Eight years ago today, I had an abortion.
I was married at the time. We had been trying to get pregnant for a little over a year. We had just began fertility treatment. We got pregnant right away, which shocked us. It was a very wanted pregnancy.
I knew early on something wasn’t right. I felt sick. Still, I was devastated when I got a phone call from our specialist’s office telling me that my bloodwork revealed very low levels of hCG, even after a few weeks. The level of hCG in your blood is supposed to double every so many hours during pregnancy. My level had only doubled once in two weeks. After repeated bloodwork, ultrasound, and appointments that only confirmed that the pregnancy was not going to produce a baby our specialist scheduled me for termination on November 13, 2008.
After our specialist gave me my appointment time and date I slid off of the examination table and he hugged me very tight and told me he was “so sorry”. I didn’t react. I don’t think I even hugged back. I just quietly thanked him and left. I sat in my car alone for awhile outside of the clinic, wondering how to tell my husband. He hadn’t been able to come to the appointment. Then I called my mother to break the news to my family.
The night of the termination, we drove home quietly. After we were home, his aunt and uncle surprised us with a visit and a stuffed dog for the baby I’d just lost not even two hours ago. Neither of us said a word. I think I remember just saying I didn’t feel well and going to lie down. Truthfully I didn’t feel well. I was sick for two days after the procedure.
It was harder when I was still married. Because I always had to keep my grief a secret. After the termination, he and I never spoke about it again. I tried once when our daughter was about a year old. We were sitting on the porch swing outside of our house one spring after I had put her to bed. The air was so nice and soft and cool. We had a lot of beers to drink and were relaxed and laughing. Listening to our daughter’s sleep sounds on our baby monitor. I thought maybe it was the right time to bring it up. I never thought it was normal that we did not grieve together. So that night, I asked him. If he ever thought about the other baby. He said that he didn’t want to talk about it. I never brought it up again.
I always think of it on this night every year. Some years are worse than others. Tonight, I got out the baby book I started. Of course, it isn’t really filled out. I have done this other years too. But not in a really long time. I read over what I had to say. How I felt when I took the test, the nausea, the food aversions. Things I forgot about until I read them again. There is a spot for my “last thoughts” about the first trimester. I wrote,
Unfortunately you had to leave us. We are very sad to say goodbye to you because we waited so long for you, but got so little time to spend with you. We never got to name you, hold you, or even see you but we still feel a hole where you were in our lives. We actually miss you so much.
We will never forget you. I am so grateful for you because you made me so happy. You gave hope that we will have another chance to love a baby as much as we would have loved you. I am really sorry you didn’t get that chance. We love you.
Mommy & Daddy
I can’t remember when I wrote that. But I know it was at the end of what would have been my first trimester. Probably two weeks after the termination.
The best advice I got when I went through this is to let myself feel. To accept that it was okay for me to feel the grief of this. There is truth in that. I grieved hard for a while. After a couple of months, I grieved a couple of times a month. But still thought of it every day. Now I am not sure if I still think about it every day. I think that loss has become such a part of me that I don’t even notice it is there anymore. Then on Memorial Day 2009, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. On my niece’s first birthday. And on that day, I privately grieved again. Because it felt like the right thing to do. Strangely, it felt like the fair thing to do.
Still, I let myself feel sad. If I want to cry, I cry. If I want to drink, I drink. If I want to write, I write. If I want to look at the baby book, I look at it. It is a process that I have to go through. I let myself feel. It is the sadness I saved up all year.
This is not political. I am not anti-abortion or pro-life. I don’t even think of myself as different than women who terminate pregnancies for elective reasons. If anything, what happened to me reaffirmed my opinion that this is a matter between a woman, her partner, and her doctor. It is no one else’s business. It is deeply personal.
Because pain changes you, sometimes irretrievably. It isn’t fair. There’s nothing we can do to reverse that change inside of us. But we also own it. It does not belong to anyone else. It does not belong to our neighbor, our church, our doctors, our boss, our pastor, or our president. It is a burden and a treasure. Like a hardened, sharp, rocky part of us that we bitterly accept. A part of us that we keep tightly clenched in our fists. And that part of us makes us speak louder, hit harder, fight harder.
I would never change anything. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I think this just happened to me because it did. It is part of my life and my world forever. And I am okay with it. I am happy with it because it brought my daughter to me. If anything truly happened for a reason, it is her.
But it is no one else’s responsibility to tell me how I should have dealt with it. Or how I should feel. I will not let anyone do that.