Twenty-three weeks and six days.
|By Morgan Kennedy, Butte County DCC
Twenty-three weeks and six days. That is how far along in my pregnancy I was when I had an abortion.
My second daughter, Emerald, already had a room set up and clothes to wear. I had all of her ultrasounds on the fridge, and was happy to be wearing stretchy maternity clothes during the holidays (so I could eat a little more pie). We had given her the middle name Velesta, after my mother-in-law. I was so excited to watch Echo have a little sister–just like I did growing up. So why then? Why did I have an abortion at almost six months along?
Thanksgiving Day my midwife called me in a panic to tell me the results of my anatomy scan that I’d had a week and a half earlier. Emerald was sick. Very sick. She had HLHS which is a fatal heart defect. To put it in layman’s terms she was missing the left half of her heart which gives oxygen to the rest of her body. I would need to see a specialist as soon as humanly possible, which was a tall order considering it was Thanksgiving Day. After a lot of pleading phone calls, the best I could get was an appointment later that week. When we finally got to the day and drove the two hours south to see the specialist it was even worse than what we had been researching online. Her HLHS was determined so severe it was non operable (there has been some experimental surgeries with HLHS in the last 20 years) and she would die from this condition. She would suffocate to death. And it would happen slowly, taking anywhere from hours to weeks for her to die.
We had to make a decision and we had to make it NOW. We were running out of time to have the option to care for our child on our terms. We had to make a choice in that doctor’s office, on that day. We both realized that we loved our daughter too much to cause her to suffer. We made the choice and set the appointment for a few days later.
Her birth and death occurred in San Francisco just two weeks before Christmas. I was in a room alone (because of anti- choice terrorists they didn’t allow anyone in but patients and staff) and I will spare you the gory details, but it was a painful and traumatic experience, one that will shape who I am forever. But I knew one thing. I knew that I had watched the ultrasound as she was injected with Digoxin through my stomach and that it had taken less than five seconds for her heart to stop beating. If she had felt pain, it was only for a moment and not agonizing weeks spent gasping for air. It didn’t matter all the pain I felt in those two days, I was taking that for my daughter–I was taking her suffering and putting it on myself. I walked out of that hospital hunched over in pain while my husband held me up clutching an envelope that contained two tiny footprints. I wondered in that moment if a person could die from crying so much.
Over the next two weeks my daughter’s ashes were shipped to me via FedEx. I had to deal with the painful reality of my milk coming in, but having no baby to feed, and I tried my best to not sob into my Christmas dinner. I had also desperately tried to find other women who knew what this was like and I finally found some online. These women’s children had different diseases, but their stories were an exact mirror of mine. Planned children, LOVED children who were desperately ill. The shame and stigma they felt. The deep hiding of sadness and grief because of the, “You can’t be sad, this was your choice and you are monster!” narrative we have in this country. That group of women made up the saddest club I’ve ever belonged to and I wouldn’t wish a membership on my worst enemy.
I am not telling you this story to gain sympathy. I am telling you this story because I am tired of myself and the women I met being the hidden truth of this issue and I’m tired of us being made into political monsters and tools. The vast majority of women seeking abortions after 20 weeks are doing so due to a fatal fetal defect. My story is not an anomaly in a complicated issue. My story is the norm.
Today women in Alabama women no longer have a choice. And several states are lining up legislation that is harsher than what existed before Roe in 1973. These law makers are telling us that it’s better for women. That they did so under the guise of sparing the fetus pain. In doing so they are causing an insurmountable amount of human suffering and pain when babies like mine are born and have to die of their diseases anyway. They are taking away the right for mothers and fathers to make medical decisions for their children. The children they would give anything to see alive and healthy. The children they love with every fiber of their beings.
We need to speak loud and speak now. We need to call Congressmen, Senators, Assembly members and the President himself and tell our stories. We need to tell them all why these medical procedures are needed and humane. We need to tell them why women matter and that we won’t go down without a fight.
Do it for me. Do it for the women I know. Do it for Emerald. And share this if you feel so compelled – people need to know the truth. I will no longer allow my story, her story, our story, to be made into a lie.