Tuesday, December 1, 2009

check it out

get one here
courtesy of feministing.com

Friday, November 20, 2009

one more time with feeling

the wonderful dedicated folks over at NARAL have been working over time of late to make sure that access to abortion is not a hypthetical right at best.

Here is their latest update.

Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the Senate health-care bill last night. Let's get to what this means for women.

First, this bill does not include the Stupak-Pitts language that is in the House version. On Monday, I delivered a petition to Sen. Reid urging him not to include the extreme anti-choice provision. The petition was signed by 97,218 pro-choice Americans like you – thank you for helping make a difference!

Second, the Senate debate is about to begin, and we are not in the clear. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah is threatening to offer an amendment similar to the Stupak-Pitts abortion-coverage ban.1 This is what we anticipated – and exactly what 97,218 pro-choice Americans stood up against when they signed our petition.

That's why I need you to do one more thing right now: forward the message below to your pro-choice friends and family. If we want the Senate to get the message, we need everyone to take action – and fast.

Don't let this initial piece of good news give you a false sense of security. Please don't wait. Just forward along the message below (or use the handy social networking links under my signature) – and thank you.

so once again, log on to House or Senate and make your VOICE HEARD. If you are among the ONE OUT OF THREE then personalize your appeal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


to the peeps at the National Council of Catholic Bishops. Yes, the lovely people who decided nevermind the first amendment, they'd like to use their tax exempt organization to dabble in politics. Apparently they have been reading my blog.

Number of Entries:
Entry Page Time:
Visit Length:
10th November 2009 15:00:33
Multiple visits spread over more than one day
IE 7.0
United StatesReturning Visits:
IP Address:
Entry Page:
Exit Page:
Referring URL:
Washington, District Of Columbia, United States
Nccb (national Conference Of Catholic Bi ( [Label IP Address]


and please know, I am directing EVERYONE I KNOW to write their Representative and Senators to protest the tax exempt status of politically active religious groups.

cake, eating, ring any bells

how about this one Matthew 7:1?

or maybe I have it all wrong, since Cathlolics use birth control and have abortion at rates just about equal to the rates of other religious groups. So if an employee of the NCCB came to the site looking for support, I apologize. Rage on Sister!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

if only

we could all wear them

another one

Another blog about abortion.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

help break the silence

It has been quite a while since I posted. Frankly, I seldom think about my abortion any more unless I happen to come across an article about the issue.

I am interested in hearing from other women who underwent elective second trimester abortions. That group is a very small portion of the total number of women who have abortions and there is little written from that perspective.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The same, but so different

I found out yesterday that a friend's pregnancy has ended sadly. Her first ultrasound revealed cause for concerns, and unfortunately on a repeat procedure, no fetal heart beat was found. Her loss reminds me of my own miscarriage, and how devastatingly sad that time was.

However, having now also had an abortion I cannot help but also refract my response through that lens as well. She will undergo a D and C, the identical procedure to my abortion, although no one refers to as an abortion when the procedure is performed after fetal demise. Why is that? Why is the medical procedure perceived so different under various circumstances?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

when a bumper sticker is apparently not enough

so just in case your "ILuvL1F" personalized license plate or bumper sticker "it's not a choice it's a child" is not sufficient to covey your anti abortion beliefs, in eighteen states efforts are underway for you to be able to purchase an anti-abortion license plate. Not surprisingly the idea has caused some controversy and a variety of legal cases are winding their way through the courts, as detailed in this article on Salon.com. I am firm supporter of civil liberties, so I hope that the viewpoint of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court prevails, states can offer anti abortion plates if they offer pro abortion plates as well.

What I find particularly interesting about this issue is not the First Amendment rights at stake, although they are fairly fascinating from an intellectual perspective but rather that pro choice people would probably never want a license plate that announces their beliefs. In my other online connections to abortion rights activists there is a fairly prevalent fear of the anti abortion crazies, the ones who stalk abortion providers and attack, even murder them. There seems something ironic about the other side, which purports to defend life relying ultimately on a rhetoric and reality of fear and intimidation. The disproportionate influence of the violent faction of the anti abortion movement has a deleterious impact on the literally millions of women in the United States who have had abortions and fear for their safety if they speak publicly about them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Earn money for abortion from Pro-Life sites

So I signed up for ads on this site, planning to donate the money to my local abortion clinic.

I had to laugh when I saw today that the ad on the site is for pro-life products.

How ironic.

It reminds me of the frequent planned parenthood fundraiser where pro choice advocates pledge a certain amount for every abortion clinic protesters who shows up :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ask your doctor if ...

the U.K. has decided to allow televised adverts for abortion. The ads might have the affect of de-stigmatizing the procedure and make women aware of their options as the unplanned pregnancy rate is on the rise.

I wonder if it could ever happen in the U.S.? After all if 1 in 3 women have an abortion, then clearly there is a "market." I cannot imagine competitive marketing of abortion services, like hospitals compete for maternity patients, but I would love to see the public acknowledgment of the large number of women who use abortion services.

And hey given the new non surgical abortion methods, perhaps we will see an "ask your doctor if you are a candidate for ..."

Monday, March 30, 2009

forced out of silence

yesterday I faced one of those dreaded moments, when the topic of abortion comes up completely unexpectedly. Normally I would have just let it go, but it was just impossible this time. A good friend, who I knew was anti-abortion, at least for herself, was over for a playdate. As we pushed her baby in the swing, she told me about a friend's unexpected pregnancy. Her incredulity that any well educated woman could find herself in such a situation simply begged for correction. I just sort of blurted it out "That operation I had in January? It was an abortion."

I wish I could have been more composed and pointed out that contraceptive failures or ignorance about efficacy rates crosses educational, class, religious and all divisions among women. Equality it seems has at least been achieved in one area of women's lives.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

and the silence is still deafening

As Amy Benfer pointed out in recent Slate column, while half of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, the stories of those women are seldom included. The latest omission occured in this months's issue of Self. While the article title "Single, pregnant and panicked" may resonate with many women, since half of women by the age of 45 will experience an unwanted pregnancy, only women who chose adoption will find their experiences reflected in this analysis. Abortion is mentioned only twice, once as an option suggested by an insensitive male partner, and the other as a near miss, when in a scenario that I am sure has already been snapped up for a movie pitch, a woman planning an abortion calls it off the night before when her older, infertile sister, offers to adopt the fetus.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"these fights will be every bit as ugly as the preceding fights over abortion."

the quote comes from an article about the efforts of the Georgia state legislature to craft a bill that will preclude embryo research while still allowing for IVF. The difficulty comes in the language of the bill, which right now gives infertile couples the right to IVF, but pretty much no one else, including those people who wish to use IVF for other purposes, such as genetic screening or sex selection.

Maybe all the infertile couples, carriers of genetic disorders, couples desirous of very specific characteristics in their children should band together with the people working to protect the right to legal abortion. The "other side" is the same, the pro-life lobby, and the argument is the same, who has the right to control reproductive choices.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In defense of Facebook

Through facebook I have reconnected recently with several people from my past who have been part of my ongoing project of reconciling my various selves. Tonight I have dinner with a friend for high school. In keeping with my new telling policy, as we are catching up I disclose that I have had an abortion. My old friend shares that she has as well. We have dinner and then she asks why I had my abortion. We talk extensively about it. She tells me that although her abortion occurred 13 years ago our conversation is the longest she has had about her experience.

I think about what the world would be like if every woman could be open about her abortion whenever she wanted. If the literally millions of women who had abortions could break their silence, would the discourse around abortion be transformed? Would individual women feel differently when facing the choice to have an abortion? I think about the sort of bookends this discussion represents in my effort to bring the various selves from different epochs of my life together. This person tonight remembers me as a super geeky high school student. We meet, decades later, and discuss experiences from our twenties and thirties. I like the symmetry of someone who knew me way back when sharing something that has happened so recently.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Women's Liberation ... or the liberation of me

On a reseach trip, unusual format as I am part of a team of scholars

We are working on 1970s feminism so the process of consciousness raising (CR) becomes central to our work

We participate in a version of CR, sort of CR light

In response to one question, I tell about my abortion

I have known a few of these women for decades but some women present are completely new to me that night

This incident is the best way I can encapsulate my attitude one month after the abortion.

It is me. I speak of it like I speak of any aspect of my self and my experiences.

Every time I tell I feel more liberated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Save your marriage - have an abortion

In honor of my husband’s birthday

Strangely enough my abortion brought us closer together. In the weeks before and after we spent more time together, sometimes just sitting in silence, sometimes just barely touching. It was still better than being alone.

Still I mean my title for this post tongue in cheek of course. While sometimes pregnancy seems a way to save a failing relationship, abortion could push you right over the edge.

