A Mom’s Terrible Choice: Her Life or Her Child’s?

A Mom’s Terrible Choice: Her Life or Her Child’s? April 10, 2014

This is a touching story of a New York City mom and dad who were faced with a terrible choice.

Elizabeth Joice — a cancer survivor — was told by doctors that she would never get pregnant. Last year, however, she discovered that she and her husband Max were going to have a baby!

“I totally blew a gasket,” Max said. “They said there was no chance this was happening — and here it was happening.”

But only a month later, they received the devastating news: The tumor was back.

Doctors removed the mass, but because she was pregnant, Elizabeth couldn’t undergo full-body MRI scans and her oncologist couldn’t see whether the cancer was growing.

The baby was due March 4, but the doctors could no longer wait. In January, a surgeon performed a C-section and beautiful baby Lily was born.

Elizabeth’s health quickly declined as her cancer spread. Tumors invaded her right lung, heart and abdomen “We said our goodbyes,” Max said. “It was like something out of a movie. We sat there and cried. We tried to tell stories, talk about all the great things.”

“Liz came home five days after Lily was born,” Max said. “That one night at home was all we had.”

Elizabeth died in a hospital bed with Max by her side.  Read more about their courageous story here.

h/t Ron

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  • Kimberly D. Mons

    Bristol thank you for sharing this story. 🙂 My aunt Rebecca Sue Brown passed away just 3 days after giving birth to her son & my cousin, Johnathan. She had a brain aneurysm. She was only 21 years old. She worked as a nurse at the hospital where she passed away. I am 31 years old now & I never met her although my family says that I have her spirit and I named my eldest twin daughter, Rebecca Faith in her honor. She gave a gift of life to her child at the expense of her own. How much more could a Mother possibly love her child than that? I have never been able to fully comprehend how ladies can abort their babies. There are so many mothers that would risk life and limb to bring their babies into this World. I admire the strength of Elizabeth Joice & her precious daughter, Lily will surely always know just how endless her Mother’s love for her truly was. Mothers are definitely the closest thing to being face to face with Jesus, here on Earth! You are a great Mother also, Bristol and you lead by example! Your mother has obviously been a shining example herself of what makes a beautiful Mother because you are the fruits of her labor and I don’t know how she could be more proud of you dear! 🙂 Have a beautiful day filled with many gracious blessings! 🙂

  • anonymous

    Loving moms are always willing to lay down their lives for their children.

    • Michelle Erb

      Of course they are. But that does not always mean that going through with a pregnancy is the best thing a mother can do for her children. Many women also sacrifice by making a different choice in order to be there for those already living that need them.

      Coincidentally I happen to be reading a lovely memoir written by a breast cancer survivor. This is the poem she wrote for her children when things looked bleak:


      May nothing bad ever happen to them, Dear Lord
      May they look to the top of the hill
      and see me walking toward them through the meadow
      May they never fear abandonment of any kind
      May I be well
      May I be there
      For I’m their Mother

      (From “Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening” by Carol Wall)

      Elizabeth Joice chose to make a tremendous sacrifice and her death was a tragedy. Other women choose to make a different sacrifice, and their choice should be respected as well..Sometimes the most important thing a mother can do is to just be there.

      • anonymous

        Love is the sacrifice of the self for the wellbeing of the beloved. Murdering your children is not and never can be anything but an extreme act of violence against human life, and God, the Creator. As God in the Second Person of the Trinity layed down his life for us, we are to lay down our lives if called to for the love of others escpecially our children. Any mother that kills her child is a murderer. There is nothing more to be said. God Teaches, thou shalt not kill. To kill one’s own child whom God entrusted to her care is an act so evil and abominable that it is inhuman and an act that cries out to God for vengence. A mother is always pregnant with a child. To terminate that life is always selfish and a grave sin against his or her Creator. The mother is in grave need of prayer because if she dies in such a state of mortal sin she will be lost forever to the fires of hell.

