Monday, January 10, 2011

Who Has the Right to Choose?

My first born, my daughter, was born in Oct of 87 and her birth was the brightest spark in my otherwise rather bleak world...up until that point. From the moment I realized I was pregnant it was always a "baby" inside me. In my mind this baby was never a zygote, and embryo, a fetus (she) was a fully formed baby...just very tiny...waiting to be born. Every single one of my pregnancies were met with the same feeling..that I was suddenly pregnant with a baby....and couldn't wait for his or her entrance into the world.

When my daughter was barely 2 months old I found myself pregnant again. At first I was shocked to realize I would be a mother again so soon but I quickly accepted the fact and looked forward to this new arrival just as I had my daughter. I never for a moment considered this new pregnancy an inconvenience or a difficulty (all though I never particularly liked being pregnant) and so thoughts of it being too early or how will I manage were fleeting at best. I prepared for the rest of the pregnancy while still getting use to my newborn.

Just over a month later I had a miscarriage. I was 3 months pregnant by this time and didn't really understand what was happening when I first started spotting. My husband took me to the hospital and it was confirmed that I was having a miscarriage.

I felt devastated. I felt guilty..I must have done something wrong to cause this. I felt like I was being punished in some way and the penalty was my child. As I laid on the cot waiting for my D&C to scrape the remains of my child from my womb...I was in no pain. Not even cramps signaled the loss of a living breathing life within my body. This made the guilt even if the passing of this life from my body wasn't significant enough to cause me any discomfort. I laid there and apologized over and over again to this angel that would never be born.

As I waited my turn in this busy ward of chaos and mayhem...I was in the hallway on a gurney at the time...I shared the space with another woman on another gurney a few feet away. As we waited patiently (she appeared to be in no pain either though I had no idea what was wrong with her just then)...a small boy kept coming to her from the waiting area down the hall. It was her son and he appeared to be no older than 4 or 5. Each time he told her his father had sent him...each time she told him to go back to his father. This happened at least a dozen times in the course of the hour and a half we laid there. (while patients and staff passed us by...seemingly not seeing us)

Finally a doctor came and examined the woman and it was then I learned that she too was having a miscarriage...but she was further along than I at 5 months. I was horrified to hear the doctor say that the babies feet were protruding from the mothers body at this point...and all the while she laid there patiently without making a sound. They quickly wheeled her away and as she passed by she gave me a sympathetic smile..and I returned it...two mothers sharing a horrible situation. United by blood and loss.

When my turn finally came I was wheeled into an exam room before heading for the operating room. It was at this point that I heard a word that absolutely made me balk and cringe at it's very utterance. "Abortion"...said the nurse to the doctor that came sweeping in. This patient is having an abortion at 3 months.

Abortion? I wasn't having an abortion. Abortions were for unwanted babies...abortions were something some women chose to do when they cared nothing for the life that grew within them. Abortion was when a "mother" chose to kill her child. I didn't choose this. I didn't want this to happen. I would have given anything to stop what was happening and let this baby continue on growing until she finally emerged wet and crying into the world.

I felt like the nurse had slapped my face. I felt like she had judged and labeled me a killer of babies. I was made to feel ashamed for something I had not done. I was humiliated and shaking with outrage. I wanted this dare you say I don't and call this an abortion.

As the nurse and doctor shared information and spoke over my head about ME and MY body, never once asking me anything about ME...I heard the word "abortion" spoken several more times. Eventually I had had enough and interrupted them mid speak.

"Excuse me," I said still shaking, "but I'm not having an abortion...I'm having a miscarriage."

They both stopped and looked at if finally realizing there was an actual human being on the table and not just an "abortion" in progress.

The doctor smiled and said..."Of course it's not an abortion technically...but is referred to as a spontaneous abortion (whatever that means)...don't worry about it, dear." Then went back to ignoring me as she conversed with the nurse.

I was wheeled into the operating room and my never to be born child was vacuumed from my womb. Later that evening I was allowed to go home and I arrived into my MIL house without fanfare or a "to do" being made about it. Everyone went about their business as I hobbled upstairs to lie on the bed...and begin my grieving process.

This happened 22 years ago...and still I think about this unborn child. I wonder about him. I imagine what she would have looked like. These thoughts are always in my mind but usually I keep them safely tucked away in a box...only to bring them out on occasions when I feel especially melancholy and tortured with the "what if" game.

I have come to realize..and I learned this lesson right off that bat once I came home from the hospital...that people don't want to talk about miscarriages. They seem unable to bring themselves to say anything beyond, "it's for the best". Best for who? What most people fail to realize is that...whether or not you miscarry at 3 months or 5 was still a living breathing human being that died. I lost a child. In my mind I lost a child...yet nobody else seemed to feel this way. I merely had a medical procedure...I had a bump in the road...I had a misfortune that was corrected by God. I had a lot of things according to those around me...whenever they could bring themselves to mention it at all...but what I didn't have was a baby.

Once again I was made to grieve the loss of life that was important to me...alone.

22 years later I have grown a lot. I have experienced a lot. I have witnessed a lot. The word "abortion" rankled me that day because I was feeling vulnerable, I was hurt and emotional and guilt was raging through my body...but I didn't feel then and I don't feel now that the word abortion...nor the act of something I can judge other women over. I myself would never consider an abortion (at least I don't think I would) but I can only see from my eyes and live in my shoes. I have no way of knowing how another woman feels about her pregnancy...whether it is a blessing or a curse to her. I cannot judge her or her decisions. The choice is hers as far as I am concerned...sometimes the choices we make are not the right ones (or even the wrong ones) but we don't know that until the full effects of those choices are made obvious to us at some point in time.

