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A Mother's Choice: Her Baby or Herself

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Ronda Kaysen: When one mother discovered, at 24 weeks pregnant, that she had a malignant brain tumor, she was faced with an unthinkable choice: treat her cancer and lose the baby, or wait until the baby could live on her own and risk her own life.

distraught mom

In a stunning act of devotion to her baby, she chose to delay treatment until she knew the baby was strong enough to live outside the womb. A recent Los Angeles Times essay recounts her harrowing tale.

Doctors told the mother, a young Indian woman in her 20s, that if she didn't treat the aggressive tumor immediately, she would likely die. But the fetus would probably not survive treatment. She decided to delay treatment and slipped into a coma within days.

"To our astonishment -- and joy -- the comatose woman 'hung in' until the 28th week," writes Linda Reid Chassiakos, a pediatrician who was involved in the case. "At that point, an ultrasound showed the fetus was probably over the 2-pound mark, and her doctors scheduled the caesarean. Gasping for air, the child was born at a size and weight that would give her a fighting chance of life."

The mother's surgery followed, and doctors removed enough of the tumor so she could regain consciousness and meet her tiny daughter. Although the baby developed lung and gastrointestinal infections, her long-term prognosis was good. The mother, however, was not so lucky. Two weeks before her little girl was released from the hospital, her mother died.

This story just about broke my heart. What a horrible choice to have to make. If I were given the same choice, I think my survival instinct would kick in and I'd opt for treatment. After all, I'd want my child to grow up with a mother. I'm truly amazed by this woman's act of bravery.

Moms, what would you do if you had to make a choice like this?


next: Where to Find Free Emotional Support
48 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gail  May 19, 2009, 6:36 AM

She bravely did the right thing and now the child has a chance to live and the mom is happy in a better place.

T May 19, 2009, 8:32 AM

Who are we to judge what is right or wrong in making such a decision? You don’t know what you would think or do until you are in that situation. She did what she felt was right. Maybe she had tried years to have a child and didn’t want to let go of the miracle? As mother’s we make sacrifices no matter the consequences sometimes. Her little girl will grow up knowing her mother gave her life so that she may have a chance to live. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

L.jaysMuM May 19, 2009, 8:36 AM

I don’t know what I would do if that was me. But I think I would take the treatment. I can’t imagine leaving my child in this world without his mom here to protect him.But it is a very brave story.I hope this child has the best up bringing that a child can ask for.

Lyn May 19, 2009, 9:00 AM

The mothers’ act was unselfish and I would have done the same if it was my unborn child.

CK1 May 19, 2009, 9:13 AM

She did the unselfish thing…She saved a life. There is no doubt that this baby will have many people in her life that will love her. Can you imagine how much respect and love she will have for her mother that gave up her own life so that she could live. As a mother, one of my main goals is to protect my children. She made the ultimate sacrifice to do so. She was a beautiful person. One day her and her daughter will meet again in heaven. What a wonderful day that will be.
I know if I were in the same situation I would choose to be unselfish, too. I have lived my life to the fullest and would want my baby to have a chance at life. I could not live with myself if I knew I chose my own life over my babies. I created her therefore I am responsible for her.

Amber May 19, 2009, 9:16 AM

I have a spinal tumor and found out when I was pregnant at 20 weeks with my first baby. I was told if they didnt start me on some kind of treatment that more than likely I will be paralyzed before i gave birth and they kept telling me that i need to seek treatment and let the baby be born early even though it wouldnt make it. Well needless to say im here 16 months later and so is my beautiful healthy baby boy.Now I am currently doing treatment and just had surgery.So far so good.Prayers and faith and love are best medicine.

CK1 May 19, 2009, 9:27 AM

To Amber: May God bless you and protect you. To other mom’s: Doctors aren’t ALWAYS right. I was told that my daughter would be mentally challenged and deformed by an incompetant doctor. He told me I needed to abort my baby. He was a liar and my daughter is 15 now and an honor roll student. She is not mentally challenged nor deformed. Doctor’s don’t know everything. There are more advanced treatments these days to help women in crisis pregnancy situations. My sister-in-law was told to abort her baby because they found that the baby had spinabifida. My sister-in-law, heartbroken, did some research and found that in Tennessee she could have surgery done on the baby in the womb. She now has a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed daughter that walks because of the surgery. She is 8 years old and goes to public school just like her friends. Always find out ALL of your options… trust God to give you the answers.

Amy May 19, 2009, 9:35 AM

What a beautiful story about unselfish love in a day when most people only seems to be looking out for themselves. It would be very easy not in the situation to say that I would choose the life of the baby, I only hope that I would be strong enough to be so unselfish. May God bless her baby and angels watch over her.

