Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Abortion - with a happier note

As promised, I had a little more to share on this subject, though what I'm about to share now is thankfully not tragic, though it was harrowing at times. And it does relate to abortion and my thoughts on it, so bear with me.

My wife and I were very fortunate. When, after being married for six years, we decided it was the right time for us to try and make an addition to the family, it only took a single try. Which just goes to show not only that birth control actually works quite well, but that when you don't use it and the time is right, be prepared to go pick out baby furniture. (And the same was true the second time as well, though obviously we were not so fortunate, in the end, with that).

And so we went through the pregnancy. I read the instruction manual (What to Expect when you're Expecting) often, always trying to see where we were with it, what level of development the fetus had reached, and, well, what to expect. I'd always look ahead, too, to see what was coming. I spent plenty of time on that ninth month, wondering just what it would be like to have a real, live baby come out. I remember spending lots of time in the room we made up to be the baby's room, looking at a mobile on the crib, trying to imagine what it would be like to have a baby. I knew it was coming, and yet it did not really feel real. The room seemed still and quiet, even when my wife was in there with the baby kicking wildly inside her. (Doing somersaults, it felt like).

As the date became only a few weeks away, my wife had some issues, and so they had her take off work. It ended up only a little earlier than she would have taken leave anyway. Then all we had to do was wait. As often happens with first pregnancies, the due date came and went and there was no birth. Then, three days after she was due, as my wife was wont to do, she decided to go for a walk around the block. As she was walking, she felt a sharp pain, but then otherwise felt ok. It may or may not have been related to what happened later.

That night, around 11:30 or so, I was in the bathroom, as we both got ready for bed. Then I heard my wife from the bedroom say those words that I knew would come, but which I could never really feel prepared for. "My water just broke." My mind was spinning a thousand miles an hour when I heard that, and then, it all came crashing down when she said almost immediately, "oh wait, it's blood."

Time gets a little fuzzy at this point in my memory. I remember throwing things at a bag I had ostensibly prepared by the bedside for the inevitable trip to the hospital. I'm sure at least some of those things made it in the bag. I did remember to grab the camera which was right there. A nice digital camera that could also do video, bought specifically for the baby. We put some towels down on the seat of the car, which was a good thing, because they were quickly soaked almost through with blood when my wife sat on them. Driving to the hospital, all I could think about was how if there is all this bleeding, does it mean the cord is loose, is it an abruption, or whatever it is called? And if so, doesn't that mean the baby is getting no oxygen? Doesn't that mean the baby has only four or five minutes before permanent brain damage, then death? I kept going over the math in my head, five minutes of life versus the 15 to 20 minutes it would take to get to the hospital. I kept trying to figure out how five minutes could really be 20 and I couldn't make it work, and I have to say, up until that point in my life, that was the most scared I've ever felt. Fear not for me, but for my baby, whom I thought would, in 15 minutes, be delivered dead. It was good that it was late. The roads were empty. I probably got up to 95 miles per hour on the highway. I did not want to crash, but I did not want to be late. Maybe I could shave some minutes off the trip. I even figured that if we were seen by the police, we could call 911 on our cell phone and inform the operator to inform the police of the situation because there was no way I was even going to slow down, sirens or no sirens.

In the meanwhile, my wife was on the phone to the doctor on call, and I was listening eagerly for any information, asking her to ask them if we should be worried, what it meant. They really didn't tell her much, but it was enough for me to keep hope that things were not lost.

Finally, after an eternity, we made it to the hospital. My wife went inside, then I went to park the car. I went up and joined her as fast as I could, and then, still shaking, waited eagerly for them to get the fetal heart monitor hooked up. That was all that I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that fast little pitter-patter of a heart beat, letting me know that, at least the baby was still alive. And then I heard it. It was so wonderful. I could breathe again. I was so relieved. Now there was just the bleeding. They did an ultrasound and determined that things looked ok. Because of the date, they decided to just go ahead and induce.

