Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My 20 Week Abortion

With all the bills on abortion being signed, I felt like I had to share my abortion story again. 

In November 2014, I had an abortion at 20 weeks. We lived in Georgia. At the time, abortion was legal up to 24 weeks. If all these bills go into effect, the choice I made, the ONLY choice that was the right option for me and my family, won’t be a choice at all for women anymore. It makes me so angry, knowing that politicians think they know better than doctors and the women affected.  

Here is my story.  

RJ and I always wanted our children close together. Even though Rosalie wasn’t planned, once we started our family we didn’t want to stop. I got my first period when Rosalie was about 6 months old. RJ and I started trying for baby number two and got pregnant very quickly. My due date would have been April 6th, 2015. Rosalie and that baby would have been about 18 months apart.

On November 10th, 2014, I had my 20 week ultrasound. RJ and I dropped Rosalie off at a friends house and drove to my ob gyn’s office. During the appointment, we were told we were having a boy but he had serious fetal abnormalities. 

The doctor who was in the office that day was the lead high risk doctor for the practice. We had met him before, he is amazing and very knowledgeable. He actually made the first ultrasound machine used at Virginia Tech, which he used to diagnose a double tubal pregnancy. He also wrote the math behind many of the calculations used in ultrasound machines today. Anyway, he is a fabulous doctor and I trusted him fully. He gently explained our baby boy had a renal blockage and he could not urinate. Because of this his kidneys had died, he was low on amniotic fluid and it would probably dry up soon. After 20 weeks amniotic fluid is primarily made up of the baby’s urine. The baby’s heart also looked questionable. 

Our doctor used to perform in vitro surgery on babies with the exact same issues our baby had. After years of trying, he gave up, because no matter how hard he tried all the babies died anyway. The few babies who actually did make it to term died after painful stays in the NICU.  

Our doctor told us we could attempt to carry the baby to term, however, based on the baby’s current condition he didn’t think the baby would survive long, or we could choose to terminate. If we chose termination, we would need to make our decision quickly, because the legal cut off for abortion in Georgia at the time was 24 weeks.   
Although it was an incredibly difficult decision it didn’t take us long. Actually, before we even left the appointment I already knew my decision. I was also 99% sure RJ felt the exact same way. We didn’t even need to talk to each other. When we got to the car, we both kind of looked at each other and just knew the other was thinking the same thing.  

We decided to sleep on it one night just to be sure. When I woke up I was still sure in my decision and was confident it was the right thing to do. Our doctor called that day to ask me if we had made a decision. I told him yes. He said he was glad we came to a decision quickly and was behind us 100%. He gave me the number of the best abortion clinic in town, told us to keep him updated and call him if we needed anything.  

The following day, I called the clinic and made an appointment. The receptionist seemed shocked I was 20 weeks along. I choked through explaining my baby had serious fetal abnormalities and would not survive. After she understood what was going on she was very understanding and explained everything to me. At 20 weeks I would need a D&E (Dilation and Evacuation). It would be a two day appointment. One day to do all the paperwork, and a few things to prep for the procedure, and the next day to do the actual procedure. I made my appointment for Friday, and Saturday.   
Friday rolled along, we dropped Rosalie off at a friends house and drove to my appointment early in the morning. The clinic was very secure and kind of hidden away. There was a security guard checking ID at the door to be sure anyone allowed inside had an appointment.  

We checked in, I filled out some paperwork, we sat and waited till I was called back. The first time they insisted I came back alone. It was policy to make sure I wanted RJ with me. I could have not done this without him. I never once doubted my decision, but it was still really emotional and difficult.  

The first thing they needed to do, was an ultrasound to confirm how far along I was. I didn’t watch and I cried the whole time. Since the baby couldn’t urinate, all the fluids were backing up into his body. His head had swelled up and was measuring at 22 weeks, when a few days earlier it was only measuring at 20 weeks. It was obvious he deteriorating quickly and it reassured us even more that we were making the right decision.  

