DENVER — A sign hangs in the entrance of Compass Fitness studio in Denver that reads, “You’re in for a time. Good or bad. You decide.” Those words could be co-owner Heather Lorince Harrington’s motto for life.
Over the last few years, Harrington beat stage three breast cancer and faced one of the most traumatic and difficult decisions ever for a mother.
“I needed to make the kindest decision in my heart for him and me, because I don’t think there would be a minute of any day that I would not feel him. Because he was moving around, but knowing that he wouldn’t be there much longer," she explained. "I don’t think I could stand seeing his sweet little face being born.”
Woman shares her experience with a trisomy 18 pregnancy
Harrington and her husband Paige found out they were pregnant with their second child in 2019. Initially, everything seemed normal until Harrington went in for a routine ultrasound at 13 weeks.
“I thought it was a new ultrasound tech because she kept taking all of these pictures and I kept thinking, I don’t need all of these pictures because I’m not a brand-new mom,” Harrington recalled.
After several more tests, Harrington found out that her son had a rare condition called trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome, which is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 18. Babies with this condition have severe developmental delays and birth defects, and only 10 to 12 percent of children born with trisomy 18 survive beyond the first year of life.
Harrington said her specialist made the situation clear.
“She said she’s never seen [a baby with trisomy 18] actually born and that told me I had a very little shot of things going right," Harrington said. "Most likely he will die inside of me. Boys are often stillborn. It’s really rough. Those who do live have a very short lifespan, like they wouldn’t live outside of the hospital ever. So, I decided to have a D&C.”
D&C stands for dilation and curettage, a procedure in which a doctor removes tissue from the uterus. The procedure ended Harrington's pregnancy.
After Politico published a leaked draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court showing the court's conservative justices are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, Harrington decided it was time to tell her story.
“For me, it’s super important that you make the right choice for your body and your family — whatever is going on it has to be your choice,” she said.
These days, Harrington finds different ways to practice self-care to help heal emotionally after the loss of her child, including open and honest conversations with her daughter, Quinn.
“We named [my son] Grayson. I talk to my six-year-old about him. She was four at the time," Harrington said. "So, self-care for me is talking about it and loving on my six-year-old excessively."
Harrington also regularly teaches classes at her fitness studio and is never afraid of sharing her difficult experiences with clients.
“I have so many women who come to my classes. It makes me feel good and it makes me feel like that’s why I’m here is to talk about the hard things as women that we go through," she said. "Having gone through breast cancer and having gone through some terrible things, I’m just, like, I’ll speak up and if it makes a difference in someone’s world great. If it annoys someone — great."
Dana Knowles is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.