I am grateful that my husband and I were in complete accord as to the decision to terminate the pregnancy. I am relieved that he was able to at attempt to put himself in my position and imagine what it felt like rather than being so wrapped up in his own emotions. I am happy that he is the kind of guy who tries to tell me what he feels.

I can see however that if you did not have the above abortion could come between a couple.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Telling - Ripple Effect

I find out today, after many recent conversations about my abortion, that someone I have known almost since childhood, has had two abortions. She was the second call that I made after I found out about my pregnancy. I try to focus on the telling as a process - women tell when they can. Still, the conversation is quite literally stunning. I have shared everything in my life for almost three decades with this person and up until today I would have thought the same true for her.

The call was a visceral reminder that 1 in 3 means that we all know more women than we think who have had abortions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

three weeks and counting

no regrets

still bleeding on and off

did not go back for my follow up appointment today

still telling

A nun, a priest and two guys walk ....

up and down in front of an abortion clinic. I only wish I had a funny punch line.

In five days people without uteri and those people who have dedicated their lives to celibacy will descend on the clinic where I had my abortion to commemorate Lent by protesting at an abortion clinic (why just give up sweets when you can harass women on what may be the most difficult day their life?). Odd, you would think these people would be familiar with the Biblical injunctions to “judge not lest ye be judged" or “let ye who is without sin cast the first stone” but apparently not so much. They feel compelled to pray in public despite Jesus’ description of hypocrites who love to pray ... on the street corners to be seen by men.

When not praying, these protesters hand out misinformation leaflets stressing the alleged medical complications of abortion (the CDC estimates that less than 20 women die annually in the United States as a result of abortion), as well as the spurious link between abortion and breast cancer. Mixed in with the erroneous medical data are offers to help women sue their abortion providers for medical malpractice and Bible verses.

Many abortion clinics have escorts, women and men who shield women from such protesters. “Bubble zone” laws vary greatly from state to state and on private versus public property, but in some cases the protesters can get shockingly close to patients as they enter the building. For liability reasons, the clinics rarely organize the escorts themselves. Your local NOW chapter may organize it, as is the case where I live.

If you live in a state with an inadequate zone, shoot off an email to your Congressperson urging them to support stronger clinic access laws.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Telling - Let's Hear it for the Boys

I found this essay interesting, albeit a bit strange. Now abortion is all about the men too?

The telling – An historical overview

In 1971, hundreds of prominent French women signed le manifeste des 343, a public declaration authored by famed feminist philosopher Simone de Beuavior, that announced the women had acquired abortions in violation of the French law.

In 1972, 53 women in the United States emulated their French sisters in Ms. Magazine’s initial issue. In 2006, Ms Magazine revived the I had an Abortion campaign. You can still sign the petition.

A very cool international website now allows women to add their photos and stories to publicly proclaim that they too had abortions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Telling - My Online Mommy Friends

As I recounted earlier, I have been part of an online group of women who met during our first pregnancies. Strangely enough they were the some of the people I most wanted to confide in because they had shared every moment of my journey thus far as a mother. They knew, better than anyone other than my husband, how done I was with having children, and how much I struggle with the demands of motherhood.

I sent the email. In a matter of minutes I receive the first response. In the midst of replying, gmail pops up that I have an incoming email from another recipient. This cycle continues for about 30 minutes as I carry on simultaneous conversations with two of the four women I emailed. I receive emails from the other two later that night.

“I've been thinking about you this whole time, sending you my prayers (for what they are worth;-) ) and positive thoughts. “ [strangely I am not offended because I know her sentiment is from genuine concern for me].

“It's easy for me to say "I'm pro life for me!" when I'm only 34 and still want at least one more. The truth is I should never say never.” ([ am surprised, pleasantly, by this remark].

“I just burst into tears thinking about you going through that and not being able to talk about it.”

“I would never judge you. I helped my best friend through an abortion.”

“You did what is best for you and your family.”

Interestingly, the things that I feared most, the question of how pregnant I was, is never asked. In fact, the only queries are about my wellbeing. I do not mention this blog, or any of the specifics. I am quite fond of these women, but for the two Catholics, I know we are skirting the boundaries of their comfort zone, and for all of us, this territory is incognito, so we leave it at that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The telling – my college friend

She is wise, as she always was. She points out that you can grieve without regretting. As soon as I read the words I realize how apt a description that is of my process. She warns me that the memories will sneak up on me when I least expect them. She commends me noting that “it takes more courage than anyone says.”

I am hugely relieved that she is still who she was when I knew her daily, that her words are what I need to hear, but mostly I am relieved that someone knows, truly knows, what I feel.

The telling – YMMV

The professor in me wants to emphasize that I chose very carefully the individuals I have told about my abortion. While I want to encourage all women to think about the cost of keeping silent, I want to also stress that I am well aware that not all people will respond positively. The cost of telling will be different depending on the life circumstances of some women. Telling may not be important to other women at all. More than any other part of this blog that I have written so far, I want to emphasize how subjective this part is. I know many, many pro choice people, and I need to tell.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The telling, a random compilation

I find about one more friend who has had an abortion

I am offered all the support and love I could ever need

At least two people clearly are not sure how to respond

No one offers even the slightest of criticism

Most people thank me for sharing with them

One person tells me she already figured it out

The one man I have told tells me he went through an abortion with a girlfriend

Friday, February 13, 2009

in a John Hurt way

At the risk of making everything in life seem like it is about my abortion (blogging does feed a certain sort of narcissism, but then I also think other women might wonder what they could possibly feel when confronted with various situations after an abortion :)

Yesterday I ran into my friend and her new baby. Without even thinking, I asked to hold him and snuggled in for some new baby smell. He is lovely, and it was fun to see him.

Today I met my former colleague, the one I mentioned in an earlier post, who faced the ethical conundrum of what to do with the embryos he and his wife had remaining after conceiving two delightful boys. I got my answer as soon as I saw his wife. She is expecting twins in about four months. I sat there chatting with her, about the due date, about what life would be life with four children under school aged, about the possibility of my friend being deployed (he is a Marine).

In neither instance, did I think, I could be having a baby, too. I did not feel remorse or shame for my different circumstance. I felt nothing but the happiness I always feel when sharing my friends' joy.

p.s. kudos if you got the Coupling reference in my title.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Telling, Part 2

Because I felt like a hypocrite and a liar and just plain strange about not telling you the whole truth.

Because I was afraid you might judge me I evaded you, but I know I will never feel right until I tell.

So I am.

Two weeks ago today I had an abortion.

Emboldened by my experience yesterday, I decide to tell my online friends who had noticed that something was wrong in the weeks from when I first learned of my pregnancy through my abortion.

Two of thse women are Catholic and pro choice for others, but not themselves. One friend experienced an unplanned pregnancy, which she continued, while the other woman has a long history of infertility. I am more frightened telling them, more afraid of their reaction. I am not yet sure if I will tell them about this blog.

My heart pounded as I hit send.

Now I wait.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The telling, as it unfolds

I have a strong belief that things happen at the right time. During the midst of my abortion, I connected with an old college friend

Today I emailed her


I thought about you throughout the whole experience (you were the first person I ever really discussed the topic with who had actually experienced it)


because it seems like even after years of absence from each other’s lives you are still the same person who is deeply imbedded in the memories of my formative feminist, heady women’s studies days


I know that to truly get over this experience I have to stop feeling like it is something shameful that I need to hide

I am telling you

Two weeks ago today I went to have an abortion.

Sluts Need Love Too

The title for this post is stolen (with permission) from my pro choice discussion board. It was far too good to pass up. I LOVE these women. Pondering the realities of my beliefs with women who have also undergone abortions is much better than arguing with people who have no idea what they are talking about because they have never experienced an unwanted pregnancy.

The topic derived from a question about whether women who just plain old get pregnant from having unprotected sex and end up aborting made it harder to defend the pro-choice position as opposed to say the “worthy” women who either through no fault of their own (rape/incest) or in grave medical peril (their own or that of the fetus) end up electing abortion. [side note, whole attitude reminds me of the distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor].

Over the course of our hilarious multi-day online conversations I realized that when I eventually come out of the abortion closet, I am not going to explain why I had an abortion. Any response seems like an effort to justify or rationalize my decision, which is thankfully still both legally and personally mine to make.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hey TLC How about abortion stories?

Perhaps when I next travel to the West Coast, I can do a TV series pitch.

Since having my abortion, it has become the experience through which pretty much everything reproductive is refracted

Yesterday, while frolicking in an indoor kiddie play place, I chanced to overhear a conversation between a dad with two kids, and a woman who I initially took to be a grandmother. Somehow the two had struck up a conversation and eventually revealed that both families had been created via IVF. I immediately thought how wonderful that the stigma of infertility had been lessened so much that virtual strangers would discuss their intimate reproductive histories in public.