After the ultrasound the nurses let us sit in a private waiting room (someone’s office) where we could have a bit more privacy. I made a quick phone call to my Ob to fill him in and ask him to send our records over. He was surprised to hear the baby was so much worse and told us we were definitely making the right decision. Chances are, the baby would have died shortly and I would have miscarried within the next couple of weeks, if not days.  

This is the photo I used to announce my
pregnancy. Rosalie was so little.
Next, a nurse explained the procedure to me and triple checked that this was what I wanted. Anyone I explained our situation to understood immediately and didn’t ask too many questions. I then got undressed, put a gown and socks on so they could do the first part of the procedure. This included giving me a Xanax to help calm and relax me. As well as some good painkillers because they were going to start dilating my cervix which is not comfortable. They used something called laminaria, which is a type of seaweed that gently softens and dilates your cervix overnight. It looked a lot like wooden coffee stirrers. A nurse placed a number of them in my cervix, then placed a few cotton pads over them to help keep them in place. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance, the nurses were really impressed. She was able to squeeze in more than she expected. She told me if the cotton or a few laminaria sticks fell out that was fine, but if a lot of the sticks fell out, I was supposed to call. The nurse anticipated none would fall out because they were quite snug. Once I got up and moved around a bit I could feel the sticks but it wasn’t uncomfortable. 

We went back to the office we were using as a waiting room and I got dressed. The last thing they needed to do before they sent me home for the evening was to administer a shot to stop the baby’s heart. It was the most emotional part of the day even though the Xanax had fully kicked in. The doctor used an ultrasound to guide her and she administered the shot through my belly. She needed me to hold still, so I just closed my eyes focused on my breathing. I held RJ’s hand tightly and tried not to cry too hard. This was a difficult part for him because he wanted to help but didn’t know how. I am just glad he was there with me. I don’t know how I could have done any of it without him.   

We headed home and picked up Rosalie. It was nice to have her around she was a good distraction. That evening I started to have some pretty good cramping but I was told to expect it. I was given a prescription for some good painkillers. I took one and it made me pretty loopy.   

We woke up super early the next morning, dropped Rosalie off again and made our way to the clinic. I was really nervous but luckily there wasn’t much waiting. I got dressed in a gown and hair net. I was put under general anesthesia for the procedure. I gave RJ a kiss and a nurse took me back to the operating room. The nurses were very warm and kind, they helped me feel a little less nervous. I laid down on the table, my legs were strapped into the stirrups. The doctor, a nurse, and an anesthesiologist were in the room. The anesthesiologist put in an IV while the doctor and nurse prepped everything.  

We decided to name the baby Reginald, Reggie for short. RJ had a relative who died when he was young and we thought it was fitting.  

The clinic was able to get his footprints for us. I have kept them in a box. Someday I might frame them and display them with his ultrasound photo along with the other kids, but maybe that would be weird.   

A scan of his foot prints the clinic was able to give me.
I left the scale to help show how small they are.
As difficult as it was to choose to abort the baby I wanted and was excited for, I am so glad that is what I chose. If I had to go back and do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am so glad at the time we lived in a state with reasonable abortion laws. I don’t think abortion laws should exist at all. Abortion is something that needs to be left between a woman, her doctors, and if she chooses her partner. I felt rushed to make a decision because we were racing against the 24 weeks. Had abortion been unrestricted I wouldn’t have felt pressure to make a decision quickly although time would have not changed my mind, it would have made the whole thing a bit less stressful.  

I am very very happy that my state, Illinois, has just signed a sweeping abortion bill that legalizes abortion at any time during pregnancy if a woman and her doctor decide it’s the right course of medical care for her. Illinois is now the most progressive state on the issue of abortion, and I couldn’t be more proud. 

I understand this is an emotional subject but it makes me so emotional that women are having choices taken away from them. Choices I had not long ago, choices that my doctor and I knew were right for me and my family. Why are we moving backwards with women's rights? Why are women not trusted to make decisions about their health? I hope the next generations can fix the mess that the Boomers and Gen Xers have created.  


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