        • anonymous

          By the way, any child in the womb that a mother chooses to kill is living. They are living and growing and their heart is beating just like yours. Abortion is an act of murder whereby the precious child who is perfectly innocent is gruesomely tortured often burned alive, or dismembered alive for the purpose of killing her. Where have you been? Don’t you know that abortion kills a child. You want me to respect torture and murder? Are you crazy? Do you want us to respect the choice of men who rape women too? I mean, that is their choice. And you know in some countries killing women is legal. It is considered just the choice of their rapists, boyfriends fathers or husbands. You respect that don’t you? You make me sick!

          • Michelle Erb

            And this is why some religious extremists are now referred to as “The American Taliban.”

            Do you not even realize that Rabbis and priests will absolutely tell a woman to have an abortion if her life is clearly in danger? (The problem comes when governments and clergy try to second guess the opinions of doctors)

            Who do you think you are to be so high and mighty and say you know better and have the right to judge others?

            You certainly did not get any of that from the Bible or the alleged teachings of Jesus.. You read “thou shall not kill,” yet you would doom a pregnant woman to death to possibly save something that as yet has no consciousness (or soul) and is not referred to as a person anywhere in the Bible.

          • anonymous

            This is why many advocates of child killing are referred to as terrorists. The Islamic terrorists do not see women as persons just as you do not see children living in the womb as persons. They kill thousands of women and girls at will in the name of choice every day. They are permitted by law to rape them to torture them and to murder them. Just as people like you advocate the torture and killing of children. Every child in the womb is a unique human being worthy of every right every other human person has. To deny these rights to these most innocent and beautiful children is to be like the Islamic terrorists or the Nazi’s who said the Jews were not human.

            Any mother that lays down on a slab of metal and offers to pay a murderer $500.00 to dismember the child living in her womb alive is a murderer. That is what she is and that is what she will always be. No one can own another human being. Mothers do not own their children. Children are not property. To kill or to advocate the killing of innocent human beings is to be a murderer. You are disgusting to me. You are no better than the Nazi’s or the terrorists who behead women and children. You have no conscience. Maybe someday you will reap all that hate you have sown against your neighbor. I hope so.

          • anonymous

            Jesus at the moment of the incarnation was true God and true Man. In the womb he sanctified John the baptist who leaped for joy. If you advocate murdering God’s children, you are an enemy of God.

          • Michelle Erb

            Doesn’t that mean that someone who would sentence a woman to death for the sake of a nonviable pregnancy, is in your words, “an enemy of god”?

          • Liam Hall

            Michelle, murder is murder, end of story, don’t play it like it’s okay and some sort of okay “choice” to murder.

          • Michelle Erb

            So you are saying it is “murder” to have an abortion to save your own life even if the fetus has no chance of survival? Is that a law you would impose in this country or on someone you know?

            If so you actually do not know what “murder” is.

          • Michelle Erb

            So if your daughter was told by every doctor that she had no chance of surviving pregnancy and there was only a small chance of the fetus surviving, you would override the teachings of many churches, and tell her she must go forward on a suicide mission? And you do not think that makes you the cold blooded murderer?

            I realize that you think that the concept of a god torturing and killing his own son for the sake of others is a beautiful story, but I think you missed some part of the other lessons of your religion.

          • anonymous

            My mother had seven daughters at home with no doctor. She was told none of us would survive. My beautiful mother believed in God. She gave birth to seven beautiful daughters and we always treated her as our Queen until her death. My mother was faithful,, courageous and a magnificent woman and mother. My mother loved. You have no love, no courage and no ability to see the infinite dignity and value of each and every human life because you do not know their Creator. You live in a world where you believe you are in control where you get to decide who will live and who will die. You live in hell and you will remain there for all eternity.

            Your insipid ignorance regarding Jesus Christ is infinite. Jesus is God. God loved us so much that he couldn’t bear our suffering so He became a man (in the womb of the Most Holy Virgin) because God can not suffer. Then as love does, He sacrificed himself for the well being of the beloved, (all humanity) . You do not know God, you do not know Love. You are nothing but an ingredient of Hate against humanity in the world.

          • Jog

            Really ? Why was she told none would survive and who told her this? And was she ever told that continuing any of these pregnancies would kill her and her unborn, leaving the other daughters without a mother?

          • anonymous

            Do you know what pre eclampsia is? My mother had all of us at home as premature babies. Then, she would go to a hospital where she was told her condition. She was not really extroadinary. Catholic women trusted in God in those days for their children.