Tonight, I happened upon yet another TV show focusing on a "mega family." These folks, my age BTW, have 12 kids ranging from 19 to 1. Despite recent media focuses on the "new" big families, such people represent a very small fraction of the population of the United States (depending on how you define large family of course, but 4% of women have five or more children by the age of 44, the cutoff used by demographers when calculating fertility rates).

The truly remarkable demographic shift of our time is the number of women who never bear children (about 20% of women have no children by the age of 44). In an era of increased reproductive technologies, it seems reasonable to conclude that a large number of these women have chosen to remain "childfree" "childless" or whatever label they choose to apply to themselves. Through birth control and yes, abortion, these women have curtailed their fertility.

So TLC, Discovery Health, Lifetime, where are the show about those reproductive choices?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The road to hell

I grew up in a religious house. We attended a mainstream Methodist church weekly. My parents strove to instill in my sister and me a strong sense of morality. While I eventually rejected their religious teachings, it would be silly to deny that the sense of moral obligation remained with me. You do not do something 52 times a week for 18 years without absorbing at least some of it. Yet, aphorisms like “the road to hell is paved with good intention” are more likely to spring to my mind than the apt Bible verse

Both my sister and my therapist, students of Buddhism, talked to me about intentionality in relationship to my abortion. While the strongly individualistic protestant influence of my childhood makes me focus on the consequences of my choices, Buddhism and much Asian philosophy emphasizes on the motivation behind decisions.

In one of those odd confluences of life, my son selected the Veggie Tales Jonah movie this week at the library. As I skimmed the back of the case, for anything scary, or frankly too overtly Christian, I laughed at the description of the story, in which Jonah apparently learns “that everyone get a second chance.” No vengenful O.T. God here, plunging Jonah into the belly of a whale in a fit of pique because Jonah disobeyed, just a cleaned up version of the story for the kiddies. However, my four year old was not fooled. He took from the movie not the idea of redemption, but only the scary story of a person stuck in a whale, that he announced he is never watching again.

I wish Buddhist made kids videos. In the meantime I am trying to let go of some of my Protestant inspired feelings of guilt, not that I had an abortion, but that I got pregnant in the first place, and focus on my intentions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

because having a uterus of ones own does count for something

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Pancreas and my right to an abortion - two things I never linked in the past.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (henceforth RBG), with her white lace color, so Elizabethen in that sea of old men, like the Virgin Queen herself, had surgery for pancreatic cancer. Ever the tough old broad that she appears, RBG vows to be back on the bench when the court reconvenes in three weeks. I really hope so.

The dissent she authored in Gonzales v. Carhart cut straight to not only the heart the stunningly paternalistic majority decision, but the weak legal reasoning on which Roe V Wade so precariously rests. Her stirring defense of women's reproductive rights as more than "some vague or generalized notion of privacy" but of "a woman's autonomy to decide for herself her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature," was an articulate explanation by someone who, you know, actually has a uterus, and conceivably (get the pun?) could have had an abortion.

Sadly RBG's prediction years ago that she would be joined soon by sister justices proved overly optimistic. Apparently while women comprise the majority of the population of the United States, they need only a little more than 10% representation on the highest court in the land.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It is hard to believe that it has been just a week since my abortion. I saw my therapist, which while tearful, proved helpful.

Still I cannot resist posting that one of my fav blogs is contemplating the messy realities of women’s bodies and asking whether it is all TMI. Not surprisingly, as I blog my abortion, my answer is no. Truth to power as the Quakers used to say, or maybe you prefer the more contemporary, Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Anyway you put it, information is good, more information is better and there is no such thing as TMI. Women’s bodies have too long been shrouded in myths. Women need to speak their reality.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Anti Abortion? Adopt an embryo!

I feel sorry for the “other side.” This recent media sensation of the octuplet birth to the woman with six existing kids must be quite a strain. According to her mother, the woman suffers from “plugged tubes” and thus underwent IVF. Because she had remaining embryos that she did not want destroyed, she had them implanted. She apparently rejected selective abortion, and now has fourteen children to support on her own. She is unmarried and according to her mother, her ex-husband was not the biological father of her first six children, who were conceived with a sperm donor.

The scholar in me recognizes that a family of fourteen was really not remarkable until women had the ability and the right to control their fertility (thank you Margaret Sanger). In fact, it was the very common nature of pregnancies every two years or so that turned Sanger from an obscene outlaw to a heroine of the middle class in a relative short period of time.

Ironically the ethical dilemmas posed by this extreme case are manifold for people who oppose other women’s right to make choices at the other end of the spectrum. She is unmarried and will seem to require state aid, a big no no for conservatives. She used IVF, a reproductive technology that some people on the “other side” reject as “playing God.” Still she clearly believes in the value of “life” even that eighth one no one knew was there. Quality of life might be debatable, but even liberals have rejected outright the notion that she should have been forced to abort some embryos. Indeed the suggestion that her physicians should have done the psycho-social screening that would have been required should she have wanted to serve as an adoptive or foster parent, perhaps healthier alternatives for someone “obsessed with children,” seems unversally rejected as outside their purview (interesting to consider in light of mandatory counseling laws prior to aboriton in some states).

Perhaps the greatest ethical dilemma posed by her case is the issue of unimplanted embryos. Because the process of IVF is somewhat unreliable, multiple eggs are often fertilized so that the best embryos can be used for implantation. Most reputable physicians will implant a maximum of two, so in instances when IVF is highly successful, “good” embryos are frozen for later use.

As I have said before, going through this abortion at forty means I know someone who has been in pretty much every reproductive ethical position there is. I had a colleague turned friend, who shared with me that he and his wife conceived via IVF with a donor egg. They had two lovely sons; however, they had remaining embryos and were torn as to what to do with them. Their difficult decision was ironically similar to one that I faced. The embryos were conceived with donations from the same “parents” and seemed like siblings to their two chidlren. To destroy the embryos is in effect the equivalent of an abortion to him, which contravenes his religious beliefs. Yet offering the embryos for transfer to another couple often mistermed “embryo adoption” is difficult for him to fathom, for the same reasons I could not see carrying my fetus to term and then placing it up for adoption. Again, I say, while my decision was hard, there are far more difficult dilemmas out there.

Double fail safe, or double bag it

So in the process of working my way through the abortion clinic, the staff not unreasonably queried my future birth control plans. At the time, I decided for the sake of symmetry, that my husband should get a vasectomy within the two week enforced abstinence period following the abortion [side not, in hilariously straightforward language, the post-op instructions state “do not put anything in your vagina for two weeks, including tampons, a diaphragm, douching, or sexual intercourse” as though a penis is yet another implement of feminine hygiene].

My husband dutifully made the appointment for the big V, although no openings were available within the two week window. However, since I have taken a vow of celibacy, the point seemed moot. Still I realized that I had several packs of unopened birth control pills from my last attempt to use them. Post abortion, a little nausea seemed a small price to pay for a double failsafe, as the engineers say, just in case, you know, his super swimmers miraculously managed to make it across the flannel sheets to me in the next few weeks. After that recent octuplet birth birth, I am not taking any chances.

my first bad idea

pilates one week after abortion OUCH

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the more things change, the more they stay the same

As a result of blogging about my abortion and posting on some pro-choice and abortion support online bulletin boards, I have been corresponding with a few women. It has been an interesting contrast to this blog, which has a sort of “message in a bottle” feeling to it. The interaction particularly with other women who have had abortions has been incredibly valuable for me. The pro-choice discussion board is fascinating. We debate, often based on our own experiences, the contours of our pro-choice beliefs.

Having an abortion has changed everything and changed nothing for me. While I have always been pro choice and never supported restrictions such as parental/spousal notification, mandatory counseling, enforced waiting periods etc, having an abortion has made me reconsider each of these issues anew.

As a mother, seeing so many young women getting abortions alone was difficult. In fact the only time I cried in the clinic was when speaking to the counselor about how hard it was to process what I saw. Still, I myself at the age of forty, have not chosen to share my abortion with my parents. Who I am to presume that a younger woman has a better relationship with her parents? Sadly not all parents are good parents. I was heartened to see some young women with their mothers. I do hope that if my daughter ever needs an abortion she will decide to tell me, but I do not assume that every young woman has a kind supportive family at home. I have been working with college aged women for too long to harbor any such delusion. Given the realities of domestic violence, spousal notification is a total non-starter for me and never was an issue to which I gave any credence. The days of couveture are over!

As for mandatory counseling, while the counselor at my clinic was very nice, quite honestly I had already seen a psychologist and intend to continue seeing a psychologist. For some women, clergy counseling might prove more useful than psychological services. There are excellent anonymous hotlines that allow women other options particularly for women from cultural backgrounds where anonymity may facilitate a more open expression of emotion. Still other women may not need counseling at all. I think sometimes people say counseling when they mean someone to ask “are you sure you don’t want to continue this pregnancy or consider adoption.” If so, just have a nurse ask that or give the patient a form.

