April 24th is a day we hope to remember in our family. That is the day my wife had a D&C.
We had gone for a routine checkup the week before. She was about 10 weeks pregnant, and so far the pregnancy had been uneventful, relatively easy even. But all that changed with the ultrasound, for no heartbeat was detected.
The doctor said it appeared the baby had stopped growing at about eight weeks. A D&C was scheduled right away, and with a few sniffles between us we went back home.
The child is gone now. I never got to hold it, never even saw him/her.
It’s easy to rationalize away this loss as just that of an embryo, a thing that was not quite human yet. But it certainly had the potential to be a human. And what is a human anyway? Our other child has just turned four. Is he a human now? Has he been a human since birth? If birth is what makes us human, what magic happened four years ago that changed him from not fully human to fully human? Was it leaving his mother’s body? But wasn’t he just as alive while he was in her womb as when he got stuck in her birth canal, and the doctors had to deliver him via a c-section?
I certainly don’t know the answers to any of these questions. A materialist might say that an embryo is not a child until it gets to a certain point of development, or maybe not even until birth. A theologian may counter that life begins at conception, and that even a fertilized egg has a unique human soul, and is sacred to God.
We choose to believe that a human soul was deprived, for whatever reason, of the opportunity of experiencing life here on earth. We named him/her Angel. We intend to remember this “child that never was” every spring, but only time will tell whether we will do that or not. Already, with just the passage of a few months, he/she is becoming a vague memory of sadness that it is all too convenient to forget.
We haven’t included Angel in our nightly prayers for months now. I hope I remember to do so tonight.