Updated with links at the end. Updated again with the birth of my son.
Abortion. There's a conversation stopper. While I've always been pro-choice (as far as I can remember), I was never particularly concerned with it as my primary issue. Part of that was because I never really thought (nor do I think) that Roe will ever be overturned. See this post for why. But beyond that, I'm a man. When asked about the issue, my flippant response was that I have decided that I, personally, will never have an abortion. Not exactly a huge committment, given that I can't get pregnant. But it also reflected (and reflects) my conviction that it is a personal choice.
Then I had to wrestle with this issue in my own life. My wife was pregnant. No, it wasn't unexpected. It was about as planned as it gets without using a fertility doctor, though thankfully, we did it the old fashioned way (much cheaper). Things were fine, until about six weeks in. Then she started to have some bleeding. Obviously, this is a great concern. We thought we lost the baby. So one trip to the emergency room later, we find out that no, the baby is fine. We even get an ultrasound, far earlier than you usually get one. There we can see this tiny creature with a tiny heartbeat. Unfortunately, the bleeding just continued, nonstop. For weeks. We were assured that this is common and that it would likely stop by week 10 or 11. Still, we weren't sure. And so we discussed possibly terminating the pregnancy, because it was very alarming for my wife, and also we didn't want to take this further only to find out it wasn't viable. Thankfully, we had such an option. We already had gone through the scare of wondering if we had already lost the baby.
A week passes. She gets another ultrasound. Things still look fine, but the bleeding continued. Then it got worse. Another trip to the ER. Again, they tell her, it is fine, but they told us we should come in if she soaks more than one pad with blood in an hour. So now we have a benchmark. Fortunately, things get better. Another week passes, they do another ultrasound. Things look great. I'm amazed at how much the little bugger has grown just in a few weeks, more than doubling in size. We're getting close to 10 weeks. Hopefully then, we're told, the amniotic sack will be big enough to exert enough pressure to stem the blood loss.
We were watching TV on the bed at home. Then she felt some pain. But she wasn't bleeding. She was cramping. It was very painful, but again, we checked, and there wasn't that much blood. So we did not go to the ER right then, they said one pad per hour. I called my sister, who suggested a hot bath to ease the cramp pain. And that did the trick. Then she started bleeding more. She panicked. She took off to the ER without even waiting for me to get dressed to go with her.
By the time I've joined her there, she is bleeding enough to go through one pad every 10 minutes. Then every five minutes. Her blood pressure is steadily dropping. The machine shows the numbers in orange. Then they are both in red. But all the ER people can do is basically watch her bleed. They don't want to do anything more because of the baby. They do start to give strong painkillers to my wife, but they only help a little. So we go for another ultrasound in the ER. I expected the worse. From the looks on the faces of the people, I could tell things weren't looking good, but they did not want to say anything. And yet, again, the little bugger is holding on and actually is fine even as its mother is bleeding out. So back we go to the ER room.
Now they want to see if she's dialated. I guess if she is, it is game over, but the ultrasound didn't show it and there's so much blood they simply can't see. Now the blood pressure numbers are even lower. I'm not a doctor, but I somehow don't think 60/40 is a good number to see on a blood pressure monitor, even for a moment. My wife is still awake, but a bit out of it from the drugs. They start pumping a transfusion into her, though it can't replace the blood at the rate she's going, or at least, it seems like that to me. We get a nice scare speech about the risks of transfusion. But its not like we can say no. She signs the consent form and they get in the first of two units of blood.
Finally, the ER OB comes in and starts talking to us about the possibility of losing the baby some more. Fortunately, we have already discussed this and thought about it, having already thought we lost the baby two or three times over the past few weeks. Still, it isn't pleasant to think about it.
