I try not to get very political on this blog but something incredible happened in Austin, Texas this week and it recharged a lot of old emotions in me.
Over 3 years ago, Tim and I went in for an ultrasound and at week 16, we were told that our baby had no heartbeat. After spending 45 silent minutes waiting for the doctor to come in and tell us more, staring at a frozen silhouette of the first baby we made on the state-of-the-art flat screen monitor, we were told that our baby's organs hadn't pulled inside its body at the right time. The doctor, of course, told us that it was nothing that could have been prevented and that these things just seem to happen at random. He encouraged us that we could have a healthy pregnancy in the future. And he told us that our baby was a girl.
We drove home and had to achingly tell our family and friends that plans for the future were over. At 16 weeks, nearly everyone in our lives knew.
The doctor that performed our ultrasound would normally have been the one to perform the necessary D&C (dilation and curettage in doctor-speak; abortion in plain-speak) but he was leaving town the next day. He recommended another doctor that he trusted. This was a Thursday and the recommended doctor made an appointment for us on Saturday.
I lived for 2 days knowing that a dead baby was inside of me and I wanted nothing more than for it to be out. I wanted the mourning to begin so that we could move forward.
The night before our appointment, the doctor called to explain to me what my morning would look like and what I could expect. He explained the procedure in simple terms with a heavy Polish accent and asked me if I had any questions. He told me that family members and friends were welcome to come and support us. And at the end he told me that his office was an abortion clinic so I could expect protesters outside. He told me to let someone else drive so that I could recline my seat and not look at them. He told me to keep driving and don't worry. He told me they had no idea why I was there and their opinions didn't matter.
I got off the phone with him and in telling my mom and Tim this, I collapsed in tears for the millionth time in 24 hours. Now after all of this I have to drive by protesters? Unbelievable.
The next morning, we arrived in a fog, I followed the doctor's instructions for driving up, and we were greeted by friends and family, including my dad who had flown in from California. We filled out paperwork and the doctor came out to speak with my family and answer any questions. When I was ready, he led me back to the room where he would take my baby out of me.
He was kind, gentle, comforting, and reassuring. He told me that I should be encouraged that my body knows how to hold and grow a baby and that he was certain I would be a great mom someday. He grabbed a warm blanket and as the anesthesia started to take effect, he told me that when I woke up, I would be in little or no pain.
He was right. The physical pain was minimal if anything. The grief and heartache would take years to dull.
As Wendy Davis stood in our state Capitol attempting a filibuster to stop strict abortion legislation, I thought about our ultrasound at 16 weeks. What if our baby had held on until week 20 - the last time we had an ultrasound with Eddy - and the doctor had seen the abnormality then? What if, after seeing our baby's organs on the outside, he had told us that our baby had no chance of survival? What if we were faced with the choice to schedule an abortion while our baby's feeble heart was still beating? As awful as our situation was, I know it is much worse for other parents.
We met up with old friends a few years ago and, staring at my giant Eddy-belly, they told us that they had been expecting a baby not long before and after routine blood work, they were told that their baby had a chromosomal abnormality and had no chance of survival in or out of the womb. They were faced with that choice: Do I hold on to this baby and let my body decide when it's time or do I start the grieving process now?
I had no words for them except to say I was sorry. What else can you say? It's a situation I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Had this legislation passed, that doctor's office would certainly have to close. Months after our encounter with him - after some of the sludge had drained from my brain - I sent him a thank you note. Something I never in my life thought I'd do: send a thank you note to an abortion doctor. I told him that, although I hope we never crossed paths under the same circumstances again, that I was thankful that he was in my life for that day and that I appreciated the thankless work he does.
I am so tired of the terminology pro-life and pro-choice. Shouldn't we all be pro-choice, meaning we all have the right to choose? To say that you are pro-life implies that people that disagree with you are anti-life and I am certainly not. I have treasured every one of Eddy's heartbeats and would never compromise that. But I do think that, in their most tender and vulnerable time, a mother should be given the choice. I cannot, and do not want to, imagine the mental health implications of knowing your baby won't survive and being left with limited options. As terrible as those days were for me, and as much as I never want to relive them, I am thankful that I had a safe place to be where me and my family were cared for.
Our state Capitol was filled with men and women supporting Wendy Davis and her efforts on Tuesday. I don't think a single one of them was a baby-killer. I believe that they were parents that would drive hundreds of miles and fly thousands to support their children, friends that would clear your house of all evidence of a pregnancy while you are at an abortion clinic, co-workers that silently hugged and cried, husbands that have shared their darkest hour with their wife but know that their pain is but a fraction, women that have spent years praying for a healthy heartbeat to grow inside of them, women that go through all of this alone, people that have talked to God everyday and asked Why? and are still waiting for an answer.
Can you disagree with me? Absolutely. Shouldn't every issue have two sides? But for goodness sake, please be respectful and please think a bit outside of yourself for a moment.
|Photo courtesy of Jesus Moreno|