So then we move into a pre-birth room while they start getting her ready. They hook her up to a spinal and start getting the drugs to induce her into her system. I'm trying to stay awake while they do this, it is already past 2 am, and I have trouble staying up past 11 most nights. I'm also a bit of a wreck from the worry earlier. But things seem ok now and I try to rest on a very uncomfortable chair in the room while nurses are busy all over the place, getting her ready. (Of course, I had no idea I'd be sitting in that exact same chair 17 months later with a very different set of thoughts.) Then they all leave and it is just me, my wife, and the nurse.
Finally, contractions start. First one. Then soon another. But with each one, the baby's heart rate plummets to almost nothing. After just two contractions, they are calling the doctor in and they decide that to continue is risky. But they give us a choice. We can try for labor, or we can just do a c-section. But the doctor warns us they may just have to do a c-section after hours of labor anyway. Now, my wife really does not want a c-section. But as I thought about it, I decided that it would be better to do a c-section now, then go through labor and do one later, only with the doctors being in a hurry. I'd rather they do it when they can take their time. Plus, why go through all the trauma of labor if you'll end up with a c-section anwyay? So that convinces her, and so they prep her for the c-section. Swarms of doctors and nurses surround her and I just stay back. They give me scrubs to put on and after they wheel her out, they have me sit in this chair outside the OR and wait for them to call me. By then it is 6 am.

A few minutes later, I'm in the room. There is a large cloth screen at my wife's neck, shielding her body from my view, which is a good thing, because I'm sure if I saw them cut into her or any of that, I'd be passed out on the floor. I'm not a big fan of hospitals in general. So I sat by her head and held her hand. Her arms were shaking violently, which I guess is normal, but still disconcerting. Then only 20 minutes in, I heard that sound, a baby crying, a sound that never had any more meaning than it did at that moment. Then she became real. It was very surreal. Going from talking about having a child, to the pregnancy, to finally that. That reality. It was wonderful and very scary. I turned on the camera and caught it as she came from behind the cloth screen. Immediately, they put her in a plastic box and she was surrounded by four masked people working on her every which way. It was hard for me to even see her, but I caught glimpses. I won't even try to explain all the emotions there - any parent can tell you about that.

They kept working at it, then came another little bomb. Apparently they weren't happy with how pink she was, they were worried she wasn't getting enough oxygen, so they were going to take her up to the special unit for babies (which they fortunately had in this hospital, one of the best). Not exactly great news. I was so worried. Thankfully, though, the worry was shortlived. They showed our baby to my wife, then they took her out, and then I left the OR while they finished up. I sat in the same chair outside of there. Then someone came down the hall and told me that our baby was fine - that they took her up the elevator and by the time the elevator door opened on the unit, she was looking much better, so they just brought her right back down to the nursery. I joined my wife in recovery and told her and then I went to really see my baby for the first time. She was under a warming lamp in there and was so cute and wrinkled. Because of the problem, they actually had not weighed her, so they weighed her then. Seven and a half pounds. Then I took her on this car out to where my wife was in recovery (again, my feelings at that place 17 months later would be very different) and showed her. My wife was out of it, still shaking, but she did see our baby. Finally, I picked her up and held her. I kept looking around for someone (security?) to tell me not to hold the baby because I didn't know what I was doing. But no, they just left me to figure it out on my own.

I won't belabor this now much further. My wife spent three days in the hospital, as did the baby. Then they let us take her home. That also amazed me. I was thinking, "they just let you take babies home? Don't they want to see credentials for parenting or something??" But really, that is that, you are on your own. That was surreal. The nurse was kind enough to call us the next day to see if we were ok. I thought that was a nice touch.

My daughter is so beautiful. She always has been. She always will be. She's 20 months old now. I shared all of the above because I wanted to share something that ended happily after sharing something that really didn't. And they tie in together, not just because both involved pregnancy.

