With how much the topic of abortion has been covered in the media of late it has been a hot topic of conversation on twitter. Because of this I have been sharing my termination story. I share my story to help people understand why a woman’s ability to choose is so important. It is probably not a typical abortion story, but I think my story illustrates very well how important bodily autonomy is and why it should only ever be up to the mother to make the final choice. In my case my husband was very much part of the decision, but he fully supported what I wanted to do. I have had 15 years at the time of writing this article to process what we went through. Not once in those 15 years have me or my husband regretted our decision despite the fact, we very much wanted to carry our son to term.
Before we conceived our daughter, we had 3 early miscarriages. We had also been dealing with fertility issues and needed help conceiving. Our daughter was conceived via IVF and we were overjoyed when I delivered our healthy baby girl at full term. After we had our daughter, we conceived another time at which point we discovered at 11wks I had a blighted ovum and was scheduled for a D & C. When our daughter was around 18mths we did IVF again and conceived our son. This time we had an 8wk scan which looked good. Had another scan at 13 weeks when I noticed a strange look on my ob/gyns face. I didn’t think too much of it at the time and it was soon forgotten. Then we got to our 18wk scan we got the most terrible news we could imagine. We were told our son had anencephaly.
For those of you who don’t know what anencephaly is, it is a neural tube defect where the brain and head fail to develop correctly. You can see on the above scan how his head just stops instead of having the rounded appearance of a fully formed head.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes the presentation of this condition as follows: “A baby born with anencephaly is usually blind, deaf, unaware of its surroundings and unable to feel pain. Although some individuals with anencephaly may be born with a main brain stem, the lack of a functioning cerebrum permanently rules out the possibility of ever gaining awareness of their surroundings. Reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch may occur.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly
I remember feeling the blood drain from my face when my ob/gyn told us the news. We were given information on our options going forward. The decision wasn’t difficult and for us there really wasn’t any other option. Despite the fact we very much wanted our son the prospect of going through with pregnancy for another 4.5 months in order to give birth to a son who had zero hope of survival was not a prospect we could even consider as an option. We had a daughter who at this point was 2 years old. I couldn’t imagine prolonging the pregnancy for such a long period of time knowing all the while that he would never survive more than a few hours after birth at best. There was no point in prolonging the inevitable. He had no awareness, no brain to process pain, to feel, touch, see or hear. He was unable to experience anything and had no awareness. Bringing our son to term had no benefits and only had the negatives of prolonging our grief, making it more difficult to care for our daughter in the way she deserved.
Making the decision was easy because in things like this while sentimental, I am also very practical. Going through with it however was the most difficult thing I had ever had to experience. We chose a mini c-section as the safest method of delivery for our son. My daughter was born via c-section due to the fact she was breech and having had a prior c-section meant a vaginal birth was more risky. I knew it would also be more traumatic. I could not imagine labouring only to have my son either stillborn or die shortly after birth. So, a mini c-section under general anaesthetic it was. The official hospital documentation classified it as a hysterotomy.
I remember being prepped for surgery and just about to go into the theatre when I started thinking to myself I am about to kill my baby over and over again. One of the nurses must have seen the distress on my face and was amazing at distracting me and preventing me from dwelling on what I was about to do.
The following day we asked to see our son and they brought him too us on a piece of surgical cloth in a kidney shaped tray. He still had forceps attached to his umbilical cord. He had his arms crossed over his chest. He was perfectly shaped all the way up to his eyebrows. His face was perfect, and I could see that he had my chin. From his eyebrow line his head just stopped. You could see inside the cavity of his head. You could see some partial cerebellum.
I was in hospital for 3 nights. My Mum was staying at our home to care for our daughter while I was in hospital. The first day after the surgery she came in to visit with my daughter which was an enormous comfort. The following two days however she was scared to come into the room. I missed her terribly and the last thing I wanted was to be away from her. I was supposed to stay in hospital for 5 nights but elected to go home early so I could be with my family. Prior to leaving I mentioned to my doctor that I felt like my milk was coming in. He told me it was too early for that to be happening and that I should be fine.
At home I recovered and lay on the couch during the day so I could be around my daughter while my Mum continued to help care for her. When I had my first shower at home, I had the letdown reflex and milk spurted everywhere. It was devastating to me as breastfeeding was one of the most precious things to experience and able to do for my daughter who self-weaned at 10 months. I remember bawling my eyes out in the shower because it made the loss even more real. I asked my husband to ring my ob/gyn for medication to dry up my milk because I knew I would cry if I did it myself.
