If my Dx was Hiroshima, the TX was Nagasaki.
Dirty Dancing’s Penny was my first introduction to abortion, and I suppose because of that, I associate trauma, guilt, and pain with termination. I had visions of dirty clinics filled with irresponsible teenagers surrounded by angry protestors ready with Bibles and condemnation.
From my research and talking with other women, I realize that my worst fear is actually a reality for some women. My experience, however, was just as traumatic.
Since I was 18 weeks, I was only offered a D&E abortion at a private clinic. Labor and Delivery was not an option for me – I suppose I would have to go to a hospital for that to be done and would be painfully expensive.
I took a Xanax before I went to the office. I remember walking into the medical building – the same building where my husband’s sperm was prepared for the IUI and the same location where I was given my level II ultrasound and the Dx was confirmed. The first thing that you see when you enter the building is a maternity clothing store. I remember looking longingly at the store while waiting for the IUI – upon entering the building this time, I couldn’t even look in the direction of the store.
The elevator ride was difficult because I was crammed in with strollers and happy pregnant women. I pulled the hood of my winter coat around my face to hide my face. My husband held my hand to guide me while walking because tears blinded my vision.
Inside the office, I couldn’t even fill out the paperwork. I was fine until I got to the question about “number of pregnancies.” My husband completed the forms for me.
We were sent to the genetic counselor. I remember that she had a messy office, so we sat in co-worker’s office. I remember she handed me tissues. I remember she confirmed all of our internet research.
We went back to the doctor’s office, and the nurse took us inside. Vitals were taken, and we met the doctor. He was nice. An old white man with a queer sense of humor. I liked that. When the doctor looked at the ultrasound, my husband blocked the monitor with his body for me so that I wouldn’t get worked up.
He had to leave when the IV was inserted, and that was when I was given a reverse amniocentesis and my daughter’s heart was stopped. The nurse and I chatted – about meeting boyfriends online, about the students in my classroom and what I teach, and how her current boyfriend was an asshole (she met him at a bar). She asked me if I had read The Cider House Rules.
Then, seaweed sticks were inserted – laminaria. I had read that this could range from anywhere between excruciatingly painful to mildly annoying. I didn’t really feel much of anything, except maybe an uncomfortable feeling that evening. We checked in with the genetic counselor before we left, and we got the number for a reproductive psychiatrist.
We stumbled home where I fell asleep watching Zoolander. I had heard that if you watch something funny after a traumatic event, you were less likely to develop PTSD. I don’t know if it worked, but I do remember smiling at the freak gasoline accident fight scene.
I took my Xanax and other pills before heading back to the office to have my laminaria replaced. This time, there was no IV – it should just be a simple procedure – in and out. Except since laminaria is a natural product, sometimes they expand in unnatural positions. My lam sticks developed a shape like an hourglass, and the removal was pretty horrible. Lucky for me, my husband was with me the entire time and was able to hold me hand. Unlucky for him, he was there the entire time and had to watch me gasp in agony while he stood by, unable to do anything except hold my hand and try to distract me from the pain. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember his voice.
Because of that, I started to have a vasovagal response, which has happened previously with traumatic OB procedures. The doctor was forewarned, and it apparently was obvious to all involved in the room that I was having a reaction. I remember having problems breathing, and I wasn’t able to see very well – my eyes were open but it was like everything was blurry, like camera lens covered with Vaseline. They moved me into another room to monitor my heart rate (?) and talked about giving me a shot. I calmed down and we went home.
I don’t know whether I should use Day 1 or Day 3 as the date that I lost my daughter, but for me, it feels like I lost her on Day 1. That was the day her heart beat stopped. Everything else was just the aftermath.
Today, the doctor gave me two valium and an IV sedation. Once the IV was being prepared, my husband was escorted out. Supposed, with twilight sedation there will be a feeling of amnesia, but I still remember a lot. I remember there were two nurses in, and they didn’t talk to me at all – they were definitely preoccupied. I don’t really remember the doctor coming in, but I remember his voice. And I remember feeling blood – it didn’t hurt, but I remember thinking that THAT was it.
It was all over very quickly.
That evening, I was up all night even though everyone expected me to sleep the rest of the day. I ate Pop Tarts and Jello – my diet for the next few days.
I’m a little terrified to make this post and the reaction that I’ll get from it. I still feel like everyone treats me as if I had a miscarriage. Miscarriages don’t involve a choice. Was I guilty afterward? I don’t know, maybe a little. I know wanted confirmation. But what I wanted most, more than confirmation or permission or forgiveness was a healthy baby – MY healthy baby. I was angry more than anything else.
I’m seeing my counselor, and today I was able to see an infant for the first time. I as even able to give him a little squeeze on the butt! It was just for a brief second, and I don’t think that I could be in a room with him for very long, but I feel that it was a step in the right direction.
Every day gets a little less raw.