out of love

The story of Madelief

This blog is a personal gift from me to you. There’s no need to feel sad for me, your sadness is part of your story. You also don’t have to comfort me. If you feel the need, please comfort yourself first. By doing so, the story of Madelief can transform to an extraordinary experience in the first Fordbidden Conversation, about ending and death at May 27th.

The story of Madelief

The most unnatural ending there is must be the premature end of a pregnancy. Life wants to be passed on, not interrupted. Taking a pill to end a life goes against everything that makes sense to me, yet I did it; I ended a life. This is the story of Madelief:

‘You will need to make a decision,’ said the gynecologist ‘do you want this life to start or will you terminate the pregnancy?’ The four other medical specialists around my bed had serious faces and nodded, enforcing the gravity of the message. To them, the super cool part of their profession had ended: the rare condition was properly diagnosed. Now they switched to the empathetic, human part.  They couldn’t give any prognosis, but it was serious enough to ask us if we wanted to go through with this pregnancy. They would not advise us.

To be honest, it took me a while to be willing to face it. It took two sleepless nights, in which I ordered an unknown god to undo this tragedy and two full  days in which I read hundreds of stories online about miracle healings. Only then was I ready, only then could I face the question.

Facing it was so frightening because it meant that my husband and I had to dare to include all possible answers. There were only two: go through with or not. Both choices had completely different irreversible outcomes with  no middle ground.

Once I could face it, surrendered to it in a way, the question transformed. It went from, `what do we decide?’ to ‘make a decision that we wouldn’t regret later, whatever the choice may be’ On what basis could we decide? Which narratives could we use to choose whether the girl that lived inside of me, was better of living or not? Based on what? How?

I am still grateful to the doctors of the Amsterdam Medical Centre for allowing us enough time to undergo this process, even though it made their position more difficult. They acknowledged the need for my husband and I to look into our hearts and souls and also our relationship and ask ourselves, who we are and how do we want to live? Would we be able to take care of a very vulnerable child, with such fragility, even if she was our own daughter? Would we be willing to put everything else aside? The doctors understood we needed some time to face these questions.

You need to know that there’s a huge difference between theoretically thinking what you would do and having to act in the moment. When life is unexpectedly threatened, you’ll fight like a lion. Your only instinct is to have yourself and your children survive. You do whatever you need to and force others to do so as well. I’ve been through that as well. But when the end is still an abstract idea, you think of other options; in my case, I couldn’t imagine how I could take care of a child that would need me 24/7. Not even for my unborn child. I hardly dare to say it , but it is the truth.

My husband and I needed to look for other sources of truth. Sources greater and older than just our personal experience. When does life start? Where and when does it begin? Who are you as parents of an unborn life? What is life?

Medical science had nothing to offer here. The few answers we got were influenced by medical procedures and legislation. For good reason, though, it protects doctors when operating on dangerous fronts.

Our upbringing and education had offered us nothing that was of use to us now.

We are not religious but we did welcome a priest into our home , asking him for advice. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said, ‘life is everlasting’ followed by, ‘make sure you get through it well together. Let your love for each other survive this. You also have a son to take care of.’

A day later, we had a meeting with a philosopher. He had a ball with us; the question was insoluble .

We visited a spiritual therapist. She looked at me and asked a clear question, ‘what do you already know?’

We wrote on Madelief’s birth card, ‘Out of love for Madelief we decided to bear the suffering and pain that would have been her part in this life.’

15 years later, I now and then cry again for Madelief. If you think Madelief’s story is heartbreaking, then you are completely wrong. It’s invigorating. Knowing by experience, that we can ask the toughest questions and receive all answers, has proven to be a precious gift.

siets bakker

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