For Kailee DeSpain and her husband, baby Finley was “a miracle.”
Motherhood is something she had been chasing for years, always ending in heartbreak, the Texan said in a Facebook post. But maybe not this time.
She heard a strong heartbeat through the ultrasound and the 28-year-old was feeling hopeful, though hesitant. DeSpain had been here before, and three failed pregnancies since age 21 had taught her to temper expectations.
“Everything was good, normal, healthy,” DeSpain said. “I found out he was a boy. Please, God. Let me bring my boy home alive.”
Diagnosed with cervical cancer the year prior, doctors removed part of DeSpain’s cervix and while that stopped the cancer spreading, they warned it could come back, she said.
If DeSpain wanted to have a baby, doctors said, it would be best to have it soon. And suddenly here he was, a seemingly healthy boy on the way.
The couple monitored Finley’s progress as constantly as they could, and at 16 weeks, they went in for another ultrasound, DeSpain said.
“I had had so many ultrasounds, because we were so high-risk,” she said. “This was the first one I was excited for. I finally had hope; I had carried Finley farther than any of the others. My little warrior.”
The ultrasound revealed what DeSpain had feared, Finley was not healthy.
Over the following days, experts laid out all the problems: a missing kidney, a heart with no valves, and an improperly developed brain. Finley had a rare disease called triploidy and he would not survive, doctors told DeSpain.
Further, Finley was likely to cause complications for DeSpain if the pregnancy continued. Carrying a child with triploidy can cause pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication characterized by increased blood pressure, among other issues, according to Rarediseases.org. And DeSpain’s blood pressure was already high.
“They explained that I didn’t have any options in Texas, but that this was very serious,” DeSpain said.
DeSpain was pregnant with Finley after the Texas legislature had passed SB8, a heartbeat bill enacted in 2021, outlawing abortions from being carried out on a fetus with a detectable heartbeat. The bill also allowed individuals to sue anyone who carries out an abortion, or those who “aid or abet” an abortion.
While exceptions could be made for pregnancies that put the mother in danger, DeSpain’s life wasn’t in danger — at least not yet. Unable to get an abortion in Texas, the DeSpains made an appointment at a clinic in New Mexico and were put on a two week waiting list, she said.
After a 10-hour drive, the DeSpains arrived at the clinic where she had the operation. They had Finley’s ashes mailed home to Texas.
DeSpain first shared her painful story in early May, but has talked about it again and again on social media following the Supreme Court’s landmark reversal of Roe V. Wade on June 24.
With the reversal of the 1973 ruling on abortion, a trigger law banning abortion in Texas is set to go into effect within 30 days of the decision. Under the new law, carrying out an abortion becomes a felony, and anyone convicted could face up to 20 years in prison, plus a $100,000 fine.
Texas’ trigger law also makes exceptions for pregnancies that could kill or seriously harm the mother.
However, the heavy penalties an abortion provider could face if they make a mistake have had a chilling effect, leaving doctors second-guessing themselves or waiting further into the pregnancy before making a decision, potentially putting mothers at risk, the Texas Tribune reported. Many doctors are now referring patients to clinics out-of-state, rather than risk possible fallout in Texas.
“People have asked me why I continue to share — why I don’t want peace for myself to heal after losing our son,” DeSpain said in a July 3 post. “My answer is this: I will not know a single day of peace until I can govern my own body, and everything that goes on inside of it, in the state I once loved.”