Experiencing Joy and Sorrow During a High-Risk Pregnancy

Back in 2015, in a single moment, our world was turned upside down. Our first son, Abel Paul, was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 in the first trimester of our high-risk pregnancy. Everything we had mentally envisioned and emotionally longed for had suddenly shifted with the news that our boy’s earthly life would likely be much shorter than any parent would hope for. With the weight of that reality came two competing approaches as to how someone in our shoes ought to proceed.

The first approach was from the original doctor who confirmed Abel’s condition and said something along these lines: “If it’s indeed true that we’re going to lose this baby at some point, why torture ourselves by dragging out the inevitable? Wouldn’t it be best and easiest for all parties to end this pregnancy now and try again?”

While I can understand and truly empathize with this approach, I believe that it is built upon a premise that joy and sorrow are incompatible emotions… as incompatible as life and death. But as we reflected, it occurred to us that this was a flawed premise that we were not convinced of, and we decided that our experience with Abel would fall under a second approach.

As simply as I can put it, I think the human experience would tell us that joy and sorrow are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, I think we consistently find that they are tied at the hip, and that life is an ever-swirling blend of joy and sorrow, highs and lows, good and bad, peace and conflict and love and loss.

Furthermore, as we give our hearts fully to something or someone, this greater depth of love does in fact bring about greater levels of potential pain. This is, after all, why it’s hardest to lose the ones we love the most. We also recognized that in any other intimate human relationship where a life-limiting diagnosis is discovered, our reactions fall very much into this second camp.

If a loved one received a terminal condition and was given nine months to live, I can’t comprehend applying the first approach to that situation: “Why drag out the inevitable? Wouldn’t it be easier and less painful to end their life today?” Far from it, we would do whatever we could to make the absolute most of however much time remains.

And if/when premature death should take place, as hard as it will be, the sorrow that stems from these losses never negates or replaces the joy we shared and experienced with those loved ones. This is the approach we would take with one of our parents, and this is the approach we desired to take with our children.

In the end, we had nine months in utero and 15 days outside the womb with Abel Paul Crawford. Without question, 2015-16 was simultaneously the hardest and sweetest season of our lives to this point.

Abel’s legacy reminds us on a daily basis that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive, and that in fact, with greater depths of one often comes greater depths of the other. We certainly grieve the brevity of the time we shared here with Abel, but we have never once contemplated going back in time and writing him out of our story.

Though his earthly life was short, Abel’s life changed ours forever — and for that we are eternally grateful.

Kelly & Daniel Crawford operate ABEL SPEAKS, a DFW-based nonprofit that exists to support families who have chosen to carry a child with a life-limiting diagnosis. Their vision is that every family would cherish their child’s life and have hope in the midst of sorrow. They are former patients of Dr. Kevin Magee and the Fetal Care Center of Dallas.

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