Sunday Reflections: Once Again, I March
**Content Warning: Pregnancy Loss is Discussed**
Yesterday I marched. Again.
I am a white Christian woman who has been married 26 years to my white Christian husband and I have had an abortion. I am only alive today because I had an abortion. My second child only exists in this world because I had an abortion.
When I was pregnant with Riley, I threw up a lot. More than I realized a person could. It was an unpleasant experience. What I didn’t know then is that it could be a deadly experience. Four years later, I would find that out.
When Riley was four, I became pregnant again. On purpose this time. Riley was a surprise, but a much loved one. I experienced everything I experienced in that first pregnancy but to much more of an extreme. Soon the vomiting came. And then the visits to the hospital.
But this time was different, and so very worse. I could keep nothing down. Nothing. Even with me taking the anti-nauseous medicine they gave to cancer patients receiving chemo, I could not stop vomiting. I threw up 24/7. My body started to break down in a process called metabolic acidosis. My resting heart rate was well over a 100 while my blood pressure was so low they marveled that I was even alive at one point. And I kept having to take costly trips to the ER where I was admitted, made stable, and then sent home with a set of instructions of what to look for and when to come back. And we all knew I was coming back.
At about 6 1/2 they did an ultrasound and the heartbeat was . . . slow and intermittent. The tech nervously turned off the sound and said it didn’t necessarily mean anything. But I think we all knew it meant everything. I was barely surviving this pregnancy, how could my baby?
One day Tim and I started discussing terminating the pregnancy to save my life. It came after another trip to the ER. It came after a night where I had to lock Riley and I up in my upstairs bedroom in case I died during the night because Tim worked nights and I was home alone with a 4 year old and I kept passing out. I tried teaching her how to dial 911 and took the locks off of my cell phone. I gathered together a bunch of 4 year old safe snacks, water, and locked us both up in my bedroom so she wouldn’t fall down the stairs or open the front door. I remember staring at her and wondering who she would become if she had to grow up without a mother. So Tim and I started the process of saving my life and we made an appointment for an abortion .
We met with our pastor. We went again to the ER. And this trip to the ER, they did an ultrasound. It’s surprising how often they don’t do one on a pregnant woman in the ER. And the ultrasound tech looked and looked and looked. She told me I measured around 6 weeks but there was no heartbeat yet. I told her that I had measured 6 1/2 weeks and had heard the heartbeat . . . a whole 3 weeks before this visit. She said she couldn’t tell me that my baby had died, but she could tell me that I only measured 6 weeks and that there was no heartbeat. She told me if I had measured 6 weeks 3 weeks ago and had heard a heartbeat that my the baby I was carrying had most likely died but she couldn’t tell me that because it was her first time seeing me
The next day, I went and saw a new ob/gyn, this one who performs abortions should I need to take that route. We once again had the same discussion about the measurements and the heartbeat. He told me that it was the law that I had to wait 24 hours to perform the abortion and that he hoped that I would survive the next day, waiting. He told me, once again, what to look for and when to go to the ER: if I got too dehydrated, heart symptoms to watch for, passing out, etc.
When the time came I was loaded up into the car and taken back to have the abortion. I drove down with a picture of the baby we were 99% dead in my hand. I didn’t feel guilt or shame about having the abortion, I felt relief in knowing that I was going to live and get to watch Riley grow up.
That night, I laid on my bedroom floor and cried. And I don’t know how to say this, but I had . . . a vision? I don’t know. But I saw myself lying on the bedroom floor just as I was, crying. And before me knelt Jesus with his hands cupped and he caught my tears before they hit the floor. And I felt that somehow, my God was telling me that he grieved for me and with me and he was comforting me. I don’t know exactly what happened or how to describe it, but that moment has stayed with me throughout the remainder of my days. It brings me peace. And in the moments when doubt about my faith creeps in, I recall this moment.
A couple of years later I would get pregnant again. I was kept alive this time with at home IV therapy and a drug cocktail that didn’t make me throw up any less. I threw up so much and so fiercely that my placenta began to separate at around 20 weeks. I remember going to the ER and they told me that my baby wouldn’t make it through the weekend and to come back if I started hemorrhaging. A nurse came to my house every 3 days to change my IV location. Thankfully, my baby and I survived that pregnancy and regular readers know her as Thing 2.
The pregnancy disease that I have is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have talked about it a lot here. And it’s genetic, which means as the mother of two daughters that either one or both of them could have it. The don’t get pregnant before you’re ready talk has an extra layer added when you realize that you may be genetically pre-disposed to a life threatening pregnancy condition.
So yesterday, Tim and I went to our local Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom because we love our children. We know that pregnancy can be complicated and even life threatening. And we want our daughters, these glorious children of ours that we love and adore, to be recognized as fully human and to have the right to make their own bodily and health care choices.
Abortion in healthcare. I am only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. My second child is only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. Pregnancy is messy and complicated and life threatening for many people. They deserve the right to make their own healthcare decisions. I want my daughters to have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, because I love them with every ounce of my being.
Filed under: #FeministAF
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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