BACK THE FUCK OFF: One woman’s abortion story and why politicians need to leave women alone

[UPDATED by scatx on Jan. 2, 2012: More people than just cis women need and want access to abortion care.]

[NB: The story below is important.  It's real.  It's painful and beautiful and strong and necessary.  Because we aren't talking about an abstract person out in the interwebs somewhere but rather my friend, someone I love and for whom I care, I am going to be incredibly strict about what comments make it onto this post.  NOTHING that remotely attacks, shames, or criticizes the person in this post for the choice they made (the legal choice they made) will even be considered.  So, if you are here to attack, shame, or criticize, just turn around and leave.  Also, fuck you.]

If you think you know what you would do when it comes to abortion, you obviously have never had to make the choice.  I’m looking at you, rich white dude politicians here in Texas, in the federal government, and all over this country.

You need to BACK THE FUCK OFF.

_________________________

by Anonymous (my friend)

Texas lawmakers approve bills requiring ultrasound before abortion

This sort of stuff scares me dearly.  It always brings tears to my eyes, and sometimes I actually cry.

I have always been of the mindset that while I personally could not terminate a pregnancy, I was not going to stop other people from having one.   It is already a hard decision, one that needs to be made with input from those you trust, not from complete and total strangers.

Four years ago we were a blissfully ignorant Dual-Income-No-Kid couple. Happily married for 4 years (engaged and dating for 5 before that).  We decided to start a family after our own adventures as a couple, becoming professionals, traveling.  I became pregnant.  I was queasy and ate candied ginger surreptitiously. I slept in my car during my lunch break so we could wait to tell coworkers.   We had tests done at Week 13, not because we were at risk, but because we’re the type of people who have tests done, and like to be prepared.  They included that first ultrasound to check the nuchal fold, where you are absolutely amazed at the pictures on the screen, that still seem unreal.  The tests all came back ‘normal.’

We finally told everyone, took the first ultrasound pictures with us.  First trimester finished, I was now feeling energetic.  I returned to my usual 50 or 60 hours at work.  I took weekly photos in profile, in a black tank top and black yoga pants.  My pre-pregnancy pants started not to fit anymore.

On the immediate Monday of Week 20, we went in for an appointment for the Big Ultrasound, first thing in the morning so we could still have a full work day.  Everyone knows this is the ultrasound during which you find out the sex.  Once my stomach was prepped, the machine started and the tech began, but immediately became quiet, excusing herself to get the doctor.  And we were hit with a bombshell.  Turns out the fetus had quite a few congenital issues, and was not growing normally.  Was likely dying.

We went in to talk to the ‘geneticist’ which, looking back, was probably drug-company hired help.  Everything is so not clear from that week.  She said there were University hospitals doing tests on pre-natal surgeries, but there was no guarantee we would get in to the test group, or of course that whatever procedures would work.  We could wait to deliver a dead baby, but that may not happen, as my own health (mental and physical) was likely to decrease. And my body may never self-deliver, in which case an induction was likely.  We could terminate the pregnancy.  She recommended hospitals 3 hours away, outside of our own city, even though there are providers in town.  Again, she was likely hired help from a drug company or large hospital conglomerate, interested in a kick-back instead of our own comfort.

We walked upstairs to my regular OB/GYN, sat in the waiting room sobbing.  We both had to call our offices to tell them we wouldn’t be in today, and likely that week.  They tried to call back, and I wished they would just leave us alone. There was finally a room available in  the back, outside of the waiting room. Sometimes I think back, now, on all the poor women that must have been in that waiting room.  They could only imagine what was going on, and be frightened.  I have often hoped their pregnancies turned out with beautiful bouncing babies.

My kind doctor, who I greatly trusted, hugged us both.  Offered condolences. Offered rational options. Let us make our own decision. Agreed with us.  Told us what to tell people who would not understand that some pregnancies need to be terminated.  Gave us contact information for local services.  Made sure we made an appointment to see her in a month, just to talk.

