My Second Abortion
“When was the last time you ate?”
My doctor turned to my blank face and repeated with increased urgency, “When did you last eat?”
Such a peculiar question really, when you’re lying on an ultrasound table waiting to hear if the methotrexate injected in you has successfully dissolved your pregnancy.
Two days prior to this life-changing moment, my fiancé and I learned that our first pregnancy had implanted in one of my fallopian tubes. Methotrexate, if administered within the first 49 days of pregnancy, is over 90 percent effective in terminating pregnancy…cue the start of my career as an outlier.
The emergency room OBGYN stared worriedly at the ultrasound image, turned to me, and informed me that the medication had, in fact, failed to affect the embryo, which had now grown enough to rupture my fallopian tube. I was on my way to hemorrhagic shock, and 15 minutes later I was in the operating room undergoing emergency surgery to remove my tube and the stubborn embryo.
Every women’s experience with loss is different. My mother’s eyes swam with grief for the grandchild she had prayed for, as she tearfully presented me with an angel figurine that represented what she saw as our baby, now in heaven. Other women shared their stories of miscarriages in the hopes of offering their sympathy and support.
I did not grieve the loss of the baby because, to me, it was not a baby. It was as if the world around me was conspiring to make me feel a grief that I did not feel. I did not grieve the loss of a child—I grieved the loss of time. And my only question to the doctor was when we could try again.
My Third Abortion
“Is it in the right place?”
Five months after my first emergency surgery I found myself six weeks pregnant, laying for another tense ultrasound. To my shock, the doctor informed me that the embryo had landed in my uterus, and that he could see the smallest speck of a heart beating.
I nodded politely, but did not allow myself to celebrate. I knew the road ahead was fraught with dangers and potential disappointments. At eight weeks, I allowed myself a blip of excitement and announced my pregnancy to my mother via an “I Love Grandma” mug.
At nine weeks, I collected my fiancé and mother and took them to my ultrasound to see the heartbeat I had previously seen flicker with promise on the grainy black and white screen. While the ultrasound tech began the ultrasound, I even reminded my mom to take a video of her soon to be first grandchild’s heart thumping its first notes of a hopeful future.
After a minute, the tech began to look nervous, made a quick excuse, and left the room to, presumably, get the doctor. My heart dropped. My mom slowly put her camera down. A brief inspection by the doctor revealed to us that the baby’s heart had just stopped beating, but my body had not recognized the loss.
I internally laughed at my presumption. I bitterly reprimanded myself for allowing so much hope, even handing out grandma mugs as though I had never seen disappointment. My options were to continue to carry until my body naturally expelled the fetus, which had a list of potential dangers, or schedule a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure to abort the fetus. I chose the option that offered the least risk to my physical and mental well-being, and scheduled the D&C for three days later.
My Fourth Abortion
“Can you save the tube?”
My doctor looked at me skeptically, not wanting to dash my final hopes of an intervention-free pregnancy. For the second (and more painful) time, an embryo had attached itself to my remaining tube.
This time, I was ready for the failure, but ill-prepared for the blazing pain that would knock me to the floor. The doctor allowed me the medicinal treatment option that had failed me before, and I hoped with all the delusion that desperation allowed me.
Two days later, my recently minted husband was riding his motorcycle from work when I found myself incapacitated on our bathroom floor. Between blinding pulses of pain, I decided my friend (and the CFO of the company I worked for at the time) would be the closest and calmest option.
The pain had become so acute that I could not open the front door for her. She quickly found her way in, helped me off the floor, and speedily took me to the emergency room. My doctor met us there, and after looking at another disappointing black and white screen, he raced me to surgery. My last tube—and last hope—had ruptured, and I began to hemorrhage.
Life After Loss
“Aren’t you excited?”
Six months later, we had completed our first and successful round of IVF. After two months of genetic testing, daily blood draws, countless ultrasounds, hundreds of shots (administered by my husband), and a fruitful egg retrieval surgery, I found myself pregnant…again.
My anxiety was too intense to allow excitement. I was too used to complications and worse case scenarios.
In the months to come, I would see more close calls and potential for grief, but eventually our efforts would come to fruition. I went into labor on the Fourth of July, just in time for fireworks. Our beautiful, healthy baby girl was born the next morning and, for the first time in years, I allowed myself a release of excitement for the future.
My First Abortion
I had been pregnant for almost two years, undergone three abortions, and was met with acute sympathy for my unrelenting path to becoming a mother. One question swam in my thoughts every time a compassionate face offered their consolation for my plight: How would they feel if they knew I had an abortion prior to being ready for motherhood?
Would they think I deserved this? Would they blame my medical mishaps on my prior choices with my body?
I was 21 years old and attending university when I found myself pregnant. My mother looked at me, left the room in tears, and returned to say she had made an appointment with the doctor to “take care of it.”
It was the option I had hoped for, but I was so lonely in my choice. There was no one to talk to, no voice of reason telling me that it was the right choice because it was my choice.
The simple truth is that society feels better about abortion when it is partnered with the suffering of women. The closer to death and the heavier the loss, the greater the approbation.
But abortion has saved my life four times. It saved my life by allowing me to live it independent of unexpected responsibilities. It saved my life when my body failed me. It allowed me release.
To me, abortion is about freedom.