Nothing is stopping the bleeding. There seems to be nothing they can do. They talk about trying some drugs, but then they decide things are going too fast to give time to let them work. So that leaves only surgery as a possibility. Surgery means hosing her out. It means killing the baby. So obviously, we look into other options. Only now, my wife is so out of it, from blood loss, from the painkillers, that the doctor said she is no longer able to legally consent. Now I'm handed a clipboard. On it is consent to basically give my wife an abortion and kill our future child. And it is all on me, my decision, mine alone. Something I never thought I'd ever face, ever have to deal with. Made worse by being a decision of either kill the baby or potentially watch both my wife and the baby die. The doctors did not say at this point that it was absolutely necessary. Maybe more blood could be transfused in. Maybe she wasn't dilated - they hadn't figured it out yet. Still too much blood. So then there I was, facing the sort of choice that you usually see only in hypotheticals in ethics and philosophy classes. Only it was real. It was my wife. And I didn't have exactly a lot of time to think about it. It was just me and the clipboard. An empty line there, marked for my signature. My wife bleeding right next to me. The ultrasound of my baby, and its heartbeat, fresh in my mind from minutes before. I cannot begin to describe how I felt at that moment. One cannot know until you are in it. I won't even try. I hope I never feel that way again.
As fate would have it, soon after that eternity of minutes, they finally managed to figure out, by touch alone, through all the blood, if she was dilated. She was. Just barely. That made the pregnancy an inevitable loss, they told me. I signed the consent and they took her up for what they said would be a 20 minute surgery. Even more ironically, they took us up to one of the pre-delivery rooms to prep her for the surgery. It turned out to be the very same room we were in before our first (and thus far only) child was born. Oh how the feelings were different this time around. Oh how those feelings were amplified and made worse by the memories of the last time I was in that room. And there they left me, where I waited for word.
I sat there, wondering if I'd at least get my wife back after this. Then 20 minutes passed, and nothing. Thirty minutes. Forty. Forty five. I started to get worried and thought all sorts of horrible things that I will not put words to. Mainly, then, I start to think about the abortion debate. About pro-lifers, in particular. I think about all those meddling politicians that would want to interject themselves into everything that just happened to me, interject themselves between me, my wife, and her doctors. And then I had a strong, visceral reaction. I wanted the mutherfuckers to die. I wanted to rip off their heads and tear out their hearts, because how DARE they play politics with my wife's life? The baby was fine until the end. I wondered if that would have meant they'd force us to let my wife bleed until almost death before they'd let us abort, because well, if she's not near death, then it is just a 'health' exception, and we can't have that! Fuck them. Fuck them all. They can fucking die, as far as I'm concerned. This was what went through my mind as I sat there, waiting to see if, after my baby died, my wife had died as well. I still feel that visceral reaction when I think about it, though not quite as strong - right then and there, if someone pro-life walked in and started talking about it to me, I very well might have physically attacked them. And I'm about as non-violent as one gets.
Finally, the doctors come out and tell me she's fine and headed to recovery. Again, she's in the same slot in recovery as she was after the birth of our daughter. I'm exhausted. It is now 1 am. She will be there overnight. I make sure she's ok and I head for home.
Obviously, I'm still pro-choice. And I do still say that I'll personally never have an abortion. But if anyone tells me politicians should meddle in what should be between one's doctor and one's self, I'll tell them, politely, to go fuck themselves, and then explain why.
In the weeks after this happened, I reflected on some other things as well. While I was upset at losing the little one that I saw on those ultrasounds, it did not feel even 1/100th of how I'd have felt if we'd lost my then 17 month old daughter. Not even close. We did not have a funeral. We did mourn, in a way, but nothing like you'd do with a baby who has been born. In short, just instinctively, we knew it was nothing like that. It was a seed of a person, but it really wasn't a person yet, not in our awareness. Nobody really treats a 9 week old fetus like that. Not even pro-lifers. More food for thought.
Anyway, I wonder sometimes if this is why I decided to actually make my own blog. Because I have things to say. I'm not sure if that is why, but the timing makes me wonder. This all happened very shortly before I made my blog here. So yes, it is still relatively fresh. It is still raw. I still have trouble thinking about it. I wanted to write about it, but just couldn't. I have mixed feelings about even posting this. But I think it will be cathartic. So here goes.
UPDATE: I posted a follow-up here and here. And I have some more recent, good news here and here. And now I have a short post on the one-year anniversary of this. And now my son has been born.
4 years ago