My Husband I Are Trying To Start A Family. Six Months Ago, I Had An Abortion.

(Photo: Photo courtesy of Kate Sark)
(Photo: Photo courtesy of Kate Sark)
In November 2019, after five years of marriage, my husband and I decided we were ready to conceive (referred to as TTC in fertility app chat groups). A little over a year later, I finally got my first positive pregnancy test.
Due to some spotting and initial nervousness, we were able to do an ultrasound early and after about seven weeks saw a peanut-sized spot with a blinking dot that indicated a heartbeat. Although we knew the advice not to announce it to the world, we shared the news with our parents, who shared our joy and excitement.
At our 12 week appointment, the ultrasound technician was less talkative and no images were showing on the screen. Armed with just a photo, my husband and I were sent back to the lobby to wait for the doctor.
As soon as we sat down, I whispered to my husband, "Something's wrong." After what felt like hours, but actually less than 20 minutes, we were sitting in the doctor's office when he explained to us that a heartbeat could not be located.
While we knew this was a possibility, it didn't soften the blow. It had only been two months, but we had already started imagining our lives as a family of three. I had started a private register and researched car seats, strollers and baby monitors. We had talked about names. We had Christmas cards printed and addressed, ready to be thrown in the mail to announce our new addition. Within minutes all those dreams were shattered. Our baby was gone.
After several blood tests to confirm the miscarriage, I was scheduled for a dilation and curettage or D&C at the local hospital within a week. Although the experience was heartbreaking, the procedure went smoothly and after several months of physical and emotional healing, we attempted to conceive again.
In July 2021 I got pregnant again. Thanks to timing I was able to tell my husband on his birthday. What a perfect gift! Although we knew from our first experience that we should try to contain our excitement, it was difficult.
Our earlier experience, coupled with more spotting, meant we were able to come back early for an ultrasound that showed confirmation of pregnancy and a heartbeat. Our 12 week ultrasound also went differently, with the tech showing us the flickering spot and sending us back to the waiting room with multiple scans. We breathed a sigh of relief as we waited for the doctor, not knowing what to expect.
When we met with the doctor, he pulled up the sonogram on his computer and began pointing out excess fluid behind our fetus' head. He explained that this fluid is right on the verge of abnormalities and could potentially signal hydrops fetalis, a condition often caused by a chromosomal abnormality that indicates genetic or developmental problems. He urged us to remain optimistic and offered options including additional testing and a visit to a specialist.
Within days I had a blood draw for a genetic test (which would indicate the possibility of a chromosomal abnormality) and an appointment with a specialist in a big city about an hour from home.
The specialist performed a high-level ultrasound, which confirmed the initial findings that there was an abnormal amount of fluid in the fetus' head. I also underwent a chorionic villus biopsy, an uncomfortable procedure that involves removing a small piece of the placenta and sending it in for chromosome testing.
And then we waited. Fortnite felt like years as we tried to stay optimistic and realistic at the same time. Blood test results came in and showed no abnormalities, with chorionic villus biopsy results confirming the finding. That meant I wasn't a carrier and we pretty much ruled out any chromosomal issues.
At our second appointment with the specialist, another ultrasound showed fluid in the lungs and abdomen as well as in the head. At that point we knew our baby had a serious medical problem, but we didn't know why.
After discussions with both the specialist and my primary obstetrician, as well as extensive independent research, my husband and I accepted the reality that the chance of our baby making it to full term was slim. We also knew that if the pregnancy was successful, our child would most likely be born with a serious medical problem. Together we decided that it would be cruel to give birth to a child who would suffer and ultimately live a short and unfulfilled life. For us it was the right, albeit difficult, decision to end the pregnancy.
Although I had hoped that the hardest part of this process—making that impossible decision—was behind us, planning an abortion proved challenging. Unlike my D&C, I was unable to have the procedure performed by my regular obstetrician at a local hospital because my fetus had a heart attack.
Instead, I had to make an appointment at a medical facility that performed abortions. My doctor was incredibly supportive and helpful throughout this process and worked with me to provide a referral for a facility that eventually became Planned Parenthood.
I was able to secure an appointment but due to demand and limited availability I was forced to schedule it more than two weeks in advance. This meant that I remained mentally and physically pregnant for two more weeks despite knowing our fetus was not viable.
I continued to suffer the symptoms of pregnancy and felt irresponsible for making decisions that would harm my fetus even though I knew it was not viable. On the one hand, I dreaded the day of my appointment while at the same time looking forward to moving on.
The day of my procedure required a day off, an hour's drive (luckily accompanied by my mother and husband), and a payment of $1,115. (I got a refund from my insurance company, but many don't have that luxury and face a tax bill.)
After pages of documents, an ultrasound and a conversation with a doctor, I underwent pre-operative preparation and sat in an operating room for four hours. Being over 16 weeks pregnant, the process was more intense and significantly more uncomfortable.
When my body responded to the medication, I was taken to the operating room. Despite being heavily medicated, I was awake during the procedure. As I lay in the cold, sterile room, aware of what was happening, I couldn't help but question my decision. That wasn't the experience I conjured up when I envisioned having a baby. The practitioners in the room tried to distract me and provided additional medication when I expressed discomfort, but the reality of what was happening could not be ignored.
The operation lasted no more than 15 minutes, but it's a memory that will stay etched in my mind forever. Relief mixed with sorrow as the doctor wrapped up and I was taken to the recovery room. There I rested for half an hour, drug-dizzy and drank my ginger ale before being discharged to my loved ones. Although the process was both mentally and physically demanding, I cannot praise enough the staff who provide these services to women in need.
It took my husband and I some time to feel comfortable sharing our experiences. We have a wonderful support system and are confident in the decision we have made. That being said, our choice was and is controversial. But it shouldn't be.
In 2019, 629,898 legally obtained abortions were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fact that we are trying to conceive and choosing to have an abortion comes as a shock to many, but after hearing our full experience, they are beginning to understand the gray area in an issue previously viewed as black and white became.
And while I hope that sharing our experiences will help change perceptions, no pregnant person should have to justify their choice. The world should not play judge and jury in such an intimate and personal experience.
As fate would have it, I am writing this just a few hours after learning that I am pregnant again. After two unsuccessful pregnancies, those two lines on the pregnancy test bring both trepidation and joy. The excitement of the possibility of expanding our family can't completely overcome the worry and anxiety of the "what ifs".
What if I have a miscarriage? What if there are medical problems? These are rational concerns, but they cannot be answered; Only time can tell. What I shouldn't worry about is that if complications arise, I don't have the right to make what is best for me and my family. I shouldn't have to worry about losing autonomy over my body. I shouldn't have to worry about losing my voice. I shouldn't have to worry about losing my election. No pregnant person should.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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