Tag Archives: pregnancy and infant loss awareness

ABORTION- Writ Large

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Twenty years ago today, I had an abortion.

The thought struck me as I drove home from work, or rather, as I drove to my seven year old daughter’s science fair at her elementary school. The thought came again, once I went home and made supper for my eleven year old son, my daughter and her dad still at the science fair.

Twenty years.

Somehow, I am at a point in my life when I measure things by decades.

Trauma has a way of either binding or erasing memories from our memory. It is an actual chemical process that happens in our brains.

On that particular day, twenty years ago, moments were seared into my memory as if someone held a tattoo gun to my grey matter.

I wore a pink sweater and black pants. I carried an alpaca shawl with me that I’d been sleeping with for years and named Mr. Snuggly. Even after the nurses made me change into the johnny, I still had Mr. Snuggly draped around my shoulders. They made me take it off when I went in for the actual procedure. I felt so suddenly cold.

Have you seen the Netflix show Sex Education with Gillian Anderson? There is an amazing abortion scene in that. My abortion was partially like that and partially not. I watched that series not too long ago and found myself thinking wow…  they got it right...  but then when I thought about it today, about my experience, I thought about all of the ways it was different for me.

The strange, awkward camaraderie of the women as they waited their “turns” in the show was totally resonant with my experience. I’ll never forget the women who told me stories and tried to comfort me. But I got suddenly sick to my stomach and a nurse made me go into another room by myself to wait on a bed with bleached, white sheets. Maybe the nurse thought the other women, who had been through it before, scared me. They didn’t, to be honest.

To this day, I remember those women and feel the wave of comfort they imparted to my pale, conflicted soul.

Ask me anything.

Ask me if I was scared; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I was sad; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I felt certain; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I cried the entire time so hard, the nurses threatened me that if I didn’t stop the doctor wouldn’t do it and would make me come back another day. Yes.

Ask me if I wanted to die along with whatever bloody tissue they scraped out of my uterus that March morning. Yes. 

Ask me if I regret what I did. . .  the answer is no.

At the time, my boyfriend, and I use the term loosely because I learned later he cheated on me during our entire relationship, was a Marine. We had been together for a little over a month when I found I was pregnant. He was menacing, and became even more so after I told him I was pregnant. He doubted the pregnancy was his. He accused me of being unfaithful and deceitful. He told me I was ruining his career and his life if I continued the pregnancy.

Then he decided we would make great parents and he said he would allow me to keep the baby. That lasted for about two days. When I couldn’t make up my mind in the market over something minor, he berated me. He told me I’d make a horrible mother. He brought me to tears with harsh words, then soothed me, as he proved his point I was an unstable human, unfit to have a child.

But that was not all.

Statistically, abuse increases for pregnant women in domestic violence situations. I was part of this statistic.

He’d squeeze the tender flesh above my knees or my elbows, then scream at me when I recoiled in pain.

I found a grenade in his closet one night when I was hanging my clothes for work the next day.

A grenade.

He told me not to worry about it. It wouldn’t actually kill me; it would just create a shattering force to concuss me and render me unconscious.

Then there was the night he dumped a gallon of ice water on me in the dark. Out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it, so I screamed. I swore. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into the next room and told me to get my filthy mouth out of his house and to never come back. Soaking wet, he threw me out of his house.

At that point, I realized I could not have a child with this man. I was terrified for my own life, but even more for the life of an innocent infant that I might bring into the world.

Of course all the pro-life people will rail against me and tell me what an evil harlot I am. I should have considered so many other options. I should have worked it out. I should have left.

Well, when you are being dragged by your hair and when you are staring at a grenade sitting above your freshly ironed blouse, options seem rather scarce.

You may not understand or believe my reasoning, but at its crux, my decision to have an abortion was about being a parent.

It was about being a parent to that little cluster of cells that had nested in my gut way back then in that unfortunate winter, and about the world into which I did not want to bring it.

And it was about being a parent to the children I would eventually have– to Jack and to Emily. I shiver to think of how my life would have been irrevocably altered had I carried that pregnancy to term. In some subconscious part of me, I knew to become a mother at that part of my life would have subjected me to unspeakable trauma that would have ruined not just my life but the life of an innocent. I never would have been available as a human to parent other wonderful, spectacular, complex, humans.

He was thrilled. He promised he would stand by me. He became unspeakably kind.

I made the appointment. He drove me there.

He drove me home and made me a sandwich. He left it on the bedside table, and then he left me. I saw him maybe one or two other times again in my entire life. It was a blessing in disguise.

Ask me if twenty years later I still feel such a profound mix of emotions that I am reluctant to admit I had an abortion; the answer is yes.

