Women Know.

Originally written by me May 30, 2011, I was asked to share this again:

I was reading this story the other day, and it has compelled me to tell my own story. Admittedly, my story is nowhere near as harrowing as hers, and I know – as I write this – that several people I know will cast judgement and it may even cause some friendships to come to an end. However, given all the tactics used by anti-choicers, including but not limited to their fear-mongering, I have to tell my own story in an effort to offer support to those women who make the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

I am the mother of two healthy, bright, active children. One boy and one girl. They make me incredibly happy and it is rewarding to be their mother. I am incapable of loving these children more. While neither of my pregnancies with them was in the high-risk category, coming along with many of the complications that those pregnancies do, I did have challenges with both pregnancies, the most significant of which was a moderate case of hyperemesis gravidarum with my first pregnancy and a more severe case of it with my second pregnancy.

With my son, I vomited two to three times a day every single day of my pregnancy, except for most of the fifth month and the day I gave birth. I took solid daily doses of diclectin, which is supposed to reduce/eliminate nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. I suppose it did that for me, as I felt significantly worse on the days that I did not take it (ran out before refilling the prescription), but it certainly did not eliminate the vomiting. I will tell you that working a full-time job and maintaining any sort of normal existence is extremely difficult when a good portion of your day consists of vomiting and your entire day includes severe nausea (and I know that other women who have dealt with the same challenge will agree).

However, that was minor compared to dealing with a more extreme form of the condition during my second pregnancy. With my daughter, I vomited between five and eight times a day (sometimes more) every single day of my pregnancy, except the day I gave birth to her. Every single thing I ate came back up, and it felt like I was taking diclectin by the handful (though I was only taking it as directed by my physician). I also tried acupuncture and other eastern medicine to relieve my symptoms, as I was already doing everything I could as far as western medicine went.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, my son was 19 months old, I was teaching during the evenings and on-line and also running a small public relations/event planning business. So, other than the evening teaching, most of my work was carried out at home. Working at home or not, any mother will tell you that caring for a 19-month-old is not a sit-down job. So, whilst trying my best to care for my son, who has always been very active and inquisitive, I was running to the washroom (at home or in public places) to vomit. With how exhausted I was, I really just wanted to lie in bed all day.

I still clearly remember initially locking my son out of the bathroom whilst I threw up, as I thought it would scare him to see me being sick. He would stand on the other side of the door crying until I came out. Finally, I decided maybe it was better to leave the door open, so that he could at least see me and I could reassure him that I was okay…whilst vomiting. He would come and stand behind me, resting his head on my back and telling me he loved me whilst I threw up for however long it took. I remember that he would not take a nap without me lying down with him, and if his father wasn’t home, my son would not go to bed without me sleeping with him for the entire night. This is also about the time my son started having night terrors. I have no way of knowing if they were related to what he was seeing me go through, but I cannot ignore that there may have been a connection.

With frequent trips to my OB/GYN and a couple to the hospital, I managed to avoid the serious problems that can be caused by hyperemesis gravidarum, though there were several instances when I vomited blood, given that my throat was worn raw. I subsisted on french fries and potato chips – the only things I could keep down longer than 20 minutes. According to my doctor, there is something about the grease and the salt that makes the nausea/vomiting not as bad. For me, before my pregnancy with my daughter, french fries and potato chips made very infrequent appearances in my diet. While I am not a health “nut,” fruits and vegetables are my favourite things to eat, so eating french fries and potato chips nearly every day was pretty awful.

Still, I gave birth to a very healthy little girl who adores her older brother as much as he adores her.

The other thing that’s important here is that after having my son, I was a psychological mess. I do not know if post-partum depression goes away on its own, so I do not want to say that I had that, as I never sought medical attention for what I was feeling, but – in hindsight – I definitely should have sought medical attention, as it went on for nearly eight months. After having my daughter, I also had difficulties, including a breakdown one day during which I called the kids’ dad and told him that he had to come home from work, because – and I quote – *sobbing* “You have to come home now, because I just can’t do this anymore. I really, really can’t. Please come home.” *sobbing*

It was about six months after having my daughter that I decided that I did not want to have more children. I was extremely happy with having two, I felt challenged in managing two, and I did not think that I could physically or emotionally handle having any more, never mind that I did not feel that we could manage a third or more financially.

