Monday, August 23, 2010

Another account

I am so happy to be able to bring you another woman's account of her second trimester abortion. The true complexities of abortion will never be approached if 1 out of 3 all remain silent!

First of all I want to say thank you for giving me the chance to share my story.

I’m in my mid twenties, happily married, and a mother of one. I have a beautiful eight month old who took eighteen long months to conceive. So to believe I was in “this situation” took two pregnancy tests and a confirmatory ultrasound.

The instant I found out I was pregnant I fell to the floor in tears. I knew I couldn’t have another baby, not yet. There are so many things that run through your head when those two pink lines come up, and in a perfect world, you should be happy if not overjoyed. I was neither of these two things. I was mortified, scared, and felt like my whole world got flipped upside down and came to a complete halt. I couldn’t function. Every time I thought about having another child so soon, I would burst into tears on the verge of an anxiety attack. We had so many great things planned and all of those things were coming crashing down around me.

I don’t have health insurance, my husband is a contractor which is short for a full-time, year round employee, and “we don’t want to pay for your benefits.” He makes too much money to qualify for any type of government/state aid and for all other medical coverage we pay cash. Working in the medical field I know a complicated pregnancy can financially ruin people. A normal pregnancy can cost in excess of $11,000, not to mention ultrasounds, anesthesia, and stress tests.

Since I had found out I was pregnant I knew I didn’t want to carry this pregnancy to term, I had this strong feeling that I just couldn’t do it. That it wasn’t right for our family. I couldn’t jeopardize all we had worked hard for to give our child the best possible life. And maybe when the time is right we can have another child, but that time is not right now.

When I went in for my ultrasound (at the local pro-choice clinic) I found out I was eighteen weeks pregnant. WHAT?! How could I not know I was pregnant, I mean I just did this a year ago. I was shocked and called around to the local OB’s in the area thinking I had no other choice then to have this child. Each and every one of the offices I called was less than helpful. Sure they did what they could (0ffered 20% discounts) but each and everyone I spoke to said it was going to be costly and they couldn’t help with hospital costs. I went into the ultrasound knowing that if I was thirteen weeks or less I would set up an appointment right away to end the pregnancy. Being eighteen weeks was a little too much to handle. The nurse practitioner at the clinic was very helpful and talked to me about ALL of my options. I never felt pressured into anything, every option was available and whatever I chose they would support. To think about all the pregnancy no-no’s I had committed the past eighteen weeks terrified me. I had already given this pregnancy less than it had deserved.

In all honesty I left the clinic thinking I had NO choices at all. I went home and talked (cried) it over with my husband. We’ve been married for six years and have been through three Iraqi deployments plus multiple shorter absences. This has made us excellent in communication and I knew that if we were going to make a decision we had to do it together and soon. We talked it over for what seemed like hours, which was really minutes and came to our decision.

The clinic I went to for my ultrasound only does first trimester abortions, so I had to call and get referred to an outside clinic. Since we live in upstate New York the closest place was near the city. I called the clinic and spoke to a wonderful woman who had explained I would need to have a two day surgical abortion. The appointment was scheduled for two days after my ultrasound.

When I got off the phone I felt instantly relieved, it was like someone took the shades off my life and I could see clearly again. I, as a woman had options. I have always been pro-choice I just never thought I’d be the one making this decision.

We made the trek to the city and my husband and daughter dropped me off at the clinic. For obvious reasons they didn’t want the baby in the office so that meant I would have to do this alone.

I was advised to not eat anything after midnight, which is standard of care for any chance of anesthesia and/or surgical procedure. I arrived at the clinic at 11am, the clinic was full. There were many African-American couples in the waiting room. There was a Latino woman with her mother, and two Caucasian women also without a support person. The office was sterile, it was like any other medical office and they were very discrete when it came to signage and office location. I was asked to fill out a few medical history papers and told to have a seat. In the process I met with a financial counselor, a regular counselor who explained the process to me more like a pre-op nurse than a counselor, had an ultrasound, and a finger stick to determine my blood type and blood count.

At around 2:30pm I was called back and put into an exam room. I first met with the physician who would be doing the laminaria insertion. He was rather rude at the beginning. Asking me how I got myself into this situation, didn’t I know better? I was on the verge of tears within the first few minutes he was in the room. I listened to what he had to say, then asked a few educated questions I had prepared from earlier in the day. He looked at me dumb founded and told me he was shocked I had asked these type of questions. I am a college educated woman who may not always look that part in print, but when it comes to my life and my family I make myself as educated as possible to the situation. After his shock wore off he informed me that I had placenta previa. Meaning the placenta covered the opening to my cervix. This made not only the abortion procedure more risky, but if I had decided to carry the pregnancy to term I would have lengthy bed rest as well as a c-section to deliver. There are a handful of other possible risks as well that I don’t want to get into.

I had opted to not to get anesthesia during the laminaria insertion for two reasons, the first I’m terrified of general anesthesia, and two I’m breastfeeding my eight month old and didn’t want to have to pump and dump for 48 hours. Due to the placenta previa the doctor urged me to receive the general anesthesia due to the risk of bleeding during insertion.