Ask me if any day of any week I can tell you how old it would be. Yes.

Women are shamed for all sorts of choices.

Women are shamed for having sex. Women are shamed for not having sex. In extreme cases, women are subjected to violence for their choices.

Today as I drove home from work and realized it was the twenty year anniversary of my abortion, I realized I no longer felt shame.

It took me a long time to make peace with the images of that day imprinted on the coils of my mind. It still makes me feel a bit sad to think of the rainbow socks of the woman in the recovery chair next to me, how they were those socks with the individual toes.

For so many years I sanitized my abortion with euphemisms. I’d say, oh I lost a baby. Or, I had a pregnancy loss. Maybe those things are true. But it is also true that I had an abortion, and it is no less shameful.

You know, many years later, some time after becoming a mother to my son, I got pregnant again. The pregnancy was not viable. I tried to miscarry at home, and I ended up hemorrhaging in a grocery store because some tissue got stuck in my cervix. It was violently ugly and utterly traumatic.

The so called miscarriage was nothing more than science to me. I was only eight or ten weeks pregnant and I understood that the fetus was not biologically sound. But the horrors that my body endured as a result of that event was just not expected or safe. I wound up on an operating table having what they call a D and C. Basically, it is the exact same thing as an abortion. They scrape out the contents of your uterus and you go on your way.

At that point, it had been 13 years since my miscarriage, but I remember feeling triggered by the procedure. It brought back a flood of feelings and thoughts that were unpleasant and unwanted, unlike any of the times I’d discovered I was pregnant. I’ve been pregnant four times and I have two children. All of my pregnancies were wanted; they were all just not tenable.

So.

Here I am. Twenty years after my abortion. No longer scared. No longer ashamed, but still feeling things and still wanting to hug those crazy, generous women who were there with me that awful morning.

Abortion was a gift to me on that fateful day, just as it was 13 years later when it saved my life during my miscarriage. I didn’t know it at the time in 1999. It took me a lot of years to be able to see it for what it was and to get past the trauma, not of the abortion, but of the circumstances that brought me to that point.

Abortion should not be a dirty word. Nor should it be a gift. Abortion should be a right for every woman who needs or desires one. If you don’t want one, don’t have one. If you want to adopt unwanted children, go do it- there are plenty. But please, do not judge, blame, ostracize, or malign women who need or want this medical procedure.

This is my story. It is mine.

There is so much more to it. This is just the tip to the iceberg.

But this is what I wanted to share today, on this anniversary. Because I am no longer ashamed or afraid, of the word abortion, or of my story.

Compassionate and thoughtful comments are always welcome here at Momaste. Please note comments on this post will be moderated. Anything hateful, bigoted, or obviously written from troll land will be deleted. Take your Pro Life agenda elsewhere. If you have sincere questions or need support please feel free to connect here in the comments. Much love and thank you for reading. 

 

 

“I Guess You Could Call It A Blighted Ovum”– The Story Of My Miscarriage

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October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  In recognition of this month, many women are sharing stories of babies they loved and loss.  I wrote this post last year, and wanted to share it again. . .  

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This is the one “pregnant” thing I will do. I thought.

I sat in my car in McDonald’s parking lot. I reached into a greasy bag, pulled out fistfulls of fries, and stuffed them into my face. I ate three cheese burgers and six chicken nuggets too.

I was pregnant and knew I was going to miscarry. For the past two weeks I was viciously sick, but my nausea suddenly stopped and I was ravenous. When I was pregnant with Jack, I used to sneak McDonald’s into my otherwise immaculate diet. So, for the one and only time, I did it with this. . .

This what?

It wasn’t a baby, or even an embryo.

At the eight week ultrasound that morning they stroked my stomach with the device, and even prodded me with the intra-vaginal “wand,” to search my uterus for a heartbeat. All their poking and prowling around revealed only emptiness.

It was like looking into a deserted room. There were signs someone had been there, a yolk sack cast off like a stray sock, and something else they called “implantation tissue.”

But there was no flicker of light. No one was home in that quaint, dark, little cabin inside of me.

This story takes place some years back, in between Jack and Emily. It was a warm, autumn day. I recall the morning glories were still using our sunflowers as a trellis. I had posted a photo of one on Facebook and a friend commented that if I believed in fate, that flower was heralding the coming of a baby girl. It was uncanny because no one knew I was pregnant besides my husband and best friend.

My husband had stayed home to watch Jack, and I was by myself at the clinic. The ultrasound tech fetched a doctor whom I’d never met. She too took a peek and confirmed, “Yup, there’s nothing in there.”