We went home.  I called my parents.  We were supposed to meet them the following weekend for a vacation.  We were going to show them photos of their soon-to-be-grandchild.  Instead, they canceled their plane tickets, switched to come into our town the following day.  We canceled ours.  My husband  had to fight with the airline to get a refund credit, while dealing with his own grief.  I have no earthly idea what my husband told his parents.  My parents told my sibling, and other relatives, that we miscarried.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  At all.  I sobbed, body-shaking sobs, the entire night, on the couch.  We both held each other in our arms, sobbing.  This was the most pain I have felt in my entire life.  And there was no end in sight to the pain.  It is still there.  Covered, but always there.

Tuesday I phoned a center that provides OB/GYN and family planning services.  I set up an appointment for Wednesday.  My parents arrived Tuesday afternoon.  Wednesday morning was my father’s birthday.  We woke up, sang him a happy birthday, and then we all went to the center.  It was a surreal week.

All of the staff were incredibly kind.  There was a pre-conference to discuss the reasons for the termination, during which we cried, yet again. We paid, out of pocket; insurance was not accepted. An ultrasound was performed, but we asked not to look at it.  The fetus was measuring at 20 w, 5 d.   The tech asked if we wanted to know the sex.  We did not.  She did not need to ask why we were terminating.  She could tell. A needle was injected into my uterus. Other preparations were made.  We all went home.

Thursday was the actual procedure.  My parents and my husband sat in the waiting room.  Only I was allowed in the back.  There was another woman there for a termination, however the staff kept us apart.  I was sedated through the procedure.  I went to the recovery room.  Asked staff to tell my husband I was okay.  We went back home.  I slept, thanks to drugs.  And I was back on my feet Friday.  Crying, and mentally numb.  My parents left Saturday. My milk came in on Sunday, while we were in a movie theater, trying to get away from the situation.  I desperately called my mother, and searched the internet for help.  All the internet sites say to feed your baby to relieve the pressure.  My employer had minimal sick leave, so my termination was taken as unpaid time off.  I was back at work on Tuesday, 7 days later.

I spent the next several months depressed.  We thought about moving, starting over somewhere else.  I hid all of the baby stuff we had already received.  I deleted all of my pregnancy blog posts.  We gave our diapers to a couple we knew who had just had multiples.  Where 5 months previous I had been going to my car to sleep, I now went there to cry.  I thankfully started seeing someone, and had the resources to pay for their services.  She helped me deal with it. I learned how to function with the termination as a part of me.

I look back, and try to think about what caused the congenital defects, how I could have prevented them.  But taking more vitamins was not going to prevent the defects, or the termination.  We were just part of that unlucky 1%.  I joined many online support groups, and met women who did not have an ‘easy’ option.  They had to go out of state, make travel arrangements, financial arrangements.  Arrangements for their families and their work.  I was a lucky one, with choices and the means available. Given the process took nearly a week, if we had our original Big Ultrasound one week later, I may not have been able to terminate.  Because some politicians in our state had decided that no matter the circumstances, my own, personal circumstances, if it was any later in the pregnancy they had decided that my family and I could not make our own decision with input from my own doctors.

I view a blog occasionally, written by an older woman.  She has her own termination story, though it is not the focus of her blog. However, she recently said :

Years ago I proposed those of us who’ve had abortions all get bumper stickers that say, ASK ME ABOUT MY ABORTION. Of course, if we did, our tires would be slashed, windshields shattered, and “Second Amendment remedies” applied. But the idea was that maybe if all these jackasses trying to outlaw abortion would stop and really listen, they might gain enough insight and compassion to BACK THE FUCK OFF.

Because, you really do have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you know what they are going through.  Offer compassion before judgment.  Instead, regarding terminations, some people say that you must endure, even if you have been raped.  Or if your partner is abusive.  Or your life is in danger (mentally or physically). Or your much-wanted baby is dying.  You must continue to be a living coffin.  You must listen to the heartbeat that you have already listened to every month.  You must look at your fetus that you tried so hard for, that you wanted, that you were excited about, that you told the whole world about, before you go through with the already impossible decision to try to save your own sanity, and your own life.  If I had carried that fetus to some sort of induced birth, I would not have my beautiful child today.  I can not imagine the absolute mental anguish that I would have gone through for another month, two months, 4 months.  I would have not been able to imagine a happy and successful pregnancy and birth.  Ever.