I went back on birth control and took it religiously. Anyone who knows me knows how organized I am and that I faithfully stick to certain routines. I took my birth control religiously. I went back to school to begin earning a degree in Sociology, and I continued with my teaching, developing courses, etc. Halfway through my degree and when my son was 5 and my daughter was almost 3, I woke up one morning feeling horribly nauseated. Then, the vomiting began. Initially, even though my gut (pardon the pun) told me otherwise, I chalked it up to the flu or some other stomach bug. After all, I had not missed a single day of taking my pill for more than two years. Not a single day. By day three, I had to acknowledge that all of the nausea and vomiting was likely due to a pregnancy. I took four (yes, four) pregnancy tests and they all confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. My birth control had failed me.

It was a Saturday morning when I took the tests. I had already told the kids’ dad that I thought I might be pregnant. If he felt happy or excited, he managed to subdue it. He knew how I felt about having a third. From the day our relationship got serious, I told him I only wanted two children. That never changed. And my pregnancy experiences certainly did not have me clamouring for more.

In addition, our marriage was in serious trouble at this point. Serious trouble. We’d talked separation and divorce several times and spent very little time in the house at the same time. For the most part, we went out of our way to avoid each other. I had started drafting a separation agreement.

I cried for two days.

On Monday, I called the doctor. On Tuesday, I went for an appointment and an official pregnancy test. We figured I was about five weeks pregnant. I cried in the doctor’s office.

I did not want a third child, and I had been taking precautions.

I could not imagine going through another pregnancy that already appeared to be setting itself up like the first two. I could not imagine dealing with that while also dealing with the two children I have. I could not imagine how I was going to emotionally deal with having a third after it arrived. I could not imagine how we were going to be able to afford to raise a third child. I could not imagine how I’d cope as – eventually – a single mother to three children.

Having vomited in grocery stores and on the sides of highways, I could not imagine how I was going to get my two children through our day-to-day routines whilst being pregnant with a third child. How were we going to afford a new car, so that we could fit a third car seat? Who was going to have to share a room with the new baby? Would the third baby finally cause the mental/emotional breakdown I always felt I was on the verge of in the first several months after having each of the first two? The list of questions goes on.

The kids’ dad asked me what I wanted to do. He knew I was not happy. I count myself very fortunate that he made it clear to me that he was very happy with our son and daughter; that this was not a situation in which he had no children and this was his only chance. He acknowledged that pregnancy was difficult for me, as were the first several months after having had a baby. He assured me that he was comfortable with whatever decision I made. “It’s your body.”

So, I made the most difficult decision of my life. I chose to terminate the pregnancy.

Let me tell you that making that decision while I watched my children play together, while they cuddled up to me just for the sake of cuddling, while they laughed with me, while I read them stories at bedtime and they put their little hands on my face to kiss me goodnight, that was excruciating.

I have always been vehemently pro-choice. I never thought that I would find myself in the situation of making that choice.

The kids’ dad and my healthcare providers were very supportive. The very, very small number of friends that I discussed it with were extremely supportive. I took some comfort in people being able to see where I was coming from.

While it was an extremely difficult few weeks, I never once felt that there had to be a way to have this baby and that everything would be okay. I never once felt that I would be able to pull through – physically, emotionally, mentally or financially – if I went through with the pregnancy. I felt that my son and daughter would be enormously cheated – not by having a new sibling but by losing a piece of their mother – if I went through with the pregnancy. Some of you reading this will think that I am being melodramatic, but it is how I felt, and – looking back on it – I still do not feel that I was overreacting. I am not equipped to have a third child.

After a few discussions with my healthcare providers, we arranged for me to terminate the pregnancy. First, I had to make an appointment for an ultrasound, then a consultation with one of only two doctors in the region who perform abortions, then the procedure would be performed when they could fit me into the schedule at the hospital. I was advised that the whole process – from the ultrasound appointment to the termination – would take 5 to 6 weeks. That would have put me at 11 or 12 weeks pregnant.

