My soul carries a new scar. The pain is fresh and keen, and I know that while time might see the pain fade, I will never fully recover from what I've seen, and done. For I have failed, intentionally and knowingly, in the first duty of a parent: protecting the lives of two of my children.
My wife and I wanted children; alas, we needed IVF treatment to realize this dream. Several cycles and multiple embryo implantations later, we welcomed our blessing from G-d, who is the light of our lives.
Recently, we tried for another.
"It never rains, but it pours," said the fertility doctor -- of the three embryos that were implanted, all three took. We were faced with the news of triplets. I was shocked, knowing the burden that would entail, but since G-d gave us three, I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do to help, manage, and provide.
My wife? Something snapped. She insisted that we do a "selective reduction" from three to one, or else she would have a full abortion. She was adamant. She would not carry three. She would not carry two.
I was presented with a Coventry-esque decision: save one, or save none. I chose the former, though I tried on several occasions to convince her to at least keep twins. I failed.
We were told, point-blank, by the doctor who would do the procedure that they would inject potassium chloride into the placenta to stop the hearts. We were told, point-blank, that it was painless. Even then, I knew I was being lied to, but given the choice presented, I agreed anyway. My mantra became "Save one, or save none."
Before the procedure, my wife's eyes teared up; she asked the doctor over and over if they would feel pain, and was assured they would not. I asked again if my wife was sure about this because once done, it could not be undone. She said she was sure, but her tears and her looking away from the screen, deliberately, and her wanting me to not look either, told me the truth: she knew as well that this was wrong. I wanted to insist that she look, but I think that her mind -- already fractured by the news of triplets -- would have snapped permanently had she seen the images onscreen. And to save the one, and for the sake of the one we already had, I needed my wife sane.
My wife didn't look, but I had to. I had to know what would happen to my children. I had to know how they would die.
Each retreated, pushing away, as the needle entered the amniotic sac. They did not inject into the placenta, but directly into each child's torso. Each one crumpled as the needle pierced the body. I saw the heart stop in the first, and mine almost did, too. The other's heart fought, but ten minutes later they looked again, and it too had ceased.
The doctors had the gall to call the potassium chloride, the chemical that stopped children's hearts, "medicine." I wanted to ask what they were trying cure -- life? But bitter words would not undo what had happened. I swallowed anything I might have said.
I know they felt pain. I know they felt panic. And I know this was murder. I take cold comfort in knowing that as far as we can tell, the survivor is still fine, and in knowing that this decision did not come from me; I would have taken the chance on triplets, even with all the work and effort it would have required. I pray that this one child will come to term, will be born into this world alive and healthy, and I know he or she will have all our love.
But that emotional scar will ache my whole life. I see my child's smile every night and anticipate a new one in some months...but I think of the two smiles I will never see. Every day, returning from work, I hear "Hi Daddy!" and know there are two voices and two giggles that I will never hear. I play with and cuddle my child, looking forward to the same with the second...but I know there are two sets of hands that will never touch mine, two sets of toes that will never be counted, two hugs that will forever be absent from my arms.
I pray to G-d every day to take those two innocents to Him, to welcome them, and I ask them every day for forgiveness. As I will every day for the rest of my life. I don't know what accommodation my wife will make mentally and spiritually. That is her business, and a burden her conscience must bear.
But let nobody fool you. It is not painless for the child, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Abortion is not an excision of a featureless bunch of cells; it is infanticide. We have revived the practice of child sacrifice to the new deities of casual sex and convenience. We rationalize the reality of murder by altering our perspective of the nascent life through euphemisms like "fetus" or descriptions of "a clump of cells"...just like the Nazis convinced themselves that the people screaming as they were shot or gassed were "Untermenchen," subhuman, and therefore guiltlessly exterminated.
This is how every perpetrator of genocide has always rationalized his or her actions. By doing likewise, we condemn our own souls
I wept in joy, a few years ago, when I saw my first child's heartbeat on the screen. And I weep in agony now at the memory of two of my children's heartbeats being stilled. "Save one, or save none" has been eclipsed by "Out, out, damned spot!" as I wonder how I can redeem myself.
If, by baring this scar for others to see, I can prevent an abortion, perhaps that will help to balance the scales for when I face G-d's justice and I finally meet those two children -- who I hope will forgive me for my failure.
The author's name has been withheld by request.
"We the People
"...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...”
-- Abraham Lincoln