‘My daughter would have died a traumatic death, and I might not have survived if I’d miscarried.’: Mom discusses importance of abortion rights

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of pregnancy loss which may be upsetting for some. 

“When abortion rights were slashed with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I was terrified. I’ve had an abortion, and I never thought I would. Mind you, I’ve always been pro-choice… I just didn’t think I would have to make that choice. I have been incredibly lucky to have had parents who filled in the gaps left by sex education, and I always had access to birth control through my doctor or Planned Parenthood.

Growing Our Family

About a year after I got married, my husband and I decided to try for a baby. Nine months later, I found out I was pregnant as we were moving to a new state. The move ended up being one of the easier bumps along the way. Saying the pregnancy was tumultuous would be an understatement. I went into preterm labor at 23 weeks and spent the later part of my pregnancy shuffling off to the hospital in labor weekly. Every time I went, I’d have a medical intervention to halt the contractions. But we made it through! At 39 weeks and 2 days, we welcomed an extremely quiet little girl into our family; she has since blossomed into and extremely not quiet kindergartener.

We were very hesitant to try again. Our first pregnancy was so stressful and we had a tiny little apartment. However, in 2019, we had a family reunion at which I got to meet my baby cousin for the first time. My daughter fell in love and my husband completely melted at how she doted on the baby. In June of 2019 we decided to try and grow our family again.

positive pregnancy test
Courtesy of Jane Hamm

I found out I was pregnant the first week of September and we were over the moon! Since I was such a hot mess the first-time around, I was whisked in for a confirmation ultrasound at 6 1/2 weeks. I walked into that appointment joking about how my husband is a twin and I just wanted to be sure there was only one in there. WELL, IT WAS TWINS. There was a rush to follow up and confirm they were both viable. We started to make plans: How could we budget? Would my parents help with daycare? We would need a full nursery in our new home.

And then it wasn’t twins. By 9 weeks, the second twin was declared ‘vanished,’ so we soldiered on with our singleton.

My 12-week ultrasound looked great. Our baby was developing well. There were no signs of spina bifida and they were the correct size for their gestational age. Due to my age, I was encouraged to do genetic testing. We found out we were having a girl and there were no genetic abnormalities.

That Thanksgiving, we did an announcement/gender reveal for our daughter and our parents. I couldn’t simply convey how happy we all were. A baby sister! A second grandchild! Everyone was over the moon with this extra thing to be thankful for. We were headed into the Christmas season, which was even better since it’s a children’s holiday. Every year, my mom, my mother-in-law, and I have an annual trip shopping at this wonderful little local toy store for the kids in our family. My mom found this adorable little fox snuggle-teether she completely melted over, and she purchased it with great enthusiasm.

ultrasound photo
Courtesy of Jane Hamm

The Turning Point

December 18th was the turning point. I went in for my 16-week appointment. My doctor did the cardiac doppler and measured my fundal height. Everything looked normal. My doctor asked me if there was anything I wanted to discuss and I mentioned it was very painful to walk. My wonderful doctor didn’t question me in the slightest as she grabbed an ultrasound from down the hall and took a look.

Oh, the joys of preparing for a transvaginal ultrasound — jokes abound. Then suddenly, the jokes all stopped as she watched the screen. It wasn’t that the baby wasn’t leaving my pelvis; she wasn’t being stubborn. There was no amniotic fluid. I remember my doctor sitting me up and quietly telling me to get dressed. She came back into the room and we just kind of stared at each other. I remember saying, ‘This is bad, right?’ She responded with, ‘Yes, it is.’ I think I went into shock.

They had me schedule a follow-up ultrasound for the next day. I remember walking back to my car. I called my husband. The call went to voicemail and I pondered if this was emergent enough to call the front desk of his office and have him pulled from an appointment. I decided against it and left a voicemail telling him to call immediately. I called my best friend, who was waiting with bated breath to hear ANYTHING about my baby, and I told her. I could hear her heart break over the phone.

