[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)
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.