The experience of finding out I was pregnant to getting an abortion took twelve days. It was a positively surreal experience with most of the intense stuff happening in six days. I sometimes have the thought “I was pregnant. I am not pregnant anymore,” the same thought that went through my head after my miscarriage. I know myself well enough to understand that I am incorporating the experience into my psyche. Still it all happened so fast that the process is sort of mind blowing. Thankfully, I was firmly pro choice and had thought through all of the ramifications not only in the abstract, but in previous pregnancies. I do not feel like I decided too quickly. From a pragmatic point of view, with the limited number of abortion providers and the need to be at a certain gestation for a surgical abortion, a woman would not find out about her pregnancy and have an abortion the same day. I do wonder about medical abortions, which can take place the same day. I have to believe however that the benefits of enforced waiting periods, giving a woman time to think and process, are not outweighed by the potential hardships, such as more time off of work or school, or the extended travel due to lack of pharmacists or physicians who provide medical or surgical abortions in their areas.

Recently one of the women on the pro choice board asked what was so hard about my abortion if I was a pro choice. I knew the answer immediately, ending a potential life. I still find the argument for a traumatic syndrome associated de facto with abortion absurd. However, I can see that women who have to “work” their way around to choosing abortion (in violation of their religious teaching, philosophical or biological beliefs) or are pressured in to it, might suffer huge amounts of guilt, remorse, regret. I feel so sorry for those women and wonder how they ever reconcile the conflict between their choice and their beliefs. I know that I will live for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I chose to end a potential life. I am comfortable with my decision, but it was not a comfortable decision to have to make.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Life before Roe

Today I taught Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement for the fist time since my abortion. Normally I try to be very even handed in my approach but I am fairly certain that it is safe to say I got more than a little passionate about the subject. Coincidentally, another class happened to be covering the origins of the nineteenth century women’s rights movement and I managed to work in the “private” talks about “voluntary motherhood” that Elizabeth Cady Stanton used to give in the afternoons to women when she traveled to speak publicly about suffrage.

Want to school yourself on life before women had the right to control their fertility and their pregnancies?

There is a great book, Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade written by journalist, Rickie Solinger.

A more historical approach can be found in Leslie J. Reagan’s carefully researched When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973

There are also some wonderfully courageous physicians who give presentations about the reality of life before Roe.

Finally HBO made an amazing documentary, If These Walls Could Talk, that dramatized three historical epochs. You can find youtube clips, but make sure to look for the first If These Walls Could Talk. The second is about lesbian life (another great topic :).

quick post from a crazy Monday morning

posted a poll since I'm curious about who is reading the blog

Things are going well. I feel almost 100% healthy again. I did half a cardio work out yesterday but stopped because I started feeling odd little twinges. No cramping or heavier bleeding happened so I think all is good. My biggest problem is remembering to take my antibiotics.

I have a HUGE crazy bruise from the IV. It occurred to me that some readers may be contemplating abortion and may or may not be planning to share the event with those around them, so keep that in mind. You will need to cover you arms.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

was your fetus the next president of the United States?

had to laugh when I saw this story in light of my last post.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

There is no answer

In the last twenty four hours I have felt a decided shift in my emotions. I feel like I have returned to normal life, as though I have been away. I find myself reflecting on my abortion in those rare moments of quiet and solitude, but abortion is no longer the overriding thought on my mind.

In those moments today, I have ruminated about how I made my decision. I knew that in order to feel sure that I was making the right decision I needed to consider the very difficult ethical conundrums raised by abortion. I suppose that says it all. I do not see abortion in absolute terms but rather in terms of unanswerable dilemmas.

My body has created life twice. It is impossible for me to deny that with time, good luck, and no accidents of biology, the fetus grows into a baby, who is born, and then develops into a person. In the days before my abortion, I force myself to wonder if this fetus would become a person who looks like my other children, who bear a striking resemblance to one another. I contemplate whether it is a male or female. I think about my two children’s distinct personalities and about what kind of person this fetus might have become.

Those thoughts are difficult to have, but for me they were important. My answers reflect my fundamental views of personhood. I do not think of the fetus as the “unborn” but rather in terms of “potential life.” Miscarriage occurs in one out of four pregnancies. Sadly I know of too many cases, even well after the supposed mark of fetal viability (24 weeks) that ended in badly. I myself endured pre-term labor at 24 weeks with my first pregnancy which ended happily, while many other women on the maternal-fetal ward had far sadder outcomes. I mourn with friends who have terminated pregnancies for medical reasons, or endured a stillbirth due to medical complications during delivery. The process of creating life is sadly fraught with many moments that can go terribly wrong.

I believe that each unique combination of an egg and a sperm creates a different potential life and that personality is the result of a complex interaction of biology and environment that occurs over a lifetime. I do not believe that a specific fetus was destined to be a specific person and that if that fetus is aborted or miscarried that the world is missing the next “Beethoven, finder of the cure for cancer, or fill in the blank” any more than I think that the miscarried or aborted fetus might have become “Hitler, Charles Manson, or another potential blight upon the world.”

It turns out that the answers to my hard questions really were not the important part of my process. It was the asking that proved most valuable. Avoiding the hard thoughts, the conflicts with moral, ethical, religious, or philosophical beliefs seems to me the surest way to make the wrong individual choice about abortion. To me however that is the best answer anyone is going to get, their individual answer because really there is no answer.

Why I will continue to write

Many years ago, in an undergraduate women’s studies class I read Kristen Luker’s now classic Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Those were the hot days of the abortion wars, yet Luker’s careful nuanced analysis not of the rhetoric or of the leadership, but of the beliefs and attitudes of activists on both sides of the struggle made perfect sense to me. Luker showed that abortion is not about reproduction so much as it is about how individuals view the organization of society, the relationships between women and men, the function of religion in society, and the other beliefs that comprise what we often call a world view. Ruth Rosen, another fabulous scholar whose writings I have long admired, makes a similar point about contraception in her recent article about the exclusion of family planning funding from the economic stimulus package. It all comes down to how you define women’s primary function. Are women people just like men, or are they meant foremost to be mothers?

I have ruminated on how my blog must read to the “other side.” I do not think anything I say will change anyone’s mind, mostly because I still believe that beliefs about abortion are largely dictated by two fundamentally clashing views of the world. What I do hope is that by giving voice to one woman’s experience of abortion I can move beyond pithy slogans or religious injunctions to show the feelings and thoughts that accompany abortion. Because that is what abortion really is, a medical procedure that individual women understand in unique ways, filtered through life experiences, religious beliefs, philosophical underpinnings and all the other myriad factors that make up the way people make sense of the world. Banal generalizations and sweeping statements serve only to fan the flames of dissent.

So I have decided to continue to chronicle my abortion process. The professor in me cannot bear to let this teaching moment pass. I also think that the unfolding experience abortion is something few women have shared. There are many fine sites on which women can share their stories, but the longer process is invisible.

I already know that I am going to gradually break the silence and anonymity I have sought. As long as I hide, I will feel a sense of shame. I anticipate also that there may be moments, perhaps the monthly anniversaries, perhaps my first period, who knows, that revive the memories of my abortion.

The comment function is turned on. You cannot post anonymously. I reserve the right to eliminate any posts I find offensive. Start your own blog if you disagree :)

Day 2

I wake up full of dread, but in no pain. I focus on getting my children ready for the day and packing my bag.

I am anxious about the pain to come and I am feeling angry and resentful with my husband. We are both on edge and snap at each other. I lock myself in the bathroom to cry silently so my son will not hear me.

On the drive to the clinic, I decide I have to talk to my husband about the day before. I tell him how hard it was to absorb the intense experience. I tell how hard it was to know the exact moment my pregnancy ended and how difficult it was to go through that alone. I tell him that I am scared to go through the dilation by myself.

He is angry and scared as well. He is mad that he can’t help me, mad that he feels torn between my needs and taking care of our children.

As we drive over I realize that I am having contractions. They are not too painful, but they are frequent. I am not surprised given my medical history.

When we arrive at the clinic, there are two people waving brochures at us as we drive into the parking lot. It takes a minute for me to realize that they are anti-abortion protesters. My husband is angry and wants to confront them. They are two old people just standing there. They do not yell anything at us or try to harass us, so I tell him to calm down.

I walk in the clinic and see the head of counseling. She knows why I am there and asks if I want to come in the back to lie down where it is more comfortable. I know this means I will have to leave my husband, but since we have already decided there is little point in him waiting all day, I decide to do it now. Still I tear up as I hug him goodbye.