I was still in shock. I don’t remember driving back to work. I walked in the office and my boss took one look at me and told me to go make a cup of tea. He grabbed my work bestie and sent her in to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out in the break room. I think that was when I broke down. It was a Thursday. I told my boss I needed the following morning off for an ultrasound and he told me I was not coming back in afterwards. He knew I’d need the time. I was due to take the following 2 weeks off. I remember feeling so guilty they hadn’t started the search for someone to cover my maternity leave, and I was going to be taking an even longer vacation now.

first daughter with balloons
Courtesy of Jane Hamm

The following day the doctors confirmed there was no amniotic fluid. They were 99% certain there wasn’t a way for my daughter to survive this. My water had not broken so they wanted to do another follow-up ultrasound after Christmas to see if they could find a cause.

That was the worst Christmas of my life. We didn’t want to ruin it for anyone, so we didn’t tell anyone. Opening that fox snuggle-teether almost broke me.

The morning of the 26th, the day after Christmas, mind you, we had our follow-up ultrasound. The technician was not reading the room as she spoke. She demanded to give out my email address so she could send the images from the scan to me and my husband. Perhaps it was procedure, but my heart was in slivers.

Once again, we could see there was no fluid. The last flicker of hope was extinguished. This time, the baby was big enough we could start to make out organs. There should have been three or four fluid filled vessels visible; some combination of the stomach, both kidneys, and the bladder, depending on the angle. We could only see one. This baby was no longer viable. My baby was no longer viable. She wouldn’t survive outside of the womb alive.

Advised To Abort

Without amniotic fluid, babies don’t move. They don’t stretch their muscles. They don’t warm up their digestive system. They don’t have any way to train their lungs to expand. If she made it to term, she wouldn’t be able to breathe once we cut the cord. She would simply suffocate.

We were advised to end the pregnancy. We could either terminate by a dilation and curettage or be induced. So, we scheduled a second trimester termination by D&C, which is just a more palatable way to say I had an abortion.

On January 3rd, at 19 weeks and 2 days, I held my pregnant belly for the last time.

My procedure took twice as long as normal. There were minor complications that would have only been exacerbated had we waited. If we had waited until I miscarried, there could have been serious health concerns. In the end, this was the right thing to do, both for her and for me. My daughter would have died a traumatic death if she had been alive at birth; and I might not have survived if I had miscarried. There was no winning in this situation, only loss.

Thoughts On Reproductive Rights

The month after that procedure is still a blur of sad music, eating my feelings, and avoiding people who would ask me how I was doing. My hospital mandated I see a psychiatrist following the procedure. She made me take time off work. She made me take space for myself. I credit her with me coming out of those months with any sanity.

I went to a loss group and the moderator had also experienced ending a pregnancy. I remember judging her so harshly because her baby could have lived. Looking back, I was an idiot. Making the choice to end a pregnancy is NEVER taken lightly. Her situation was different, but her pregnancy was just as wanted as mine was. Now I can look at her story with empathy and return the validation she gave me.

The more distance I get from my abortion and my first pregnancy, the more adamant I am no one should have to go through what I did unless they are fully committed to being pregnant. I cannot imagine going through my pregnancies, all the mental and physical anguish, if this was not a path I chose for myself.

Since my abortion, I have had a miscarriage and two chemical pregnancies. My body has declared: no more! However, I do not regret my decision. I mourn the loss, the hope for a future with that baby. I am exceptionally grateful my first pregnancy resulted in such a wonderful and challenging kiddo that I am not feeling a gap in our family.

husband, wife, and daughter
Courtesy of Jane Hamm

I have also become incredibly vocal about pregnancy loss and abortions. I had no idea how many of my friends had experienced loss in silence until I spoke up about mine. The stigma of being ‘less than’ if we cannot create life, needs to be broken. We are choking on grief privately. We should be screaming in unison! Having a community that supports us is mandatory for processing the trauma of loss.

Now it’s illegal for women to get abortions in some states. Women are waiting until they are literally hemorrhaging before an ectopic pregnancy is ended. If I had been forced to carry on with my pregnancy, at best it would have been a traumatic death for my daughter. But I may have died as well. How long before we have more hotlines to report a neighbor ending a pregnancy? What will happen to our communities to help us with loss then?

Protecting a woman’s autonomy, her legal right to control her body, is imperative. I could have been a contributing statistic to our growing maternal mortality rate. Please consider support programs, institutions, and politicians who support women’s rights. Our literal survival may depend on it.”

woman smiling at camera
Courtesy of Jane Hamm

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jane Hamm of Portland, Oregon. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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