Wednesday, October 26, 2016

the debates aftermath

It's been a week since the 3rd Presidential Debate...which means it's been a week since I first heard Donald Trump's words, "In the 9th month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby."

This was the first debate that I didn't watch live. I had actually gone out that night with some girlfriends to a comedy show which turned out to be a really fun (and much needed) evening.

Well, the second I got back into my car after the show, I looked at my phone and my heart sank. I had a million notifications -- texts from friends asking if I was okay, news alerts, and Facebook notifications from my women's rights advocacy groups. It took a minute to put it all together, but I quickly realized that late-term abortion was a topic discussed during the debate. I turned off my phone and decided to table the inevitable until I was home.

After my own 2nd trimester abortion, the pro-choice/pro-life debate has become indescribably difficult to listen to and/or participate in. And I'm not talking about the typical "I'm right, you're wrong" kind of heated arguments that come with the territory of these controversial topics... I'm talking about a feeling that consumes my entire body. A feeling that nobody could ever understand unless they have lived through what I've lived through.

I hear the word abortion and my grief (the same grief that I've shoved in the back of my head just to survive each day) erupts back up from the depths of my body. I have to fight every urge not to crumble to the floor and cry and ask God all over again why this happened to us. Why we are now part of the statistic. Why our daughter's death is being discussed on a public platform.

My heart starts pounding, my hands start sweating, and my protective, inner momma-bear starts raging out of me. I just want to fight on behalf of my daughter. I want to make her proud. I want to scream that our choice was the best choice for us. I want them to really understand it all -- that being "pro-life with an exception" isn't really pro-life, it's pro-choice. That their Republican vote means my daughter would have had to suffer and I could have lost my own life. That while they claim to have socially liberal but fiscally conservative views, their Republican vote STILL MEANS that they are supporting Republican pro-life policies.

And then, my anger sinks in. Angry at the idiot arguing the other side. Angry that they are allowed to make ridiculous statements based off of inaccurate information. Angry that they think they have the right to an opinion without living through what I've lived through. Angry that my biggest heartbreak, the biggest life-changing moment of my life, is a just another topic callously discussed by politicians to win popular votes.

I take it very personally because it is extremely personal to me. It's just not fair. It's been 43 years since the Roe vs. Wade case, yet here we are, going backwards.

I sat in bed sweating and finally mustered up enough courage to press play. I actually considered not watching it at all, but I knew I wouldn't be able to escape it. I figured it was better to watch it alone in the privacy of my bedroom where I could safely feel all the feels. And honestly, I'm glad I did.

I went through the typical wave of abortion debate feelings. At first it took my breath away, like taking a blow to the stomach. I had to rewind it to really grasp what was coming out of his mouth. And then, I cried. Like really, really let it all go and sobbed for about an hour. All I could think about was how millions of uneducated Americans were going to start thinking that his words were true.

At about 11:30 pm I tried to erase it all from my mind and go to sleep. But instead, I started experiencing panic attacks. Since I'm pregnant, I wasn't able to have a glass of wine or take a large sleeping pill to shake I just laid there with those words circling in my mind: You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb.

At about 3 am I decided to get out of bed for a change of scenery. I went downstairs and checked in with my private online support group, Ending a Wanted Pregnancy, and was surprised to see that nobody else was sleeping, either. The feed was filled with my fellow loss moms trying to wrap their heads around it all, too. They were grieving and angry right alongside me.

The next morning, late-term abortion made headlines. The media had a field day. I called in sick just to emotionally deal with it all and attempted to catch up on sleep. I received a few requests to share my story from some of the advocacy groups I belong to, but I felt too paralyzed to do anything.

It's been a week since the debate. 1 week to absorb and internalize everything that I've heard and read. At first, I was devastated that late-term abortion was even discussed, forcing me to keep reliving the loss of my daughter. But then, a few days after the debate, something really profound happened -- the women who have walked in my shoes started speaking up. Articles started flooding in from women who have actually had late-term abortions. Women in my support group, many whom have never even shared their stories with family, started sharing their abortion stories on social media. It's like we all banded together and the media started debunking Trump's words and pointing out the lies around his statements.