We had a private service for our son. It was just my husband and me. Our daughter was too young to really know what was going on, so we left her with family. We had organised a coffin for our son. It was tiny in comparison to the full-size coffins, but it dwarfed him in size. We wrapped him in a bunny rung which I had cut and remade in two pieces. I had his name embroidered on it. We placed him in the coffin along with letters from us, a poem I wrote for him (below), a drawing from his big sister and a small teddy bear almost twice his size. We chose to cremate him. We had two sets of identical flowers arrangements. One was placed on top of the coffin and cremated with him. The other I had made into a pressed arrangement. Framed with the arrangement was the other half of the bunny rug with his name embroidered on it, and a photo of him. That framed memorial hangs in our hallway to this day.
12 months later almost to the day our second son was born. He is an amazing kid and I cannot imagine life without him and our daughter. I have not once regretted our decision to terminate our pregnancy because it was the right thing to do for us and our family. It enabled us to heal quicker. It prevented a prolonged process of watching my son grow and then die. It made no difference to him because he was never conscious. He was never able to feel anything or hear our voices. Without his loss we would not have our current living son and I would not change that for the world. Our family is as it should be.
There are many reasons women choose to terminate a pregnancy. Many women have experiences just like mine. Some just don’t feel able to have a baby. Some have very reasonable medical reasons, some mental health reasons, some had contraception that failed and are unable to afford to raise a child. Nobody else can fully understand what someone in that position is going through. Being forced to carry a foetus to term for any reason is barbaric and akin to slavery. Choosing termination is not an easy choice even if the choice is easy to make because it is the only possible choice you feel you can make for whatever reason that may be.
I have had a D & C (dilation and curettage) for the blighted ovum and it was extremely painful. A D & C is very similar to a D & E.
A D&C is usually done in the first trimester, after a miscarriage. Your surgeon will first dilate your cervix to allow the tissue to be removed from your uterus, and then remove it in one of two ways: either by using a loop-shaped curette instrument or a suction curettage that acts like a small vacuum.https://www.thebump.com/a/what-to-expect-from-a-dilation-and-evacuation-or-dilation-and-curretage
A D&E is done during the second trimester and is pretty similar to a D&C in that it uses a vacuum aspiration, but requires more surgical instruments to remove the tissue (like forceps). Because it’s done later on in a pregnancy, it can take a little longer. (A D&E usually lasts about 30 minutes, whereas a D&C may be closer to 20.)
After my D & C I experienced severe cramping. Some of the worst I have had in my life. The pain was so severe that pain relief made no difference to the pain. The pain lasted for several days after the procedure.
No woman wants to have an abortion. Abortion is extremely painful, traumatic and an absolute last resort option. People pretend that people use it for birth control but given how traumatic and painful it is, you would have to be extremely stupid to do so.
Forcing a woman who for whatever reason does not wish to remain pregnant to go through a forced pregnancy and birth amounts to slavery and abuse. If a woman does not consent to a foetus remaining inside her as its sole provider of nourishment should not be forced to do so. Pregnancy changes your body. It causes pain, and for most causes permanent changes to your body. It affects your health and comes with risks. If a woman is not prepared to take those risks, to suffer the pain of pregnancy, suffer the changes to your body and the pain of birth, she should not be forced to.
If you cannot respect the life of the mother, you have no right to speak for the life of her foetus.
Please forgive my amateurish poem, but it was the poem I wrote for my son and I felt worth sharing because it helps convey the feelings I had shortly after we lost him. Now, many years later we have had plenty of time to heal. Our two kids are teenagers and our family are close. Our daughter is not far off leaving the nest. I feel very lucky to have the beautiful family we have and wouldn’t change a thing.
The Flowers Are Wilting
The flowers are wilting,
The family is gone,
Our journey just beginning.
How will we go on?
Our darling son Jacob,
We wish you were here,
If only we could see you,
Grow up from year to year.
The flowers are wilting,
and our lives must go on,
but we cannot forget you.
The pain hasn't gone
Your little big sister,
So innocent and pure,
Just has no idea of,
The pain we endure.
Your memory always treasured,
She will remember you too.
Her special baby brother,
Love and kisses from her to you.
The flowers are wilting,
Autumn leaves touch the ground,
Our love never changing,
Even when spring comes around.