Sep 052010

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I have always believed in the rights of a woman to control her own body, I have marched on Washington and written numerous letters to the editor, I was, still am a contributor to Planned Parenthood. I have never believed that life begins with conception and I have believed since my pregnancy with my first child that life begins for each of us at a different time, perhaps at the time the fetus begins to become aware, that time when they begin to interact with the world outside the womb. For my daughter that was at about 5 months gestation, when she started to react to particular voices and sounds. Then I knew she was, for me a life. I always wondered if my belief in when life began could be changed or challenged and as I have lived my life I have had that belief reinforced time and again by personal experience.

I am a single mother of two beautiful children ages 16 and 9. I have been pregnant 7 times, the two children I have, three miscarriages and two abortions. I seem to be fertile Myrtle and honestly really bad at remembering birth control. I had my first miscarriage when my oldest was just two years old, I was still married at the time and it was an early miscarriage, 9 weeks gestation. It hurt my heart I mourned not for a lost baby but for lost potential. I divorced two years later. I dated off and on and then got into a relationship with an abusive man. He was verbally very abusive and tore down most of my self esteem. About 3 years into the relationship I found myself pregnant with his child. I decided to keep the baby and raise him or her on my own. I wound up with a beautiful little boy who is a joy to my heart. When my son was just 7 months old I had a weekend “fling” I guess you could call it with his father. I was careless, no excuses for it. I was just plain careless. I was floored when a urine test, done so that I could have x-rays, a few weeks later revealed I was pregnant. I knew from the moment those words crossed the lips of the nurse in the ER that I could not have this child. I was making it on my own with two children but a third would have been next to impossible. It would have taken away quality of life from the two I already had and they deserve the best that I can give to them.

Appointments were made; my mother came with me to drive me the hour trip home from the clinic. We were told during the counseling session that the Doctor who performed the abortions was anonymous to protect her safety. It made perfect sense to us, 8 years ago it seemed to be open season on abortion providers. I was taken to the procedure room and the prep was done. I was sitting on the table waiting when a familiar face walked into the room. I was not surprised, I knew Doctor D from the hospital I worked at and I knew that she and her husband were staunch abortion rights advocates. Jokes were made about not knowing anything and the procedure began. It was quick and relatively painless. I went to the recover room feeling like I had taken a stand for myself and my own control. As I think back on it now I think that may have been the first step in really freeing myself from the psychological control of my abuser not that I had done this to him in any way but that I had done it for me. In the recovery room I began to get physically uncomfortable describing to my nurse the sensation of “back labor.” I was sent back into the procedure room and an ultra sound revealed that I was retaining clots. The doctor had to go back in with the suction and evacuate those clots. This happened three times before I finally stopped producing clots. Dr D and my nurse were wonderful trying to distract me from the growing discomfort. By the time they had gotten things under control though no amount of anesthetic to my cervix was going to numb the pain. I returned to the recovery room where I asked for them to let my mother know I was OK and that I would be out soon.

I was soon released with medications for pain and to make sure my uterus continued to contract so that I would not hemorrhage. On our drive home I told my mother all that had happened and that I knew the doctor. I have been lucky all my life that I can share things like this with her. I was not in great amounts of pain but was uncomfortable for a few days. I had a time to reflect on what had occurred and I felt a renewed sense of control in my life. I also felt strangely reinforced in my belief that life does not begin at conception but that it begins some point later in the development of a fetus. I felt satisfied at the choice I had made and that it had been the right choice for me.

Life went on my children grew and I became more careful with birth control. Tubal ligation was not yet an option for me as I looked to the possibility of having another child some day. I was never very good at remembering that damn little pill though. I really wish they had the patch back then. I again got pregnant while on the pill. I looked at that little pink line on the test strip and just did not want to believe what I was seeing. I was pregnant again I already was pretty sure I was even with out that test, morning sickness had already started as had my typical breast swelling I get when pregnant. I told no one this time, not even my mother. I am not sure why I kept it so quiet, I think it is because I knew if I told someone they would try to talk me out of what I was planning. See I knew the risk that I would retain clots again was high and I knew I did not want to go through that again. And I also knew that there was research on medical alternatives to surgical abortions. RU 486 had stirred controversy and there was discussion of the use of misoprostol and methotrexate to induce abortions medically.