And just to clarify what lies I'm referring to, here are some facts about late-term abortion:

  • Partial-birth abortion does not exist. The procedure is called late-term abortion.
  • Late-term abortion only accounts for 1.3% of all abortions in America.
  • In order to receive a late-term abortion, you need to provide medical test results, amnio results, and/or ultra-sounds to proove that you or your baby are at risk. So no, you cannot just decide in the late months of pregnancy that you don't want to have your healthy baby and get an abortion.
  • There is only 1 doctor in the entire country who performs abortions in dire circumstances in the later weeks of pregnancy and he is in Colorado. There are NO doctors in this country that will perform a late-term abortion after 36 weeks, or as Trump claimed, "In the 9th month."
  • After 24 weeks, most late-term abortions are performed by administering a shot to stop the baby's heart, followed by the mother going through full labor and delivery to deliver her stillborn baby. There is no ripping from the womb in the 9th month. That is called a c-section.

It is pretty rare for politicians to specifically discuss late-term abortion. It's usually a broader conversation about abortion and the pro-life/pro-choice stance in general. And while Trump's words were hurtful, offensive, and completely inaccurate, he didn't say anything that the Republican party hasn't been voicing, standing by and voting bills against for years. He just said them in a public forum and reignited the conversation. And while it might sound crazy, I think I'm thankful now for his absurdity. The 1.3% of women who have actually experienced late-term abortions finally have a voice.

So all I can do at this point is continue to spread the truth by writing, speaking and supporting women's rights advocacy groups. And as for Hillary, while you have the right to love her or hate her, she defended me. She defended my daughter, Grace. She defended all of us grieving moms that have had to make the heartbreaking decision to end our wanted pregnancies. 

"The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heart breaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, gotten the worst news one can get -- that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term, or that something terrible has happened or has just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions." 
- Hillary Clinton

Monday, October 10, 2016

it could always be worse

About 3 weeks ago, I woke up and was barely able to walk. I had been experiencing some pelvic pain for about a week prior to that, but tried to brush it off as ordinary pregnancy aches and pains. Well, that particular morning was excruciating -- I couldn't take a step without tears rolling down my face. I called in sick at work and immediately called my doctor. After describing my symptoms over the phone (painful bone grinding/clicking when I walk, inability to get in and out of my car and a severe tearing pain between my legs) she immediately referred me to a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic pain.

After one session, I was told that I likely have Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), which is a condition caused by too much relaxin in the body. Relaxin is a hormone that opens up the pelvis right before delivery, but some people produce too much too soon causing the pelvis bones to become too loose. Because of this, my doctor said my right hip was about a half inch higher than my left which is causing the tearing feeling. The good news, though, is that it doesn't affect the baby at all.

I had quite a bit of pelvic pain towards the end of pregnancy with Joe, and after delivery I remember my lower back being in severe pain for months and the bones in my feet hurt until I stopped nursing at about 9 months. I didn't put any of it together, but apparently if you have it your first pregnancy, it's significantly worse and starts earlier in subsequent pregnancies. SPD can get so severe that some women are put on bed rest from it.

My physiotherapist told me that adjustments, exercises and physical therapy can really help alleviate some of the pain, but I would have to commit and put in the time. (Ah yes, time. I have so much of that...) So for the past 3 weeks, I have been going to physiotherapy for 1 hr 3x a week. James has helped a lot by picking up the slack at home & rearranging his schedule so I can attend my therapy sessions. I've been doing all of my daily exercises, wearing a maternity belt and icing like a crazy person. Thankfully, it's working. The pain has been much more manageable and I'm having a lot more good days than bad. I'm praying the progress continues.

The funny thing is, the biggest struggle from all of this hasn't been the physical pain, it's been the guilt. I am trying really really hard to not complain or even mention the pain, because I'm just grateful that I am still pregnant. I've wanted this so badly that I feel like I've lost the right to complain that it's hard. Because the reality is, I'd much rather be 26 weeks pregnant and in pain than not pregnant at all. So the second I ask James for help or I tell him the pain is too bad to cook dinner or help put Joe to bed that night, I just feel defeated. I should be able to handle this. I've handled a lot worse.

And then, those 2 short sentences consume me once again:

Just be grateful. It could always be worse.

I know it could always be much, much worse. Even in my darkest hour, it could be worse. I know that it's probably ridiculous that I'm even sharing all of this in a blog post. But I thought that maybe someone else out there could relate...maybe someone who's also struggling with the weight and pressures that those two sentences carry (because they do carry a LOT of pressure).

Please, know you aren't alone. The struggle is real and your feelings are valid. You can complain and still feel grateful. You can want something so badly and be over it at the same time. You can struggle and feel defeated about something that is going well. Yes, it can always be worse, but this shit is still hard. (At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself).

James wanted to recreate this picture we took during Joe's pregnancy. 
Joe at 26 weeks on the left, little sister at 26 weeks on the right.