Confused, exhausted, and sick to my stomach, I started to cry. She gave me options of having the surgical process called a D and C, or getting a prescription of pills to insert in my vagina to start the miscarriage. “You don’t want to wait too long with these things,” she said when I asked why I couldn’t just wait for it to “pass” naturally.

This brings us up to me sitting and gorging on grease in McDonald’s parking lot. I was killing time waiting for that prescription to be filled, engaging in a ritual that felt almost sacred, which is maybe why I remember it so clearly these years later.

“I guess you could call it a blighted ovum,” the doctor had said, wrinkling up her nose, as though she was confused, but not really. I had asked her why there was nothing in there, when every test said I was pregnant, my aching breasts said I was pregnant, and the all-day-morning-sickness also confirmed a pregnancy. “Something probably went wrong with the implantation?” she offered quizzically.

According to Web MD, a blighted ovum “occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but doesn’t develop into an embryo.” Blighted ovums are usually the result of chromosomal issues with the pregnancy. It is cited as the leading cause of early miscarriage, therefore pretty common. However, until my miscarriage, I never heard of one.

Statistically, as many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.

So, I guess little Dr. Lady saw this type of thing all the time. For me, it was a brand-spanking-new experience.

I didn’t hide how annoyed I was with that doctor. We were in a room plastered with oversized ultrasound photos of beautiful, healthy babies. “You guys should really put up some photos in here of empty uteruses for the rest of us,” I snapped. She muttered something and bowed out of the room to write my prescription.

Recalling this conversation, I sipped on Diet Coke to wash down all that fat. I’m not really pregnant, I thought. Diet Coke is something I never would consume if I were really pregnant.

My emotions were mixed. It might surprise you that primarily I was stressed to be missing work, and uncertain how long it would take to empty the scant contents of my womb. The doctor said it would be “like a heavy period.” I had opted for the pills because I didn’t want to fork over a thousand dollar deductible for surgery.

Was I sad? Not really.

I was sick and tired and overwhelmed, but not sad.

I was crying to the point it was ugly, but I wasn’t really sad.

In my mind, it was science. Despite my irritation with that doctor’s lack of anything resembling bedside manner, I accepted her answer that something just went wrong with the implantation. It wasn’t a baby in there. It was a clump of cells that didn’t grow properly and never had a chance.

I had been happy and prepared to love another little human. I had stroked my stomach in the weeks since that positive pregnancy test, thought about baby names, and even fantasized it would be a girl, but my heart was not broken to discover it was a blighted ovum.

A few days later, after slipping those pills inside me, I hemorrhaged. Little Dr. Lady’s likening my miscarriage to “a heavy period” turned out to be the understatement of the year when my bathroom walls became splashed in blood as though someone had smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce. In the end, I had to cough up the deductible for emergency surgery to help me “complete the miscarriage.”

Then I was sad.

I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even miscarry properly.

In angry shock, images of the phsyical complications of my miscarriage intruded my thoughts. It was hard to forget the grapefruit-sized clots which poured out of me in line at the supermarket, blood dripping down my legs onto the checkered market floor. My blood count had dropped and I was too listless to play with Jack for days. I felt like my body betrayed me; everything I’d come to know and expect from my physical being was suspect.

Life goes on. I went back to work, took care of my family, and ate a ton of spinach to boost my iron. Eventually I recovered physically and emotionally. I swore off having more babies, yet five months later fell pregnant with my Emily. For that, I realize I was one of the lucky ones; my “miss” left me with no permanent damage and I was able to conceive once more. For that, I am grateful and terribly humble.

For a long time, I didn’t want anyone to know about my miscarriage. I didn’t tell people at work why I was out for nearly a month, and I didn’t care what dramas they concocted. Thinking I was in psychiatric hospital would be better than having them know I had a miscarriage. Eventually I got over that, and over time, I have shared my story.

I share this with you, at the risk of giving TMI and grossing you out, because maybe it happened to you too. I share this with you because so many of us have miscarriages and they are all different and they make us all feel differently. I share this with you because you are not alone, no matter what you are thinking or feeling about your miscarriage. I share this with you because your body is perfect and beautiful, and there is no shame in having a miscarriage.

Everyone handles miscarriage in a unique way. I read a book called “Unspeakable Losses,” which helped me understand the personal and profound nature of this loss, whether because it is the loss of a baby, or because of the physical issues involved, like mine. No one else in the world can know what a pregnancy means for a woman, because it is happening inside of HER.

I saved the morning glory photo. In my mind it represents that pregnancy, as well as the strength and tenacity of my body.

Having a private parking lot binge on fast food also validated that pregnancy. And gave me closure.

This post was originally published on Momaste on September 9, 2013.