I’m not supposed to be writing this blog. My goal tonight was sleep. There is a nice, happy blog in the works in my head and I fully intended to share it with you. Unfortunately, my sleep deprived eyes won’t shut and my brain is racing. It all began tonight during a conversation with my husband. Having been raised Catholic, this article infuriated him. He knows that women are autonomous beings, completely capable of making their own decisions. He also knows that in the United States, if a child is viable, labor is induced rather than abortions. Finally, he knows that as a rule, the majority of women do not take the issue of abortion lightly.
Now that you understand his personality a little, what is it that he could possibly say that would keep me from sleeping half the night? “That’s what we did, isn’t it?” He was referring to abortion…and when I thought about it, he was right. Let me explain.
After more than a year of trying to get pregnant, we finally succeeded in early 2012. We had just moved to California for new job opportunities and we were both so excited!! New home, new jobs, new baby! We weren’t quite sure what took so long, but suspected it had a lot to do with my stress levels at work, and possibly my endometriosis. Who knows really. Thankfully, things were finally looking up. I knew I was pregnant right away because of the awful nausea and the breast tenderness. A home pregnancy test (or three…) confirmed and at around 5 weeks I went to the doctor for official verification. After an initial ultrasound (deemed too early for a heartbeat) and later a sonogram with no heartbeat, the nurse practitioner determined that I was probably less pregnant than expected. Just to be sure, she scheduled me to go to the hospital for a more in depth ultrasound at around 8 weeks.
I researched like crazy, trying to figure out why we wouldn’t have found the heartbeat yet. Hours on the internet had me 99% convinced that I was just wrong about the conception date. Finally, the day came where we would see our baby via a traumatizing vaginal ultrasound. Deep down I was terrified something was wrong, but I held out so much hope. That hope began to dwindle as I saw the look on the radiologist’s face. I asked if there was anything wrong and she said she wanted a second opinion from the doctor, leaving us alone in the room. Shortly thereafter, an abrupt man in a white lab coat entered the room. He casually told my husband and I that the baby had not developed past five weeks, most likely due to an abnormality. He called it a “missed miscarriage” and said my body just hadn’t flushed itself out yet. He then offered to schedule a dilation and curettage (D&C) that would remove the remains of the fetus. I was shocked. Traumatized. Angry. How could this man so casually crush my dreams?? I declined to schedule the D&C and went home to research missed miscarriages and call my obstetrician. She assured me that I didn’t have to make a decision right away. If we did go through with the D&C, we would be able to start trying for another baby in a few months. If on the other hand I naturally miscarried, then we could safely get pregnant right away. Still holding out hope, I continued to read message boards and blogs about women with the same experience. Several discussed cases of misdiagnosed missed miscarriages, which buoyed my hope.
Unfortunately, hope is sometimes pointless. After about two weeks, my symptoms began to fade. The ever present nausea wasn’t so bad. My breasts no longer hurt. A small spot of old blood appeared on my panty liner. After 3 weeks, I accepted the inevitable. Rather than go back to the hospital for more trauma, I approached a trusted acupuncturist and asked for help.
30 minutes after we began, the needles were removed and I prepared to head home. Before exiting the building, pain started in my back and I thought I needed to use the bathroom. By the time I arrived home, the pain was excruciating. My husband went to the pharmacy to get me hot packs, and I received an unexpected text from a highly empathic friend who always seems to know when I am in trouble. She stayed with me for the next hour as I clung to the toilet and vomited over and over from the pain. She stayed with me as the blood poured from my body and the cherished dream of a completed family that I held so dear literally ended up in the toilet. By the time my husband was able to get back with the hot packs, it was finished. Our baby was gone.
The trauma from that night lasted for months and likely contributed to a relatively short stay in California. I never forgave the doctor at the hospital and even though we were able to get pregnant again within another month (quite unexpectedly), I remained angry and depressed. That stage of grief was one I couldn’t get over. I wanted to go back home, to the state I trusted, the people I trusted, and the doctors I trusted. At the beginning of my last trimester, we returned home and at exactly 40 weeks, I received the gift of a healthy baby boy.
It never occurred to me to think of my action that day as an abortion, but in reading current legislation being passed in Texas and other states, I realized that under new laws, my actions would constitute aborting a baby. In fact, in Texas after December 19, 2016, hospitals will have to cremate or bury the remains of any D&C to remove a missed miscarriage. The same remains that were flushed down my toilet. If on the other hand, women choose to experience the horrific pain that I went through at home, without any medication or support, there are no new regulations. As far as I can tell, the sole purpose of this law is to make providing a basic, necessary, legal health service more complicated. In case you are wondering, I am not the only person who came to this conclusion. This editorial sums it up well.
I am pro-choice because I believe women should have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies. This includes condemning adding unnecessary and often traumatizing hurdles for women to overcome when making this type of decision. I am pro-life because I believe that we should do everything we can to support ALL children who are born into this world. I am also pro-life because I believe the women carrying babies have as much right to life as the lives growing within them.
Increased sexual education, family planning resources, higher wages, and better medical care are all ways in which we can reduce unnecessary abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Women should not have to decide on abortion because they cannot afford food, shelter, or housing. Women should not have to decide on abortion because some horrible person rapes them and they know their state may give that rapist visitation privileges if they carry through with the pregnancy. It’s time for our lawmakers to do their jobs and move on from the issue of abortion. Laws are in place to ensure safe abortion procedures are available for women who want or need them and those laws also prevent the loss of sustainable life. Chipping away at these protections while reducing safety net programs does not save more lives. It encourages more unsafe abortions, child abandonment, suffering, and often mental distress.
This isn’t the happy post I wanted to share with you, but it is the one I needed to share. Maybe now I can sleep. Maybe now my mind will calm, my blood pressure will lower, and my eyes will finally close. Then again, maybe not.
Until next time…