Abbie Dorn, Brain-Damaged During Birth of Triplets, Fights for Right to Be Mom

Janelle Harris

Abbie Dorn court caseOnce upon a time not too long ago, Abbie Dorn was a healthy, vibrant woman no doubt thrilled to be headed to the hospital to deliver the triplets she’d be hauling around for nine months. Aside from the normal flutters and jitters that go along with the deed done in the delivery room, she was probably excited. Anxious. Elated.

A series of medical errors robbed her of that first-time mother euphoria. Instead of cuddling with her three newborns, a mistake by a doctor set off a chain of events that left her paralyzed, unable to walk, talk, or feed herself. Her husband, believing she would never recover, divorced her and stripped her of the right to see her children. And so begins an emotional court battle that begs the question: Can she really be a mother to three 4-year-olds if she can't even feed or clothe herself?

The root of the story is, in and of itself, super tragic. The first two deliveries went off without a hitch, but as the third baby was emerging, the attending doc accidentally clipped Abbie’s uterus. She bled out, her heart stopped, a defibrillator used to revive it malfunctioned, and during the melee, her brain was deprived of oxygen. She couldn’t ooh and ahh over her three little bundles of joy. She couldn’t kiss them. She couldn’t cuddle them. She was barely hanging on to her own life, let alone able to celebrate that of her children’s.

I’m not judging her husband for divorcing her. I mean, “for better or worse” packs more of a meaningful punch for some folks than others, but honestly I can only imagine how tremendously difficult it would be to not only find yourself slammed with the responsibility of suddenly becoming a single dad to newborn triplets, but to see the woman you ostensibly adore rendered completely and totally helpless in some freak delivery room accident. The pressure and emotional despair he endured are probably indescribable.

But that’s where my empathy ends.

Abbie Dorn never even got a chance to hold all three of the babies who made her life better before the accident made it take a turn for the worse. Even if she is completely oblivious to her surroundings, she still has a right to see her children. She’s still a mother, whether she can read them a bedtime story or remind them to take their umbrellas to school. She birthed those babies. In the most basic of points, they wouldn’t be here if her body hadn’t produced them.

Modern science didn’t work up some miracle to generate those kids — she did, the old-fashioned way. And she paid dearly for it, a sacrifice I’m sure she, like most mothers, would willingly make out of love and hope for healthy children. If he as their father is entitled to interact with his kids, what makes her rights as a mother any different?

Abbie’s ex is letting his own hang-ups discount and discredit the possibility of any emotional attachment his kids could develop with their mother. I’m not medically savvy by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t believe that there aren’t real, discernible emotional and psychological benefits that go along with being able to share space with the woman who brought you into the world. To see her. To touch her. To know how she looks and behaves in person, even if that isn’t the way that she looked and behaved when you were conceived. For Abbie’s kids, I think regular visits with their mama — and a really good therapist that can help them work through any feelings of guilt, loss, or anger — would be more of a benefit to them than being blocked by a father running interference fueled by unfounded reasoning.

Both Abbie’s mother, who is now her primary caretaker, and a neurologist testifying on behalf of Team No Visitation claim that Abbie does in fact communicate through blinking. Her mom even says she laughs and cries. Even if she didn’t do anything more than sit and soak up oxygen, she would still be entitled to feel the presence of the babies she birthed.

Will Abbie Dorn’s children benefit from regular visitation with her? Is her husband right or wrong for contesting her right to see them? 


Image via steakpinball/Flickr

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