I think after we lost the baby, what really got us through it more than anything else was our daughter. Both because she needed taking care of, so we were busy with that, and also just because we were so thankful to have her, and even if we could never have another, she would be all we would need. That's what got us through it. That's what gets people through any crisis, though. Family. (I'm an atheist, so obviously there was no religious element to any of this, not for me, not for my wife, but then, I think even religious people get through things the same way - with the support of family and friends).

What I also wanted to say about this was that this illustrates that even with a successful pregnancy and birth, things can go wrong and there are risks involved. It was not an easy thing for my wife to go through. Of course, we thought it was well worth it, our daughter is wonderful, but it was something we chose to go through and chose to risk.

I love my daughter. More than anything. I'd die for her. We have a strong bond. Picking her up from day care is the highlight of my day.

I, for one, would never advocate or want to use abortion as a method of birth control. I just don't think I could do it. But that gives me no right to make that choice for someone else. I've heard some talk about how one who gets pregnant needs to face the consequences of that, as if a pregnancy, or a baby, were a punishment, not a person. Like it is some sort of moral judgment. Some of the same people are against teaching birth control. And yet the number one way to stop abortions is through more effective birth control. So it makes me question the real agenda. At the very least, it makes me question their logic.

The lack of a health exception makes me wonder where the line would be drawn. How close to death does my wife need to be before we'd be "allowed" the option of an abortion? And here's a good hypothetical - if there is no health exception, only a life exception, what happens if your daughter or your wife is pregnant and it turns out that the only way to take the baby to term is if you induce a coma in your wife or daughter for seven months, risking brain damage, but with no chance of death? With no health exception, doctors would have no choice but to induce the coma, taking away seven months of the mother's life for the baby. Forcing her to be a human incubator. With all the normal risks that such entails. As I noted above, no pregnancy is risk free. It is a risk every time a woman gets pregnant. The risk goes up as the pregnancy progresses. Why should anyone have the right to force that on a woman against her will?
Years ago, I once suggested to a pro-life friend that the solution to the abortion question was simply technology - if you could transplant a fetus out of a pregnant woman and then into anyone else, that would solve it. I suggested that pro-lifers could all volunteer for the procedure. He was upset by that and thought it was a horrible idea. Ultimately, it boiled down to what I said above - he saw it as the pregnant woman avoiding the 'punishment' of being pregnant. But then, why should that matter if it is about the life of the baby?

I saw someone commented that sex is just for procreation. But who gets to decide that? Sex, last I checked, is about far more than just making babies. Otherwise, why would people have sex even if infertile? Why would contraception even exist? Ah, maybe they don't want contraception, either. It seems to me like you have to have it one way or the other. If one is against having abortions, one at the very least needs to be for vigorous contraception availability and distribution.

In closing, at the risk of repeating myself, I could be considered pro-life, in that I would never have an abortion except to save the health or life of the mother. I think it is a horrid means of birth control. But I don't think it is my place to tell anyone else they can't do it just because I wouldn't. Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion.

I also don't hate pro-lifers. I had harsh language in my last post on this because that was exactly how I felt at the time, but I never hated them, even when I was that angry. It still makes me angry to think of anyone else having to go through that. But I don't think hate is very constructive. I'd rather convince people with words and reason. I'm heartened to see at least one person, Erin, changed her mind based on my post.

I am amazed this has gotten such a response. I never expected that. I do appreciate all the comments I've gotten, even the negative ones, if you can believe that, simply because it shows me how others feel about this topic. I guess it is nice that something good can come of such a horrible situation. And I still have my wife and my daughter and we will try again for more children very soon. The doctors said she should have no special problems with doing so. So thank you for the comments everyone, and feel free to keep on commenting - I read them all and appreciate each one. And I am impressed that anyone can make it all the way through either of these long, verbose posts. I've learned alot as well. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I think the no abortion and no birth control/abstinence only situation is a case of a "You can't have your cake and eat it too."

