I spent the first half of 2015 pregnant and then I had a “late-term abortion.”
My husband and I decided early that year to try to start a family. I succeeded almost immediately in getting pregnant. There was obviously a healthy mix of excitement and terror. While it happened a little quicker than we anticipated, we wanted our baby.
As the months went on I consumed books about pregnancy and the first year of parenthood. I took my vitamins, I ate well, and I barely even missed my former creature comforts like wine and soft cheeses. We did the genetic testing and everything looked great. We learned we were having a girl. We started our baby registry and had chosen her name. It was shaping up to be a typical first pregnancy, right down to the occasional panic attack about our changing reality.
On June 18, 2015, we were scheduled for our 21-week ultrasound. I remember the date because it was our anniversary and we thought it would be a fun way to kick off our weekend together. As the ultrasound wore on the tech became increasingly less chatty and more serious, until finally she left the room with a picture she printed from the ultrasound machine. She was gone for what felt like an excruciatingly long time. When she finally returned, she informed us the only information she was allowed to give was that a high-risk OBGYN would be contacting us soon and we needed to see her as soon as possible. Shortly after our ill-fated ultrasound, we received a call from the high-risk OBGYN and scheduled an appointment for the following week.
A few days later we once again found ourselves in an ultrasound room with a very serious technician. Once again, after doing his due diligence, the tech quietly left the room with a print out in hand and, again, he did not return for what felt like a very long while. However, this time, when he came back, he was accompanied by the high-risk OBGYN who escorted my husband and me to a small conference room.
Once seated around a small round table, the doctor wasted no time getting to the point. She informed us that our baby had a severe developmental abnormality, Spina Bifida, in the cervical region of the spine. Her spinal cord was completely exposed just below her skull. I remember immediately starting to cry and my ears started to ring so loudly I could barely hear her as she continued to speak. I struggled to listen as she explained in detail what we were facing.
The doctor told us that it was unlikely that our baby would survive and should she make it to delivery and live, she would be paralyzed from the neck down. She would be confined to a wheelchair and would likely be permanently attached to a colostomy bag and feeding tube; she would be profoundly mentally disabled. The doctor advised us that our best course of action, in her medical opinion, was a therapeutic abortion, and with heavy hearts we agreed.
We left the office with a list of more doctors to call. These were the doctors who could perform my “late-term abortion” in the state of Florida. We called from my car, while still in the parking garage of the medical building The clinic in St. Petersburg was unable to accommodate us and the next one on the very short list of available doctors was in Fort Lauderdale, three hours from our home. We called them and were told we could be seen the following day.
The next morning we found ourselves in a very crowded clinic in Fort Lauderdale. We paid extra for a private waiting room, and we were quickly ushered into it so the worst experience of my life wouldn’t be on display.
And so it began. From our waiting room, I emailed our family and explained what was happening. My eyes welled with tears until the screen of my laptop was a blur. Then the staff brought me into a room for one final ultrasound and silent tears fell from my eyes as I heard her heartbeat for the last time. I continued to cry as the doctor rubbed an antiseptic on my stomach before injecting a needle through my pregnant belly and into my daughter’s heart to stop its beating. I continued to cry all night, in an unfamiliar hotel room, as I waited for morning to come when the D & C (dilation and curettage) would be completed and my baby would be surgically removed from my womb. The next day, in the operating room, I cried as they put me under. And when it was done, I awoke to the sound of my own sobs. I cried everyday after for six months.
I decided to share my story because the next time the president of the United States, a politician, a talking head on TV, a religious leader, your friends or family, or yourself either alludes to or overtly calls women like me at best heartless or at worst murderers, I would like you to have a face, a name, and a story attached to that accusation.
Every last tear I cried came from a place of grief. Not one of those tears ever came from a place of guilt. I made the only decision I could. I made the only decision that was right for me, right for my family, and right for my daughter. It is my belief, if she did have a soul, the only kind and merciful thing to do was to release her from a body that would never, ever work.
Deciding to undergo a “late-term abortion” is something I never thought I would have to do, and it’s something I would never wish upon anyone else. It is something I think about every day of my life, and I can’t imagine ever not thinking about it. But, as devastating as making that decision was ― and as terrifying and heart-wrenching as actually going through the experience was ― I am grateful I live in a country where, at least for now, a “late-term abortion” was a legal option for me.
I am not in the habit of writing about my personal life on social media and especially not on a hugely-read publication like HuffPost. While I’ve often made my opinion known on the topic of abortion in the past, I’ve avoided the personal reasons for my belief. Today I decided to share my story because the next time the president of the United States, a politician, a talking head on TV, a religious leader, your friends or family, or yourself either alludes to or overtly calls women like me at best heartless or at worst murderers, I would like you to have a face, a name, and a story attached to that accusation. Perhaps armed with that knowledge, you’ll think twice before agreeing with them.
If you found my story useful share it. If you have questions ask them. Ask me, ask your doctor, call your local Planned Parenthood or check out their website.