          • Jog

            You said she was told none of her unborn would survive. So she was under the care of a physician for each pregnancy and was told this whole pregnant? Or she was told thus after the babies actually were born? Your story isn’t clear…..

          • Michelle Erb

            And that is why so many catholic children grew up motherless.

            What you described, is not how pre-eclampsia usually works. With pre-eclampsia the woman does not automatically go into labor. Instead her baby has to be delivered early to save her life. It does not require abortion, just actual medical care when symptoms present. Not staying home until you give birth. After the first few times your mother would certainly have known the symptoms. Back then, if it were allowed to go too far the effects were irreversible and it would have been fatal for the mother. I suspect you are a bit confused on the facts. Even if your mother could not remember that she had this condition from pregnancy to pregnancy, a doctor/midwive would and would have been monitoring her.

            Your parents went way beyond the teachings of your church, because the priests would have given a woman with an extensive history of pre-eclampsia permission to stop getting pregnant. But they sadly did not value the daughters they had enough to keep your mother healthy for their sake. Perhaps they wanted a son?

            It reminds me a bit of the Andrea Yates case. Her husband knew her history of post-partum psychosis and yet pressured her to keep having babies. He probably even thinks he is godly because he went on and started a whole new family, even getting married in the church where his children’s funerals were held. But at least no one had an abortion.

          • Jog

            I wouldn’t put toouch stock into Isabel’s story Michelle. Kind of link the aborted twin tale, it sounds more like something a family has just passed in to their children for whatever reason and they just took it as absolute truth.

          • Michelle Erb

            Not to mention that her story changed as she was challenged. However, she made her point. When she was growing up she internalized the message that being pregnant as many times as possible is more important than her own life or being there for her children.

            Anyone who thinks differently from her can not possibly be coming from a place of love or even faith but must be villainized because to see them as having a conscience,would be to open herself up to the possibility that everything she was ever told might not be the absolute truth.

          • Jog

            Exactly Michelle.

          • Michelle Erb

            Ironically you are probably afraid of Sharia law, when what you would impose is so much more extreme. Even in Iran the people are encouraged to practice family planning.

            I do not like YOUR Jesus, although there are many Christians who do believe in a wonderful Jesus, with beautiful teachings. But you are not one of them. Perhaps you should start going to church and actually listening.

            Personally I believe that the universe is so incredible that whatever force created it is so much greater than the petty violent jealous god described in the Bible, who supported slavery, polygamy, violence against women etc..

            That said I have always appreciated certain lessons of the Bible, along with many other ancient myths. I particularly like the story of god’s covenant with Abraham. it is said that in Abraham’s time people used to conduct human sacrifices for their gods. Abraham was obedient and offered up his son. And god said “no.” Not anymore. From now on there will be no more sacrificing of your children. And a covenant was formed between God and the decedents of Abraham.

            Then Christianity turned this on its head, by saying Jesus willingly allowed himself to be tortured and killed because somehow that was the only way the father would “save” us. Of course, most Christians do not take the horrible lesson from this that you have. In fact most priests will give a woman leave to have an abortion to save her life. For, unlike you, they value the lives of women.

          • Michelle Erb

            The first time I read this I thought you were saying your mother was told she would not survive. But your story is actually that your Mom did not deliver in the hospital because she was told her babies would not survive? What?

          • Michelle Erb

            I thought of you today and almost threw up. I was watching a documentary about Holocaust survivors. The women at Theresienstadt knew that if they were found to be pregnant, they would be sent to Aushwitz sooner rather than later. One survivor bravely told how she was impregnated by her husband and chose to have one of the jewish doctors there do an abortion. She and another survivor were ultimately sent to Auschwitz much later. Since neither appeared pregnant they were not immediately sent to the gas chambers upon arrival. The second woman discovered she was pregnant after she arrived. She actually managed to hide the pregnancy and her son was delivered a few days after they were liberated. The baby did not survive of course, with the lack of nutrition that would have been impossible.

            The idea that you would look at the first woman, listen to her story and tell her that she was the “Nazi” is sickening. Not to mention what it says about the value of the life she fought for and the family that she did have after the war. Had she not had an abortion, they would not be here either.

