An easy decision

The first thing I did after saying hello to my mother-in-law as she walked through the front door with her Burberry plaid luggage was to run to the bathroom and throw up.  It must be the raw meat, I thought.  The smell of it cooking, combined with my nervousness of having a house guest who would do nothing but criticize me the entire weekend, must be the reason for my weak stomach.

Three days later, as she wheeled her bag back through the front door with one final weight loss suggestion, I ran back into the bathroom and watched as a bright pink line appeared in the window of the plastic stick sitting on the back of the toilet.

I was 26 at the time, newly married, and being pregnant was the last thing I was expecting.  We were so careful.  “Except this time…” my mother said.  She didn’t mean it to sound as unkind as it did, and she may have been right.  Truthfully, I don’t really remember, as I don’t really remember a lot of that time.

“So you’re taking blood thinners…” the doctor said as he looked into my drawn face.  I nodded.  “Do you know anything about this blood disorder you have?”  I didn’t.  I only knew that in the late ’80s I had been in the hospital twice for clots in my leg and lungs, and had almost died.   Since then, I had been on a medication to prevent blood clots.   The doctors didn’t know what had caused it then.  But in 1996, this doctor knew, because the blood disorder had just been named.  Hughes Syndrome.  An autoimmune disorder that causes the blood to coagulate inside the body.  A lifetime of blood thinner medication and frequent needle pokes to check the levels.  No skiing.  No motorcycle riding.  No white water rafting.  “You’re about two weeks along,” the doctor explained.  “If you go on complete bed rest starting today, the chances of you having a miscarriage are about 98%.  The chances of the baby being born with a serious birth defect are about 96%.  The chances of you dying while trying to carry this baby to term are about 97%.  Most doctors would tell you that you have a choice to make.”

My husband hadn’t gone to the doctor with me, and when I told him what I had found out, he didn’t believe me.  He called the doctor himself.  When he got off the phone, his face looked gray in the dim light of our small apartment.  He drew his lips together tightly and barely managed to look at me as he spoke.  “So I guess you won’t be having it then.”  Before I could answer, he marched to the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

I slept on the couch that night and for the next three weeks.

No one ever called it an abortion.   It was a D & C.  A procedure.  The fetus wasn’t big enough to be safely removed, so for two weeks I had to let it grow inside me.  I also had to give myself shots twice a day from a syringe filled with so powerful a blood thinner that I wasn’t allowed to work, and I wasn’t supposed to drive, walk or do much of anything other than lie in bed because the risk of hemorrhaging was so great.  Even though I was very early in the pregnancy, it took its toll on me.  I was nauseous all the time.  Exhausted.  Disoriented.

I spent the days drinking coffee to try to keep awake.  At night, I swilled cheap wine, partly to help me fall asleep and partly to remind myself that I was not carrying a baby.  It was a fetus.  Something I didn’t want and didn’t ask for, and if given a chance, would probably kill me in the end.  My brain and heart were in constant battle, and I had never felt so alone.

My parents drove down to the Bay Area for the procedure.  The day before, the doctor had placed sticks inside my cervix to dilate it. With my feet in the stirrups and tears streaming down my cheeks, he bent over so that he could look directly in my eyes.  “If I put these in, there’s no going back.  You will be making the choice to end the life of your baby.”  I closed my eyes so that I didn’t have to see him any longer.  “I know,” I said.  “I’m ready.”

Afterward, he stood up and shook his head.  “This is as far as my conscience will allow me to go.  Another doctor will be taking over and performing your procedure tomorrow.”  He left the room abruptly as the nurse helped me get dressed.

At the hospital I was surrounded by women.  My mom stayed with me until the very last minute.  Two sweet nurses hovered – one to put in the i.v. and take my blood pressure, the other to hold my hand and dry my face.  “Oh honey, don’t worry,” she whispered softly, “you can always have another one.”  She couldn’t have known that, in fact, I couldn’t have another.  And being trained in politeness, as most women are, I tried to smile.  “Thank you.”

I have always woken up under anesthesia.  In the middle of the procedure, I sat up on the table long enough to see a pool of blood, and what my drug-addled mind thought was a fully developed baby.  A nurse came running; someone pushed me down.  The next face I saw was my mother’s telling me that everything was alright.  That I had come through just fine.

Life resumed.  I went back to work.  My husband, his white picket dreams destroyed, could hardly contain his disgust, and I ran home to Humboldt as soon as I could.

