You can want your baby and still need an abortion.
My partner and I, both staring at our mid 30s, decided we were ready to “try.” We committed to one year, to accept how our life would unfold and to not become obsessed with the idea of a baby. Willing, but non-committal. Excited, but not obnoxious. Not trying, but not preventing.
Three weeks later, multiple positive pregnancy tests prompted the first of many lines I would regret saying over the next 16 weeks. “That was easy.”
I would have decorated the baby’s room the day of our first ultrasound. High on the words “strong heartbeat” and “low risk,” all I could think about was being a mother. I created a family in my head. I named our baby, I thought about school, I read a brochure about getting the most out of kindergarten. I imagined tackling tough times with my partner as a team. I was stuck on that word, “team.” I lived out every family cliché in my head and it felt amazing. On the outside I remained cautious and reserved. I honored life’s fragile beginnings by saying out loud, over and over, to anyone who would listen, “anything could happen,” “there is no baby until I’m holding a baby,” and by never letting go of the thought that this could end at any time.
As the weeks ticked by, it was easy to replace the terrible thoughts with pleasant ones about the amazing things happening inside my body. I remember the week I announced our baby could pee. We laughed. I remember the week we read our baby was officially developing parts to make it a girl or a boy, when the baby’s ears reached the right spot on its head, when it started to grow hair. When its goobery baby mass strengthened into tiny baby bones. I smothered my fear with the words “strong heartbeat,” “low risk,” words I was told by trusted professionals, words I repeated to put me at ease.
You can hear it a million times, and until it happens to you it means nothing. But seriously, life changes in seconds. At our 20-week ultrasound, something was wrong. The baby was hard to see. The ultrasound technician was awkward and silent. I was told to make an appointment at the high-risk clinic. “We send women there all the time,” I was told, and thus repeated it to myself. “There isn’t anything to worry about at this point, just go to the appointment,” I read and reread the email from my doctor. “It’s just a way to get a better picture of your baby.”
Pictures, perhaps I’ll look at one day.
“You don’t have any fluid,” “your baby does not have any kidneys.” That day we laughed about our babying peeing? Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
The next several hours are a blur. There is a scene with a doctor outlining our options, telling us, “it’s a lighting strike,” “this will never happen again,” it’s not genetic, you did not do this.” There is a scene on the patio where I tell my boss I can’t come in to work, another scene where my partner is on the phone with the doctor asking him to help us schedule our “surgery” and then a scene of us walking the dogs. There were tears, wine, a sleeping pill…I survived, I just don’t remember how.
Between the news and the “surgery,” there was time. Days. My body was pregnant, but my mind was attempting to know better. Do you wear maternity pants when your baby won’t make it? What are you when every part of you is pregnant, but in reality, or in the reality that is your very near future, you are not? How do you make the best of the space between normal and new normal? How do you simultaneously live and die, hope and hate, heal and crumble?
Those days were dark. That’s an understatement. I could live in the darkness for pages, but that is not really what this is about.
I need to note that I had access to the most phenomenal care a woman, a mother, a family, could ask for. I was blessed to have a compassionate team looking out for me, who chose their words as carefully as they prepped my tiny, dehydrated veins for IVs.
I’m not much into blood or anything medical, so despite the invasive severity of the situation I did not find myself wanting to Google what was going on. Two days of laminaria to prep, D&E on day three, home by noon. Over. As I was being prepped for surgery, I was making small talk with one of the nurses who was distracting me, lovingly, with photos of her golden retriever. Somehow, the conversation turned to my natural intrigue with the job of the seaweed sticks (laminaria) versus my desire to understand them better.
“The material online isn’t always friendly or accurate,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I mean, technically this is an abortion.”
But this isn’t my choice! I want this baby! My choice is to have a healthy baby. This isn’t an abortion…is it?
I had known the answer the entire time. I signed the bright orange paperwork with the word ‘abortion’ printed all over it. I had even talked about it in the context of such. “Surgery” was just a more socially acceptable word that was used in my presence by those protecting me, and that I used in the presence of those I was protecting.
There is the idea of abortion I understood before this experience, and the abortion I understand now. Ownership is empowering and necessary. Calling it anything other than what it is downplays the importance of the choice I was able to make and threatens the choice for others who will, unfortunately and inevitably, find themselves in the same situation.
We were blessed to get pregnant, and blessed to have the opportunity to make the right choice for my family.