As I walk into the back, the counselor asks how I am feeling. I tell her I am contracting. I am brought into a room with those weird medical recliners that are ironically what they often provide for new fathers. The crying woman from the previous day is already there. She is already crying. We talk a little bit about how we are hungry. I say that I cannot believe we have to be back here without our support people and she agrees. The young woman from the day before comes in. She is obviously in pain and is completely silent. A nurse comes in and asks them some questions, but she cannot find my chart. I soon find out why. The head of counseling comes to get me. At first I do not understand. I ask if it is time for the cytotec. She explains that the doctor has decided to take me straight to the OR since I am contracting. I am relieved. I quickly text my husband. I am glad that I have pretyped the message that the surgery is about to start since I have no time before they take my bag away.

I am taken into a dressing room and given a gown, booties and a cap to put on. I am jumped to the head of the queue. I walk into the OR and see my doctor. He tells me this is the top OR staff and tells them I am a professor and advocate for the cause. While they prep me the OR nurse tells me about life before Roe and what she saw. This is why she works at the clinic a day a week. The scrub nurse tells me about the protesters when I ask about them. She says that while the clinic has escorts for the weekends, the protesters are usually these old people who are quite civil. We talk about how lucky they are not to have the awful situations that exist elsewhere.

The anesthesiologist gives me an injection and the next thing I know I am in recovery and it is 10 o’clock. I am in pain, cramping. The nurses are kind and bring me a heating pad. I call my husband to tell him I am out of surgery. Recovery is a huge room with women continually being wheeled in and walking out. The nurses offer me pain meds once they have checked my blood pressure and taken out my IV.

I walk back over to the first room where I am given a drink and some crackers. The crying woman is gone, but the young girl is still there. Obviously she is still dilating and in pain. I get dressed and wait for my husband. Women come and go and I just sort of zone out, dozing. . My husband needed to pick up my son so it takes him about an hour and fifteen minutes to get back.

In the car I take the pain pill I packed. I feel strange, relieved, exhausted, and drained. We stop for some food since I have not been able to eat. We talk a little. We had a friend to take my son for the afternoon in anticipation of a much later discharge, and we decide that since he has been looking forward to it, we will stick with that plan.

My husband and I stay in our bed all afternoon as per my recovery instructions to take it easy. He watches the new Batman movie on TV while I intermittently sleep, play on the computer and finish listening to my audiobook. I am not in any pain. By the time my children are home I feel well enough to get up and make them dinner. I give my daughter her bath. The only difficult part is the restriction to not lift anything that weighs more than ten pounds, but my husband lifts her out of the bath and into her crib later that night.

It is all oddly anticlimactic.

pain update day four

I had no pain yesterday and stopped taking the pain meds completely.

I had very little bleeding yesterday. There was a little more this morning and a few clots, but still lighter than a period.

thought of this morning

if I was more pregnant than I thought, then I do not think I got pregnant the one time we did not use birth control. Should that matter to me? Since one of the things I have been beating myself up about is that I was not "responsible" it kind of does.

Apparently I am not alone in this situation.
Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.

Want to know how reliable your birth control is in practice (scroll down to 7 for a chart on ideal v actual failure rates)

Friday, January 30, 2009

abortion wars, a middle ground?

Is it just my personal experience, or is abortion everywhere in the news right now?

Fascinating piece on pro-life advocates who are taking a new tactic, attempting to reduce the number of abortions, rather than over turn the legal right to get one.

However, lest you think things are approaching a sane and sensible debate, the issue is becoming hotter on the international stage.

I am going to be fine

Tthat was my first thought this morning.

I have always been a person who dreams vividly. During difficult experiences my dreams often reflect my anxieties. I wondered if I would have dreams about my abortion, or being pregnant, or having a baby, but I have not.

I realized that it is simply going to take time for me to process this very intense experience that occurred in a relatively short amount of time.

I read a really interesting interview with Jennifer Baumgardner, feminist activist and creator of the "I had an abortion" campaign about how women continually reassess their experiences of abortion at different stages of their lives. That seems right to me based on my experience of miscarriage. At each subsequent pregnancy and then birth, the miscarriage carried different weight for me.

Other than some awful gas pains late last night, I feel fine. I have almost no bleeding at all and no pain. I will take an pill with me to school in case I start to cramp again, but as of right now I feel perfectly normal. The most difficult part is the weight lifting limitation since my two year old still likes to be picked up.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Just got off the phone with my sister. It helped so much to talk to someone who has also experienced an abortion.

I wish every woman had someone close the her with whom she could share her feelings about her abortion, but the reality is that some women have no one.

A wonderful service exists however to serves women who have abortions, and their partners, friends and family. Exhale respects the cultural, social and religious beliefs of all our callers. All calls are confidential.

Call Exhale to talk freely about your experience with abortion.

1-866-4 EXHALE (1-866-439–4253)

Monday – Friday:
5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Pacific
Saturday – Sunday:
12 p.m. – 10 p.m. Pacific

pain update morning of day 2

none. Been about 6-7 hours since I took a pain pill but I have no cramping or pain at all.

The Hardest Part

The counselor at a clinic is always the sort of job I hope my students will get and indeed this woman was a women’s studies minor. She is wonderful, training an intern, so I dutifully answer all the questions. She then walks me through what will happen next. She tells me that tomorrow I will be giving cytotec, ironically the drug in both the abortion pill as well as the drug used to induce labor in pregnant women. She warns me that it can be quite painful, cause nausea or the shakes. The worst part is that in a clinic setting, you cannot take a support person back with you, so I will be alone during this experience, which can take up to four hours.

I am aware that the two day procedure involves the slow, gradual dilation of the cervix to about 2 cm and that before I leave today sea sponges will be placed in my cervix to begin dilation. However, What she tells me next is sort of surprising. She tells me that the shot of digoxin to stop the fetal heart will happen today. While I knew this would happen, I thought it occurred in the OR immediately prior to the abortion. I admit to being somewhat startled. My husband has returned home to pick up our children since the appointments have run so late. There will be no one there to hold my hand at the moment this pregnancy ends. It is a sobering thought, to know the exact moment, but perhaps that is how it should be.

The insertion of the laminaria is painful. No point in elaborating, but painful is accurate. Immediately menstrual type cramps begin. I am barely aware of the quick shot through to the amniotic sac. I am grateful for the distraction, but also happy that before the sonographer and the physician came into the room, I had taken a moment to say goodbye to this pregnancy that I had know for only 12 days. I thought I might share here exactly what I said, but I think I will keep that private for myself.

After that I return to the waiting room for my husband to return. I am now in constant pain. It is not awful, like bad period cramps, but definitely not comfortable.

The ride home feels long and I am grateful that our car has heated seats. I take a pain pill as soon as I get in the car. I am relieved that I had the foresight to put one in the car from an older prescription.

When I get home, I use the techniques they teach you for early labor. I turn on the heating pad and head for a shower. I let the hot water hit the small of my back for a long while. I then curl up in bed with the heating pad. It takes about six hours for the cramping to stop. About four hours in, I take another pain pill.

In the meantime, my husband cares for my children. After they are in bed he goes out to meet students, pick up my antibiotics, and get dinner for himself. I stay awake until almost midnight, drinking as much water as I can, and to take one last pain pill.

Miraculously I manage to sleep on and off throughout the night. I am not plagued by nightmares, but I am definitely restless.

Day 1 The Waiting Room

When I arrive I cannot believe how crowded it is; young women mostly, many African American. Some wait with friends, others with boyfriends, a few with their mothers, which heartens me. I am closer to the age of most of the mothers and I am insanely grateful that it is me undergoing this procedure, not my daughter.

I am taken into the back for an ultrasound. It becomes clear how exceptional my case is when the physician is called in to look at the images. He is a wonderful man, calm, competent and clearly an advocate of a woman’s right to choose. I like him immensely and we have a great conversation about what an eye opener this experience has been to me as a professor, a life long feminist and pro-choice activist. He treats me with dignity and as if I have the intelligence to make my own decisions.

My gestational dates are further than I thought. I suppose what I took for a period one month must not have been. I’m still confused as to when I conceived since I bled every month until the last, but I suppose it does not really matter. Although I had not wanted any concrete details, I am not upset when I learn the exact date. I am more worried that because of my complicated medical history the doctor decides I must have a two day procedure. I know this means pre-dilation of the cervix today.

I then begin the long queue. I see a nurse who checks my vitals, pricks my finger to check for blood type and anemia. I see a financial counselor where I learn that had my insurance not covered the procedure, it would have cost around $1800. I wonder where some of these young women are getting the money.