I had taken misoprostol a few months earlier for stomach problems while taking Motrin and I had read all the warnings about misoprostol and the risks to preganacy it had caused. I had a pretty good idea that I could induce an abortion if I knew how it was done. I needed to find out how it was used and how the methotrexate was used with it in abortion. I researched via the internet and found out all I could about the actions of the two drugs. I determined that the methotrexate could be left out and an abortion would still occur. I accessed university studies and found their protocols online. I waited for a day when both my children would be away from home so that I would not have to worry about them while this was happening. I had safety in mind knowing that my family lived right next door and my mother came over at least daily should any problems occur that left me incapacitated. I also had the number of the Doctor who preformed my first abortion next to my phone should I need to call her about any problems I might have had. I followed the procedures I had found online and went about my day. About 2 hours after I had used the medication I began to get some strong cramping. I took Tylenol for the cramping and waited for the inevitable bleeding to begin. When it did begin I passed some clots and formed material quite quickly and then bled much like a heavy period for a couple of days. With in three or four days it was over. My morning sickness had passed and my breasts stopped swelling. A repeat pregnancy test a week later confirmed that the abortion was successful. I was strangely elated, I felt like the old Wiccans from the times of witch hunts who had gone against the powers that be to provide medical care and provided myself with my own medical care. I had seen an alternative to the control that the Anti-Choice minority had forced upon abortion providers and I had chosen the path that put all the control in my hands. I was woman and I could and did control my own body with out anyone else’s interference. I felt even more secure in my belief that abortion is a moral choice that should be left only to the woman making it.

Time once again went by and I found myself in love with a man who lived all the way across the country. I moved to Oregon and lived with him for 6 months, he had said he was sterile, I believed him, I was in love and trusted him. When we broke up I made the trip back east by car. Two kids ages 10 and 3 towing a U Haul trailer driving cross country, can you say stress? No wonder I did not have a period or so I thought. I settled into life back home, staying temporarily with my parents, getting a new job and sorting out what to do next. I was relieved when I had a period and put the possibility of pregnancy out of my head. But I was rapidly gaining weight and was having mild bowel and bladder problems. I was getting ready to call my doctor about them when my mother even asked if I might be pregnant. I told her no I’d had a period and I did not have any of my usual symptoms of pregnancy. Two nights later I awoke to a sudden sharp pain and wetness between my legs. Grabbing the nearest thing to soak up what ever it was I made my way to the bathroom where another gush of clear fluid came from my vagina. I got my mother up and told her I was having problems. We decided to head to the hospital and while on the 20 minute drive there I began having what most definitely were contractions. I knew I had to have been pregnant and must have been quite a ways along I had not had sex in at least 12 weeks. A few minutes after I arrived in the ER I delivered a 16 week fetus. My head was swimming, I had gone from thinking I might be pregnant even with out my usual physical indications of pregnancy to having a miscarriage. I was admitted into the hospital for observation and taken to my room. I knew the supervisor and he came to speak to me after my admission. He asked me if I wanted to see the fetus before he took her to the morgue. I was terrified, what if I had been wrong all these years, what if “she” had been a life? But I knew, knew I had to see, to know. He brought a small basin covered with a towel to my room, he placed it on the over bed table. He told me he had already looked at her and that they thought she was about 16 weeks gestation. He then stood to the side as I lifted the towel with shaking hands. I looked and I saw, not a baby, but the beginnings of one. A fetus, something with the potential to become a human not the life so many want to believe it is. I was sad, not for a loss of life but once again for the loss of what might have been. He left me alone for a bit while I reflected on what had happened and what I knew to be truth. She, for the fetus was most definitely female was simply a fetus, a collection of cells growing with in my body with out the spark to be independent life. All the beliefs of my life were confirmed in those few minutes looking at the fetus that had been part of me. He came back some time later and took her away. The next morning my doctor came and determined that I had too much amniotic fluid and not enough pregnancy hormones. She said that even if I had known earlier that I was pregnant the lack of hormones in my body and the over production of fluid would have made carrying the pregnancy to a safe gestational age impossible. I think she was trying to allay some guilt she thought I might have had but I had no guilt it simply was something that happened.

My final miscarriage occurred a few months after that. I was dating a man and the condom must have slipped. I had the miscarriage only a few days after finding out I was pregnant. My doctor and I decided it was time to tie my tubes. I was 35 and any pregnancies I might have in the future would be very high risk. The tubal ligation was as liberating as my abortions. I now had the freedom to enjoy sex with out the worries of pregnancy.

Though many would say each abortion and miscarriage I had were tragic events I tend to believe other wise. I grew and learned more about myself from each one. I found strength in myself that I thought I had lost and the conviction of my beliefs is unshakable, I can say with the backing of personal experience that I do not believe abortion is the taking of a life. I can say that life is not something that occurs at a set time nor is it something that is ever likely to be tangibly measured. My beliefs in my own strength and my own morals are unflappable. I do not believe that abortion is the answer for everyone but for me it was the answer twice in my life.

Warning: While I do describe in my story the performing of my own medical abortion I do not support its being done by others. I took a lot of risk doing what I did, from hemorrhaging to infection and other complications. I took great care to understand what I was getting into and am a nurse with a bit more knowledge then those not in a medical field. I did all I could to minimize my risks and would have jumped to call for help if things did not go as I had planned. Please do not consider doing an abortion on yourself, there are now many clinics that perform medical abortions and they can offer you the monitoring and support you need.

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