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Pro-Choice, But Not For Me

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In my single-gal 20s, if you’d asked me how I felt about abortion personally—what I’d do if I became pregnant despite always using contraception—I might have said I’d terminate. I had a demanding job, little money, and I lived with my old-fashioned parents. I was just adult enough to know that an unwanted pregnancy would derail my career; just childish enough to dread having to tell to my folks.

But then I grew up. And, when I was 35, I had a D&C. And having one changed my views. 

It wasn’t technically an abortion, but it felt like one. It was 2002, and I was pregnant for the second time. My husband and I were looking forward to giving our 2-year-old daughter a brother or sister. But at my 12-week checkup, my OB-GYN bit his lip, squinting at the screen. He took my hands in his. “I’m sorry,” he said, “The heart has stopped beating.” Between my sobs, he explained I’d need a Dilation and Curettage, commonly known as a D&C—an after-the-fact abortion to remove the dead fetus.

Two days later, I was back on that table, crying again, this time as an anesthesiologist prepped me. I confessed that I was terrified. “That’s okay,” she replied as she hooked up the I.V. “We have something for that.” It was the last thing I remember hearing. Then I was waking up again, as my doctor wheeled an evil-looking jar of pink liquid out of the room. It had been so fast; I was relieved.

But relief quickly faded to sorrow. I soon realized that there’s no such thing as quickly getting over having a would-be baby removed from you. Over the next month, my hip hurt, I bled, and my abdomen still looked pregnant but felt achingly empty. And though I knew my fetus had already died before the D&C, my subconscious couldn’t keep up with the news. One night I dreamed I was in a delivery room. A nurse handed me my baby, and as I looked into his eyes, my child told me, “I was still alive, but you killed me.” 

Over the next few weeks, that horror thankfully ebbed. I tried to look on the bright side—it hadn’t been great timing for a baby anyway. In the few months since I’d gotten pregnant, my husband had lost his job. 

And then, before I even realized I could get pregnant again—and before my husband found new work—I did. Oops. The timing was still lousy. This time I had an amniocentesis to check things out. The morning before the results came back, though, something happened that made them irrelevant to me: I felt the first flutter of life. “My child!” I thought, my heart soaring. But instantly, it dropped, with fears that something might be wrong again.

Memories of the D&C came flooding back. I knew I couldn’t face it again–the pink-fluid jar, the ripped-off feeling, the psychic violence of it all. I knew that if this pregnancy was viable, I’d never get over the guilt of changing its course. My pregnancy was something I’d started—and this girl finishes what she starts.

Fortunately, I never had to test my conviction, strong though it felt: The amnio was fine. A few months later, I welcomed another beautiful, healthy girl into the world.

I’m beyond blessed to be a mother, twice. I’ve never had to wrestle with heart-wrenching choices after a bad night, a bad boyfriend, a bad amnio. I’m also lucky not to be my friend Alyson, who had an abortion in her 20s, didn’t marry till her late 30s, and was never again able to conceive, much though she wishes for a baby these days. I wish she’d known then what I know now: An ill-timed, even unwanted, pregnancy just may produce a much-loved child. Would she maybe have reconsidered, if she had this kind of wisdom then? Who knows.

And that’s it--I really don’t know. I respect another woman's right to choose for herself how she wants to play the odds. But I know, for me, abortion’s wrong.

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