            Do you even realize that every time someone like you opens your mouth and shows the far right’s true agenda, some who were on the fence over whether there should be certain government restrictions on abortion, will decide that it has to be up to the women themselves because we can not leave the decision to sickos like you?

            p.s. Do not call anyone a Nazi. You have no clue what that even means.

          • anonymous

            Let me get this straight. A mother hires a doctor to kill her own child and you want me to think of her as a hero? She is a murderer. She is nothing more than the Nazi’s that were killing Jews. She was worse. She hired a man to rape her womb of it’s life. What kind of a savage is this? No, she will get no medals from me. The Nazi’s were trying to kill her so she killed an innocent child. What a hopeless coward she was! We do not kill innocent people ever, no matter what our situation. If we do, it is always murder! You are the most vile of all persons. You are advocating violence against innocent children – a holocaust of the holy innocents! You are advocating crimes against humanity. You are a savage barbarian dog. May God forget you!

          • Jog

            Let ME get this straight. So Isabel would not have an abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, to save her life even if continuing the pregnancy would mean death to herself and her unborn. That’s okay. No one should force her to. But neither should anyone force a women to continue a pregnancy that will kill her. And to call someone a savaga barbarian dog for ending a pregnancy that would have killed her and her unborn and then went in to give life to others later is heartless.

          • anonymous

            Love is not the killing of others to save ourselves. Love is the sacrifice of the self for the wellbeing of the beloved. You can’t imagine any mother giving her life for her child because you have no love. Anyone that targets an innocent child for death and kills that child is a murderer. I never wanted to be that. I wanted to be a loving mom. Anyone that targets a child for being dismemberd alive and does so is just like a savage barbarian rabid dog. What is the difference between a mother that dismembers her child alive and a rabid dog that does so? Nothing. The mother is worse because she could have chosen love instead. You have no love, no heart and no reason. You are as rabid dogs even upon yourselves. Abortion- the rape of the womb, the murder of a mother’s child. Any mother that does this becomes the scene of a gruesome and bloody murder that she will never be able to escape. Her body becomes the murder scene.

            No further comment. I have spokent the truth to those who advocate the gruesome murder of children. This is Holy Week. Praying for these children to receive the mercy and justice they deserve. You will reap what you have sown. Good luck.

          • Jog

            Wow Isabel. Your religious extremism makes you full of hate and lack of understanding/compassion for others who don’t share and adhere to your religious beliefs. Actually I do have love. My heart runneth over with love for my children. I would do anything for them. If I were told at an early stage that a pregnancy could kill me I would likely end the pregnancy in order to be here for me born children. If I were told that my unborn would not survive the pregnancy as well and it would kill me, then I would not hesitate to have an abortion to save my life and have my sons not lose their mother. You do not agree, I know, because you have strong religious beliefs that I do not have. And that’s okay. But it is wrong to say I have no love and call me a savage dog for this.

          • Michelle Erb

            You who would condemn your own pregnant daughter to death have no love. Some would say that during the Holocaust the easier thing would be to just give up and be taken to the gas chambers. Do you think this woman would not have desperately wanted her husband’s child (knowing he would probably not survive).

            Even ultra-orthodox Rabbis would say that she did the godly thing. Jews teach that one must always value the life they were given and fight to save it. I thought most Christians consider suicide to be a mortal sin, yet here you are advocating it.

            If your story about your mother is true that could explain why you never learned to love your children. Most people could not understand the choice to get pregnant seven times after being told they were high risk and their children could lose their mother each time. The issue in that case was not even abortion it was birth control or even abstinence, and they chose neither for the sake of their children. I am sorry that your own parents never taught you what it is to truly love your children and put them first. I am sorry that happened to you. I hope you will learn to open your heart for you own living children.

          • Michelle Erb

            You seriously think that she “hired” the doctor?! Or that he did it for money and not to save lives? Again please do not comment on the Holocaust or Nazis because you have no clue.

