August: Dog Days of Summer

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Story- Part 1: 1990

I originally began this blog in an attempt to "tell my own story of gestational surrogacy," infertility, pregnancy loss, AND life with 6 year old (well, 6 next month) twins. Recently, someone who had read a few of my posts asked my why I had gotten so "off topic." My best, and only, response was that I couldn't be "on topic" in every single post- that that wasn't what this blog was. That would be what my book will be- but my blog is meant to be more daily rantings and less one-trick-pony. I must admit, however, that I feel I should probably try to stray closer to the original intent for a bit here and there. So I will share my complete story- starting at the very beginning (cue Sound of Music score, "A very good place to start")...
In the summer of 1990, I had just turned 22. I was living in Chicago, finishing up my undergraduate degree in Theater, following the Greatful Dead around the midwest, generally having a good time. I had a sweet boyfriend, who was a drummer in a band (I had already dated the guitarist) who all lived in "the loft" together. It was such a great time- we were all such close friends (I'm still friends with all of them.) Very 1960's commune-free-love kind of thing. When classes started in September, I was fully entrenched in trying to graduate after having taken a year off between college in Vermont, and having moved back to Chicago to finish up my degree. I remember a few weekends I spent at my boyfriend's apartment, being very care-free about the sex we were having. I think I may have been between prescriptions of the pill (they all affected me terribly), and trying to be somewhat careful about using condoms. I do remember one marathon night in particular, when one of the condoms broke. Ooops. In the beginning of October, I noticed I hadn't gotten a period when I should have (two weeks after I should have.) I took a home pregnancy test and, you guessed it, Preg-o. I immediately puked. And I didn't stop for the next 2 weeks. I developed HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum), which is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy- to the point of danger. I was puking 6 or 7 times a day, and basically couldn't function- all I could do was drag myself out of bed and onto the couch every day. My roomate was awesome and took such great care of me (as did my boyfriend, but he was also dealing with school.) I tried everything to quell the sickness: I kept ginger-ale and saltines next to the bed, and made sure my stomache never got too empty. I ate small, frequent meals, avoided fried food and sugar, nothing helped. After many really difficult discussions, my boyfriend and I decided that it just wasn't the right time to have a baby. (A prophetic decision, as it turns out) We were both trying to finish school, both very young and neither in a position to be parents. So I called my doctor, and scheduled an abortion. She was pregnant herself at the time, and was so understanding and supportive. Because the HG had gotten so bad and I was getting badly dehydrated, she put me on an anti-nausea medication she said she would NOT have put me on, had I decided to have the baby. I knew right then, that that was the turning point for that baby and for the pregnancy. But oh- the relief. I had also made the decision not to tell my parents about any of this drama. I was putting myself through enough hell about it, I certainly didn't need the extra drama only my mom-the-diva would most certainly provide. So I didn't. I distinctly remember one night, sitting in my room in my apartment, talking about everything with my BF just before we had made up our minds about what to do. I will NEVER forget what he said to me:

"What if this is your one and only chance to have a baby?"

What if this is your one and only chance to have a baby. How those words ring in my ears to this very day.
I had another doctor's appointment, at which the "chief" OB/Gyn in my doctor's office was to check me out. He was an older, "old school" kind of doc- so pure in his condescension it was amazing. He walked in, and proceeded to ask me some questions, mostly about my choice. He then did his version of an exam, at which point he lubed up two gloved fingers and, without warning or even a single word, bruskly shoved them up my ass. Yep. you read that right- ass. Not vagina. Now I'm a Doula- I've seen a whole lot 'o"stuff" but I've never seen this in any exam situation. Of course, there was no nurse in the room either. To this day, I'm completely perplexed by it. He was a really well known OB. And he was completely abusive. After the exam, after I had gotten dressed, we had a "come to Jesus" sit-down in his office. He proceeded to lecture me all about responsibility, the evils of abortion, and to shove lots of adoption pamphlets into my hand before showing me the door. As if I didn't feel like shit enough. I remember thinking that I wished I HAD told my parents, if nothing else than because my Dad would have pounded this guy. But I was so vulnerable and naive and wracked with guilt. I did not change my mind, however, and made him schedule the whole affair for the following week.
On Tuesday morning, October 16, 1990 my BF and I checked in to the same hospital I was born in. 7:00 am sharp. It was a gross day- rainy, dark, cold. Perfect. In those days, abortions were performed in an OR. I was fully awake during the procedure, and my legs were up and strapped into stirrups. My whole lower half was at such an awkward angle, and so exposed. There were those green blankets, or whatever they were, draped over my legs, I was in a hospital gown, hair up in a cap, as if I was going through surgery. There were other people milling about the room while my hoo-ha was out there for all to see. One of the interns came and took a "look," as others were setting up trays and tools. I'm sure I had already been given something to "take the edge off." My doctor came over to the side of table, with her big pregnant belly, to reassure me and let me know how things were going to go down. I reached out and patted her belly, looking pathetic, and she said to me, "don't worry- your time will come someday."
I won't describe the procedure itself- it's really too horrifying. It was SO painful. It sucked.
Afterwards, we had to go down to the hospital admin. area and pay our bill. Because neither of us had any insurance, we were paying with checks. While I sat in the woman's office writing out my check, I vomited into her trash can.
Among the many journals, datebooks and notes I've kept over the years, I came across an essay I wrote at that time for an exam. It was a class on human sexuality. The "bonus" question was, "Discuss the advantages/ disadvantages to abortion based on your knowledge, readings and any additional information you know about the subject."
Here's what I wrote:

