Abortion–How I Arrived at My Opinion

Abortion is quite the subject du jour with half the people in the U.S. screaming that it’s an unborn child, you selfish murderer! And the other half saying that terminating a pregnancy is the greatest gift ever to women-kind. Before we get all wrapped up in the whole discussion (that will be tomorrow) let me tell you a story of what happened to me about twelve years ago.

I was pregnant with my fourth baby. At 17 weeks I went in to have my quad screen test where the doctor checks for chromosomal defects, abnormalities and such. I had had three perfectly healthy babies and no miscarriages (Ah, the hubris of a woman with no fertility issues!).  A few days later the doctor called to tell me that my levels were alarmingly low. Low enough that it looked like my baby had Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18, as it was explained to me, meant the baby would be severely vegetative if it were even born. Pregnancy loss with a Trisomy baby is not uncommon.

Gulp.

My view on abortion up to this point was more of the “I would never do it but it’s not my business if somebody else wants to”. But here I was faced with the decision of possibly carrying a baby to full term that would never live much of a life, if it lived at all. To my 27-year-old brain this seemed unfathomable. I asked my doctor about terminating the pregnancy. Not that I wanted to, necessarily, but I wanted to know what our options were. Even though we have always been very devout Mormons, would an abortion be considered OK in this situation? Nobody is prepared for the tidal wave of emotion that hits you when you’ve been given a diagnosis like that. You imagine what you might think, what you might do, but you really have no idea.

My husband and I prayed and read words of the church leaders about the subject. It was all a terrifying mess. I certainly didn’t want to end my baby’s life, but what kind of life were we even talking about? The words “severely vegetative” replayed over and over. Who wants to be pregnant just to end up with . . . you know. A stillborn? A baby who never even has a chance? Up til then my biggest worry about my babies is that they would end up with my ugly chin. And now here we were facing this unbelievable diagnosis.

I just wanted the pain and indecision to end. While I couldn’t commit to an abortion–I really felt like it was baby not a fetus. And I wasn’t about to kill my baby–but I just wanted the torment to be over. I was young and foolish enough to think that maybe having an abortion meant an instant end to the emotional anguish. I hadn’t realized yet that no sort of pregnancy loss is a quick-fix. Whether you are having an early miscarriage, an abortion or are giving a baby up for adoption, there is pain. We are women. We are nurterers. Any time a part of us has that taken away, there is suffering and torment. Guilt and sadness.

Within a couple of days I had an ultrasound to see how severe the deformities might be. As I lay on the table my decision was made for me: the baby had just died.

I felt numb. But doctors are usually all business and mine had barely wiped off the gel before he started talking to me about my options. I would need a D&E (as opposed to the usual D&C) which is necessary for a larger fetus. And not just any place can do a D&E. I would need to go to the abortion hospital if I wanted it done over the weekend (It was the Thursday before Memorial Day) or I could wait a week and have it done at the big hospital downtown. (I don’t understand doctors and the big rush they’re always in. Why not just let me take my time and let my body do what it felt like doing?)  Better to put this whole episode behind you, my doctor advised; the sooner the better. As if getting rid of the baby would get rid of the grief too.

So I opted for the abortion hospital. As I said earlier, “live and let live” has been–and still is–my motto. And I wanted this whole pregnancy over and done with. So Mister and I reported to the abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon where we were living at the time.

Have you ever been to a really seedy bar? One that just has a terrible, awful vibe to it? That’s how it felt walking into that place. “Stop being such an idiot.” I told myself. “A hospital is a hospital.”  After getting into a squabble with the receptionist (“I’m not signing a paper saying I’m terminating this pregnancy. It terminated itself! What if I run for office some day?”) I was shown back into The Big Room.

I’m not sure how most clinics are set up but this one had a large room with about a dozen beds. The nurse informed me that most of the women in the beds were recovering from their procedures. She handed me my hospital gown and showed me my bed. As I changed into my gown the lady in the bed next to mine asked me through the curtain how old I was. I told her I was 27. “Same as me,” she replied.

And then she said the words that almost made me pass out, “This is my tenth time here. How about you?”

Ten abortions?  What???? Had she never heard of birth control? I mean, I’m super fertile and I’ve never once had an ‘oops’ baby! What’s her excuse? They practically shower you with with condoms here! My head was still spinning as the nurse went over my health history and asked me what my future birth control plans were (“none. I want to get pregnant again as soon as possible.” Bet she didn’t hear that one very often.) After I met with the nurse I laid down on the bed and said a prayer, as I assume most people do who are about to have surgery. I asked God to bless the doctor to be guided to operate safely; and then I stopped. How would Heavenly Father be able to guide someone in this place? There is no way the Holy Ghost would be dwelling here. And if there’s no Holy Ghost, there’s no special help guiding any surgeons.

