Posted on August 23rd, 2015
Five years ago today, on another blog, I posted this. It probably gives context to a more recent post–especially why I see red when I see people harassing women going into clinics. The only thing I changed are the abbreviations I now use for kH and pH. (I no longer live within walking distance of that building anymore, alas.)
There is a building in my city, about a half mile from where I now live, that I couldn’t drive past for over a year. I wouldn’t go within several blocks of it, even though it was between my office and the courthouse. I could only start walking near it in the last year. And today on our way back from the zoo, without thinking, I walked past it, on the same side of the street, with kH and pH, and only belatedly realized where I was because I looked up and saw the street signs. To my surprise, it wasn’t the dingy, awful building of my memory. It’s a normal office building, and it’s actually kind of shiny.
I hated it because it’s the building where, on one of the upper floors, I had an abortion four years ago. I couldn’t hate the people who work there, because I’m glad they’re there (well, except one), so I focused all my hate on the building. I hated that building. If I said “that building” to kH, he knew exactly what I meant.
It was a planned pregnancy. Our first. We weren’t entirely sold on the idea of being parents, but we were actively trying. I went off all the bad meds, stopped caffeine, and started doing everything “right.” Not long after we started trying, I was pregnant. The baby had a catchy nickname on my blog. I had a due date conveniently close to our wedding anniversary. It was happening.
And it never dawned on me that there could be problems. I mean, I knew there could be, but I was under 35, I come from good breeding stock, and I figured I’d sail through without any worries. My philosophy in general is that when there are very long odds, I won’t worry about them. So I didn’t.
And then came the tests. The tests that showed the chromosomal anomalies, that its heart that was already starting to fail, the 90% chance the baby wouldn’t make it to term before dying, and that was just getting to labor: the baby wouldn’t last long after birth. Severe mental retardation. Severe heart defects. The best case scenario – if we were really, really lucky! – was that I would have a child with severe problems who wouldn’t live long.
We had discussed this possibility – the what if? of it. I just hadn’t thought it would happen to us. (Oh, narcissism.) The decision about what to do was easy, surprisingly easy, like every other decision when you know it’s the right one. It was going through it that was so hard.
Damn it, this post is getting harder to write than I thought. Apparently I can walk by the building, but not so much dwell on the topic. So many awful memories of that day. I learned:
- “Elective” abortions aren’t covered by federal government insurance (thanks, Ronald F-ing Reagan and Religious Right wingnuts), so we paid $400 cash, just like the 16 year old there with her dad.
- I was deliberately separated from my husband (after I had taken some pretty heavy meds, pre-procedure) and was told about “alternatives” by the jackass doctor. All I remember about this is glaring at the doctor and saying in my frostiest voice, “This was a planned pregnancy.”
- kH stayed with me through the procedure. Unlike me, he wasn’t hopped up on drugs. I don’t know how he made it through it, but I was so grateful.
- Despite all the drugs, it hurt, it sounded awful, and I wanted to die. It was the only time I’ve ever had my heart broken so thoroughly. I cried through the whole thing.
- The nurse kissed my forehead when I was in the recovery room.
- If I could have stood up to hit someone, it would have been after I heard one girl tell another that, “Yeah, I just started dating this guy and it just didn’t seem like a good way to start the relationship.”
It was the Friday before a long weekend, so I spent the rest of the weekend crying. It got better, slowly, although it was so awful to explain to people that I wasn’t pregnant any longer, and that went on for weeks and weeks. What do you say? Usually you say, “We lost the baby,” which sounds stupid, no matter how the pregnancy terminated. Lost? It’s not like you misplaced it.
Of course, there’s a happy ending, or I couldn’t even type this. A few months later, I was pregnant with pH, and around the time the first baby would have been due, we received the results of P’s genetic screening: all clear. And while I’m not (normally) superstitious, I didn’t give up caffeine for her pregnancy. I might have had a sip of wine once or twice. When I had migraines, they gave me vicodin and pH got loopy right along with me. I wasn’t going to jinx it like I had the first time.
So pushing pH in her stroller, past that building today – it seems like such a small thing. But we’ve come a long way since that awful, awful day in July.
I’ve come a long way from that post, but every time we come around to that particular holiday weekend…well…I don’t feel much like celebrating. Everything has a cost. Having a healthy, happy, and occasionally frenetic pH meant going through the worst day of my life.
I’m surprised I didn’t point out that pH’s due date was the anniversary of the procedure. pH had other ideas about being born (or the perinatologists did).
I have to go inside that building now, about once a year, because it’s where pH’s allergist is located. It’s okay. I want to get out as soon as possible each time, and I try not to take the special elevator that goes to that floor, but–it’s okay.