Instead, now, we have a beautiful healthy child.  Born 12 ½ months after my termination.  But though your second pregnancy starts showing much faster than your first, and others suspected I was pregnant, we did not tell people until Week 21.  And if we have another child, we will wait just as long. But the termination has become part of the having-another-child conversation.  We are now parents who know that pregnancies do not always carry happy endings.

Whenever a friend goes in for their first Big Ultrasound, and are giddy about finding out the sex, I hold my breath and smile.  I hold my breath, hoping they never have to endure the pain that we experienced.  But, always willing to offer support.  And continue to hope that they have the same choices available that we did.  Because I know that they would be a completely different person without them.

So, keep my options open.

Offer compassion and support.

Stop and really listen,

And BACK THE FUCK OFF.

Comments are closed.

  1. TMae says:

    Thank you for offering the space for this. These stories need to be heard. The stories of ALL WOMEN who terminate need to be heard. They are stories that need to be told. But, like that quote up there says – when we talk, we risk our safety.

    Thanks to your friend for sharing.

  2. Annie says:

    Please, tell your friend that I love her. And tell her she is an amazing person. Please let her know she did a great thing by telling her story.

  3. Kristin Brittain says:

    Thank you, & your friend, for sharing such a heartbreaking, personal story. I know it can’t have been easy. I am amazed at the strength & grace with which anonymous & her husband handled a nightmare situation. I am grateful for her supportive parents. I hope that minds are opened, if only by inches, after reading this.

  4. Lisa says:

    Such a powerful, moving story. Much love to your friend and her family. My heart aches for their loss.

    This is exactly why the gov’t has no place in setting medical policy. Doctors, not legislators, are the ones qualified to advise & guide patients, and I’m glad your friend’s doctor was compassionate and informed.

  5. Coffin says:

    Anonymous, I am so, so sorry for you and your family’s loss. Your story is heartbreaking. And thank you for being generous enough to share your story in the hopes that it will be helpful to others.

    scatx, please give your friend a hug from me.

  6. Chanty says:

    This is so awful. I am so sorry about all the horrible and painful things you went through. I hope your story can shed some light and possibly have anti-choicers show an ounce of compassion. Please know that your pain and loss didn’t go in vain. You are helping so many others by sharing your story.

  7. Angelica says:

    Thank you for making your story public. My eyes are wet and I’m absolutely devastated. I have always believed in a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, but never thought much about women whose pregnancies go in a terrible direction. This has given me one more reason to defend women’s right to choose! Thank you and I love you!

  8. Amanda says:

    Sobbing. This story and others like it are incredibly important, thanks for sharing this.

  9. Nicole says:

    Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss but am grateful that you are willing to endure the pain of talking about your experiences. People need to know. They NEED to know.

  10. lb says:

    This is so similar to my brother and sister-in-law’s story – termination of a very wanted child due to congenital defects, missed it in the 20 week ultrasound so she was 4.5 months into the pregnancy when they found out about it, traveling to Atlanta due to laws/services in their own state (now “fucking Atlanta”). No one should have added medical/legal troubles on top of an already heartwrenching situation.

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Sonya says:

    Had a similar experience myself – twice. I can talk about it now but it took a long time. I admire your courage in sharing your story with all of us. Thank you.

  12. Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel says:

    G-d bless you for your candor and your courage in telling your story. Losing a much-wanted pregnancy for ANY reason, spontaneous or induced, is heartbreaking, and the jabberjaws who have anything to say to you except a sincere, “I’m so sorry,” just… don’t… know… what you’ve endured.

  13. RachelB says:

    Anonymous, I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m glad that you had the option to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally.

  14. Ian John Philoponus says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. Here is another very similar story which did not end in abortion. Both ought to be understood and considered along side one another.

    [website removed by moderator]

    I’m only sharing another perspective.

  15. scatx says:

    I’m thrilled for that family and that is a great story about adversity and survival. But I don’t know what that story had to do with anything about this post. The fetus in the story you sent was not dying inside of its mother. From what that site shows, termination was not even considered, forget being the suggested medical route.

