Charlie Gard: The Anguish of a Mother Who Feels Powerless

Like most people, I’ve watched the Charlie Gard case unfold and felt a range of emotions – anger, sadness, hope, frustration, and, today, heartbreak.

Andrea wrote earlier about the announcement that Charlie’s parents are stopping their legal battle to keep their son alive and seek treatment outside the United Kingdom. I didn’t want to watch the video, knowing it would be emotional.

But I watched it anyway. While watching Charlie’s mom struggle, memories of the week my youngest son was born came flooding back.

My first two boys were born early – the oldest five days and the second 10 days. The third time around was very different. He was due May 16, but by Wednesday, May 21, five days past his due date, there were no signs of impending labor and wasn’t moving as much. I was terrified.

My doctor did some testing and said he was a little concerned but he thought the baby was fine, so he was going to wait until Tuesday – six days later – to induce. He gave some other lame reason, but since we were heading into Memorial Day I think that had more to do with it. In my heart I KNEW my son needed to be born, that his life was in danger if he wasn’t. I called various obstetricians to try to transfer or get a second opinion, but none would see a 41-weeks pregnant woman who already felt something was wrong.

I was terrified and furious, but determined to fight like hell for this baby.

Luckily, an obstetrician agreed to see me first thing Friday morning, May 23 – but only because she was a friend of my sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law tearfully begged her to. After examination in the office the doctor thought everything would be OK, but said she could induce if I wanted to. I quickly agreed, and we went across the street to the hospital to get the Pitocin started.

It took nearly seven hours for the Pitocin to kick in, and finally my baby born at 10 pm that night. I was too emotionally drained and physically exhausted to hold him on my own. But as he was laid on my stomach I was overcome with relief that this beautiful child was here and he was healthy.

sammy-birth
My son was pretty wiped out from that ordeal.

Then the placenta was delivered. The doctor gasped and said, “Wow. This placenta is badly deteriorated. This little boy really needed to be born. Your mama instincts were perfect.”

I’ll never forget the powerless feeling of the 48 hours preceding my son’s birth. My natural instinct to protect my child and fight for him had been stymied by bureaucracy. I don’t even have words to describe the horror and frustration and despair. Poor Charlie’s mom has had to feel that on an infinitely greater level for the bulk of her son’s entire life. No parents should ever have to feel that despair of fighting an unwinnable battle against their government for the right to take care of their own child. No parents should have to say to their child, as Charlie’s did today, “We’re sorry we couldn’t save you,” when all that stands between them and treatment is a court order.

As Charlie’s dad said, “He will make a difference in peoples’ lives for years to come. We will make sure of that.”

I felt a tiny portion of the anguish and powerlessness the Gards have endured for months. I am ever grateful that I was also able to feel a flood of relief and joy upon hearing his first cry, and that I’ve been able to have the experience of being his mom for 14 years so far. Gard family, there are many of us who are joining with you to make sure your warrior son makes a difference in peoples’ lives for years to come.