Not cool. Not cool at all.

So I got up, put my clothes on and apologized to the nurse. I’m sure they have women change their minds all the time so I didn’t really care. The nurse told me I’d probably miscarry before the other hospital could see me. I was willing to take that chance (I didn’t miscarry. I waited almost a week and there was never even a drop of blood.) As I walked into the waiting room I saw relief wash across Mister’s face. “I was praying and praying that you’d change your mind about being here. This place gives me the creeps!” He hugged me and I cried and we got Wendy’s hamburgers and I sobbed in my room for the rest of the week.

(To be continued tomorrow)

| Filed under Bad Things, I'm Not So Great

12 thoughts on “Abortion–How I Arrived at My Opinion

  1. You make the 4th person I know who has had a Trisomy baby. One had a still born, another lived until 6 weeks and then just this past weekend there was a funeral for a Girl in our ward whose baby lived 48 hours. It’s so sad.

  2. I have so much I want to say about this topic/your story, but the words feel jumbled in my mouth. I just pinned the quote “wisdom is nothing more than healed pain” and I know for a fact you, through your experience, know so much more about this topic than I (someone who has never had any fertility issues). Bravo for speaking so honestly. I can’t wait for the rest of the story.

  3. With my first pregnancy I had the same situation as you where they said my baby had Trisomy 18. At 20 weeks I went into preterm labor and delivered a perfectly healthy, living, mind you too premature to sustain life infant. I often say that it was the best and worst day of my life as my son was born and died. As I laid in the hospital for a week during the time that my body tried to decide if it was really in labor or not, the doctors often encouraged me to “expedite” the process. We refused every time saying that we didn’t choose abortion when we found out I was pregnant, and hadn’t changed our minds on the topic. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story.

  4. Oh, Hildie. You are very brave to carry a baby for a whole week, knowing what you knew. It’s amazing, the things you think will break you, but you end up getting through them, even if they leave some cracks after.

  5. I ended up on this blog while searching for ideas for a witches costume. I then started reading different posts and ended here. Wow thanks for sharing. I know this must of been a tough situation and probably hard to relive it as you wrote this post. Abortion is such a personal decision but I also believe God has a plan. I never had to face this decision and my heart aches for those who have. I am of the LDS faith and believe that once matter (Mom & Dad) is organized that matter is now a baby. I miscarried at 10 weeks with my fourth pregnancy. The amazing part was that when I miscarried the baby was still in the sac. I held that sac in my hand, shocked, sad and amazed. The little baby had arms and legs. There were tiny eyes that were closed not yet fully developed. I could not tell the sex of the baby, non the less this was my baby. Not fully developed yet everything was there. Had the baby been given the opportunity to continue to grow he/she would have been born. Once matter is organized all is there that is needed to complete it’s journey. I felt blessed to be able to see my baby. I thought I would of been freaked out or felt differently seeing a baby in such an early developmental stage. Yet it was peaceful and a testimony to me that upon conception a baby is everything it needs to be to be considered a baby. I went on to have two more children afterwards. I have had family members and friends who have chosen to end their pregnancy by abortion. I am not their judge nor do I presume to know what was right for them. I do know that time has passed since their choices and it’s not a happy ending. One person who decided with their girlfriend to end the pregnancy has went on to be married. His first wife struggled with fertility and sadly that marriage ended. He remarried and still has no child to call his own, even though the longing is there. Another person chose to end her pregnancy. To this day she says she regrets her choice and now chooses to drown out her troubles with alcohol. Finally a dear friend ended her pregnancy at the same time I was having my second child. Today she has no children of her own. She would almost give anything to be able to have a child. She fosters children in hopes that one day she can adopt. They all mourn what they chose to end. I only hope that one day they can find the peace they need. I know there are medical reasons to terminate a pregnancy and I believe that God will give each person their answer. Thank you for talking about a sensitive subject that many wonder about but are afraid to talk about. I look forward to reading the rest of your story.

    1. Koni, thanks for your comment (and I hope you can find some good witch costume ideas. Props for starting so early in the season!) Abortion and pregnancy loss is just about the most emotionally complicated issue that has ever existed. I wish there were a way to make sense of it all.

  6. Oh wow, that’s . . . terrifying. I know you had talked about this before, just not the abortion aspect of it. And I can’t believe someone could go there 10 times. That . . . makes me a little sick inside.

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