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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
Sarah P. May 19, 2009, 3:01 PM

I commend this young woman’s devotion & bravery. As a 43 year old mother of 4 & grandmother of 2, who has poor health: I would also make the same decision. Nothing in this world is more important to me than my children. And, if that means giving up my own life, so that they may live: Then, I put it in God’s hands & trust that He will watch over them for me.

Melissa May 19, 2009, 3:18 PM

This happened to a family friend 21 years ago. She was only 22 and choose to give up her life for her unborn son. He was born healthy, and she died soon after. I have never forgotten her sacrifice and love. I would do the same for my baby.

I don’t understand you who say that a child is better off dead then to not have a mother???

aerialla May 19, 2009, 7:51 PM

Due to heart problems I am not allowed to have any more children (we have 2) my husband and I made the decision together that if I ever would get pregnant we would abort rather than risk my husband having to raise our small children on his own. I am on birth control and he has has a vasectomy but we know someone who got pregnant even though her husband was “fixed”. We made a choice together that my life for my family is more important. Some might call that a selfish thing, I call that making sure my daughters don’t grow up without me. I am glad that I have the choice as a woman to abort a child no matter how heinous some may consider the act.

Lori May 19, 2009, 8:15 PM

What a great sacrifice and one that every mother should be willing to make. I would have done the same thing. At least her husband has a part of her in his daughter. She probably made it straight to heaven for such a selfless act.

Kele May 20, 2009, 4:33 AM

we are all alive today because our parents didnt choose abortion but lifes for us. that was the choices they had to make. situations were tough in some of our upbridngings but we made it through and here we are old and making other tough choices in our own lives.

she had a situation and only her and god knew the way forward. i respect her and may her soul rest in peace.

given the same situation, my daughter’s life comes first and the pain of losing a child knowing that you are the only person who would have saved her is unbearable. of course you can never replace a mother but you can always survive and yes you can never replace a child but you can always have another different child.

decisions like this are the ulitamate tests in our humanhood. i would have probably done the same.

me May 24, 2009, 9:21 PM

There is no guarantee even if she lived that she could have another baby. This child I assume has a father and other family (grandparents) who will love and nurture her. If not, there are so many adoptive families out there that I’m sure would be happy to raise her.

mercy salami June 1, 2009, 6:25 AM

She made the right choice cos chances were she would have died in the process even if she had not chosen to save the baby.

Leslie June 24, 2009, 2:31 AM

I would choose my own life in this situation. I would want my child to grow up with a mother. To be blunt, Dh and I could try for a baby again, but my baby couldn’t try for a mom again… if that makes any sense.

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