    By suggesting that these are “very similar” and that this one “did not end in abortion,” you are implying that the story that Anonymous told could have ended any other way. And had she decided not to terminate her pregnancy, she, too, could have had a healthy baby in the end. Had they just seen a specialist, had a surgery, whatever, then a baby would have been the outcome. And that’s categorically untrue. And for you to send this to Anonymous, who clearly lost a pregnancy that she wanted, is mean-spirited and unhelpful.

    So, NO, these pregnancy stories aren’t similar. At all.

    And the fact that you felt the need to write “I’m only sharing another perspective” shows that what you submitted is contentious in this space and especially in comparison with what Anonymous shared here.

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  17. Emily says:

    My husband and I terminated our first pregnancy, too, due to ‘fetal incompatability with life.’ We also had a wonderful and amazingly healthy son exactly 12 months later. We only got to make one decision as parents the first time. It breaks my heart that people are trying to take that one choice away. There’s no empathy or compassion there.

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  19. Laurie says:

    Anonymous,
    I recognize that it is most likely impossible to celebrate or feel pride in anything associated with such a traumatic experience, but I hope that you feel pride in the courage it took to tell your story and the power that your message holds. I have always voted pro-choice, and for the first time in awhile, this pushed me to think more critically about why the right to choice is important. As emotional as it was to read this, I also saw it as a call to action.

    I grieve this part of your human story, and I have your back. I promise to continue the fight, and I will hold you close to my heart as I do so.

    Thank you.

  20. Margaret says:

    Thank you for sharing. I used to be a pro-lifer and it’s stories like your that made me change my mind.

  21. David C.. says:

    I am grateful that your friend felt strong enough to share this story of pain and tribulation with us all. I have personally helped 3-4 women, Besides my girlfriend, get through pregnancies in the past by taking them to doctor’s appointments, OB/GYN appointments, ultrasounds, you name it.

    All of those turned out well, but I was Profusely thanked for all the support I gave them as they needed it. This story just illustrates what Could have happened to Any of them. While I am glad that it didn’t, I am also glad that your friend had the courage to go through her own battle, and then even more so, to Post it, even if it was a few years later.

    I have been Pro-Choice all my life, figuring that a woman had a right to choose for whatever reason she deemed was good. I hope that Women get to keep the right to choose, but I fear for that as I watch things unfold here in IN and around the US.

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  23. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for being brave enough to tell us your story. It is people like you that remind us of what a law can do to real people and their lives.

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  25. Been There, Too says:

    Your story could be mine – I have walked exactly in your shoes, at the exact same point of pregnancy. Unlike you, I do not yet have another child. Unlike you, my parents and family are so pro-life and anti-abortion that they will never know. I wish I had your parents. Most people think I miscarried, and if they ever knew the truth, I don’t know what they would do, given how zealously “pro-life” they all are.

  26. Roccie says:

    But what can we DO?

    I have often thought about telling my full story and what exactly incompatible with life means. But who can it help?

    Tell me where to go. I will be the face of late term abortion. I will tell my story to help anyone avoid a fraction of this pain… but where and what? How can we help?

  27. scatx says:

    I think the simple act of telling your story matters. I don’t think you should discount making abortion about the women and their bodies.

    But your questions are good. Where do you go? I don’t know, obviously. I have this blog. My friend chose this blog, too. I feel like it has had an impact, will continue to have one.

    But what does it do politically or for the movement? I don’t know.

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  29. Thank you for telling this story. I cried.

    About a year ago, I went in for the nuchal lucency testing. The obstetrician asked me which week I was in, because the fetus looked about two weeks too small. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.

    It was a Friday morning. There was another appointment with another obstetrician later the same day, who confirmed that the fetus had died. He booked me in for surgery on Tuesday morning. I didn’t have to go in to work during the weekend, and I could take time off after the vacuum exeresis, too. I was met with much sympathy and understanding at work.

    During that time, I thought about the women who have a much harder time getting the care they need.

    We’re still trying for another pregnancy, but it’s hard, and I’m very ambivalent.

  30. Eireann says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, to suffer so much when you were only just beginning that journey for the first time.
    I’m young and I don’t have children, but I want to. Your story has given me a lot to keep in mind, a lot to remember when I finally get pregnant.
    I feel that nothing I could say would be adequate enough to express how much of a difference this will make to people. Still, thank you.