            Every single day those people fought to stay alive and live a life of horror. Most did that because of their faith. And they knew that even if they survived they would never truly be happy again. But they could still possibly have lives that meant something,

            After the Holocaust (and in many cases during) most survivors did everything they could to make their lives matter. (some were just too broken or understandably bitter). They did not sit back and say the world owed them something, although it certainly did. They became artists, volunteers, and were overall incredibly charitable beings. It is such a shame that they are now dying out. For they contributed so much to this world. If you do not appreciate the fact that they survived, many others do. For each life that is saved an entire world is created.

    • Michael Cummings

      That’s right. It’s certainly not normal for anyone given “opportunity” to deny responsibility for someone to take from them…their first day, their first meal, the first time to open their eyes, their first laugh, their first kiss, their first embrace. It reminds me of the spiritual war Jacob and Esau had the first born belongs to The Lord so Jacob was holding on to Esau’s ankle (coincidentally why we must be born again and remain less of ourself). I understand absolutes also lead to victimization but for example I wasn’t going to watch this movie until I saw it on. Of course calling an unborn baby a “fetus” has become a dehumanizing word. There are laws to protect a person who conceived an idea/story/poem from another profiting from it but not children? We have snipers in Colorado to protect turtles? Like Waco’s children massacred by Hilarity to get little bill’s impeachment off the front page, certainly if we allow the murder of the most fragile and innocent of us by a group profiting from it with sometimes permanent damage and always ends in death maybe we are all too desynthesized watching too much TV. There is always someone who has it worse. And it will never be about a pill unless the MOTHER is so psychologically messed up then she is already dead. How about people trying to convince Bristol…to do that? Or Mrs Palin doing the right thing and the world is a better place with Trig in it. Who knows when a group will decide to liberate the world from us? It happens every day.

      “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”


  • Michelle Erb

    Let us be clear about something, this family was not trying to be martyrs for some sick (abortion should always be illegal) cause. In the husband’s own words they desperately wanted a child, and since it was their only chance, she decided to take a great risk. Certainly she hoped to survive. Moreover, if she already had children who needed her she might well have made a different choice.

    For people to twist this to try and make a make an argument that women who make a different choice are the same as Nazis is sick and exploitative. It also devalues her life and her sacrifice.

    • Jog

      So true Michelle. The key point here is she CHOSE.

      • anonymous

        She chose to not to kill her child or even risk killing her child. She was a real mom.

        • Jog

          She knew her unborn had a better chance of survival than she did even eithout bejng pregnant. And she had no other children she would leave behind. If the circumstances were different she might have chosen different and she would still be a real mom…. Even if you don’t agree with her decision.

          • anonymous

            No. If the mother sacrificed her child to save herself, she would be a murderer. Love is the sacrifice of the self for the wellbeing of others. This mom was a loving mom. The mother you describe is selfish and hateful, killing others to save herself. All that would await her would be hell.

          • Jog

            That’s your personal belief Isabel. It’s not mine and the vast majority of others’ . But that’s okay. It doesn’t really matter. You are free to have your own personal beliefs.

            And btw, you never did answer our questions about story of your mothers’ supposed high risk pregnancies.

          • anonymous

            If you hold the personal belief that dismembering children alive is good, you are a very sick puppy. You are evil and all I can say is that a lot of Islamic Terrorists agree with you. They chop up women every day because they are not persons to them. That is their personal opinion just like yours. Mine of course is superior because I received my respect for human life from God. You will reap what you have sown. Every thing comes back to us. You kill, …

          • Jog

            I kill? No actually I never have killed. And I have never had an abortion. And I don’t believe in God or hell (or heaven for that matter). You may believe your belief in God makes you superior. Personally, I don’t think it does. At all. But whatever…..

          • Michelle Erb

            Isabel, do you also think a woman has an obligation to keep getting pregnant even if she knows that will put her life in danger? Or should she practice birth control or even abstinence so that she can mother the children she already has?

          • Michelle Erb

            So if the fetus has zero chance of survival is an abortion to save her life still murder?

  • Kristy Patullo

    Absolutely heartbreaking. God bless this family. But I think any Mother would do
    the same. Your child’s life is always more important than your own.

    • Jog

      Particularly if you have no other children that you would leave without a mother and your unborn has a better chance of survival than you would without the pregnancy.

  • Sue Lynn

    Wow…she sure was selfless just like Christ taught us…