Given my physical state (the vomiting was not letting up), as well as my emotional state, I knew I could not wait that long. I spoke to some people, made some phone calls and found a couple of clinics in Toronto that could perform the procedure within the week. I made an appointment.

The kids’ dad went with me. The clinic staff were extraordinarily supportive, recognizing both how difficult this was for me and how necessary I felt it was. I spoke with a counsellor for quite some time before having an ultrasound and getting changed. When the time came, the kids’ dad was in the room with me, along with the counsellor. It was over in about 15 minutes. I spent some time in the recovery room speaking to a nurse there. After about an hour had passed, I was told that everything looked to be fine and I could leave when I was ready. I went to change back into my regular clothes and a young woman stopped me in the hall. She was nervous and uncertain. I assured her that the procedure itself was not that bad, but also told her that if she was not sure that she wanted an abortion then she should speak to the counsellor and take some more time to think about it/discuss it with any family or friends that she could. Obviously, there is no going back.

After a couple of days, I was back to myself. The kids thought I had just been sick for two weeks and was back to my regular self again. Some day, when they are older, I will tell them.

Abortions will happen whether they are legal or not. They always have, they always will. I am lucky to live during a time and in a country where abortions can be done safely under the watchful eye of trained, caring professionals.

I do not regret terminating the pregnancy. I only regret that I did not feel I could write about this sooner and that my decision will almost certainly change some of the relationships that I currently have with friends/family. Having said that, I also know that any relationships it does change were not the relationships I thought they were.

I did not make the decision lightly, and it was my decision to make. It was not/should not be the decision of politicians or lobbyists, most of whom are men. Abortion is not and should not be a political matter. It is a medical procedure to be discussed between a woman and her healthcare provider(s). We do not need to place legal restrictions on women’s bodies/what women do with their own bodies. We need to ensure that they have access to safe, legal services provided by educated, caring medical professionals.

Women Know.

By Anne Baker and Jean Stewart Berg

We women know when it is or is not the right time to bring a child into the world.

We use our heads and our hearts to see clearly the pros and cons of our three choices: parenting, placing for adoption or having an abortion.

We know better than anyone else what we can and cannot handle emotionally, physically, financially and mentally.

We have wisdom enough to know our own limits and strength enough to admit them.

We know when the choice of abortion can prevent the harsh consequences of bringing a child into the world when we are not ready or able to do our child justice.

We act out of compassion when we wait to have a child until the time when we can give it the kind of life every child deserves.

We act out of love when we consider what we would be taking away from the child or children we already have if we brought another child into our family now.

We take care of our mental health by making decisions that limit the strain we place upon ourselves and those we love.

We take care of our physical health by considering our medical history and the risks that come with pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

We take care of our spiritual well-being each in our own way, trusting our faith to provide:

  • Infinite Love
  • Complete Understanding
  • Unlimited Forgiveness
  • Boundless Compassion

We think clearly when we call our abortion decision one of “self-care” rather than calling ourselves “selfish.” We must care for ourselves before we can take care of another human being.

We see clearly, beyond a well-wisher’s words, “I’ll help you out if you have the baby….” We know that the responsibility for raising the child will fall squarely on our shoulders.

We have foresight enough to know that “having a baby” doesn’t stop with infancy. It means raising a child who will need our financial support, time, and attention for as long as it takes the child to become an independent adult.

Women throughout all time and throughout the world have made the decision to have an abortion, whether or not abortion was safe and legal. Women have risked their own lives to avoid bearing a child they could not adequately care for.

Women in the past drank teas made from parts of plants known to cause abortion. In desperation, some inserted long, thin objects into their cervix, and others douched with poisonous liquids to cause an abortion. Some methods cost women their lives.

Childbirth, miscarriage, and abortion are all part of women’s lives. Women of childbearing age from every generation, occupation, income level, race and religion have had abortions including great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, great-aunts and aunts, sisters, daughters, best friends, teachers, ministers, doctors, and daycare workers.

And when others use TV commercials, billboards, bumper stickers, speeches, and sermons to make us feel guilty about having an abortion,

We women know the truth:

that given certain circumstances

abortion is the most morally responsible

and loving choice we can make.