meet my baby boy! I waited so long for this day to come and it was here! I was finally going to meet my son.
I was admitted to my room to wait for my c-section later that day. My mom, stepdad, and little sister were there. My amazing doula came to support me, and also my new friend whose 8-month-old son is just like mine. I was so far away from the rest of my family but still surrounded by people who love me and were genuinely excited to meet my baby.
5 p.m. came and the nurses started preparing me for surgery. That’s when I started getting nervous. My doctor was going to literally cut me open and pull a soul from my body.
I laid on the operating table and looked to my left. It was so bright from all of the lights and freezing cold. People were walking around in a hurry. I looked to my right and was greeted by kind eyes peeping over a mask. I don’t know who she was or what her job title was, but she made me feel safe. Then my mom came up behind my head and let me know she loves me. I was finally ready.
My doctor let me know he was getting started. I started panicking. I could feel everything he was doing. My epidural wasn’t strong enough. They upped my epidural and the lady with the kind eyes said she was giving me anxiety medication to calm me down. I felt better after that and my doctor continued on.
6:02 p.m. ‘Look up! Look at your baby!’ There he was. My baby boy. Camden. 4.8 pounds and 12.5 inches long.
I only caught a glimpse for a second, but that glimpse changed me on a level no one will ever understand. It changed my heart, my soul, my reason for living and breathing, my entire existence. My heart burst with a kind of love I didn’t know before, but somehow completely understood. It was the feeling I had been searching for all of my life. I knew I made the right choice. Love came out of my eyes in the form of tears. There was no holding it back.
The nurse brought my baby over to me wrapped in a blanket. I rubbed his little head with the back of my finger. He was as soft as I hoped he’d be. I kissed him on his cheek. Then he was taken away.
‘Your baby needs some help breathing, so he is being taken to the NICU.’ Words that no new mother wants to hear.
I was surrounded by people who loved me and cared for me, but I was alone. I didn’t have my baby. On the way to my room, the nurses were kind enough to push me through the NICU, a moment I can’t really remember. My sweet baby was hooked up to all kinds of machines, but he looked peaceful. I touched him to let him know I was there and that I love him, then I was wheeled away.
The next day after lunch, I was finally allowed to see my baby in the NICU. Camden was breathing on his own! The nurse laid him in my arms. I was finally whole. I took off his hat to rub and smell his fuzzy head. Then rested my face on his, hoping he would know I am his mommy and I love him with every cell in my body. He was so beautiful. Not a vegetable. Not a monster. Not deformed. Just my perfect boy.
I made the right choice.
I was able to take Camden home 2 days later. My nerves would often get the best of me and I would wonder if I was good enough for him. If I could help him learn, grow, and be all that he could be. But Camden quickly assured me I was doing my job right.
Over the past almost 6 years, I have watched him hit a toy with his arm for the first time at 2 months old, rollover at 4 months old, sit unassisted at a year old, color on his own, brush his teeth on his own, wash his face on his own, climb upstairs of a playground and slide all by himself. And WALK all on his own at 4 years old. All this I thought he would never be able to do!
2.5 years after Camden was born God blessed us with an incredible man that loves us wholeheartedly, even though we aren’t some people’s picture of perfect. He takes care of us, spoils us, and pushes us to be the best versions of ourselves like no one else can.
Today, Camden is a wild and spunky almost 6-year-old boy with enough perseverance and attitude to do anything he puts his mind to. He is also a loving big brother to 1 brother and 3 sisters that he takes care of and bosses around every single day.
Camden has changed my life in the best ways possible. He has shown me my strength through his. He has shown me that love can get you through any obstacle. He taught me that I have a voice, that it is LOUD and HEARD and I can use it to help others. He taught me to never give up, even if I feel like I can’t push on anymore. And most importantly, he has shown me that prayer DOES work and that God has a great plan for our lives, even if it’s not what we thought it would be.”