What I want you to know is that although I have always supported the rights of women to make their own decisions in every aspect of their own lives, that I never knew if I thought that this particular decision would be right for me. Then one day, it wasn’t a hypothetical anymore, and making that decision was something I had to contend with.
It all started four years ago. After only two months of trying, my husband and I conceived our first pregnancy. We were happy, we were tearful, we were excited to share the news with friends and family. But…..it never felt right. Deep down, I knew this pregnancy was not going to end with a shiny new addition to our family. Cut to 10 weeks later, at our second ultrasound. The tech had to leave the room, and my husband and I nervously sat alone in the examining room, the ultrasound jelly still glistening on my barely puffy belly. We knew this couldn’t be good, but those words went unspoken. No news is good news, right? The tech came back in and directed us to go to a room next door. The nameplate on the door said something about genetics, and I steeled myself to hear the bad news. After this meeting and another one with a perinatologist, what we were told is that our baby had a cyst on his spinal cord, that his head and neck were not fully formed, and that he would most likely not survive until term. If he did, he would require immediate brain surgery and the resulting outcome would not be good, to put it lightly. The doctor also explained that if we decided to continue with the pregnancy, it could be dangerous for me should we lose the baby late term, which in all likelihood, we would. We left that day with discharge orders recommending termination of the pregnancy and an appointment at a family planning clinic nearby. I was told that our insurance company would not cover the procedure at our regular office, as they “weren’t the experts.” Bullshit. It’s a highly political, emotionally charged procedure that I know my HMO didn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole, so they pushed me eleven feet away, to what basically amounted to a free clinic.
What I want you to know is that I endured the worst day of my life, despite having a doctor’s recommendation and referral. The clinic was dingy, privacy was at a bare minimum, and despite being assured that I would be treated with care, dignity, and respect for our loss, I was herded in with at least 20 other women as we waited our turn to see the doctor. I felt like a dog. Even with insurance and doctor’s orders, because of the political nature of the procedure, I was shoved to the fringes to receive medical care, and it felt like it.
After that day, the specialist assured us this was a freak thing, that our next baby would be perfectly healthy. She is!
Two years after my daughter arrived and made her mark on the world as the kindest, happiest, spunkiest, loveliest child ever to grace mankind, we decided to try to get another one just like her.
At our 11 week ultrasound, I watched the doctor’s face go grim as he clicked his mouse and moved the cursor around to take measurements, and I knew it was happening again. Only this time, we found out, it was worse. As well as a cyst inside the brain, other major organs were missing, and this time, instead of 50/50 odds, we were told this pregnancy would definitely not last. As I dissolved into a puddle of tears and fits of rage I knew what I had to endure again.
Luckily, this time we went to Planned Parenthood, where the staff treated me with respect and dignity, and I felt well cared for, even looked after with a sense of empathetic understanding. That day went well, relatively speaking. But we now know that because it happened twice, that we are most likely the lucky recipients of a recessive gene that is wreaking havoc, and there is a 1 in 4 chance with every pregnancy that we will have a tragic outcome.
I obviously believe in abortion as a necessary option in certain instances, even as a right for others. But it’s not one I take lightly, and now that I know it’s not just a freak occurrence, but a definite possibility or even a likelihood that I would need one again, I know it’s not right for me to keep rolling the dice.
So please, understand that not everyone who has had an abortion is a careless teenager or a reckless crackhead. Please be careful with how you spread your message and share your beliefs. Because for some, that unexpected picture on a Facebook feed of a 12 week old fetus is a warning tale. For others, it’s a cruel reminder of the day our heart was shattered beyond repair.