It was a girl. The call I was expecting came on a wintery afternoon in early 2013. At 12 weeks pregnant, the results of our fancy cell-free DNA test had come back: no genetic defects, no Down syndrome, and no Y chromosome. I knew it was a girl before the nurse said the words, but I still squealed with delight and called my husband in a fit of excitement.
“It’s a girl! I’m so happy. We’re getting our girl!”
Except we weren’t. At 17 weeks and 4 days, I woke up with a bad feeling. My pajamas were wet, and my heart was racing. Something was wrong.
I couldn’t understand what was happening as we walked into the ER that morning. My water had broken, and there was nothing to do but wait. My doctor put me on bed rest for three days and scheduled an appointment for the following Tuesday. My husband cried as we stared at the ultrasound of our tiny baby, but I watched blankly. I couldn’t connect to the moment I was in. This wasn’t happening to us. Everything was going to be fine.
I went home and continued business as usual. I started knitting a blanket for a friend who was also pregnant. I saved freezer meal recipes on Pinterest. I read Bringing Up Bebe cover to cover.
I was fully enmeshed in denial the morning of our follow-up appointment, but as we drove to the hospital, I felt a crack in my armor. Just as I knew she was a girl before anyone told me, I knew she was leaving me too. The ultrasound confirmed it a few minutes later. She was still alive, but she wouldn’t be for much longer.
Much of the next 24 hours is blocked from my memory, but I remember a doctor hugging me, a decision to induce labor, and being led down a long hallway into a birthing suite. I changed into a gown and sat on the bed in what my husband described as a catatonic state. When the OB nurse came in, she chatted pleasantly as if ours with like any other birth. She took my blood pressure and made small talk. When her voice rose in a small laugh, the crack in my armor broke open like a flooding dam. I lost it completely, ran into the bathroom, and locked the door behind me. I sat on the floor and cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.
My midwife showed up not long after, and it was decided that I couldn’t handle giving birth to a dying child. A D&E was scheduled for the next day. Weeks later, we received the insurance statement from the hospital stay. There, in the plainest term possible was the description of my surgery:
How dare they, I thought. Abortions are for people who consider their babies a mistake, who didn’t plan for them, didn’t want them, and took steps to get rid of them. I lost my daughter, I did NOT abort her!
Then it hit me: Yes, I did. I did abort her. Together with my husband and doctors, we considered the medical facts and my emotional state and made a decision. D&C, D&E, abortion: In my case, they all meant the same thing. I didn’t feel guilty in that moment; I felt relieved. Thank God I had the choice. Thank God I live in a post-Roe vs. Wade time where I could say, “Please don’t make me do this,” and it was heard and respected.
And why? Because I know that if I had been forced to get off that hospital floor and give birth to my daughter, I would be a different person today. I would be harder, more timid and sadder. I would still mourn daily. I wouldn’t be the happy mother I am to my 7-month-old son. For every woman who simply never wanted kids in the first place, there’s also one who is too young, has no money or partner, is working on her education, or like me, couldn’t bear to see the fragile being she desperately wanted.
For most of us, the decision to abort doesn’t limit our ability to be a loving mother in the future—it defines it. Yes, I am a mother, a damn good one. And yes, I had an abortion.