A month ago, I had an abortion. Therefore, my discussion of the advantages/
disadvantages will be based on personal experience. Before I ever got pregnant, 
I didn't feel too strongly one way or the other. Of course, being a woman, I felt if
I were ever in the situation, I would like to be able to have a choice- and that all
women should, ultimately, have the freedom to choose what's best for them 
concerning their own bodies. Once I got pregnant, it became a much more 
serious issue. It became something that I was forced to deal with- either I could
have the child, get married, and try to raise it before I (we) were emotionally or
financially ready and able to do so- I wasn't ready to devote the next eighteen
years of my life to this child yet. Or, I could carry it for nine months, grow 
attached and bonded to it, give birth to it and give it up for adoption- never
knowing it, or seeing him/her grow up- I knew I definitely wouldn't be able
to handle that. Or, I could have an abortion. I (we) opted for abortion after
having thought seriously about the alternatives. One of my doctors' colleagues
examined me, and described the procedure- he also told me of the possible
dangers. The procedure was to be a suction curetage- in which novicaine is
injected into the cervix, which is then dilated so that a suction tube may be
inserted into the uterus to suck out the "products of the pregnancy." Then the
uterus was to be scraped, and that was it. I would experience no real pain, but
some simple cramping afterward, for which Advil could be taken. I would also
experience some bleeding similar to a period for a few days- no tampons, though,
and no intercourse for two weeks- to prevent risk of infection. He told me that the 
dangers were puncturing of the uterine wall, interference with possible future
pregnancies, or not getting everything out- therefore having to repeat the procedure.
All these, he said, were quite rare. 
He described the whole thing in a way that made it sound so simple and clean
and easy- ha ha. But, then again, I suppose it's different for everyone, and 
there's no way of really describing something you're never (or will never) go
The surgery itself was a little traumatic- my legs were strapped up at such 
unnatural angles that they cramped horribly. I was completely awake and fully
coherent- no sedatives, no nothin'. The shots of novicaine into my cervix were
pretty painful, and didn't really help- when they dilated my cervix, I thought, 
"I am truly in hell"- it was VERY painful. The sound of the suction wasn't
exactly too pleasant, either- all I could think was "sucked clean." I was a little
shaky afterward, and actually threw up in this woman's office where I paid 
my bill. I did, however, start bleeding quite horribly- bad enough that my
doctor had me come in to see her, and she put me on methergine- a medication
to contract the uterus down and help to stop bleeding. In about two weeks,
the bleeding did stop, and I started back on the pill. It has been one month-
I'm through my first pill packet, two pills into the second one, to be exact, 
and just got over the first period I've gotten since August.
My emotional outlook at the whole thing, is actually pretty positive- my
partner, luckily, is and has been, completely loving and supportive, which
makes it all much easier. I truly believe I made the best choice, and that this
life, and soul, will return when the time is right. Now I honestly believe
that no-one should have the right to make decisions over anyone else's body
and future- I can't even imagine the thought of having to have been forced
to have a child before I was ready.

This essay hurts me so much to read, on so many levels. I was so young- so naive. How in the world would I ever have known that I did, perhaps, give up my one shot at having a baby? Why did I bleed so heavily for TWO WEEKS and think that that was OK? Why was I so cavalier about the risks- especially the risk of possibly future pregnancies being affected!? 
My views about abortion have changed over the years. Of course I believe in a woman's right to choose- but it's a choice I would never make again. Not just because of my infertility, either- I felt that way about a year after this happened. Every day I spent thinking about that baby that I gave up, and about my BF's prophetic words about giving up my one chance to have a baby, I grew more and more sorrowful about it and knew that it was something I no longer really believed in. When I got the pathology report and learned that it had been a normal pregnancy, I knew I had done something I would somehow regret the rest of my life. Of course, if I'd had that child, who knows how my life would have been different. I would never have moved out here to New Mexico, never met my husband, never had Sophie and Alex. I can't even imagine it. But I can't ever fix that hole in my life left from that baby I never had. Maybe I'll meet him one day in the afterlife....


  1. Excellent. Now THAT'S a good piece of writing!

  2. Whoa - this post just gave me full body shivers. I cannot imagine having to face a decision like this. I've always been pro-choice (though after IF, I cannot imagine having an abortion myself, but I also know it's never my place to force my decision on someone else)... but wow. I'm so sorry you had to go through something so physically and emotionally intense like that at such a young age. It's such a grown up decision that most people have to make at such a young age. Those what ifs are killer, especially with the hindsight you have now.

  3. Thank you- Yes, it's the hindsight thing that really tears me up- especially having now gone through IF.