Leslie Marshall Child Death, And Cause Of Death

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting practice of sheltering-in-place, this year’s Mother’s Day will be vastly different from the days when mothers celebrated with brunches at restaurants, spa visits, and other outings before the advent of the concept of “social distancing.”

The holiday always makes me think about my mother and how I became one, and not in the simple way most people do. Mother’s Day seems like a good time to expand the audience for a story I’ve already told to my son and daughter.

My husband and I adopted our son, who will turn 13 this summer, from Pakistan, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. When he asked how I became his mother, I explained that I had prayed to God for a son because I was having trouble conceiving.

My husband and I had been married for 11 years before we got the call on our 11th wedding anniversary: a woman from the Edhi Foundation in Pakistan said, “your son was just born.” All of us were ecstatic!

My husband and I took a 27-hour journey from Los Angeles to Karachi, Pakistan, flying via Chicago and Manchester, England. Years later, I told my son that he was once a tiny seed inside another woman’s womb, and that when his birth mother realized she could not provide for him (possibly due to a lack of resources or illness), she placed him in a cradle at the foundation in the hopes that the good people there would find him a loving home.

Even though he was born weighing less than 4 pounds and there was no incubator available, I reassured my dear son that he was destined to live. I claimed that I was destined to be his mother and he would one day be my kid.

I’ll never forget the moment he opened his eyes, looked up at me, smiled, and completely won my heart. In that instant, he was officially adopted as my son, and I was officially adopted as his mother.

Someone told me years ago that when you adopt a child, the child doesn’t find you; you find them. And that’s just what transpired.

My daughter’s birth was a radical departure from the norm. A child was lost to my husband and I in 2004. Our child was diagnosed with Canavan disease, which is very similar to Tay-Sachs.

My husband and I both carry the gene that causes Canavan disease in our families. My husband, who is of Indian descent, carries the Turkish mutation, while I carry the Ashkenazi Jewish mutation.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) was an option for us, despite the low risk of passing this genetic mutation on to our child (my husband and I are both carriers). To accomplish this, IVF technology was utilized.

The embryos are examined to rule out the presence of the fatal Canavan disease. Sadly, cycle after cycle, our embryos had Canavans.

This happened 100 percent of the time with 11 embryos. So in addition to the miscarriages I suffered and the death of a child, I lost an additional 11 children. I had some embryos free of Canavan disease frozen. After we had started the adoption process for our son, my doctor’s office phoned and said that I had three of these embryos in the freezer and asked what I wanted to do with them.

“What are my choices?” I asked.

“Implant or destroy,” I was told.

Destroy! Now, I am pro-choice, but it was not my choice to destroy my embryos. The doctor also told me these were not very strong or healthy embryos and the chances of my getting pregnant after being implanted with these were very slim.

Nevertheless, I opted to be implanted and about 10 days later the doctor’s office called and told me the pregnancy test was positive.

When she was old enough to understand, I told my daughter – who is now 12 – how she was created in a little dish and then placed inside my tummy and grew to become our wonderful child. I told her she was lucky No. 13. And I told her how I almost drove off the road because I was crying so hard with tears of joy when the doctor’s office called to tell me of my little girl.

So although my son came to me through adoption and my daughter through 13 IVF cycles, I tell them often that they are both my miracle babies. And it’s true. I will forever be grateful for my two wonderful little miracles, who make every day Mother’s Day for me.