It is often said that conceiving and bearing a child are among the greatest joys that a woman can experience, but what if protecting the life in one’s womb could compromise the mother-to-be’s own survival? This is the dilemma which some women, despite consistently decreasing maternal death rates, still have to struggle with. Admirably, several mothers have chosen to protect the lives of their unborn babies, even if doing so meant that they had to risk their well-being, or in some cases their very lives.
Here are the stories of ten women who decided that the future of their children were of greater importance than their own lives:
10. Woman in Fatal Car Accident Is More Concerned About Unborn Baby
Around midnight on a hot summer in 2013, 19-year-old Niser Saldana-Quilantan was involved in a Corpus Christi, Texas car wreck with her husband and her two-year-old son. The woman, who was eight months pregnant at the time, along with the rest of her family, was violently thrown out of her SUV, which had flipped over. Meanwhile, 36-year-old massage therapist Iria Wolnick was on her way to her mother’s funeral when she saw the wreckage and immediately rushed to help Saldana-Quilantan. The dying pregnant mother repeatedly asked, “How’s my baby?”, but what she didn’t know was that her unborn daughter’s head and tiny hand were protruding from a huge gash in her stomach. Wolnick then used the little that she had learned from first-aid training and delivered the 6-pound, 11-ounce infant girl, who was already crying when Wolnick noticed her. Sadly, Niser didn’t survive the accident, but her entire family, though injured, eventually recovered.
9. Pregnant Mother Refuses Bone Cancer Treatment
23-year-old Ashley Bridges of Wildomar, California was ten weeks pregnant when she was found to have bone cancer. Doctors immediately recommended that Ashley terminate her pregnancy and begin chemotherapy treatments, but she instead chose to keep her unborn daughter safe instead of trying to fight cancer. “There is no way I could kill a healthy baby because I’m sick,” explained the brave mother. Unfortunately for her, despite delivering her baby early to receive chemotherapy at the soonest possible time, doctors found that her cancer had spread to the point of being incurable and that she only had a year to live. However, on September 27, 2014, Ashley posted the following update on her fundraising website:
Just got the call from my doctor about my recent scans … Im crying im so happy , it hasn’t spread to my legs like we thought and the ones in my head haven’t grown and the one that was causing me to go blind seems completely gone. The ones in my hips and lower spine have grown so little there really isn’t a difference !!!! Thank GOD
8. Woman Beats Sarcoma and Unexpectedly Conceives
In 2010, Elizabeth Joice of New York underwent chemotherapy to beat sarcoma, and a fertility expert told her and her husband Max that they would never have children. For this reason, the couple was overjoyed when Elizabeth found out in 2013 that she was expecting a baby. Unfortunately, one month into her pregnancy, Elizabeth found out that her cancer had returned. Surgeons performed a procedure to remove the tumors in the pregnant woman’s back, but a full-body MRI could not be performed to determine whether or not the cancer had spread; the contrast dyes of an MRI could have damaged Elizabeth’s developing fetus. Worse, a shielded X-ray later revealed that Elizabeth’s cancer had spread to her lungs and was giving her difficulty breathing. For this reason, in January of 2014, into her seventh month of pregnancy, Elizabeth underwent an early C-section to deliver little Lily Joice. Sadly, the new mother was unable to beat the disease and died at 36 years of age on March 9, 2014. Her story has been made the subject of a documentary film 40 Weeks.
7. Woman Loses an Eye to Protect Unborn Child
Chantal Gauthier-Vaillancourt of Edmonton, Canada is a respected and well-known midwife, so the news that she was going to become a mother herself was truly cause for joy and excitement. After all, she had successfully battled cancer in her right eye in 2009, and was told that she was, after radiation and natural therapies, in remission. However, in 2014, shortly after Chantal had received the welcome news that she was expecting, her and her husband’s joy turned into sadness when they learned that the tumor in her eye had come back. Thinking about the health of their unborn child, the couple bravely decided to have Chantal’s right eye removed instead of undergoing chemotherapy, thus lowering the possibility that she could pass on the disease to her baby. “It’s been a rough ride,” the Edmonton mother-to-be admitted. “But at the same time, I mean, everyone has problems, and I honestly feel it’s just another bump in the road.”