I then somehow get lost in the shift from the one day to the two day schedule, so I spend three hours in the waiting room. During that time I have ample opportunity to observe the other patients. Most of the women look serious, but calm. A few are crying, or closing their eyes. One woman in particular catches my eye. She is visibly pregnant, accompanied not only by her husband but her parents. She cries silently the entire time. She so obviously does not want to be terminating this pregnancy that I can only conclude that it must be for medical reasons. I wonder what she is doing at this clinic rather than in a hospital. One of the ironies of my situation is had I undergone genetic testing and decided to “terminate for medical reasons” as they say in medical lingo, my physician would have performed the procedure in the hospital. Because I “elected” to terminate my pregnancy, she would not.

After waiting quite a while and speaking first to the nurse, then to the receptionist, they realize I am still waiting. I see the nurse who reviews my medical history. I thank her, as I do every staff member I meet that day, for doing the work that they do. I tell them that I understand how lucky I am to have access to such a place staffed by people committed to women. Like many of the staff, she tells me her reasons for working at the clinic. She is a committed pro-choice activist, who believes in her work. We review my history and she is thorough and calm, explains that I will need to take antibiotics starting tonight and that she will also give me a prescription for pain medication. She advises me to hydrate today to make it easier tomorrow when I will not be able to eat or drink. She laughs as I leave and tells me that she needs more patients like me.

I’m back into the waiting room, which is almost empty. By now I have identified the other patients who are also undergoing the two day procedure today. The crying woman and a young African American woman, also visibly pregnant, who has waited with her mother for most of the day. I hear her mother asking the nurse how much the prescriptions will cost. I hear the nurse tell her that the antibiotic is most important and then the pain pills. I wish that I had my wallet so I could slip her the money. This process is grueling enough without financial worries weighing too and I hate to think of the young woman in pain tonight. I hear the nurse explain to her that the ibuprofen rx is really just the equivalent of 4 OTC ibuprofen and that she can buy whatever brand is cheapest.

Next the counselor

home again

I was quite dreading the painful part of today, but because I started having contractions I got to jump the queue and have everything done in the OR under anesthesia just in case anything went wrong

Mostly just feeling relieved that it is over.
I'm zonked out of percocet, not that they give you anything more than Tylenol with codeine but I had some l left over

pain update day 1

cramping stopped around 10PM last night and I got some sleep.

Just anxious about today. Want things over.

will post soon, so much to write about

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

change of plans

turns out I need a two day procedure

spent 8 hours mostly waiting a clinic today

will blog more later

unforseen complication

due to snow/ice my son's school is CLOSED today. We decide to drop my daughter at the sitter, have my son and husband drop me off (with hubby running into the clinic to sign the form for anesthesia) and then he will come back home, by which time our son's babysitter will hopefully be here.

At this point, I don't care if I have to do the whole procedure alone, I'm not postponing.

I try to call the clinic to make sure they are open, but there is no answer yet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Random Ironies

About a week before I found out I was pregnant, my son stated campaigning for a sibling. He has since stopped.

His sister picked up with a counter slogan incessantly repeating “mommy I want you. I need you” as if to emphasize that she was not getting enough attention.

I continued to use condoms diligently long after I got pregnant. It really was the ONE time we didn't and we should have been safe. How ironic if it turns out that my 40 year old body is in peri-menopause, as I thought, and is just randomly shooting off eggs?

I learned that my physician would not perform my abortion the day after the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the day on which President Obama rescinded the global gag rule. I know how I will commemorate my abortion, through pro-choice activism every January 22.


The law in my state which provides exemptions for provider conscience in cases of abortion explicitly “does not apply to non-profit, non-sectarian hospitals open to the public,” you know like the "my tax dollars, STATE FUNDED FREAKING medical school hospital" where my physician is employed?

Money, Money Money

I am incredibly lucky in that I am well insured. I just got a call from the clinic telling me that I am covered 100%, no co-pay, no deductible. My husband, the primary insured, needs to call to confirm my benefits (I think the annual thing that tells them I have no other insurance of my own), but once I have the name and reference number, we should be golden.

This clearly is not the case for most women.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2005, the last year for which they have compiled statistics, the cost of a non-hospital abortion with local anesthesia at 10 weeks’ gestation ranged from $90 to $1,800; the average amount paid was $413.

In 17 states, pregnant women qualify for medicaid and can receive public funds for abortion for any reason. Sounds good, but scarily, 13 of those states do so only because they are compelled to by court order. Other states provide funding for abortion only in specific instances.

On the flip side, restricting insurance coverage for abortion is a roundabout way to circumvent legalized abortion. Could it happen to you?

Thing to Pack for your abortion

1. comfy clothing including granny underwear
2. warm socks – medical settings are always cold and you will be in a ridiculously flimsy gown
3. a sweater or blanket – ditto above
4. lip balm – medical facilities are always dry sterile places
5. hand lotion – ditto above
6. something to entertain yourself with (books, MP3 player etc) – you will be waiting a lot, for your turn, to dilate, to be deemed “recovered,” to be picked up
7. fully charged cell phone – to call your escort or other support folks
8. in the car have a snack, as you will be starved from not eating all day. I’m taking yogurt and a granola bar, and pain killers in case the anesthesia is wearing off. I’ll also be popping a prophylactic Gas X pill.

If you’ve ever given birth, the above list will look quite familiar as it is pretty much the “mommy” part of the “going to the hospital to give birth” packing list.

Pre-abortion instructions and Preparation

Things I am told by the clinic
• Do not take any medications containing aspirin for 4 days prior
• The day prior, do not drink or eat anything after midnight
• The day prior, do not do any illegal drugs, including marijuana
• The day of do not wear any of the following, make up, nail polish, jewelry, or contact lenses
• Do not bring anything of value or any children with you to the clinic
• Do bring your insurance card, a current pay stub for the insuree, and a person to sign for the responsibility of picking you up after you receive general anesthesia.
• Plan to be at the clinic for 5-7 hours

Things I do to prepare
• Buy new yoga pants
• Color my hair
• shave my legs
• touch up my toe nail polish
• I want to get a manicure, but the place is closed due to snow, so I file my own nails
• Eat whatever the hell I want since I will not get to eat for most of tomorrow. I give myself a stomach ache eating brownies for breakfast.
• For good measure, I buy some new underwear, socks, and a cute a-line sweater dress to wear Friday to work with tights, boots and beads. No reason to look frumpy and it will hopefully hide the stupid pads I will have to wear.

Things I stock up on
• Gas x (having had 3 prior uterine surgeries I know the gas pains are terrible after)
• yogurt (because you get pumped full of antibiotics which kills the good bacteria in your body)
• Naproxen (my OTC pain killer of choice), although I am also relieved to see that I have some Rx analgesics still in the medicine cabinet,
• Pads of all sorts since I assume you bleed a lot. You do after birth and a miscarriage.

An open letter to my Doctor

Dear Doctor

First I want to thank you for the things you did to assist me in securing my second trimester elective abortion. You kindly arranged for an immediate ultrasound and made the circumstances clear so I would not have to explain once again that I planned to terminate the pregnancy. Most importantly, you secured a competent and capable physician to perform the procedure.

However, I need to tell you that I was uncomfortable with the fact that you allowed your ethical problems with my decision to be so apparent. The credo of the physician is to “first do no harm,” and I felt harmed by your attitude.

You said “well I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are not 24 weeks yet. The bad news is that you are probably 17-18 week and I do not normally do abortions that far. I know one guy who might agree to do it, but I do not know given your medical history if he will. If it has to be performed in a hospital setting then it is back on me.”

Perhaps next time, and yes there will be a next time because I am not the only woman to choose to terminate a second trimester pregnancy, you might say the following:

"Good news! You are not 24 weeks, so abortion is still your legal option. I am going to arrange for an ultrasound so that we will have exact gestational dating, since manual examination and LMP are only estimates [in fact I was closer to 15 weeks]. The best place for you to get your abortion is at X clinic which handles a high volume of elective second trimester abortions. Let me make a few calls and come right back."

Since the doctor who does support a woman’s full legal right to choose was willing to perform my abortion on an outpatient basis I could have been spared the above. Instead, on the 30 minute drive to the ultrasound appointment I got to worry that
1. I was actually 17-18 weeks along in my pregnancy, or maybe even further, which means a far more complicated medical procedure.
2. I would be put in the position of having my abortion performed by a physician who did not believe it was ethical.

I recognize your right to draw ethical lines in the sand. What I do not recognize is your right to share your ethical lines with me. Right now, in this country, at this time, I have the legal right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. As long as the procedure is safe, that is all that should matter to you as my physician.

Again, I do thank you for the care that you do give. I am happy to know that you do perform elective second trimester abortions at earlier gestation dates since there are fewer providers willing to perform any abortions in the second trimester. I also appreciate that it seemed that you would perform the procedure if you were the only physician possible. However, I do no think that I will remain your patient any longer. From the moment I made my intentions clear I felt like everyone in your office wanted only to be rid of me as quickly as possible.


cry #3

just started crying as I told my husband how pissed and grumpy I am today.