Sixteen years later, I have almost recovered.  I never cry when I see new babies anymore.  I’m no longer angry at the asshole of a doctor or my asshole of an ex-husband. The biological longing of my empty womb has thankfully ceased.  I’m happy to have nieces and nephews and chickens and friends with adorable children.

Mostly, when I think about that time, though, I’m happy that it happened in 1996.  In California.  If it happened today, in Texas, things would be a lot different.  Even though I only had a 3% chance to live through the pregnancy, I would have been forced to lie on a table, spread my legs and be raped by a technician with an electronic wand.  A doctor would have described everything about the fetus growing inside me, and then I would have had to wait for at least 24 hours before having the abortion.  Every effort would have been made to shame me, humiliate me, torture me because I was making the best decision possible for my life and my body.

While this was an easy decision for me to make, it was not a decision made lightly.

Thinking about women being forced to go through this in Texas, as well as the other states that are following suit, doesn’t leave me feeling sad.  It leaves me feeling outraged.  Outraged and helpless.  We can work, over time, to elect pro-choice candidates and those who support women’s health, but what can we do right now?

Nothing.  Except this.  This is all that any of us can do right now.  Write our truth.  Speak our truth.  Sing our truth.  Scream our truth.

Until somebody fucking listens.

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33 responses to “An easy decision

  1. Nicely done Kristabel. Nicely done. I don’t know what the heck is going on in this country – but it’s scary. I was thinking earlier tonight that I am soooooooooo glad to be beyond child-bearing years the way things are going. It’s such an emotional thing as it is… luckily I had a good group of doctor and nurses to help me through mine. Sorry you had to deal with such uncaring men at that time. They don’t understand the grief or the burden of responsibility. Glad you came through it ok and didn’t die!!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing Kristabel. Perhaps someone would read this and have an opinion, but even as a born again Christian I have my own personal thoughts on opinions. Unless you have walked a day in someones elses shoes, felt their pain, felt their fear you have nothing to say about the matter. I am sorry you had to go through all of that. In a small way I have been through something similar. I don’t tell many I have kept it to myself cause it is still a very sensitive subject. I guess putting in on here no longer makes it a secret. I got pregnant when I was 21. My bf and I at the time decided to keep the baby, even if it made no sense. But in my second trimester I started to bleed and so I went to the Doctor in Oregon City Oregon. They shoved me in a room and took a sonogram, and as the woman sat there taking this very uncomfortable sonogram cause my bladder was crammed with water, she kept making faces, and I in my own insecurities and own worries kept asking her was there something wrong?, in which she always answered no. Next thing I know the Doc comes in places his hand on my leg and says your baby is dead, make an appointment for a D&E. They then whisk me off to some room and leave me there for a damn hour all by myself alone in my grief. This is where are stories become a little similar. The next day I showed up for a D&E which is a bit more evasive then a D&C. The doc was not there so they handed me off to some midwife. They lay me down on the cold table, cram a shit load of paperwork my way warning me that although needed this procedure may have a small chance of making me infertile in the future. Then 5 minutes before they perform what is vey similar to an abortion she hands me two tylenol. They did not put me out, they did not give me anything for pain and away they went. I remember being scared, and feeling like I was being torn apart. They threw what was left of the baby in the trash and did not even let me look, which I know sounds odd, but maybe it would of been to some comfort. Then they sent me home in pain. Guess what? I was infertile from that time on. Nothing I could do cause I signed my John Handcock on that dotted line. Yes, Doctors can be assholes sometimes. God has taken away the pain with my beaufitul baby girl whom I adopted as a baby almost 12 years ago next month. Could not love her more then if I gave birth to her. At the same time I never judge anyone who has ever had to make that decision, because when you are in fear, your mind takes you to places you would never imagine it would ever go. I am glad you have your wonderful husband, your friends, your chicken babies. My dog Chloe was my baby until I became a parent and she got me through some rough spots. We love you…… Kris

  3. You constantly amaze me with your strength and your perserverance. I have tremendous respect and admiration for you, dear friend.

  4. Thanks for sharing. It is not cut and dry, in any situation. It is always a difficult thing. Everyone is entitled to make this decision for themselves, and it does not have to be as life threatening for that decision to have to be made as it was for you. Thanks so much for sharing! I am glad you lived to share it! Bless your life!

    • I agree completely, Kim. Every woman has a different story to tell. I also don’t think it is always difficult. I have a friend who didn’t hesitate and has never looked back. None of that matters. Thank you for commenting.

