i went down to the capital today and spoke to the committee hearing HB 954. it was the first time i spoke publicly about jedidiah and it was both incredibly hard and incredibly healing- just being able to share his story.
i was the last to speak and had to cut john just a little short on a nursing session when they called my name. i was SO ultra nervous, but the chairman was really understanding and kind- he even commiserated with me when john spit-up ALL over my pants during my testimony.
i wanted to share my notes on my talk. i did expound on a few points- mainly in answer to some of the previous speakers- but here are the nuts and bolts of it...
My name is Elizabeth Arendale and I am Jedidiah’s mom. Two years ago my husband and I conceived Jedidiah. When I was 19 weeks along we learned via ultrasound that our son had many many markers that indicated he had trisomy13- a diagnosis that we were told does not support life. During the same hour that our dreams were dashed we were also counseled to terminate our son’s life- since he was going to die anyway.
I immediately began surrounding myself with my support system- the friends, family, and strangers even who were to help me carry this impossible load. I started a blog to keep my friends and family up to date. At one point Jedidiah’s blog was getting 75,000 visitors a week. People as far as China, India, Russia, Australia, Holland, Lithuania, Brazil and many other places were logging in to follow our story. I like to think these visitors fell to the contagion of hope. Parents who dared to hope. Parents who dared to love in the face of death. They sent us many notes of encouragement and they offered up many prayers for our intentions.
Jedidiah defied the odds and was born eight days after his due date on November 5th 2010 at Emory University Hospital right up the road in midtown. We knew he was a fighter when he survived the first night, and the next night, and the next. The following Monday he was released and we joyfully took him home. His siblings loved him deeply. They took turns holding him. And true to siblings gave him a nickname- calling him Jedi and Jedi Joe. They got a chance to meet their brother. To love him. They also witnessed their father and I unconditionally loving Jedidiah despite inconvenience and sorrow. This is the gift Jedidiah gave to us and continues to give us.
For 13 days and 4 hours we got to hold him and love him. Early November 18th he passed away peacefully in the same bed he was conceived in- my husband and I holding him and whispering words of love to him. Not many people can say they were surrounded by love from birth to death. At his funeral that Friday there were so many people - so many who came to hold us up.
Looking back to that day in the ultrasound room I am so thankful I didn’t heed the advice of the perinatologist. While at that time an abortion seemed like an easy way out it I knew instinctively it would have given me a lot more pain than joy. It would have given me a secret pain that I wouldn’t have been able to gather support for. My family and I pray for mothers in the situation we faced- Mothers who are scared and confused. Mothers who want to say yes but feel like they can’t- that it’s not an option. Once during one of these prayers, Jedi’s big brother, my 8 year old son said “if they say no they would just have the sadness and not have the good times.” And that is true. I now believe the easier way out is letting nature take charge. We have a grave to take our tears to. My son has a place of rest- fitting for a Jedi. An abortion would have taken that- and much much more away from me, and it would have claimed to be the easier way out.
and i had this thought on my drive home- too late- but i need to write it down here so i don't forget.
i have heard stories from older mothers- mothers who have a stillborn child. they mourned the loss of their baby, but added to the grief were the actions of the doctors and nurses- how they whisked the baby away thinking that it would be easier on the mom if she didn't see her own baby. they made this decision for the mom- thinking of her best interest. the medical world has only found out within the past few decades that mothers have an easier time of grief if they are allowed to hold and be with their babies.
i can't help but think how in the future we will look back on these years and think "i can't believe we used to think that abortion would be an easier option, a way to bypass the heftiest part of grief."