There’s been a recent movement on social media, you might have seen it – #shoutyourabortion. I read this story and it really resonated with me – probably because in February 2014 I was in a very similar situation. Not as far along (19 weeks instead of 22) and not the same diagnosis, but I too sat in that chair and was told during an anatomy scan that something was terribly, terribly wrong with my baby and I too chose to terminate my pregnancy. The morals of our stories are the same.
I appreciate the sentiment and the support for Planned Parenthood, but I am a little put off by the term #shoutyourabortion. To me, I would rather #ownmyabortion. Or #ownmyabortions in my case. Most of the time I use the terminology “terminated for medical reasons (TFMR)” to describe what I did, how I chose to end my three pregnancies. TFMR is a delicate way of stating I had an abortion. It’s a bit easier for some people to swallow, including myself. When I’m talking to people I would never, never say I had an abortion. I would say I terminated a pregnancy for medical reasons. I’m not ashamed, but I do worry about other people’s reactions. What will they say to me? What will they say behind my back? What will they think? Would they support my decision or would they, even knowing that my babies would never have survived and would have suffered if they even lived to be born, judge my choice and think less of me? Even though it is legal, and all my doctors agreed it was the safest option, there is still a stigma.
I have always been pro choice. At least since I was aware of the issue and what it meant to be pro choice. And, lucky me (please read sarcasm into that), not only have I talked the talk but now I’ve walked the walk. Did I have dreams as a little girl of having three abortions? Fuck no. I would do anything to change what happened and instead to be blessed with a healthy child. But I did what I had to do when I was put in awful, no good very bad situations. I’m glad I had the choice. I’m glad I had access to great doctors and great hospitals where I could safely and privately have the procedures.
When our first baby was diagnosed with a plethora of issues (kidney issues, slowing heartbeat, thick nuchal fold, etc.) our options were presented as terminating by D&E, terminating by being induced, or waiting for the baby to pass away naturally in utero. Although I did see a second doctor for a second opinion/confirmation of the diagnosis my OB made it very clear in that visit when the problems were discovered that it was highly unlikely the baby would survive and to start preparing myself and thinking of how I wanted to proceed. I estimate that it took me all of two minutes, maybe less, to decide that I would have the D&E (as long as I got a confirming second opinion, of course.). I was sad and emotional and terrified and confused about how this could happen to me. But one thing I was not confused about was that I had to choose between three ways out and having a D&E was the only option I could mentally stomach. I could not go on being pregnant all the while waiting for my child to die inside of me. I could not go to the hospital, get induced and go through labor knowing I was sentencing the baby to only a few minutes on earth in pain and suffering. I could not have that be my first experience with labor and I could not do that to an innocent baby. I was and still am terrified of labor, and I didn’t want to go through that and have labor be forever tainted. I knew that no matter what option I chose my baby would not survive and there would be no happy ending. Although The Husband was there and I asked him what he thought the fact is my mind was made up and I was going to have the D&E. He agreed and supported the decision 100%. So I made the choice that would make it easiest for me to keep on living my life. I was going to survive and my baby would not, no matter which choice I made, and I decided to make the choice that would be easiest for me. Mentally and physically.
Maybe that sounds selfish. I don’t think so but I understand how someone else with a different belief system might think it is selfish. Or how they could have made a completely different decision than I made. I get it and I respect that terminating is not the right decision for everyone. I would completely understand and support someone that would choose to carry until the baby passed naturally, or choose to be induced, and my hope is that people would show me the same understanding and respect and understand that those options were not right for me.
I also knew that a D&E was the quickest and safest option. Yes, it was more complicated at 19 weeks than it was at 12 weeks. But still safer than being induced, all of the doctors I saw were in agreement. Induction could have led to hours or days of pain before I gave birth. Or there could have been complications that developed due to labor or the drugs. The D&Es were quick (no longer than 30 min.) and there was hardly any recovery time. They were controlled by the doctor and her team and not by waiting for my body to react to drugs. The risks of induction, it seemed to me, were worse than the risks of the D&E.
My first two procedures were performed at a hospital in Boston, my third at a hospital south of Boston. I am lucky in that both are considered top hospitals in the state. I didn’t see other people in a waiting room waiting to terminate their own pregnancies; there were no picketers. I wasn’t in a strange clinic with people I hardly knew. In fact the staff at the second hospital, for my most recent procedure, were exceptionally kind and compassionate. At both hospitals the doctors and nurses were extremely professional and were also very cognizant of the fact that each of my pregnancies was wanted. They saw my tears and my fears. I wasn’t forced to see a final ultrasound, I wasn’t forced to travel hundreds of miles to find a clinic or wait any number of days. I did have to sign annoying paperwork that described the procedure and each of my options, but I didn’t read it. I didn’t need to read some politician’s description of what I was doing.
Yes, I had three abortions. I refer to them as my losses or terminations for medical reasons and not as abortions. I’m glad I had the choice. I regret being put in those awful situations but I don’t regret my decisions. My feeling is a loss is a loss; I don’t think much of the decisions I made but I do think every day of my babies and hope that they are together, somewhere.