Not all abortions come about due to an unwanted pregnancy. Some abortions become the best next action involving a much wanted pregnancy that takes a painful, unwanted turn…that’s what happened to me.
It’s a very hot, muggy day in August 1984. That might sound like an uncomfortable day that would cause someone to dread getting out in the heat to go to the doctor. Not for me. Not this day. I’m pregnant and feeling so blessed, so happy, so excited. I have an appointment with my doctor for my 12-week checkup where we’ll get to hear my baby’s heartbeat, and I’ll have an ultrasound, which is commonplace for this visit. Everything is wonderful, I feel good, my husband is happy about becoming a father, and I can hardly wait to see him after my appointment and tell him all about it.
I get to my appointment early and chat with everyone in the office. One of the great things about living in a small town is you know everyone and it’s very likely the nurse and office staff are all friends of yours from high school. That’s the case in my doctor’s office and it’s very comforting and joyful to be sharing my pregnancy experience with all of them.
I’m told to “come on back,” and get the exam gown on, the doctor will be with me in a minute. He comes in all excited about my pregnancy and we chat for a few seconds to catch up on what’s new. I’ve been his patient since I was in junior high. He tells me to lie back on the table so we can “take a listen to this sweet baby.” First he listens to my belly with his stethoscope. Looking back, I can see slight concern on his face, but at the time I was too elated to want to see anything scary. He says we’ll do the ultrasound now, and we do. The liquid is cold on my stomach, but I don’t mind. He spends a few minutes trying to get the heartbeat so I can hear it, but he can’t seem to find it. He says not to worry, sometimes it takes a while to find it. He keeps moving the handheld probe, called a transducer, over my abdomen for what seems like forever. I can now see concern, but he’s not saying anything. He finishes the ultrasound, and gently, caringly wipes the access liquid from my abdomen. He holds my hand and helps me to a sitting position and says to “sit tight,” he’ll be right back.
A few minutes later he returns to the exam room and pulls up a stool to sit close to me, and puts his hands on my knees as he does when he wants me to listen. The color has drained from his face as he looks into my eyes and says, “Here’s what’s happening. You have what is called a blighted ovum. We don’t know what causes it, but it means your body still thinks it’s pregnant, so your uterus is growing, the sac is there and filled with amniotic fluid…but there is no baby there. At one point, it did not attach to the uterus and your body resorbed it, possibly at the point when it was still a zygote. Your body shows no sign of miscarrying on its own, or it would have by now.”
After much discussion, and making sure I’m emotionally and physically ok, we decide that he’ll perform a Laminaria procedure today, and I’ll go home and rest over the weekend while my cervix slowly and painfully dilates to be ready for the D&C, or Dilatation and Curettage procedure to be done in the hospital early Monday morning. He explains to me it is the safest procedure to remove the rest of the tissue from inside the uterus, now that it has been determined there is no baby.
This was almost 40 years ago, and it never occurred to me that this procedure would be considered an abortion. I thought it was a miscarriage. There was no baby, so I miscarried, right? The truth came to me years later when I needed to see my medical files and the word “abortion” was checked. “Miscarriage” was not. I was curious so I asked my doctor about it. He said that the reason we had to do the D&C was, in fact, because my body WOULD NOT miscarry on it’s own so it was imperative for my health to rid the uterus of the tissue that was left in my body after the baby did not form. The medical term when this happens is “spontaneous abortion” and when other doctors see this, they know it means the body was having difficulty miscarrying the tissue on its own.
I share this story in light of the recent case of Roe v. Wade being overturned and how it is affecting women in the United States. To see the word “abortion” being used as a blanket term to be outlawed and prevent the procedure to be used after the baby is no longer alive, is frightening. If I had not been “allowed” (using the vernacular of a human who feels dismissed) to have this procedure, there is no telling how much longer my body would have continued to prepare for a baby that was not even there. My heart was broken, and I wanted to be as healthy as possible so I could be ready to hopefully get pregnant again and carry my baby to term. That is exactly what happened. Three months later I became pregnant and one year later, I gave birth to a healthy little boy and all is well. Would I have experienced the same happy outcome with the toxic tissue left behind and still occupying my uterus when I got pregnant? Thankfully, I’ll never know.
This is my story and I hope in some way, it helps bring clarity and support for women everywhere.