What makes it more horrible, is that not only is it restricted access to both abortion and contraception but the federal government is continually cutting federal funding (I know youre 'libertarian leaning' so bear with me on the welfare funding part) to adoption programs, not allowing gays to adopt and the foster care system is a complete mess in most states. Due to lack of funding, different laws in different states, standardization, etc.

So apparently everyone has to suffer this 'punishment'? Man, woman, future child and society?

DBB said...

I don't particularly like welfare, but I do recognize that you probably get a lot more bang for your buck if you spend your money on prevention (education and contraception) than on abortions.

Anonymous said...

This and your previous posts are probably the best I've ever read on a blog. The two accounts are extraordinary enough by themselves, but the contrast is shattering. Abortion is a controversial issue, but there isn't a debate out there that wouldn't benefit from this sort of careful, clear headed commentary.

Anonymous said...

That's another great post dbb. Thank you for sharing. What I found striking is the similarity between your situation and what occurred with my wife and I (first baby fine, then problem pregnancy resulting in an abortion). I also found it quite coincidental that we're both 30-something, atheist, libertarian-leaning lawyers in Michigan. Of course, I won't admit to being nerdy-looking...

I would like to comment on your view of pro-lifers. I think you can take pro-lifers and break them down into two camps. In the first camp is those who reasonably believe that women shouldn't get abortions and make efforts to convince these women to pursue the option continuing the pregnancy. I don't hate people in this camp. They have the right to attempt to persuade women, just like we all have free speech rights. I don't particularly agree with some of their tactics (standing outside clinics, etc.), just like I don't particularly appreciate Mormans et al. coming to my door and attempting to convert me.

But the second camp I do have a problem with. These are the people who find it necessary to use the power of the government to prohibit, restrict, and otherwise obstruct a woman's right to have an abortion. I do hate them because they interfere with the civil liberties of my wife and daughters for an issue that doesn't affect them in any tangible way. They are simply attempt to impose their religious dogma on everyone and that is unconscionable.

Anyway, I've bookmarked your blog and hope to keep enjoying more quality posts. No pressure, though...

DBB said...

Thanks Jeff - there was bound to be at least one or two more atheist, libertarian leaning, 30-something lawyers in Michigan.

I would generally agree with you about the different pro-life groups. I'd almost count myself in one - I would hope that no one would ever have to do an abortion, but because I'm so strongly libertarian and see it as a personal issue, I would not spend much energy even on it because I see even that level of meddling with someone else's life as somewhat pushy. When it comes to such decisions, even a friendly, verbal attempt at persuasion can feel unwelcome. Unless someone knows you personally (family, close friends) I don't think they should be trying to convince someone in that situation. Talking about it in general, sure, but not standing outside a clinic or giving unsolicited "advice".

Oh, and I freely admit I'm not only nerdy looking, but a nerd. Might as well own up to reality. Its not like the women would be flocking to me for an autograph were it not for my mentioning on my blog that I'm nerdy-looking... (not that my wife would want them to...)

DBB said...

And thanks Manigen. Kind words in a world with a few million blogs. Too bad clear-headed debate isn't more often what motivates the politics.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing, the whole world should read these posts.

My daughter is 11 months. It is true, that moment that you get to go home is so unreal, they actually allow you to take that little human without even a basic manual ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing these. It's so nice to hear a reasonable voice. Take care.

Thorne said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! For these heartwrenchingly honest posts. Having just (April 23rd) gone through the emergency C-section of my only daughter, to deliver my beautiful grandson while smack dab in the middle of debating/discussing/expressing my outrage at the recent abortion legislation, I have been considering a post about my own wildly ranging emotions around this very personal experience, but have not had the courage to write it. Your posts have given me that. Bless you. Bless your precious wife and baby girl. Condolences beyond measure of words for the horror you've been through, and my deepest admiration. You are one helluva guy!