  5. It frustrates me that the pro-life group sees their opponents, by extension, somehow anti-life or pro-death. So much more has to be considered. The end of a life is always sad and seldom taken lightly. Hugs to you as you dredge up these painful memories.

    • Thanks beachcomber. You know, when you write something like this, there’s always a danger that it become a public therapy session or pity party. I tried not to do that – not sure if it was successful. I just think, as lawmakers slowly but surely force their way into our minds and hearts and vaginas, that women need to speak up and tell the truth about what it’s really like.

  6. Women only gained the right to vote 92 years ago; equal access to sports with TItle V in the late 1990’s. What little rights we have, we must VIGILANTLY preserve. “Those who do not know history, live from hand to mouth.”

  7. I am so proud to be your friend!

    So I am guessing that this ex-husband that stormed into the bedroom in a hissy fit might have been the same guy I once played tennis with. Boy he is lucky I had not known you long enough to have heard that story or else he would have had his own moment with a doctor:

    Doctor: WELL MR. (SO & SO), IF WE SURGICALLY REMOVE THE TENNIS RACKET WHICH IS LODGED VERY FAR UP YOUR WAZOO YOU THERE IS A 98% CHANCE OF YOU DYING. IF YOU LEAVE THE RACKET UP YOUR WAZOO TO SEE IF YOUR BODY EXPUNGES IT ON ITS OWN, THERE IS A 96% CHANCE YOU WILL DIE FROM INFECTIONS. IF WE USE CHEMICALS TO TRY TO DISSOLVE THE RACKET IN YOUR WAZOO THERE IS A 97% CHANCE YOU WILL DIE FROM SIDE EFFECTS OF THE CHEMICALS USED. MOST DOCTORS WOULD TELL YOU TO STOP PLAYING TENNIS.

  8. Thank you, Kristabel, for sharing your powerful story. Although I have never been pregnant, so I have never been faced with the decision, I can understand fully that it is NEVER an easy thing, either to make the decision, or to go through with it. Although I already agreed with you that a woman’s right to choose is very important, I had never had it illustrated in such a personal way for me, and it really hit home. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing! Your story is touching, rugged, and real. This is exactly what our society needs to hear more of right now. Thank you!

  10. Wow Kristabel, thank-you for sharing. This story confirms for me the need to protect women’s rights. No one should be able to make those kinds of decisions but the mother.

    I have a friend that thinks that the world is only 6,000 years old, every sperm and egg is “Life”, and all abortion is murder.

    I will be referring to this story often.

    I am very sorry for your loss, I’m very glad that you made the right decision, even while being confronted by ignorant unfeeling people. This story also breaks my heart for you, my wife was unable to get pregnant. (But our picket fence is yellow)

    Sweet Anonymous
    (Ernie)

  11. Beautifully written, Kristi. My mom mentioned your post to me last weekend and I just remembered to go back to it.

    When I first went public about Peanut, a co-worker (a somewhat conservative Christian lady, whom I adore on every level except for her politics) asked me “So, now that you’re pregnant, do you feel any different about whether what you’re carrying is a life or not?” And I knew what she was really asking me was whether I had wavered on my pro-choice stance. And “Heck no” was my answer. There is (and should be) a difference between my *getting* to hear my Peanut’s heartbeat, versus my *having* to look at an unwanted fetus on an ultrasound screen.

    You are a strong lady and I’m so glad you shared your story… It’s harder for the anti-choicers to dehumanize the difficult decisions so many women must make (be it because of health issues or money issues or emotional issues or what have you) when ladies like you are willing to share their stories.

    <3

    • Thank you, Monica. And thanks for walking your talk with your incredible support of Planned Parenthood.

      Hey….what about your links? Do you want me to change yours to Topping Pressure House, or just add that one and leave yours too? Just wasn’t sure what your future blogging’s going to look like.

      xoxoxox

      • Thanks for asking. :-) Yes, please change me to Topping-Pressure House. I’m keeping Radio Radio Radio up as a sort of archive for the bands and photos, byt TPH is the new/current project.

  12. Wow…I am so sorry that you had to endure such assholes while going through a very emotional time. God Bless You for being so brave, open and honest. The only charitable donation I give is to PP with hope they will be able to educate as many young women as possible. No MAN should be able to tell a woman what is right or wrong when it comes to our health.

  13. As a male, I’m sorry more males dont respond to this story.
    It sounds like your husband was a complete moron.
    You did what you should have done.
    Sorry you have endured so much pain over how society
    and religion want you to live.

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