Sharon May 19, 2009, 9:53 AM

This is one of the situations I def. wouldn’t judge. I personally am not big on medical treatment, and especially when re: a brain tumor I thought I would do the same as this woman. I’ve thought before about what-if, because I have 4 children and would it be selfish to not seek treatment for myself? (some situations I would say def. yes). If my children were all adults I really doubt I would do anything, especially if not much hope/chance. Next year my children will be a college soph, a HS senior, HS soph, and 6th grader and I’d have to weigh it and make a personal opinion based on all things (and I’d discuss it with my husband as well).
There isn’t much information here, but since she was young, it may have been her first pregnancy also. Some people will not have an abortion no matter the reason and would not risk an “interruption” as they called it with my 2nd child…this is actually why I wish abortion on demand was done away with, but that abortion should be treated as a medical procedure, which it is, but people don’t act like it is?!

Allison May 19, 2009, 9:58 AM

Oh my gosh, what an example of the mother instinct. I however would have chosen to treat myself. A dead mother won’t help the baby grow and all the family in the world won’t replace a mother. This is why a woman’s ability to choose is a right we must never loose.

Sharon May 19, 2009, 10:05 AM

I just wanted to say good job, and good posts to Amber and CK1! I know someone who’s grandchild was operated on in-utero. And doctor’s do NOT know everything, and any that don’t admit that I would run from! There are differences in different people, situations, ability, and equipment…
Everyone should always find out as much as they can about anything that is going on with them, and make a decisions they are comfortable with. It amazes me how many people I know who will tell me they are having surgery and won’t really know the details, etc. ????!
I think this should go both ways, in ‘getting help’ or ‘refusing help’.

CK1 May 19, 2009, 10:13 AM

A medical procedure, Sharon? It is a hanus surgery that results in the death of a child. Let me describe the “medical procedure”: The abortionist enters the uterus with a sharp instrument. He first cuts off the arms of the child, then the legs, the skull is crushed, and then the dismembered, now deceased child is removed from the mother. Can you imagine, at 24 weeks, what that would have looked like to this mother? No doubt it something you cannot live with if you have any conscience. Women do not want to have abortions…it is not a choice but a coercian. They feel they have no choice for many reasons: their financial situation, pressure from society, boyfriend, husband, family. The truth is if they felt they really had an option they would not abort their child. It is a selfish thing (mostly uninformed) to do and the result is death for a child. I hope that women will truly do some research on abortion if ever in this situation. Be informed: it is your body and the body of your child. An abortion clinic is just that, A CLINIC. They are not equipped to help you if the surgery goes wrong and you need emergency medical assistance. They should be outlawed for that reason. Women have been maimed and died from having an abortion. Get the facts on your own…not from an abortion clinic. Look up Post Abortion Syndrome…it is frightening. Planned Parenthood reported making 1.4 billion dollars last year. Planned Parenthood is top in the business for abortions. The truth about abortion won’t come from them.
Thank God the mother in the story did not choose this “medical procedure” for her daughter. As I said she made an unselfish decision to protect her child and give her life. Amen to that!

Marcee May 19, 2009, 10:48 AM

Coming from someone who had stuggled with infertility issues, I think I might have made the same choice this poor women did. Without knowing more of the back story, there is no garantee that she would have been able to have more children.

Sara  May 19, 2009, 11:32 AM

I would choose my life to live and get treated for the brain tumor, you can always try to have another baby. Why would you let the baby live without a mother. A newborn baby needs their mother by there side especially if the baby has no father.

jenny May 19, 2009, 11:41 AM

I would have done the same thing. I would jump in front of a bus to save my child. Some people dont feel that until the baby is born its life is not worth as much but I loved my child the moment I found out I was pregnant.I would do anything so my child has a chance at life.

CK1 May 19, 2009, 12:19 PM

You cannot FULLY understand the capacity of what this mother did for her beautiful daughter unless you have children yourself. A mother’s instinct is to protect and love her child. That is what she did. GOD BLESS HER AND HER DAUGHTER!

autumn May 19, 2009, 12:42 PM

I cannot speak for her in regards to this situation. Her choice was her’s to make. No one elses… God bless her and her baby!

Luanna May 19, 2009, 1:16 PM

My husband and I had this discussion before the birth of our 3 child. We had decided to save me if it came to this. He doesn’t have a family and he didn’t think he could raise all of our children on his own. Luckily, we are both fine. It is a very hard decision and each individual has to decide what is best for them and their family no matter what others may think. I am so sorry for the husbands loss and I hope the baby helps him heal!

rhiannon cowan May 19, 2009, 1:42 PM

i would have done the same exact thing i have 5 children and recently was told that i had a blighted ovum had no signs of miscarriage told the doctors i will miscarry naturally instead of the pills or dnc i wanted a for sure sign first. and right before i decided to do the pills because i did not want infection i asked god for a sign that there is no more baby went to the bathroom and there was blood so i had confirmation. that woman was a good person she did what anyone with a big heart would have done

Rach May 19, 2009, 1:42 PM

I agree with littlepeapie, sacrifice me for my boys anyday! this poor woman what a truly brave choice! that little girl will grow up knowing how much her Mummy loved her and will be so proud! plus she has her fathers love and hopefully family too!…what an inspiring story!


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