Ten years ago today, I lost my first pregnancy. Several times over the past year, I considered posting about this experience. In particular, I considered posting about it when my home state of Ohio passed more restrictions on abortion.
Early in the week of June 11, 2004, I discovered I was pregnant while on the Pill. We were training for a new job on Vancouver Island at the time and had no family physician. We went to a walk-in clinic, and the pregnancy was confirmed. My spouse asked me what I wanted to do. I considered my options only briefly. I wanted this baby. I have known for many years that I want to be a mother. Despite the poor timing, I wanted this baby.
A few days later, I woke up to what felt like the worst gas pain ever, particularly in the left side of my body. I could not get out of bed to do our training for the day and, of course, it was the day our employer was showing up to introduce himself and to see how our training was going. After several hours, I managed to pull myself out of the bed, take ibuprofen, get ready, and go meet the boss; I told my spouse that if the pain didn’t go away by the end of the day, we needed to go to the ER. At the end of the day, to the ER we went.
The ER doctor did an exam and took some blood tests. However, the lab was really busy that evening, and I was not able to get my test results then. I was told that sometimes there can be pain in early pregnancy but that I was still pregnant. An ultrasound was arranged for the Friday; I was offered an ultrasound on Friday or Monday and, as we were moving north island to our job that weekend, I chose Friday.
After the ultrasound that Friday, as we waited for results, the technician told me the radiologist wanted to look at the ultrasound live. A sinking feeling set in. My spouse tried to be optimistic, suggesting that perhaps I was having twins.
No such luck.
What I was having was an ectopic pregnancy. My six-week old embryo had implanted in my left fallopian tube. An emergency laparoscopy was set up that evening. Our surgeon was very good, in that he allowed my spouse and I considerable time alone while he prepared for surgery. I wept. In the end, I wanted it over with. I didn’t want to be pregnant if there was no chance for it.
After the surgery, I was put in a surgery overflow room…down the hall from the maternity ward. I shared the room with three elder women. The next morning, I heard them talking to the nurses about “all the babies” who had been born the previous night. I remember one nurse declaring, “It’s Baby Season!” That hurt so much. I don’t think they knew. They didn’t think. I was grateful for the curtains separating me from the rest of the room, because I wept.
It was decided I could be discharged from the hospital that day or wait until our surgeon was back on the Sunday. I chose the early discharge. Before I was discharged the Head Nurse mentioned something about me having my tube removed during the surgery. Of course, I had known that was a possibility; it was on the surgical waiver I had signed. However, no one had told me they had had to remove it. I was shocked. When the doctor came to discharge me, I heard him talking to the Head Nurse outside the room. She told him, “She doesn’t know they removed the tube.”
This knowledge added an extra bit of trauma to an already traumatic experience. My left tube was gone. It had partially ruptured. My embryo-baby and one of my tubes were gone.
I left the hospital to a new job (talk about poor timing) and pain from the staples under my stomach. It turned out that the surgeon had planned on removing the staples on Sunday. Instead, I ended up having them in for two or three weeks until I found a physician in our new city who removed them. (I found out about the plan to remove the staples when I phoned the surgeon sometime later to get more information about the whole pregnancy/surgery for my peace of mind.)
In the months of grief that followed, I did a number of creative things to grieve. One thing I did was name the baby: Dorian Crescent. Another thing I did was type up a death announcement, print it out, and send it to family and friends. I needed others to know, needed to share this moment, needed support (especially as we were in a new city where we knew no one). I wrote poetry about the loss. I also looked up images online of embryos at the same stage as my lost embryo and experimented with watercolours. Here are a couple of the paintings I did:
(This first picture was used in the death announcement.)
(This picture was an experiment in the form of the embryo and the expression of emotions via colour.)
During this time, I did a lot of soul-searching. I had considered myself pro-choice up until this point. This loss made me question that position. I viewed this embryo as my baby from very early on. With that being the case, could I be okay with abortion? In the end, I remained pro-choice. I had many reasons for remaining thus.
I didn’t have much choice in the termination of this pregnancy, though. End the pregnancy or let the tube fully rupture and let me bleed to death internally? There is no fairness in that kind of choice.
I still believe women have the right to choose whether to allow a pregnancy to develop, regardless whether they made mistakes in getting pregnant or whether they were raped or whether their birth control failed or whatever reason they have. Seeing restrictions pass on abortion throughout the States this past year has filled me with dread, especially as the goal for politicians seems to be to abolish abortion in all cases. This issue is complicated, no doubt about it. Women can have another living being develop and grow within them. It is an amazing, terrifying, and powerful thing. Who gets to choose how it goes?
The thing about choice is that it’s not just one choice. Some women choose abortion. Some women choose to go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. Some women choose to go through with the pregnancy, give birth, and raise the baby. Some women choose to live because the baby is not viable and/or is not going to develop and grow.
As painful as it was, as sad as it still makes me feel as I type these words about my lost Dorian, abortion saved my life.