I had a 2nd trimester abortion at 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
I was not involved in rape or incest. I was not an unwed teenager. I did not have financial concerns with raising another child. I was not using abortion as a form of birth control. My baby was not unloved, unwanted, an accident or a mistake. My situation is rarely talked about, but it should be.
During an ultra sound at 17.5 weeks pregnant, my husband and I learned the devastating news that our daughter, Grace, was sick. Fatally sick. Our sweet Grace was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 and Nonimmune Hydrops. As a result, her body was filling with fluid and her organs were shutting down one by one. Her little legs had already stopped growing. Multiple specialists told me it was medically impossible for our daughter to survive longer than a few more weeks of pregnancy. Every ounce of excitement and future dream I had about our growing family was taken from me in a matter of minutes.
I am a Christian and I believe in miracles, but I also trust modern medicine. I could not stand the thought of my daughter suffering in the one place she should feel safest. I could not bond with her longer and watch my belly grow even bigger, only to say our inevitable goodbye. I could not labor for hours to deliver our dead daughter. The day my two year old son was born was the best day of my life. I did not want those beautiful memories of the best day tainted with the worst.
My doctor told me waiting several weeks until she passed on her own increased my risk of infection, hemorrhaging and other medical issues, including death. I didn’t want to take that risk. I still had the responsibility of being a mother to my son and a wife to my husband. Suddenly I was faced with the most horrific choice of my life, one that I didn’t ask for nor wanted to make. I chose to end my wanted pregnancy.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. My doctor told me that I was unable to end my pregnancy in my own state of Tennessee. Planned Parenthood cannot perform an abortion after 15 weeks, and the hospitals here denied my request.
I was overcome with shame when the doctor who delivered my son told me she couldn’t perform the procedure. My own state legislators don’t trust me, her mother, to make the best decisions for my daughter and family. I felt like a fugitive fleeing the state to have my taboo procedure done in a state that didn’t see it that way. On the worst day of my life, I couldn’t even go home to my own bed. I had never given much thought to the anti-abortion or pro-choice stance until the laws put in place failed me, leaving me feeling alone, scared, and quite frankly, angry.
I haven’t used the term abortion much when referring to our loss because there’s such a negative stigma around that word. Many anti-abortion friends and family have said to me, “But your situation is different.” While comforting to hear at first, I now believe that thinking is the root of the problem. I am not different. The procedure I had is not different. If we continue to shy away from the term abortion the perceptions will never change. The laws will never change.
While it’s painful and uncomfortable to admit, I had an abortion and this is what it looked like for me. It’s not always right or wrong, black or white. Some of us struggle every day in the gray, keeping our experiences under wraps for fear of shame and judgment. We choose not to stand up for our rights in an effort to protect our already broken hearts from even more pain. And so the cycle continues…anti-abortion protesters shout louder, restrictive laws get passed, and we heartbroken mothers continue to lose our rights to do what’s best for our families.
Let’s end the cycle. Let’s break the stigma. Let’s reshape the conversation around abortion. I believe one woman’s voice can make a difference.