My Abortion Story (and why I vote Pro-Choice)
Questions I get asked at doctors’ offices:
How many pregnancies have you had? 5
How many live births? 3
How many miscarriages? 1
How many abortions? 1 – but please let me explain…
1979 – I was 27 years old – 1st Baby – Beautiful baby girl
1981 – I was 29 years old – 2nd Baby – Beautiful baby girl
1982 – Miscarriage – About 3 months pregnant, started cramping, spotting blood, called the doctor: “Nothing you can do, go play tennis if you want. If the baby comes out, bring it and all the tissue you can to the hospital.” The baby came out. I used a wooden spoon to fish it out of the toilet and put it in a Tupperware bowl to take to the hospital. Then I started bleeding badly. I changed clothes three times. I put washcloths in my pants to absorb some of the blood. My husband drove as fast as possible to the nearest hospital about 40 miles away; me, my husband, our 10-month old daughter and our 2- year old daughter. My right arm and right leg became numb and I couldn’t move either one. I remember the ER nurse calling the doctor, “Your patient has arrived. Her blood pressure is like nothing over nothing.” I thought I was dying. At my next doctor’s appointment, my doctor told me to be glad that I had the miscarriage – that 95% of the time something is genetically wrong with the fetus, the body detects the abnormality and results in a “spontaneous abortion.” I was very upset with him telling me to be glad I miscarried. He also said that it was not that older women had more down syndrome-type babies; it was that younger women had miscarriages and the older women’s bodies lacked the ability to detect the abnormality and miscarry/spontaneously abort. I did not like hearing a miscarriage called a spontaneous abortion.
1989 – 37 years old – Nice family vacation in New Mexico (we live in California), me, husband and our two daughters who were now 10 and 8 years old. Menstruated most of the vacation. Discussed with my husband about him getting a vasectomy when we got home, he agreed. After years of using birth control pills and fearful of its harmful effects, we were using spermicidal ointment, which we didn’t use the last few days of the vacation. Got home, scheduled the vasectomy right away, about 2 weeks later. Vasectomy was on a Friday, same day I was to start my period, but didn’t. On Monday, morning sickness began. One week later, doctor’s appointment confirmed pregnancy. I was ecstatic. I had wanted another baby since having the miscarriage. So excited. Meant to be. The doctor, “Because of your age, we would like you to have an amniocentesis.” Fine. No problem. It’s done at 16 weeks gestation, second trimester. It’s done along with an ultrasound, outsourced by my doctor to another medical office, along with genetic counseling. The doctor doing the ultrasound left the room. When he returned he said there were some problems, water on the brain, and some kind of shell covering the skin. “We would like you to go to our facility in Pasadena. We have a better machine there. We will try to have your amnio results by then. We will schedule it for one week from today.” Then there was a problem getting any amniotic fluid. They finally did get some, and it’s supposed to be colorless and it was caramel colored. One week later in Pasadena, the technician turned the dials on the ultrasound machine and clicked and turned and clicked repeatedly. Tell me what you see I asked him. “Well,” he said, “the head is 16 centimeters, twice the normal size for 17 weeks. Normal is 7, 8 at the max. It has a collapsed lung, a small heart, edema everywhere. None of the organs seem to be growing at the same rate. The head is enlarged due to the hydrocephalus, and the more water on the brain, the more brain damage.” As I absorbed the information and asked what it meant he said, “If this were my wife, I would recommend terminating the pregnancy immediately. This baby is not going to survive.” I asked him to call my doctor in Riverside and tell him that we were on our way to his office. I was devastated.
At the doctor’s office in Riverside I told him what the ultrasound technician said about the baby not surviving. I asked what that meant. Did he mean 5 years? 1 year? My doctor said that in the next month or two we weren’t going to get a heartbeat. I was still nauseous every day, all day long, with two daughters, 10 and 8 years old, to take care of, and a husband and a home, and dogs and cats and I served as a PTA officer and volunteered at the school almost 5 days a week. I could not imagine that I was going to start “showing” and be asked, “When is your baby due? Are you having a girl or a boy?” I could not imagine going through another life-threatening miscarriage/spontaneous abortion. My doctor sent me to Planned Parenthood. The pregnancy was terminated, after a series of embarrassing and humiliating questions and exams, and an extremely painful procedure. Second trimester. “Partial-birth abortion”? I was not informed if that was the case and in fact, never heard that terminology used until years later. The amnio results were not available until after the abortion. It was a Trisomy 18, Edwards Syndrome. I was given literature from my doctor about the number of defects, physical abnormalities in these babies. Of the babies that make it through 9 months of gestation, 90% die the first day they are born. And although it was called a therapeutic abortion, my health insurance company would not pay for it.
With all that happened, my husband didn’t get his vasectomy checked.
1991 – 39 years old – 3rd Baby – Beautiful baby girl
Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Please feel free to share it with others.
I am Catholic.