I Got an Abortion Because I Couldn't Imagine Watching My Daughter Die in My Arms

This article is part of POPSUGAR's 50 States, 50 Abortions, a large-scale storytelling project that aims to elevate the voices of people who've had abortions. For more information about how to find an abortion clinic near you, please visit The Cut's abortion service finder.

After a four-year infertility journey, two failed in vitro procedures, and one miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant with Grace. She was a "gold-star embryo" as far as in vitro was concerned. The doctors were very optimistic she would make it through pregnancy and be born healthy. My husband and I were elated.

The miscarriage a year earlier had been extremely hard for us, so when we found out we were pregnant again — this time, with an embryo that we believed had better odds — we thought, "This is it." We couldn't wait to be parents.

When everything looked OK at our 10-week appointment, my husband and I started telling people we were pregnant. At that point, we did all the fun, exciting stuff that happens as you prepare to become a new parent: organized a baby shower, registered, started setting up the nursery, and decided on the name Grace, since we knew the embryo's sex from a genetic sequence test.

It was around my 20-week appointment when things took a turn. I was there for the baby's anatomy scan, and the ultrasound technician was quiet as she scanned my belly. I was too busy staring at the blurry images on the screen to notice anything wrong.

According to the technician, she couldn't get a good image because there wasn't a lot of amniotic fluid, so she had me lie on my side to see if Grace would move into a more visible position. When she left the room, I wasn't too concerned. A few minutes later, when the technician came back, Grace was still curled up in a ball and there was no amniotic fluid. She told us we'd need to speak to a doctor about it. That was my first indication something was off.

As we waited patiently for the doctor to come into the room, I did what every person does awaiting medical news: I googled. I typed "no amniotic fluid" into the search engine, and the first result read "80-90 percent fatality rate." At that point, I was one day away from being 21 weeks. My heart immediately sank. "Oh, f*ck," I said to my husband.

The doctor introduced herself by her first name, and that was my second indication that something was off. Only someone delivering bad news introduces themselves by their first name. My instinct was right: she explained that my daughter had a kidney disease where her kidneys were enlarged and full of fluid-filled cysts that made it so amniotic fluid couldn't cycle through them. Because of this, the doctor told us that her lungs would not develop, either.

"What are the odds of this pregnancy working out?" I asked the doctor.

"There really aren't any," she said.

I immediately burst into tears. Without even saying anything, my husband and I exchanged tear-filled glances. We couldn't believe this was happening to us again.

Fortunately, the doctor was able to schedule an emergency follow-up appointment an hour and a half later to confirm the results with ultrasound imagery that was much more advanced. With this second ultrasound, the technician spent more than an hour looking over and scanning certain photos, taking the time to show me Grace's feet, which they hadn't been able to find in the first ultrasound. For a moment, I forgot the devastating reason I was there in the first place.

Grace's kidney disease was confirmed. The new doctor came in and told us that without working lungs, my daughter would pass away right after she was born — if she even made it to birth. My husband and I asked about our options: if there was anything we could do or if there would be any chance for Grace's survival.

The doctor reiterated there was no chance of survival. "Your options are to continue the pregnancy, knowing that this is the outcome, or you can terminate it — but we'd have to move quickly."

Because I live in Missouri, I didn't have a lot of time to decide. At the time, abortions were banned after 21 weeks and six days, which gave me one week to have the procedure. But I also had to sign state- mandated consent forms and wait 72 hours before I could have the two-day procedure. My husband and I had to decide right then and there.

"We have to have an abortion," I said to my husband. "We have to terminate, right?"

"It's the only thing we can do," he confirmed.

He was right. It was the only humane option. Giving birth to Grace, only for her to die in my arms, would have been cruel. We would've had 18 more weeks of development for her just to experience death — if she even made it to birth. I couldn't do that to myself or to Grace, no matter how much I wanted her.

That evening, our calls to inform friends and family of our devastating turn of events were interrupted by our well-meaning patient counselor, who was thankfully able to set us up with an appointment to sign the state-mandated consent forms the next morning. We were lucky — had we not been able to do so so soon, we could have run out of time to have the abortion in Missouri.

I remember that experience very clearly. We went in and saw the doctor, and the first thing she said was, "I'm going to go over these state-mandated consents with you. These are not medical. These are state mandated, and they're designed to make you feel judged and bad about your decision, and that's not how we feel about you."

The first page of the informed-consent packet said something like, in bold, "You are terminating a separate, unique human life. Life starts at conception." I was pissed. It was really bad. We had to sign a set of consent [papers] saying that we had been informed about the size and features of the embryo or the fetus, to know what we were doing. We had to sign [forms] saying that we'd been offered an ultrasound to see her, or that we'd been offered to hear her heartbeat. I was ready to light the packet entirely on fire.

There was nothing in there about what Grace's experience would be [if she were born with this condition], about the harms to my health [if I were to carry the pregnancy to term], or the fact that the maternal mortality rate is three times higher for Black people. I just felt so misunderstood. I didn't even want this abortion, and now you're putting me through this dumb, legal bullsh*t — for what? And I didn't think anyone should be put through this, no matter why they were getting an abortion.

Although I disagreed wholeheartedly with everything I was required to consent to, I still signed. I didn't have a choice. I had to start the 72-hour mandatory wait period.

When the wait period was over, I went in for the first part of my abortion, where they prepared me for the procedure. The following day, I went into surgery.

When I woke up, everything was blurry. I remember being freezing cold — likely from the epidural they used on me prior to surgery. In the following weeks, I felt hollow and empty. I missed Grace, and I missed my baby bump. My husband and I grieved our loss with friends and family before trying in vitro for another, final time.

A few years later, in February 2019, my daughter Hannah was born. We named her after Grace, since Hannah means "grace" in Hebrew. She's our one and only, but wow, is she a blessing.

I often think back to when my husband and I had to make our decision about Grace. Of course, I didn't want an abortion — I wanted to have a child more than anything. [But] would I have an abortion again? Absolutely. I can't imagine myself going through watching my daughter die in my arms. That would've changed me as a person, and not in a good way. [My abortion] was necessary. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.

I would have an abortion every day for the rest of my life rather than let Grace suffer the way doctors predicted she would. And that was— and should always be — a choice I get to make.

Robin Utz (she/her) (Missouri), as told to Taylor Andrews

Image Sources For "Click For Stories From Each State": Unsplash / Aaron Burden, Getty / Sergii Iaremenko/Science Photo Library, Unsplash / Manik Roy and Photo Illustration: Patricia O'Connor