Tag Archives: pregnancy loss

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. 

 

 

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month– You Are Not Alone

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All these posts have been popping up on my Face Book newsfeed about October being the month in which we recognize and become aware of pregnancy and infant loss.

Which is kind of funny.

But not funny hah-hah.  Funny weird and karmic.

Because five years ago, in October, I lost a pregnancy.  It was in between having Jack and getting pregnant with Emily.

I purposely say I lost a pregnancy and not a baby.  Because it was early on–  only 10 weeks–  and I really didn’t think of it as a “baby”.  It was more or less a clump of cells.  And it didn’t grow the right way after it implanted in my uterus.  It was science, really.  But it was also heartbreaking.

I found out there was no heartbeat at the eight week “confirmation” appointment, when a tech stuck a wand up my lady parts after unsuccessfully trying to probe my flabby abdomen.

I’ll never forget her words, “Yeah, there’s nothing in there.”  She went off to find a doctor to confirm what she had already confirmed.  No baby.

It was an awful experience, and my husband had stayed home with Jack so I was all alone in the doctor’s office.  They put me in a chair to wait for a doctor, in a hallway where other pregnant women were wandering through for their own appointments.  I wept openly.  People stared openly.  After it was all said and done, I promptly switched OBGYNs so I would never have to go back to that place.

A flurry of blood tests and ultrasounds ensued over the next few days, to “confirm” that there was indeed no viable fetus in my swollen and nauseous belly.  It was exhausting and sad.  I cried.  Like, a lot.

No one had known I was pregnant other than my husband and best friend.  For some reason, I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone I was pregnant.  I’d been terribly sick and the combination of nausea and exhaustion led me to depression.  It was like my body was giving me a message that the pregnancy was not to be, and to be completely honest, I didn’t really bond with it.  Whatever “it” was.

So, I cried, but not because I was losing a baby.

I cried because I was really tired.  I cried because it was unfair that I had been so sick and my boobs had been so sore and it was all for naught.  I cried because I was pissed about having to pay the deductible on my insurance for emergency room visits and an operation because my body couldn’t even miscarry a baby properly, let alone carry one.

And that was the rub.

I felt like a failure.

I was embarrassed and angry with my body’s ineptitude to grow a human.

It sounds ridiculous, I know.  But after living in a certain shell of muscle, fat, water, and bone for 30-something years, I had grown into the assumption that I could expect certain things from my earthen vessel.  And when it failed me, I faltered.

Back then, when I lost this pregnancy, I didn’t want anyone to know.  I had to take a leave of absence from work for three weeks because my body wouldn’t stop bleeding, and my blood count dropped, and I could barely get out of bed.  No one other than my direct supervisor knew what was happening to me.  That was both comforting and isolating.  I thought to lie to people and tell them I had Lyme Disease, or mono, or a psychotic break–  anything would be less humiliating than admitting I’d had a miscarriage.

Furthermore, I did not want to see the look of pity in people’s eyes, and I did not know how I would respond when they offered words of condolence.  I didn’t know how to explain that I was not sad about losing a baby.  I was sad about my body failing.

Looking back on this experience, through the veil of time, I can see it was a very transformative time for me.  I learned some truly humbling lessons about myself, my body, and life.  I also learned about the strength of my family, the adoration of my husband, and the treasure of Jack’s presence in our lives.

I’m not ashamed to talk about my miscarriage anymore.  And even though that pregnancy never took the shape of a baby in my womb or mind, it left an indelible imprint on my heart as both a woman and a mom.

Women have all kinds of feelings about pregnancy losses.  None of those feelings are wrong, or better, or worse, or right.  They are all just feelings.

A friend of mine from work had been pregnant at the same time as me.  She was further along, and had her baby a few weeks after I finally “completed” my miscarriage.  I continued to pat and talk to her pregnant belly, and it felt fine to me, although she had confided in me that she was worried I would feel bad.  It’s a weird survivor’s guilt moms have around other moms.  But I was able to honestly reassure her that I felt nothing but joy for her.

A few weeks after that, she brought her new baby into work to visit.  A tidal wave of despair smacked me off my feet and I couldn’t even look at her baby.  It shocked me.  I ran to my office, locked the door, and bawled.  Fortunately, my friend is one of the most caring and understand people I know.  She got it.  And while she never held it against me, I’ve felt bad about that reaction to this day.

It just goes to show what a charged issue this is.  We sometimes have feelings about it we don’t even know we have, or that we could ever have.  I think part of this is our culture of multitasking and not really being aware at times, or suppressing and repressing intense emotions because we just don’t have time to deal with them.  I think another part of this is just the inherently unpredictable and infinite nature of grief.

I’ve known other women who have lost pregnancies and who have lost actual babies–  babies they have named and held in their arms and loved with their entire hearts.  I would never lump my miscarriage in with their losses.  I know I’ve glimpsed but a shadow of their pain, and yet, I feel a sort of camaraderie or sisterhood with these women.  My loss was real too.  It was different, but it was real.

Lots and lots and lots of women have miscarriages.

We are not alone.

And even after all these years, and all this processing, when I see those posts pop up on Face Book, I still feel some pretty intense feels.

It’s not a bad thing, though, because it lets me know I am not alone.  That I was never alone, and in some way that helps to retroactively repair the self-imposed pain and isolation I felt back then.

You’re not alone either.  If you would like to talk about your loss, please feel free to comment below.  I’d love to hear from you, and to be here for you.  xox.