  31. Amber says:

    I’ve never felt the need to post a comment on a blog before… but this one is different.

    I’ve recently discovered that I’m pregnant with my first child. My husband and I have been together for about eight years, (married for three of them).

    We’re lucky in the fact that we both hold the same views on this topic. We are both pro-choice.

    My first doctor’s appointment is coming up and I’m really scared. No reason in particular, just really scared.

    We’ve discussed our options and have made tentative plans…. but I hope that we can be as brave as you were in making the right choices for ourselves and our child.

    I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through, but I would like to say thank you.

    Thank you for being brave enough to make that decision, and thank you for sharing it with random strangers who stumble upon this site.

    Maybe I’m just being hormonal and stuff, but it makes me feel stronger knowing that someone can survive something like this and continue on.

  32. Justina says:

    You are a very brave and strong woman for doing what you did. I respect you in each and every way. Those who are rude and hateful towards you because of a decision you made which doesn’t involve them haven’t experienced what you had to and they aren’t worth your time.

  33. EAM says:

    This is very similar to something that happened to one of my closest friends. Although she has two happy teens today, she still hides her first pregnancy’s sad story out of fear. In her case the child had no upper skull plate, it had a fully exposed brain and could not be saved. 2 miscarriages followed before she successfully had her children. It was an, awful time. We must
    protect our medical rights.

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  35. Steph says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You and your husband are amazingly brave and strong people. It is absolutely imperative that people who become pregnant have options. It breaks my heart to think things could have been different and even more difficult for you or others in your situation had it happened any other time in any other circumstances.

  36. Anonymous Woman says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I chose to terminate a pregnancy last year, and struggled for a long time with my choice. Afterwards I had a mental health crisis, lost my job and partner, and very nearly lost my own life by my own hand.

    Despite living through rape and domestic violence in the past, abortion lead to the worst emotional pain I have ever felt. I felt so heavily to blame, as though I no longer deserved to live, I could not bear to see children, babies or pregnant women; even baby items in shops would reduce me to wracking sobs right there in public. I stopped leaving the house, I fell apart, I was put in the care of my parents to avoid being sectioned in a mental health facility.

    I wish that pro-choice groups would be honest about women’s reactions: some are ok afterwards, some are not, like any other medical procedure. I felt like I was a shame to them.

    I wish that anti-abortion groups would stop interfering where they cannot and do not understand. I had no way to provide for my potential child (my income would cover rent and childcare, leaving nothing to live on), I had shaky mental health, no family nearby to help me, and a partner so abusive it required police intervention to escape him (he pressured me into the unprotected sex and tried to prevent me from accessing emergency contraception, which meant it was less effective when I could get away).

    I was lucky to be helped by Pass Boards, a place for women who have undergone abortion for any reason. Their strength and kindness healed me, and through their 14 week structured group support I began to see the light in life again. They can be found here: http://passboards.org

    A year on, it does still hurt inside, but I honestly feel that I did make the right choice, I could not bring a child into that hellish existence.

    So thank you, anonymous, for sharing your story, and huge congratulations on your beautiful family.

  37. faerylandmom says:

    Thank you for the vulnerability it took to share this story. If I were to define my position, I would land firmly in the pro-life camp. However – I will NEVER pretend to understand all you went through, and the heart-wrenching pain that you had to suffer through. I don’t. I will NEVER condemn your decision – whether I agree with it or not. That is not the issue.

    Your pain is the issue. Your grief, your journey, your life. You are just as precious as the child you lost. You and your healing process are just as important.

    I may not understand, but if I could meet you face-to-face, I would offer you my shoulder to cry on, my ears to listen to you, and all the love that you need to heal. You would meet no judgment in my eyes. May God richly bless you and bring you healing as you walk through your grief. I pray that your precious child you now hold in your arms brings you great, great joy every day – kids are awfully good at that.

    Grace & Peace to you and your family.

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  39. Emelyn says:

    Firstly, a massive thank you to anonymous for sharing her story. I have a similar one, although mine was earlier in the pregnancy, and I’m still trying for my first living baby.

