The babies we never had

So most of you who know me know that I had two miscarriages between Grey and this pregnancy. Apparently October 15th was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I think I did pretty well dealing with my losses, and it helps a ton to have a happy healthy son and hopefully another one on the way at any moment. But the loss of a pregnancy, even at an early stage, can be very difficult and sneak back to haunt you. And I can hardly bear to imagine losing an infant.

I’ve also been thinking about my pregnancy losses a lot with the debate last night. Apparently the presidential debate involved the abortion discussion. Plenty of feminist bloggers are just a touch irate that John McCain used air-quotes when talking about “the health of the mother” as a reason why a woman might need an abortion.

While I have always been pro-choice (and always hoped that very, very few women would ever need the choice), my experience with my miscarriages changed how I looked at abortion. With my second pregnancy, everything seemed swimming. I got to 10 weeks rejoicing that the morning sickness wasn’t so bad and that maybe this meant I was having a girl. Then I noticed a bit of spotting and in the “it’s probably nothing to worry about” vein got sent in for an ultrasound to make sure everything was hunky-dory.

It wasn’t. Where there should’ve been a 10 week old embryo with a beating heart, there was just a darkly silent womb.

They told me to come back in a week in case my dates were off by a month. They weren’t. In a week it was still as silent as a tomb in there. The baby had probably stopped growing/died/whatever you want to call it at about 6 weeks and my body hadn’t gotten the message.

I was told to report to the OR for an abortion (same procedure whether or not there’s a living baby). I didn’t. Instead I fought to take abortifacent drugs because I wanted control over how the pregnancy ended, and if it wasn’t going to end itself, I didn’t want someone DOING something to me — not when I had a choice. I did need to terminate the pregnancy because I ran the risk of infection if it didn’t clear itself out. (Also, let’s talk about the mental health of a woman who knows she’s carrying a baby inside of her who is not alive. Or maybe let’s not, because that’s not a thing that bears lots of thinking.)

The pro-life tagline is that abortion stops a beating heart. Sometimes it doesn’t. I assume that even the most ardently pro-life out there would be ok with my terminating a pregnancy that didn’t involve killing a baby. You can be pregnant with a non-viable child, or one who has already died, and still be pregnant. But now I wonder every time I read about abortion laws… would they have prevented me from being able to terminate the non-viable pregnancy I had? Would my doctor know how to do the procedure? Would my doctor have to provide some sort of evidence that the pregnancy was not viable? Would I have had to wait even longer?

What about situations that aren’t as cut and dried as mine was? What about a child who can’t survive outside the womb but can inside it? (Like anencephaly). What about ectopic pregnancies? What about severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, where if the mother doesn’t cease being pregnant right away NO ONE is going to come out of the situation alive and the baby just isn’t old enough to make it?

I’m not sure what percentage of abortions are of perfectly healthy, viable pregnancies. That’s all the political discourse seems to talk about — someone who just doesn’t want to have a baby period. But in my experience of abortion, it was about pregnancies where there was some issue or some reason that the end outcome wasn’t going to be a baby anyway, and the only question was when.

Like so many issues in life and politics, abortion is painted as a black and white issue. And like so many issues, while there are situations that fall into black and white categories, there are also a lot of situations that are firmly rooted in gray.

(PS — be nice. This was a real and difficult loss for me. If there are any comments that are cruel, they will be deleted.)

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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