Anonymous said...

Ultimately, it boiled down to what I said above - he saw it as the pregnant woman avoiding the 'punishment' of being pregnant. But then, why should that matter if it is about the life of the baby?

I am by no means an expert pentad critic, but I once analyzed a pro-life song and was surprised to find the agent was not the unborn, but the woman. Not what I expected.

Thank you for sharing your grief and joy. I also think, regardless of your views on abortion, the "partial birth abortion" ban is wrong from a moral, practical, and even federalist standpoint.

Anonymous said...

I saw someone commented that sex is just for procreation.

This argument makes me laugh.

If God, or some other Intelligent Designer, truly designed us human beings with thought and care and foresight, will someone please explain to me the purpose of the clitoris?

The clitoris has no other purpose than providing pleasure for the woman.

I suspect that God put the clitoris there to make sure that women would want to have sex and continue the species. If sex were just for procreation, we'd simply do it for duty. But God wanted sex to feel good, too.

Think about that.

Kathleen said...

I am relieved to hear that your wife is alright and that this hasn’t hindered her chance of having children in the future.

I’m also from Michigan and heard on WDET about the new “informed consent” surge that is going on - this in addition to the current “informed consent” already required by Michigan law.

Also, there are women out there now, whose pregnancies were very much wanted, who will be negatively affected by the SCOTUS ruling - women whose pregnancies took a turn for the worse during the second trimester. These women are no longer allowed to have their pregnancy end with the intact D&E method, a method which could have allowed a woman to grieve over her lost pregnancy. A woman in this situation is forced to have her fetus dismembered while inside her. She is not given the option of holding her baby, of saying goodbye in her own way if that’s what she needs or wants.

I’ve always been of the belief that if you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. As an atheist, I am tired of having someone else’s religious views influencing the laws regarding my body and my health. My doctor can help me decide that a whole lot better than some far-removed politician.

hedera said...

I read all your abortion posts last night and was too stunned to comment then.

First, thank God your wife is OK.

Second, please accept my condolences on the loss of your child.

Third, no the second comment does NOT mean I am a "pro-life" type as they call it. I'm as solidly pro-choice as anybody here. Your post was the more valuable because it was a man's experience; and the more unusual because few men would choose to write publicly about such an intimate and terrifying experience. I mean terrifying, too: I was reading with my hair standing on end.

So many of the men who spout opinions on abortion have never been nearer the actual situation than an Operation Rescue organizing meeting. So many of the men who remark about women who "can't be bothered" to have children, have no idea what some women go through. And I'm constantly amazed that the same people who oppose abortion, also oppose birth control and sex education. It just comes down to punishing women for enjoying sex, as several commenters remarked.

And whatever happened to, "There, but for the grace of God, go I"??

You'll be hearing from me again; I've added your blog to my list.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing again. These stories underscore the ongoing need for actual real people to discuss the issues rather than demagogues who are removed from reality.

I'd also like the pro-life side to keep caring for the baby after it's born. I.e. We'll force you to have a baby or die trying but we will not provide one ounce of comfort for that child and mother thereafter.

Unknown said...

I agree with Keith on the pro-lifers helping the children out after they have been born. Thanks for sharing more of yourself with us DBB.

The world would be a better place if people would take the time to think and analyze before acting.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure how I stumbled across your blog, but it intrigued me. My wife and I have lost three children--one early miscarriage, one daughter stillborn at 22 weeks, and one son who got a rare immune system disorder at 16 months. We have another son who was born seven weeks after his brother died.

I admire you for working hard at being a good dad, even seeking to protect your children from influences that you consider harmful. A lot of Christian parents don't do that.

Our difficulties have challenged us to reexamine our beliefs and have given us much more sympathy with others who suffer. I am still a follower of Jesus, but I respect an honest atheist more than a hypocritical Christian.

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