I just feel stupid, stupid, stupid for
... not using birth control that one time
... for not realizing I was pregnant sooner
... for not getting my blood work done the day after my internist appointment
... for letting the ob/gyn receptionist make me wait a week for an appointment after I found out I was pregnant

Only good thing is that my husband reassured me that the ultrasound report was only comforting (I told him I did not want to know any specific information) so reading through the lines I would say it matched my gestational dates by LMP.

I just want this over

I'm tired of seeing spots every time I stand up. I have to break my cardio workout into fourths because I get breathless.

My husband just came in and said he intercepted the ultrasound report in the mail yesterday and opened it. I am pissed. He opened it. Stupid paternalistic gesture although I suppose it is his fetus too. I had a plan in place already. While I do not even see why I need the ultrasound report as I will have an ultrasound guided abortion due to previous c-sections, I planned to take it unopened in case the clinic asked for it. I tell him to take the damn thing with him to work and bring it tomorrow. I do not want any more information than that I feel in my body. I do not want to walk by it all day sitting on the front hall desk.

I am grumpy, edgy, anxious and would like to just zone out for the entire day, but no I have to go to Target to print out pictures for my son to use in a class project this week, finish prepping my work for the week in case I do not feel well on Thursday. I plan to teach Friday.

Next up, what to bring to your abortion (hint, a lot of the stuff you take to give birth)

Birth, it is everywhere….

I am so tired these days that I fall asleep by 9PM, usually with the TV still on, and wake up some time in the middle of the night.

Two nights ago I awoke to a TLC special about that Duggar family woman giving birth to her 18th child, followed by a special wedding edition of the show featuring their oldest son, who promised, along with his new bride, to let God decide the number and timing of their children. More power to them. The kids in these huge family seem well mannered and happy, albeit living a worldview that is completely foreign to me.

This morning I awoke to Anderson Cooper reporting on the birth of octuplets at 31 weeks. While the doctors are largely celebratory in their press conference, Anderson reports that of the last set of octuplets, one died shortly after birth.

Neither incident effects me in the least. These are women exercising an extreme choice that I would not pursue, but I would not try to stop them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nice to know someone is thinking about women like me.

Very cool article that defends the right to a second trimester abortion up to the point of viability.

FAQs in response to hypothetical comments

1. How could you possible not know that you were pregnant, and so very pregnant at that?
• I had a simultaneous illness that “masked” many of the symptoms
• I gained virtually no weight and continued to fit in regular clothes
• I still experienced period like bleeding
• Every pregnancy is different. In my first I had almost no nausea, my second an average amount of nausea and my third so much nausea that I required medications. This pregnancy my major “symptoms” (in retrospect) were heartburn and vertigo.

2. But you are so “far” in your pregnancy!
• First, I believe that life begins at birth. Lines in the sand are just that, shifting philosophical boundaries that I think each person has the right to determine for herself based on religion, biology, philosophy, whatever. Being “closer” or “further” for me is relative. More than half way and I would have considered continuing the pregnancy. I have absolutely no justification for my line. It is just mine.
• While some 1970s feminist fantasized about an “artificial” womb that could replace the uterus, so far as I know, even if I hit the magical marker of fetal viability at 24 weeks (which does not take into account the low survival/high complication rate for premature fetuses) I would not be able to find a doctor to deliver me at 24 weeks. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology explicitly precludes inducing birth prior to 37 weeks without medical justification.

3. I’m pretty sure you are going to hell, eternal damnation, fill in the blank torture, but I will pray for you.
• Thanks for your concern. Please flip to the concordance in your Bible. See “judge not” and “casting stones.”
• Perhaps instead of harassing women about their choices, you should
a) spend your time rocking crack babies at the local hospital
b) become a licensed foster parent and/or start adopting unwanted children
c) contemplate sterilization so you do not spread your views to the next generation.

4. Aren’t you worried about being plagued by a lifetime of regret/remorse/guilt?
• No. In addition to teaching the abortion debate for decades, I have been through abortions with friends and students. Relief is the predominant emotion these women felt. I have no doubt that women who are pressured into abortion or who hold religious/moral beliefs that are in conflict with the idea of abortion may experience regret/remorse/guilt. However, assuming that a causal relationship exists between having an abortion and the production of regret/remorse/guilt is weak logic.
• Ironically, I now realize that I began the process of making this decision for myself during prenatal testing in prior pregnancies. There is no point in undergoing prenatal screening unless you know what you will do with that knowledge. I thought through my ethics in a much more concrete fashion during those pregnancies.
• I suppose the benefit of being forty years old and in this unenviable situation is that I am aware that even the worst times in life are survivable. I am certain that this abortion will not rank as the most difficult decision of my life. I know its hard to believe if you are 20 and reading this, but sadly it is true. Life can suck really badly at times.

ahhh memories

During my college years, the right to an abortion was under severe attack. Operation Rescue tried to shut down clinics and pro-choice supporters would attempt to stop them. In the build up to Webster, there were many marches and rallies. These were some of my favorite pro-choice buttons. You can still get them here.

And so I ....

...gave these nice people a donation, Medical Students for Choice. I wonder if in a strange way the very legalization of abortion has contributed to the decline in physicians who learn the procedure. Physicians were at the forefront of the movement to make abortion safe and legal for women because they saw the direct outcome of illegal abortion, dead women.

... am taking my checkbook with me to make a donation to the freestanding clinic that is willing to provide me with the right to control my own body, when the medical school affiliated hospital will not. Want to ensure you will have a clinic of your own in case you need it? Check out this list of competent clinics.

...give a huge shout out to NARAL, which defends, at least on a theoretical legal basis, the right of all women to continue to enjoy the right to choose.

maybe this is why ...

Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. counties lacked an abortion provider in 2005; 35% of women live in those counties.


then again, maybe not ...

When women have abortions (in weeks from the last menstrual period)
Eighty-nine percent of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 2004. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

So maybe I am not the only one ....

Six in 10 U.S. women having abortions are already mothers.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

To share or not share

People I have told
My husband
My sister
My oldest friend
My best friend
My geographically closest friend
One colleague at work

People I have not told
My parents (although my husband told his parents!)
The members of my online mothers groups with whom I post daily
Friends who live close by

Why I told

My geographically closest friend was the first person I told. I found out while driving home from work. While stopped at a gas station, I picked up my voice mail. I had a message from my internist. Not my internist’s office, but my internist himself. He said “I got your test results back, are you sitting down? You are pregnant.” My legs literally began to shake. I don’t think I could have driven the rest of the commute home, and my friend lives about 5 minutes away. She is also helping with the childcare logistics on the day of my abortion. Sadly her husband has inoperable brain cancer and he has an MRI scheduled for that day. I know that wait for those MRIs is a huge emotional drain for her, so I am trying not to rely on her for emotional support.

My sister has had two elective abortions. I helped her through the first one when she was just out of college. She tells me that I will get through this and not be haunted by my decision. She calls to check in on me and offers to fly back for the abortion, but I know taking off time in the middle of the week mid-school year is almost impossible for her.

My best friend, who is also a physician, had an abortion for a very different reason. Her second pregnancy pre-natal testing revealed trisomy 18 and she made the agonizing decision to terminate. I tried to offer support, but had recently moved across the country so was only there somewhat for her. She is mostly concerned with the medical aspects of an abortion at this stage of gestation and tries to talk me through it. She has two children of her own, so long emotional conversations coast to coast are not really possible.

I reach my oldest friend while she is on the ski slopes. She knows how conflicted I am as a mother and is 100% behind my decision. She is perhaps the person with whom I am most honest about the negative aspects of motherhood, mostly because she has no children of her own and plans none. Still she has not experienced abortion and other than telling me she supports me, there is little she can offer.

My colleague at work is perhaps the person I am closest to there, which is odd since she is a woman my mother’s age. I am fully aware that she is pro-choice and since I need her to take my Friday classes so I can go to the ob/gyn, I decide to tell her the truth. Everyone at work gets the slightly euphemistic “I had some abnormal test results that require follow up and possibly an outpatient procedure.” I work at a religiously affiliated institution and besides it is not really anyone’s business.

Although I have lived in my geographic location for four years, I do not have many close friends here. I have at least two women friends who I sense would rally to me, but I feel uncomfortable sharing with them since it seems like information that belongs to a deeper level of friendship. Maybe sharing this crisis would take us to that level, but I do not have the energy for drama, so I do not risk telling.

