‘Pregnant at 18, my abortion was the next day. A flip switched.’: Mom raises son with missing limbs despite abusive partner’s pressure to terminate pregnancy

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“Finding out you’re pregnant at 18 is hard. You’re so young, unsettled, and no where near financially stable. But to find out the baby you’ve been carrying in your belly for the past 4.5 months never grew their arms below the elbows or any legs at all? Earth shattering.

Thanks to my intense pregnancy symptoms, I knew I was pregnant a week before my missed period. When I was three days late, I finally took a test. I sat on the toilet in my boyfriend’s grandparent’s mobile home in South Georgia and just stared at the test in a mix of emotions.

Since I was a little girl, my biggest dream was to be a mom. In this fond memory, I remember laying out all of my baby dolls, 16 to be exact, and giving them all names and cuddling them. There was nothing more I wanted than a lot of babies to love on.

As I stared at the two lines, my heart began to swell with joy. Then fear rapidly hit, completely consuming what should’ve been the happiest moment in my life. I knew what kind of relationship I was in. Abusive and unfaithful. ‘Maybe this will make him truly love me and want only me. And he can’t hit me or push me while I’m pregnant,’ I thought. My joy started to seep back in.

Such a naive girl I was.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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 that 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 that 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 back up just in case 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 called back from the waiting room. Butterflies were flocking by the millions in my tummy. Would we already be able to see distinct features on my baby’s face? Would my baby look like me? Would my baby be sucking their thumb?

I leaned back on the table and lifted my shirt for the tech. She put the wand on my belly and there was my baby’s head! Beautiful and round with a cute little button nose. She moved down the baby’s body and grew quiet. Moving the wand over and over. Jiggling the baby. Asking it to move. My joy started dissipating again. She said she would be right back. Panic. But I told myself that any baby of mine will be stubborn, just like me, so maybe she just couldn’t see the sex of the baby.

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 that she’s my sister, and he asked her to step in the hallway. Heart stop.

I don’t remember my doctors 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 my 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 laid there in a mental state of nonexistence, it hit. Like a thousand ton of bricks right into my chest.

My baby doesn’t have arms or legs.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

‘I want my sister! I want her right now!’ My poor 15-year-old sister came into the room and saw the look on my face and the tears pouring from my eyes. She knew it was bad. I couldn’t even find the words to tell her what was wrong. But she held me and cried with me. Then my boyfriend whispered, ‘The baby doesn’t have arms or legs.’ I don’t know what my sister thought when she heard that, but she was my rock and my only sense of comfort and safety in the most horrible moment of my life.

My doctor told us they would schedule an appointment with a specialist to confirm what they saw, or… didn’t see, on the ultrasound. We were then escorted out of the back so no one had to see our pain.

When we got home there was immediate talk of abortion. My boyfriend pleaded and begged for me to get an abortion. ‘It would be cruel to have a baby like that. He’s a monster!’ ‘We should’ve gotten the abortion when my dad offered to pay for it early on.’ ‘You can’t have this baby, ESPECIALLY if it’s a boy. That would be even worse. He would never be able to be like me.’

I was ultimately persuaded to have an abortion if the specialist confirmed the baby was missing limbs. That whole day, I held my belly and prayed to God my baby was in fact stubborn and just balled up so tight that seeing the arms and legs was impossible at that time.

We went to the specialist the next day. My dad and step mom joined my boyfriend, his mother, grandmother, and myself. I laid on my daddy’s shoulder in the waiting room. I don’t remember a single word he said or if he said any words at all, but I still remember his warmth and love completely surrounding me like a shield of protection. Magical powers that only the best daddies have.

My name was called.

I prayed every step of the way to that room that my baby had arms and legs. But that’s not what the specialist told me. My baby didn’t have any legs at all and only arms down to the elbows. The specialist also said that during pregnancy, or shortly after, some or all of my baby’s organs could fail. There was also no way to tell if the brain was functioning properly. I would basically give birth to a vegetable. And since termination was what I agreed to do, I didn’t want to know the sex. But we let our parents find out just in case we ever wanted to know.

My boyfriend stepped out of the room to talk to his mom. When he came back, I knew he knew. And I knew the baby was a boy just by the look on his face.

‘It’s a boy isn’t it?’

‘Yes.’

Wow. I have a son.

When we got home from the appointment, I was told to schedule the appointment immediately. I called a clinic in Jacksonville and set my appointment for the next Thursday. I woke up the next morning crying. Just gut wrenching cries. I was mourning and it hurt more than anything I could ever imagine. I could just feel the darkness creeping into my soul. Not only does my baby have a severe birth defect, but I will never meet him. I’ll never know the sound of his cry, the soft touch of his skin, the smell of his head, or if he looks like me.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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 that 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’s 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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

I talked to my mom and my cousin and told them how I felt. They only listened. Not trying to persuade me either way. I just needed someone to be there for me and hear my heart, and that is exactly what they did. Then a flip switched. What if I did decide to be selfish? What if I just skipped the abortion appointment? What if I just see what happens?

Yes.

Then I will get to meet my son. I will be able to hold him. Smell him. Touch his soft skin. Hopefully be blessed enough to hear him cry once, at least. I can tell him how much I love him and always wanted him. I’ll get to see if he looks like me.

I decided to keep my baby. Peace. Sweet, warm peace. The peace that only God can give you.

I went from crying tears of the deepest and darkest sorrows to crying tears of the brightest joy! I get to keep my baby and I will cherish it even if it’s for only a second!

I went to my cousins house to get away. My ex boyfriend and his mom tried getting me to go with them to Jacksonville for my abortion appointment. I don’t remember if I said no or ignored them. I was at peace with my choice for once and wanted that whole family and their negative influence out of my life.

After I felt safe, I left my cousin’s house and went back to stay with my dad. My ex boyfriend would call and beg me to get the abortion so we could be together. He said he told everyone our baby had died, so it would be okay and no one would know. I didn’t fall for his manipulation.

When I was 24 weeks pregnant, I decided to move from Georgia to Texas to be with my mom so she could help me take care of my baby. We didn’t know how much extra care he would need, so it was best to have help from the start.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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, step dad, and little sister were there. My amazing doula came to support me, and also my new friend who’s 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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

Over the past almost 6 years, I have watched him hit a toy with his arm for the first time at 2 months old, roll over 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 up stairs 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!

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon
Courtesy of Katie Whiddon
Courtesy of Katie Whiddon
Courtesy of Katie Whiddon
Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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.

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon
Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

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 any more. 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.”

Courtesy of Katie Whiddon

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Whiddon of Admirably Diverse. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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