    I think stories like this are a big part of what is missing from the abortion time limit debate. I’d be very interested to see some figures on how many terminations later than 20 weeks are for serious medical reasons (mother’s or fetus’s health) as opposed to “an easy way out of a mistake”. I know it is almost impossible to publish these figures due to the rarity of the procedure making them too easily de-anonamisable, but I feel sure that they are almost all, if not all, for medical rasons or for the most vulnerable in our society.

    These limits hurt vulnerable and sick people the most, without having any effect on so-called “terminations of convenience”. If these convenient terminations do occur in significant numbers (I’d like to see some figures on that too), then they are almost certainly won’t be prevented by these ill-thought laws. Surely better information (both before sex and after) and better access to contraception would better prevent all abortions.

    All women should have safe access to healthcare, including terminations. I really feel for Maria, but less information and fewer choices are not the way to solve these issues.

  40. Linda says:

    As a woman who grew up in the 60′s and one who lost a friend to a botched abortion – years before Roe vs Wade, it is simply incredulous to me that we have taken these giant steps backward. Our body. Our choice. End of story. I am so sorry for your loss and happy that you have a healthy child now. Given the same circumstances I would have done exactly the same thing. But I also know that making that choice is never easy. Never.

  41. Brittany Nicole says:

    I just went through this same exact thing . Last week I went for my 20 week sonogram to find out the sex of my baby and my sisters baby. The doctor who did my ultrasound acted as if everything was normal , told me I was having a girl with a smile on her face. Sooo excited my first child was going to be a girl I could spoil and love forever. After my appointment she sent me upstairs to my OB thinking everything was ok I texted everyone in my phone while waiting in the waiting room. “I HAVING A GIRLLLL ! (=” was sent to everyone in my contacts. Once I got called to the back the doctors faces were all so serious while I’m standing there with a big smile on my face. They asked “did they tell you anything downstairs?” And in excitement I replied “YES I’m having a girl” then after that my life went down hill , they told me she had spina bifida and she have many complications , I got a second doctor to look at me hoping my doctors were wrong , I recieved the same information , more details though. Ill be 22 weeks tomorrow but I am deciding , unwillingly to have an abortion and I am more than hurt and upset and confused. I took the tests I had too take to see if I was at risk for these kind of complications , my chances were 1 in 2016 girls and I just happened to be that one.

  42. Ginger says:

    I ended up going to Dr. Tiller ~ April, 1993. I was 28 weeks. I feel for you. I too am speaking out and telling my story. All of our stories need to be heard. We are the silent majority. It is our families. It is our decision. It is not taken lightly as so many say it is. We need full disclosure of all possible health options. Doctors didn’t tell me about Dr. Tiller in KS. I finally called Planned Parenthood & asked, “Is there anything I can do?” They said yes, & directed me to KS. (I live in WI).
    I’m an active Pro-choice catholic. Ladies, Knowledge is power. Keep sharing your story. Don’t stop talking.
    On my babies birth/death date, I volunteer every year at Planned Parenthood or I go to the capital & talk to delegates. No one likes our stories. They are hard to listen to. But they are REAL. They happen to your neighbors. They happen to the lady sitting in the same bench as you in church. Covering up serves no one. My Angel’s story will go on~ Yes, crazy people out there do stupid things (slashing tires, pulling guns). But keep telling the story. Feel free to contact me.

  43. Ginger says:

    Brittany, I am so sorry for you. You are on one heck of a roller coaster right now. Your doing the right thing going to different doctors. Keep seeking medical opinions. Seek out a genetic specialist. Pediatric doctors. Neo-natal specialists. Find out what your are to expect. Get prepared. Ask to talk to parents of children with the same disorder. Doctors & nurses can hook you up to talk to others. Get as much knowledge as you can. It will make your decision clearer. You have every right to feel hurt, upset & confused. Do you have support system? (friends, family). Call on them. right now, your mind is spinning a thousand miles a minute with questions “What if” “what will be” “what about this” “what about that”. Keep notes. There are other people who have walked in your shoes, they have made different decisions. Ask for their story. Weigh things out. My biggest & most important question to the doctors was: “Will my baby know my touch? Will she have any senses to life. What is the quality of life she will have?” and then don’t forget to ask: “Am I in any danger carrying this pregnancy?”. You need to take care of yourself too. Feel free to contact me directly.