Tag Archives: pregnancy

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. 

 

 

Garbage Bag of Maternity Clothes

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A tattered, black garbage bag of maternity clothes sat by the stairs.

It had been in the back of my closet, then moved to the basement of our old apartment, where it sat for years.

It must have been moved into the basement of our new house last fall.

It suddenly appeared in the corner of my bedroom, a few weeks ago.

I’m assuming my husband found it in the basement and moved it up to the bedroom so I could sort through it, which I did, after about a week of scorning its slovenly presence in my room.

As I sifted through the XL contents of that bag, which I had to open with a cesarean slit because the knot at the top was too tight, memories came.

There were clothes from my pregnancies with both Jack and Emily.

I found the dress I wore to Valentine dinner with my husband, when I was only a few months along with Jack, and not even showing yet, but yearning to get into the spirit of the endeavor and wear the clothes with almost marsupial space for what would grow beneath.

I found the corduroy pants I wore to the hospital to give birth to Emily.  I found the couple of shirts that I wore almost constantly at the end of my pregnancy with Em because she was ginormous, and I had almost nothing that fit me.

I found memories of stroking my stomach as I waddled along with my precious, golden eggs nested under my ribs.

I put the Valentine dress into a pile with the dress I wore to my baby shower, and the tie back shirts that really screamed, Look at my belly!  I’m carrying a baby under here!  

In another pile I put a stack of pants and tee shirts that really held no meaning for me.

The first pile went into an enormous zip lock bag, and back into the back of my closet.

The second pile was crammed back into the torn garbage bag and plopped back by the stairs.

It sat there for a week.  Or two.

The went into the trunk of my car.

It traveled down the street to the Salvation Army, where I pulled it out and pushed it into the yawning mouth of the bin.

Sweet Dreams

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Most of my life, I’ve had bad dreams.

I remember having nightmares when I was as young as four or five.  I had a recurring dream where Elmer Fudd chased me through a warehouse of huge wooden crates.  I still remember the desperation with which my little body pressed against the air, straining to run in that dream, in my little pink, footie pjs.  Of course it sounds silly now, but as a preschooler, it was terrifying.

I woke paralyzed with fear.

As an adult, the dreams were more about violence, about being stalked, beaten, threatened, about watching other people die in front of me.  The villain of these dreams was almost always a male serial killer.  Even as a grown-up woman, I would wake unable to move from pure fright.  Sometimes I would wake with a bladder screaming to urinate, but would stay in bed, utterly uncomfortable, until dawn.  I was certain Hannibal Lector was in my shower, just waiting to jump out and bite me up as soon as I went into the bathroom to relieve myself.

When I was about 30 the dreams became so frequent and troublesome I actually sought professional help.  I contacted a therapist who did EMDR therapy, but I got distracted by life and never went.

And then a funny thing happened.

I got pregnant.

And the dreams stopped.

I don’t know if it was the tectonic hormonal shift of being pregnant.  I don’t know if it was the sudden, aching fatigue left me too tired to dream, or if I was so tired and sleeping too deep to actually remember any dreams.  Whatever the reason, since I was first pregnant with my son, I’ve not had the same types of dreams. Sure, I occasionally have a bad dream.  There are also nights where I wake up and don’t want to get out of bed because I just feel scared.  But overall, I do not have the same level of terror plaguing my nights.

I think part of my cure was being forced by a crying baby to rise in the middle of the night, leave my bed, and tend to a tiny human.  It was basically what we would call exposure therapy.  I’m guessing another part of the decrease in nightmares has to do with simply becoming a mother and getting in touch with the primal, ferocious strength a mama animal must possess to care for her offspring.  In creating a safe space for my young, I’ve also managed to create a safer space for myself.  Or at least a space that feels a lot safer.

It’s just another gift I’ve been given by becoming a mom.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/daily-prompt-safety-first/

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

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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 that 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.

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 that 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.   

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/writing-challenge-backward/

(maybe not so much backwards as inside out?)

Stretch Marks

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One of my all-time favorite posts that I’ve written for this blog was published today at Offbeat Families.  I really like their site, which is geared towards non-traditional paths in life as parents, partners, and people.  Check it!

You can read my post here.

They changed the title of my post, which was initially In Celebration of my Tie-Dyed Stomach.  Other than that, it does not look like they edited too much of it, which is cool, because like I said, I really liked that post.  It is another post about self-acceptance, particularly about my stretch marks from pregnancy.

My pregnancy with Emily was really uncomfortable.  Not horrible, just achey and exhausting.  I remember walking around in my third trimester with my forearm hooked under my belly, because it was so big it felt like it would just fall to the floor if I let go!  It was impossible to imagine she could get any bigger in there, that my body could stretch to accommodate another ounce.  And yet, it did.

When I fell pregnant with Em, I was so enamored with Jack that it was hard to fathom my heart would stretch enough to hold love enough for two babies.  And yet it did.

After each maternity leave, it felt utterly unconscionable that my life would make sense as a working mom, that the time of each day could expand enough to get everything done.  And yet, somehow at the end of each day, we are all okay.

We all have stretch marks of one kind or another- whether physical, emotional, or psychic.  It may not be sheik, but I feel infinitely blessed to have a visual representation on my stomach of the progression of physically becoming a mother.  We women have to practically stretch ourselves to the point of no return when we bear a child, and this says nothing of the transformation we endure mentally and spiritually.

Motherhood has changed me.  It has made me better for this world, but not without mammoth effort on my part.  Mindfulness has been my saving grace.  Without it, I think I would have gone totally mad.

I want to take a sec to thank Offbeat Families, and everyone who stops in here at Momasteblog.  Thank you, especially if you take the time to comment, like, or share.  It means so much to me and makes my day.  I truly am very, very grateful that I have found a little niche blogging.  It is like yoga for my mind and soul.

Namaste.

Momaste.

And big love to you all.