Today I woke up with a pit in my stomach. You know, that twisted feeling of nerves that takes over your whole body. I couldn't shake it. I listened to Obama's "Fired up, Ready to go" speech on repeat while I got ready, then dragged Joe out of bed early. I wanted to allow myself plenty of time to drop him off at daycare, get downtown, park, and figure out where I was going.
I found a spot in a parking garage a few blocks away and read through my speech one last time alone in my car. When I practiced the night before, I was averaging about a 50/50 chance of crying, but this morning I felt different. I still got chocked up, but there was a rush of adrenaline that wasn't there before.
As I walked up to the State Capitol building, it seemed bigger and more prominent than I ever remember it looking. I had been there a few times when I helped do some marketing for the State, but I never stopped to really admire it.
I followed a group of grade school kids on a field trip through the front door and into the security line. They must have been around 7 or 8 years old and they all wore cute green and white plaid uniforms. Three little girls stood directly in front of me holding hands, and I couldn't help but feel the irony. There I was, about to give a speech about women's reproductive rights, and here were three little girls with their entire reproductive futures still ahead of them.
The fact is, 1 in 3 women in this country will have an abortion.
Once I got through security, I walked up the big marble steps to the 2nd floor and was greeted by my in-laws who had driven in from Indiana to support me. In a room full of cold politicians dressed in perfectly pressed suits, it felt so good to see familiar faces. My sister, sister-in-law, her friend and James arrived shortly after. It meant so much to me to have them there.
The press conference started and the Director of Planned Parenthood gave an overview of the program, then handed it over to two of the sponsors for a quick word. Then, I was up.
I can't even describe the mix of emotions I felt. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be, but I was much more emotional. It was a rush. All of the positive support I've received over the past couple months flooded my brain and I actually felt somewhat confident. And in a weird way, I was proud. I was there for Grace.
I knew getting to the part where I said her name was going to be the most difficult. I tried to brace myself for it, but it didn't help. The second her name fell out of my mouth, my eyes filled with tears and my voice started to crack. I couldn't help it. I should be saying my daughter's name to her sweet face as she snuggles against my chest, not in a speech about abortion. I made eye contact with James and with one quick nod of reassurance, I kept going. The rest of the speech was a blur, but I pretty much had it memorized so it flowed easily.
When it was over, I took a deep breath. I wanted to lay down in fetal position and just sob, but I went back into my survivor self and shook hands with the media. It seemed like everyone had tears in their eyes, too. One of the sponsors from the National Council of Jewish Women came over with her husband and gave me a hug. I learned that their story is very similar to ours, but theirs happened 18 years ago on this very day. More irony.
She told us she became a women's rights activist shortly after their loss, and I saw so much of myself in her as she spoke. Her and her husband were so kind and supportive, and we talked for a long time then exchanged numbers. She said she was headed to Washington, DC in May and asked if I would join her to share my story. I don't have details yet, but I told her I was 100% in.
After all, I'm an activist now.
Photos by Nashville's News Channel 5.