The anesthesiologist came and talked to me about the risks of anesthesia and assured me receiving it two days in a row is no dangerous than receiving it once. She was very nice and helpful, and completely understood my reasoning for not wanting it for the insertion. There is one thing I know, doctors don’t recommend things you don’t need, even when their bed side manner is less than desirable. So I elected the general anesthesia after calling my husband for confirmation.

I was told to undress and put my stuff in a large container. I walked across the hall with my container, set in on the counter, took my glasses off and got up on the table. The anesthesiologist placed my IV and before I knew it, I was off to sleep.

When I woke up I heard the nurse call my name. It was 4:00pm when I looked at the clock. I was told there was a complication during the procedure and I started to bleed. They had to complete the whole abortion during the laminaria procedure. I was in shock and relief at the same time.

I had “moderate” bleeding while in recovery and to get an injection of a uterine contracting medication. I had pretty bad cramps for about two hours after the procedure. They advised me to take prescription strength ibuprofen and that seemed to ease the cramps pretty well.

We went back to the hotel room and I kept me feet up while my husband took care of the baby. I slept pretty well, better than I had for the past two nights. And when I woke up in the morning I felt pretty well.

I am now a week and a half post-op and I feel great. I have light bleeding and absolutely no cramps. I think about less and less every day and I feel like everything is returning to “normal”.

I can honestly say that I do not have one ounce of regret about the whole procedure. There are times where I wonder what sex the baby would have been or if it would have the same deep blue eyes as my eight month old. But I know that when the time is right we will have another child, a wanted child, one that will have all the opportunities it deserves. And that fact alone gives me peace and comfort.

Although no one close to me knows about my abortion I chose to share my story because I believe women deserve to have an unbiased view of what really happens. Why some people choose to do it, and know that after it’s all said and done, a woman who is comfortable in her decision can resume normal life and have no regrets.

My hope is that the scare tactics used by some pro-life organizations can be weeded out and the real, medical backed facts can shine through, so that women who believe in the right to choose have all the information they need to make an educated decision that’s best for their families and themselves.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice

The 5th annual Blog for Choice Day is January 22, 2010. This year's question is

What does Trust Women mean to you?

Trust Women? I am a professor who has spent most of her career preparing young women for life. I trust them, and the millions of other women in America,

to control their own futures.

to make decisions that they can live with.

to deal with politicians who do not trust women with their own reproductive choices.

Just about a year ago I began blogging about my second trimester elective abortion. I started writing because I wanted to make public my relatively rare experience, but also because I felt so isolated. Trusting other women by telling them was difficult at first. However, the more women I told, the more women I discovered who had also had abortions. I feel sad that a level of trust that allows women to voice their abortion experiences doesn't exist for everyone.

If 1 out of 3 women felt that trust and could make their stories heard, then maybe politicians would realize that they can trust women to make reproductive choices without governmental interference. Maybe the reasonable people on the "other side" would realize that abortion is an endlessly complex choice, as varied as the women who make it, and stop depicting it in such dichotomous terms.

It makes me sick when I hear the paternalistic rhetoric out of the "other side" trying to scare women about abortion or the emotional aftermath. This undercutting of women's trust in themselves is insidious and manipulative.

I cannot say that I live everyday with the choice to have an abortion because honestly I seldom think about it. I can also say that when I think about the hardest moments of my abortion, they are no easier, nor do I think that they should be. However I trusted myself then, and I still trust myself, to live with my decision to have an abortion.

"Trust women" is a theme that honors the courageous contributions and ultimate sacrifice of Dr. George Tiller, one of the rare physicians who trusted women to make the very hardest decisions about abortion. I am honored to participate in this commemoration of his legacy.

"Blog for choice" day also celebrates the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on this day in 1973 that granted women across the United States the legal right to control their own reproductive lives without interference from the State. As I write this post, I am pissed that 37 years later, the "other side" believes they have the right to take the right away. The social contract, the very thing that binds us together in a government and a society, rests on the trust that an individual's rights will be protected not infringed upon. I resent the efforts of the "other side" to violate that implicit trust by forcing their religious beliefs on others.

I am proud to use my blog today to bringing attention to reproductive rights. Please spread the word as widely as you can so that the millions of pro-choice people out there can rock the blogosphere. If you have the cash, make a donation to your local Planned Parenthood, to Medical Students for Choice, or to NARAL. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, a man once said, and that applies to the liberty to make your own reproductive decisions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I cannot remember

literally when I found out I was pregnant.

or exactly when I had my abortion. It has been about a year, and I think very rarely about my abortion.

While I was in college, there was an effort from the "other side" to document a "syndrome" akin to post traumatic stress syndrome that they argued resulted all the time after abortion.

I was fairly certain it was bullshit then. I am quite sure now.

While some women may have regrets, the notion that negative feelings inevitably result is crap.