By: Kadie Tannehill
I never knew how much one, single date in time could change the course of entire lifetime.
May 16th, 2015 is that date for me, and something I naively thought I would never experience—it’s the day that we said hello and goodbye to our son, Jonah, in the same breath.
You see, we had learned during our anatomy scan, and after a weeks’ worth of various tests, ultrasounds, and numerous doctors, that our son was diagnosed with multiple fatal fetal anomalies. We had two choices we could make for our extremely sick baby: we could see how long he would be able to survive inside my body that was ultimately just keeping him alive like a machine, or we could end our baby’s suffering on our own terms.
I can honestly say that continuing my pregnancy felt like false hope and it would’ve been for my own selfish reasons. We knew our son, if he survived, and it was a gigantic if, that he would need around the clock care, with surgery after surgery. He would never walk, or talk, or run and play, like a kid should be able to. He would have been born onto life support—Jonah would’ve been born, just to die.
I couldn’t fathom the idea of forcing a baby, that would never be able to have a full quality of life like the living son we already had, to live a life of endless, painful medical intervention until whenever their life ended.
The choice that my baby would die, was already made for me; but I got to choose when and how it would happen. As my baby’s mother, entrusted with making the best medical decision I could for him, I chose for it to be as quick as possible so he wouldn’t suffer a day, a minute, or even a second with unbearable pain.
I don’t tell you my story to have pity placed upon me or for others to agree with my decision. I tell my story, Jonah’s story, so that others know they aren’t alone in their choices for their sick babies. There’s a whole community of other parents who have made the same choice as me; to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons. I want them to know they are not alone.
Our community, though quiet, still sits alongside you at numerous Share grief support meetings we attend; we are you. We are mothers and parents of loss. We are your friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
We ARE the loss community and we are all in this journey of grief together, whatever we chose for our babies.
There IS hope, and that hope is different for all of us. There’s hope to have a healthy pregnancy and baby to bring home. There is hope to be able to grieve and heal through this extremely traumatic life event. There is hope to be at peace with the possibility that we may not go on to ever have a non-fatally diagnosed baby. Our grief changes as time and the seasons do, but the amount of love we have for our babies, that never fades.
In fact, in my life, that love has multiplied and become so much more profound. The point is, hope is there and a whole lot of healing too, but it’s us that gets to decide the path it takes. It’s terrifying, but it can be empowering if we let it, and so full of that profound love.
I get told that my boys, especially Jonah, are so lucky to have me as their mother. People look at me and see me with three living children. What they don’t see though, is this giant chapter of my life that is, and will always be, missing. My boys have all taught me enormously different things in my journey of motherhood.
While Jonah’s life was very short, his life was meaningful, and has filled my life with gratefulness. He taught me more than I could have ever learned in a lifetime of loving him here on earth, with us.
Jonah taught me grace; he taught me trust. Though, I can’t help feeling the greatest gift he taught me, was how to grab onto all the hope I had, and in the process, to love more fiercely and unapologetically. I’m so fortunate that Jonah chose me as his mother. Our family has learned so much from him, about him, and about the world we live. We can only hope he, too, feels the same way about us.
About Kadie Tannehill
Kadie Tannehill is a wife, mother, and advocate. She has been married to her husband, Justin, since 2010, and they have four children; Jude, Jonah, Nolan, and Arlo. After the loss of their second child in 2015, Kadie and Justin have devoted most of their free time to advocacy work and community outreach. Kadie spends most of her time caring for their three living children and serving her community as a Certified Lactation Counselor, while Justin is a Journeyman Wireman for IBEW Local One. As a family, they enjoy spending time at their lake property, or watching movies together.
These are controversial topics and many that people don’t realize other families face.
Share’s mission is to support those whose lives are touched by the tragic death of a baby through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or in the first few months of life. Share does not take a political stand on these issues. Share is not responsible for guiding or counseling families in their decision-making process. We all grieve and mourn for our babies. Some of our parents have had to choose the day that they were going to lose their baby. But the truth is still: each family wanted and love their babies. We all search for support, healing and hope. All grieving parents deserve that.
As a support organization it is always our goal to provide a safe and compassionate place for every family who has suffered the great loss of their baby.
We hope this conversation allows for continued healing and an understanding from others of the great need for long-term support for every family making difficult decisions. If you are in need of support after making the decision to terminate for medical reasons, please reach out to our Bereavement Care Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-821-6819.