There’s something that’s been weighing on me, more so than ever in light of the current political climate, our President Elect and what it could mean for many of us as far as reproductive and equal rights.
Trump has said that he will appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe v. Wade, he has made comments that women who get abortions or terminate pregnancies should be punished. Mike Pence tried to pass a law in Indiana that “would have required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried, an unprecedented measure in state law. The law also banned abortion if the fetus had a “disability” — which would have denied women the right to end a pregnancy even in case of serious fetal anomalies.” (Vox.com) Thankfully, this law was blocked from going into effect by a state judge for violating women’s right to choose. Ya think?
I am a mother to two beautiful boys. I cherish their lives more than my own. Though one was a surprise and one was planned, the pregnancies were celebrated and enjoyed (for the most part) and we welcomed them with all the love in the world. Most people wouldn’t think that a married mother of two would be so affected by the current political climate and what a Trump/Pence Whitehouse could mean. Most people don’t know that I’ve terminated a pregnancy.
On May 28, 2014 we had a lot to celebrate. It was C’s 18 month birthday, and we found out I was pregnant with our second child. Those eight weeks before our first doctor appointment were pure torture. My morning sickness was about ten times worse than it was with C, I could hardly move my nausea was so severe. Wanting to see our little peanut and hear his/her heartbeat was all consuming. Any woman who’s been pregnant knows what I’m talking about!
July 2, 2014. The day of our 8 week ultrasound and doc appointment. The husband took the morning off to go with me, C stayed with a family member so we wouldn’t have to worry about entertaining him. We were excited but pretty laid back, we’d been through this before. The tech called me back for the ultrasound, I hopped up on the little bed and prepared myself for the warmed goop to be spread all around my lower stomach, the sweet tech searching for our newest addition. And then there it was, the heartbeat. So strong. Relief set in. We laughed, joking while she continued to check things out. She told me she wanted to do a vaginal ultrasound to get a closer look and left me to get undressed and cover up with that thin, scratchy sheet. About 10 minutes passed until she returned, my doctor in tow. That was odd, I thought to myself. Doctors aren’t normally present for ultrasounds. I knew Doc Hughes but hadn’t been a pregnant patient of his, so maybe this was how he liked to do things. She got out that wonderful (sarcasm) ultrasound wand and started searching around again. My charmingly wonderful doctor watched on, and then turned to us and said the words I’ll never forget.
“She told you it’s twins, right?”
My husband started nervously joking about getting a second job to support three kids while my doctor looked at him hesitantly. I looked him at him and responded, “But there’s only one heartbeat.”
“Right,” he responded.
My heart sank with the weight of what he trying to tell us. This baby we wanted so badly was in fact two babies. Conjoined babies. It looks like they share a heart, he said. He’s been an OB for 28 years and never seen this before, he said. He asked me to get dressed and he’d meet us in a patient room. A nurse met us outside of the ultrasound room and quietly shuffled us down the halls, awkward without much to say, trying to be nice and spare us the audience of the waiting room in case I lost my shit and broke down.
We sat in disbelief as he explained that it was nothing I did, it was just a matter of the cells not splitting fast enough. If the twins had finished doing their thing one or two days sooner, we would be talking about high risk twins and not conjoined twins. He sent us to a specialist the next day to get an ultrasound with high-tech equipment on the off chance that they were in fact two separate embryos and just extremely close to each other. I had already accepted the facts, the husband tried to be optimistic.
The specialist had worse news. Not only was I carrying conjoined twins that shared one heart, they had ectopia cordis, meaning that their heart was forming outside of their chests. They had zero viability. Yes, their heartbeat was strong, but they would not make it to term. Even if their heart had been forming correctly, there would be no separating them. He told us our options. I could continue on with the pregnancy until they passed, meaning I would likely end up having a c-section to deliver them, or I could terminate the pregnancy and try to find some semblance of normalcy again. I was miserably nauseous and tired, I had another child to take care of, and a pregnancy that was not going to have a happy ending. By choosing to terminate, I had two options: pick a family planning clinic off of the extremely short list he provided, or pay out of pocket to have a procedure done in his office that would end their very short existence and then have a D&C performed at the hospital by my doctor.
Going to a clinic meant having to face protesters outside, explaining our situation to their staff, getting all the paperwork and the talks about the seriousness of our decision and then waiting a mandatory 24 hours before being able to return for the procedure. It didn’t matter that we were indeed dealing with serious fetal anomalies, this is Texas, and a woman who wants to abort a pregnancy has to wait 24 hours to do so no matter what the circumstance. Having the procedure done in his office meant paying close to $1,000 because the doctor’s office wouldn’t file it with insurance, not wanting to “be known for doing those types of procedures.” It meant first – I had to be conscious while a procedure that was physically and emotionally painful was performed, and second – Wait a full day to lie on forms about having a miscarriage, agree to burial because it was a religious hospital, and have surgery to officially end this nightmare. I couldn’t face the protesters. I couldn’t have them wave their signs at me and tell me I was a murderer. They didn’t know me. They didn’t know that this was the worst thing I’d experienced in my 28 years. We chose to pay out of pocket and try to tell ourselves this was the best way. We were sparing them, saving them from any other potential problems or pain. Why do that to them? They were better off this way.
The D&C was performed on July 9, 2014. The physical relief was immediate, the emotional relief took much longer. The guilt was overwhelming for a while. I kept trying to find reasons for what happened and tried not to blame myself. Easier said than done. There were fights, lots of fights. Both of us dealing with it on our own but not really knowing how to deal with it together. Surreal was a word we threw around pretty often. Conjoined twins are such a rarity that it was almost like it didn’t really happen. Like we watched it play out from above to some other couple that looked like us. The fact that we terminated the pregnancy weighed heavy on the air and made everything murky for a long time. When we found out I was pregnant with baby G in March of 2015, I was very hesitant to get excited and terrified of bad news. Only our immediate family and extremely close friends knew. His eight week appointment was one of the happiest days of my life. He is a rainbow baby in every way.
This is the side of abortion and pregnancy termination that pro-lifers don’t see. Not all of us are women who just aren’t in a situation to have a child. We aren’t using abortion as a form of birth control, it’s not an out for us. This is the best option for ourselves and our unborn. There is no reason to drag out a pregnancy like that when it doesn’t have to be. By not giving a woman the choice, her physical and emotional health is at risk. You are forcing her to carry a child or children that she will never raise.
Let’s be honest. No woman WANTS an abortion. No woman actually wants to have to make that choice. But it’s a choice she should be able to make.