I was reading on a website today about abortion and there were so many many hateful disgusting comments aimed at women who go through with abortions...and at those who accept it as a choice she has a right too...and it amazed me how complete strangers feel they have the right to demand you submit to their ideas of what is right and wrong...simply because they say so. It seems abotion critics seem to believe that women who opt for abortions make the decision flippantly and without much emotional turmoil...and I would have to admit that maybe some of them do...but as a woman and mother I would firmly argue that a majority of women do not make that decision lightly at all. Whether they do though is not for the rest of us to judge in my opinion. If YOU don't believe in abortion...than don't have one.

Similar is the argument against homosexuality. They believe it is wrong so it is wrong. Period. If YOU don't believe in being gay...then don't be gay...but why point a judgmental finger at others who might believe or accept it? I don't understand that.

Anyhow, the reason for this post is because, one, I was feeling rather melancholy as my box of memories was left ajar it seems and I couldn't close it fast enough to stop the "what if" game from taking hold. And, two, I was reading that post as I said and I couldn't help but feel outraged at the Holier Than Thou attitude that others feel they have a right too concerning other people's bodies.

I'm not sure one topic has anything to do with the other but I felt the need to write and so I did.


Suroor said...

This is such a precious post. I don't know what to say except that even though I never had a miscarriage (thank God) as a woman I can understand your pain. I was going to write a post on how do women get along/bond with each other and I think it is pain - women's pain that brings women together.

janice said...

I agree whole-heartedly. It is a child and I could not envision me ever having an abortion.

That said, I want women to have access to safe abortions, if they so choose. But, in this day and age with sooooo many birth control options, how does one find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy? I'm just sayin'

coolred38 said...

Suroor...yes I agree. pain is the great uniter among women. I hope you write that post...would be interesting Im sure.

Janice...using my own situation for an example. I was not on any birth control with my first 3 pregnancies (2 live births and the one miscarriage) but with my other 3 pregnancies I was on some form of birth control. Tablets for the first two and the Depo shot for the last one.

My gyno doctor was shocked to say the least when I kept coming up pregnant despite precautions (along with condoms usually) it does happen. As far as Im concerned if I still got pregnant despite precautions used...then God really must have wanted these children born. Who am I to say different.

Not to mention, some teens (and grown women) still have inadequate information concerning exactly how one gets I would guess some of those pregnancies do come about from pure ignorance.

Becky said...

I know my best friend was conceived when her mother was on the pill, her younger brother when her mother had an IUD, so it does happen...

I haven't been pregnant yet, but I couldn't imagine having an abortion either. At the same time, like you said, who am I to make that choice for other women? I think abortions should be available, but instead we should focus on giving proper advice about contraceptives, making birth control measures free.

I can imagine what a strong reaction you must've had to the doctor's saying you were having an abortion. That is the only word we use for it in Danish though, we have no word for miscarriage. My Mum had a miscarriage before she had me (actually, had she carried that baby to term, I wouldn't have been born) and a second one when I was 12 years old. She's always been very adamant that they were "spontaneous abortions", as opposed to "provoked abortions". What was really hard for her the first time, is that they put her in a room with a lady who had just chosen to have an abortion. Like I said before, I'm completely for free choice, but it was so difficult for my Mum to be put in the room with someone who had just chosen not to have their baby, when she was losing a baby that she so desperately wanted.

On a sidenote, I'm pretty much the exact same age as your daughter then ;) I'm born in October 87 myself :)

Serenity said...

A very heartening post, Coolred! It's the first I've read of yours, and I really liked it.

Especially liked your comment on abortion and that, although you'd never want it for yourself, you have no right to decide whether another woman's decision to go through it is wrong or right. I never understood what we think gives us the right to form opinions about other women who make a decision about her own life/child. I refuse to believe that a woman would just wanna "kill" or "destroy" or "get rid of" her baby. Obviously, it's much more than that, something that those of us who are not in those women's shoes don't understand.

So, while I can't imagine ever going through an abortion, or going through it by choice, or at least I don't think it's something for me (at this point in my life), I am entirely supportive of any woman who decides to go through it because she knows what she's doing it.

Jayne said...

I miscarried my first baby some 33yrs ago. I was informed by the gynae that it was "too big to come out by itself" & that I would have to have an abortion. There wasn't much sympathy & certainly wasn't any follow-up care - just a case of 'oh well, it happened, get over it' or 'don't worry, you'll be able to have plenty more babies'. As far as abortion was concerned, I wasn't given a choice. I wished then, as I still do today, than there was another word to describe what happened, as 'abortion' always tends to hold sinister connotations.

Anonymous said...


I know you don't often go political but would be interested in your thoughts on the current up-risings taking place in the middle east right now.


Anonymous said...

Abortion is the medical term for miscarriage! Get educated people.

Daisy said...

I am a little late to this conversation but I just found your blog and I am catching up. I too am an American living in Bahrain with my husband. I had the unfortunate incident with the work "abortion" just last month at the local health center. I went there to confirm my pregnancy. It came back positive, this is my first, and I then informed her I have Factor V Leiden, a blood clotting disorder(its hereditary). I told her that my Oncologist in the States told me that if I were to ever be pregnant that I would have to inform them and be put on heprin or baby aspirin ASAP. This "Dr" and I use the term loosely, looks at me and says, "When was your last abortion?" I sat there in shock! I said, "Excuse me?!" She then informed me that women with blood clotting disorders are usually due to the fact that they have many abortions. Now, my husband is a smart man..God bless him as I am sure alot of Arab husbands would have divorced their wives on Spot! He looked at her and said(yelled) something in Arabic and we left. Later I found out she really meant to say is that women with blood clots are more likely to have miscarriages(they call them abortions)....this still did not sit well with me. Ahhhh, the Bahraini health system.... Gota love it! (huge sarcasm)