Why I did not tell

Although I have come to peace with my parents as people who did the best they could raising me, and I think they are largely pro-choice, this is not a level of information I would ever care to share with them. They know nothing about my miscarriage either. My mother has a tendency to get overly emotionally involved and I do not need her feelings to think about in addition to my own. That my husband told his parents still baffles me. I know his mother had an abortion, and he says that they are supportive of our decision, but I find it ironic that I speak with my parents almost daily and did not tell them, while he seldom calls his parents, yet as far as I know they are the only people he has told. He has a close friend who is a single adoptive mother who would love to be pregnant herself, so she is not a good person to lean on. He has his own therapist and I trust him to get the support he needs.

Perhaps the strangest thing for me is not telling my online mothers group. This online group formed during the pregnancy of my first son and we have been posting together for over four years. I am on our discussion board numerous times a day. However, I know that the issue of abortion is a divisive one. We have both pro-choice and pro-life members. I also know that there are members who would happily switch places with me now since they desire more children and that there are women battling various levels of infertility. I have simply stopped posting of late. When members email me privately to find out why I have not been on the board, I offer a vague non-answer. I am sure several of the members will figure out the situation from my response, and I know that at least two of the people who emailed me are pro-choice, but it just does not seem fair to burden them with the knowledge when other members of the group are unaware.

The emotional aspects

I scheduled an appointment with a therapist as soon as I found out about this unwanted pregnancy. I spent most of the week between finding out and my first ob/gyn appointment trying not to think about it. I felt like I was in suspension, just waiting.

Fortunately, or not depending on your perspective, the week unfolds as if the universe itself wants to make the point that I cannot handle another child.

First my daughter gets the stomach flu, vomits in the middle of the night and spends the rest of the night tossing and turning in my bed. She has not slept through the night since. It is like having a 2 year old newborn as she awakens at least once an hour all night. The next day, a holiday, we take both children to the pediatrician. They both have sinus infections. This is day four in a row of my son being at home since we kept him out of school on Friday since he seemed to be getting sick. We all have cabin fever but it is too cold outside to go anywhere.

My daughter does not react well to the antibiotics and is super clingy and needy and wants only to be velcroed to my body. Turns out she caught the flu from her daycare provider who is unable to take her for three days while the flu works its way through her family. We juggle teaching schedules to accommodate having her with us 24/7. I come down with the flu. I can barely lift my head from the pillow, but it is my husband's first day of classes so he must teach. Somehow I manage to keep her from killing herself while I doze on the sofa. My husband next gets the flu, so off she goes to school with me. I line up students to watch her, but she is not appreciative and starts crying half way through each class period. I teach four classes holding her for the second half of instruction. I'm completely drained by the end of each day, physically by the demands of holding her and emotionally from the trials of juggling multiples roles simultaneously.

Meanwhile, my husband has our long awaited appointment with my son's principal and school psychologist. Based on classroom evaluations, they believe he has a "classic" sensory disorder and have requested a full special education evaluation at the district level. While this finding merely confirms what we have suspected, it also means that we are in for a long road of therapy. The school is happy with the changes we implemented over the winter break and they encourage us to continue to work at home with him while they work with him the classroom. I am exhausted already at the thought of how we will manage this work in addition to everything else that we already do on a daily basis. I am also dreading the emotional energy it will take to deal with him without getting angry. Since he seeks rather than avoids sensory stimulation he often seems ill behaved. I am teaching him yoga and other ways to channel his need for stimulation, but it is very hard at times to deal with a child literally bouncing off the furniture and walls, say when you are in the midst of cooking dinner at a hot stove.

Meanwhile, I have pretty much stopped eating. My longstanding eating disorder has been triggered by this uncontrollable bodily experience. In the week after I learn I am pregnant I lose 3 pounds and weigh at or less than what I must have weighed when I got pregnant (I though I put on a few pounds from holiday treats). I find this unfathomable as by this point in my prior two pregnancies I was wearing maternity clothes. I am no longer hungry. It is as if my body does not want to nourish this fetus, although I know that in actuality it will be my body that suffers since fetal nutritional demands are met first.

I have odd fears. I mostly fear perceiving fetal movement. I notice that when I take a Tylenol PM to help me sleep, I feel nothing below my belly button. I have starting taking 25 mg Benadryl tablets around the clock to ensure I will feel nothing. I know in a sense I'm being silly and I'm not going to feel the discernible hand or foot that you feel late in pregnancy, but still it is my fear. Strangely enough, I find myself paying great attention to my appearance. It is as if I am saying “see I do not even look pregnant. See how I still fit in my cute outfits."

My poor husband is a kind supportive guy who keeps asking what he can do to help me. I feel awful that all I want is for him to leave me alone. I want to cocoon myself until Wednesday. I cannot allow myself to be emotional at all because I must hold it together for my children. I have cried exactly twice, once when talking to my sister, who has experienced abortion, and once in the waiting room for the ultrasound. I am a pragmatist. I deal, but do not expect me to feel. I know that makes it hard on my husband who copes with things differently, but I need to take care of me. I feel guilty about that, about putting my needs first. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, a snake eating its tail. I must take care of me so I can take care of my children, which means not taking care of my husband or really taking care of me right now. So be it.

The Medical Professionals

Because I have taught about the issue of abortion for years, I was well aware that the number of physicians who perform the procedure is small. However, I was not prepared for my own encounter with the medical establishment.

When I first called my ob/gyn office, the receptionist could not seem to wrap her mind around the fact that I was calling to schedule an appointment about an abortion. She repeatedly referred to my appointment as the "first prenatal visit." It played like a scene from a bad abortion documentary, but I managed to shrug off my annoyance.

Just about the only good news I got in relationship to this unwanted pregnancy was that the first physician with an opening in my ob/gyn practice was my favorite doctor. When I went in, along with my husband, we were straightforward about the situation. I am fairly stoic and did not get emotional when discussing the issue with her.

On manual examination of my uterus, she guestimated my gestation to be 17-18 weeks. Frankly, since I was able to provide her with a date for my last period that put me closer to 15 weeks, I found that rather irresponsible, especially considering that since I have a malformed uterus, my body does not carry pregnancies normally. It was also very clear that she was very uncomfortable with the idea of elective termination at that gestation. At one point, and perhaps this was my imagination, it almost seemed as though she choked back a cry. Now I must say in her defense, that she is apparently the only physician on staff of a major medical school hospital in a state with some of the most liberal abortion laws that does perform elective second trimester abortions. I commend her for that. I also recognize that physicians have the right to their own ethical lines in the sand. Still her reaction really threw me for a loop.

She told me that she knew of one doctor who did perform elective second trimester abortions and that she would call him immediately. She feared that because of my previous c-sections and uterine anomaly, he would not want to perform the procedure outside of a hospital in which case, as she put it "it would be back on her." That sobered us up quite a bit as she left to make the calls. Did my reproductive choices really come down to one or two people? She also called to get me in for an ultrasound immediately so that there would be accurate gestational dates. To her credit, she explained to that office the reason for the ultrasound so I was spared any congratulatory messages upon arrival. That staff was also very professional. Just as we were going back for the ultrasound, the ob/gyn office called to say that my physician had reached the other abortion provider and that he had agreed to do the procedure. That was a huge relief. I was very unhappy about putting my physician in a position that made her feel unethical and did not want that to deal with on top of my own emotions.

On the drive to the ultrasound, my husband and I discussed our decision again. I asked if her estimation of gestation made any difference to him. We also discussed at what stage in the second trimester we would consider continuing the pregnancy. We both agreed that 20 weeks was our cutting off point. When we arrived at the ultrasound, there was a woman with a newborn that was crying. The sound pushed me over the edge and I began to sob. Again, I felt like I was in a bad abortion documentary. It recalled for me also my awful post-miscarriage visit to the ob/gyn where I also broke down when faced with a newborn baby, although for very different reasons. I put on my MP3 player during the u/s and closed my eyes. I had asked my husband to find out the gestation, but the ultrasound tech insisted she could not tell us. A half an hour after we returned home, I got a call from that very office telling me that I was meant to have a copy of the record to take to my abortion appointment. How ironic.

Still as we drove home, and I began to process the experience, I realized that I was happy with the estimated gestation based on my last monthly period. I wanted as little information as possible. I still believe that life begins not at conception, but at birth, and my decision was not swayed by someone else's ethical line in the sand. I had my own.

If anything, I am even more grateful that I live in a time when abortion is still legal and that I am in a geographical location where I have easy access to a competent provider. I try to imagine having no options save for a back alley abortion or giving birth to an unwanted child. In trying to work out the childcare logistics for the day of my abortion, I cannot imagine having to travel to another state. It also reminds me of a slogan from the '80s "never again, never go back." In recent years, I have slacked off on my pro-choice activism. It is still a voting litmus test for me, but this experience has renewed my commitment to make sure that all women have the right to "my body, my life, my right to decide."