6. U.S. Veteran Foregoes Cancer Treatment to Give Unborn Baby a Chance
27-year-old Andrea Ryder had served two tours as part of the Marines, but her biggest battle came in June of 2014 when she had to make a decision between fighting cancer and keeping her unborn baby. Surprisingly, Andrea didn’t have to think long before opting to protect the daughter in her womb. Besides, she had survived skin cancer in the past. This time, however, the melanoma had spread to the Warwick mother’s lungs, liver, intestines, shoulder, and breast. By fall, doctors decided to induce delivery, and on September 29, 2014, a 10-week premature but healthy Olivia Marie was born. Currently undergoing radiation therapy, Andrea draws strength from her husband’s love and her little girl’s remarkable resilience. “As soon as I’m done with radiation, I walk right over to go see the baby and am there [the hospital] all day,” the proud mother beamed.
5. Woman Dies from Bone Marrow Cancer After Delivering Her Baby
In 2008, Nicola Cockx of Little Bollington in Cheshire, England was diagnosed with a type of bone marrow cancer called “multiple myeloma.” Doctors immediately suggested that she undergo aggressive chemotherapy, but Nicola decided to forego what would’ve probably been life-saving treatment because she knew that doing so would likely make her forever unable to conceive a child. Infertility was unthinkable for Nicola as she had dreamt of becoming a mother ever since she was a little girl. In place of chemo, the brave businesswoman opted for a holistic approach involving the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Finally, in 2011, Nicola conceived, and in June of 2012, her daughter Harriet was born. Very soon after delivering her baby, the new mother prepared for chemotherapy, but by that time, her cancer had spread and had grown much more aggressive. In February of 2013, Nicola sadly lost her battle to cancer, leaving behind her an eight-month-old little girl she had fought so gallantly to bring into the world.
4. Chinese Woman Hides Pregnancy to Escape Forced Abortion
In 1979, the People’s Republic of China (PRoC) introduced what came to be called the “one-child policy,” a population control measure which was meant to keep China’s population at a manageable level. The policy had repeatedly come under fire from the international community due to various reports of local officials forcing women to undergo abortions, and the practice once again caught the world’s attention in 2008. That was when Arzigul Tursun, an ethnic woman from the northwestern Xianjiang region, fled the hospital she was involuntarily confined in to save the life of her unborn baby. That, of course, could’ve proved costly to her and to her family. According to Tursun’s father, between 20 and 30 police cars had arrived at the family home to search for his daughter and carry out the abortion. However, after the case attracted international attention, Arzigul was allowed to keep her baby because, according to the population committee chief, “she wasn’t in good enough health to have an abortion.”
3. Mother Dies Post-Childbirth After Prioritizing Her Baby’s Health
“How do I explain to him that his mom is gone giving birth to him?” asked Wes Bugal, husband of the late Karisa Bugal, who died on November 5, 2014. That was the day after she had given birth to the couple’s second child, a healthy son named Declan. During her pregnancy, Karisa had unfortunately developed amniotic fluid embolism, a rare complication that causes the fluids surrounding the baby to leak into the mother’s body, which eventually results in a breakdown of organs. Doctors told the brave mother that they could operate on her, but that doing so would endanger the child, and Karisa chose to instead save the life of her unborn child. A fund, which has so far raised $20,000, has been set up to help raise the couple’s two children.
2. 41-Year-Old Mother Dies After Choosing Her Baby Over Chemotherapy
Learning that she was pregnant was a pleasant surprise for 41-year-old Stacie Crimm because doctors told her that she would never conceive. However, months later, a CT scan showed that she had developed head and neck cancer and that chemotherapy would undoubtedly dash hopes that she could deliver a healthy baby. Eventually, Stacie decided that she would refuse chemotherapy so that her baby could have a chance at life. That caused her condition to worsen, and in August of 2011 Stacie collapsed in her home. Doctors had to perform an emergency C-section to deliver a 2-pound, 1-ounce Dottie May. The new mother was so weak that she fell in and out of consciousness, but on September 8, she was resuscitated and had a chance to hold her baby in her arms. Three days later, Stacie passed away, but her baby, Dottie turned out to be a healthy, happy baby.
1. Mentally Challenged Woman Fights Doctors’ Forced Abortion
In 2012, a pregnant woman who also suffered from sickle cell disease fought her doctors’ legal motion to force her to have an abortion. The unnamed woman’s disorder had caused her to have a series of strokes, and doctors believed that her pregnancy would likely endanger her life. However, the woman insisted that she wanted to take her chances and successfully proved to Justice Hedley of London’s High Court that she was capable of making her own decisions. This forced the court to state that it had no jurisdiction on the matter. More specifically, the court’s ruling explained that while people with severe learning disabilities might have had difficulty functioning independently, they could “very well retain the capacity to make deeply personal decisions” about how they conducted their lives. Furthermore, the court observed that because the woman was consistently cooperative in attending her medical treatments, there was no reason to believe she wouldn’t be cooperative with regard to managing her pregnancy.