My Baby Had A Very Rare Fatal Birth Defect, And I Had To Have An Abortion
I don’t like to think of my pregnancy loss as an abortion, so I refer to it as my miscarriage.
The loss of my baby came with me having to live through complex decisions. It came with trying to get different opinions that lead to the same conclusion to all the doctors I talked to: “The baby has such a severe problem that he won’t make it once he’s born, if he’s born, and if you continue with this pregnancy it will be considered a high risk pregnancy, which can be life threatening, and extinguish the possibility for you to have more children.”
My pregnancy loss was accompanied by lots of different doctors wanting to create videos of the sonogram every time they heard the diagnosis: Limb Body Wall Complex (a condition characterized by congenital abnormalities that are considered fatal to a fetus). So rare is what happened to us that doctors were mesmerized (if that’s the appropriate word for this) by what they saw. One doctor politely asked me if he could create a video because, as he said: “I’ve only seen this in textbooks.”
That only made it a harder pill to swallow. Why would something so rare happen to me? Why would I have to live through this? What did I do to deserve this? And why does this happen?
I don’t have any of the answers to those questions, even though I ask myself nearly every day: Why?
I remember saying that I would personally never abort, but that I supported abortion. I never in a million years considered marching or supporting abortion beyond my words and I definitely never thought I would have to face the situation myself. In my private and very silly inner chatter I was a “responsible” woman and abortion only happened to teenage girls who made mistakes. I now realize how wrong I was, and I’m appalled at my own ignorance.
Abortion seemed like such a foreign concept to me. For me, this is connected with my Latina upbringing. There is a hint of shame and guilt inside of me, even though I really had no option, that’s how tattooed is my Latin upbringing. Little did I know at the moment that I blurted those stupid words that weeks after I would have to abort, and that my life could depend on it.
And although I always supported women’s rights, secretly, abortion was something foreign to my life. I repeat, I can’t believe how wrong I was, and I now ask forgiveness to all the women who I left behind when I didn’t fully support abortion rights.
But back to those dark days. I had so many questions, and since I had to go through the ultrasound three times, curiosity always got the best of me. At the second ultrasound, by a fetal expert, I entered and told the guy: “I know you are not supposed to tell me what’s wrong until the doctor comes, but I need you to be completely emotionally detached from me. Tell me, the way you would tell a student, what you are seeing…”
The poor guy had to see me cry every time he pointed something wrong, in what I slowly realized was never going to be a breathing and living baby. Unless I decided I was going to take a risk and have this baby, I was never going to hold it in my arms, and if I could get a chance of holding it, this baby would die in hours under tremendous suffering.
It was one of those things in life that had no good outcome. Both roads were equally painful, perhaps one less painful than the other, but painful nonetheless. The day came that I had to say bye but the hits kept coming. The first hit was the bill: $1000 for the procedure. Abortions are not covered by insurance in Florida because society prefers that women be heroes. I quickly learned this was the modos operandus of society. People repeated over and over again: I should risk myself and have this baby, even though I could die, even if the baby will suffer.
The second hit was the Florida law which obliges you to undergo an ultrasound before the abortion, and receive state-directed counseling designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion. I had to sit once again, and see my baby, who I was spiritually saying goodbye to already, and who would never be. I had to feel guilt and shame, to feel like an evil person for what I was about to do. Everyone in the clinic knew how absurd this was, but no one could do anything because the law is the law.
The last hit was the judgment. Initially from me and my own pre-conceptions, but also from others and their comments. So harsh was the judgment that I decided the best way to punish myself was to stop eating. From the moment I found out, I had to face family members and friends and their opinions on what I should do and feel. Although most of them supported me, I had to listen to some tell me their absurd thoughts — and I say absurd, because I now realized how crazy it is that as women we are judged with a sharp sword, no room for mistakes and an obligation to be heroes in stories that we don’t want to live through.
The comments started weeks after I lost the baby:
Let me pray for the soul of the baby, because the energy of an abortion is the worst energy.
You should have the baby. If you want, I will take care of it.
Don’t abort. Maybe the doctors are wrong, and God will heal this baby.
Or the usual: You already have kids, this shouldn’t be so hard…
There is truly no sense of compassion for a loss this big, not because people are bad, but mostly because abortion and pregnancy loss is so taboo in our society. We never think it could ever happen to us, in part because we don’t see people around us talking about their own losses.
I found myself facing a fork in the road: I had the option to go into a dark cycle of self-harm, and allow all these words hurt me even more, or I could be compassionate to myself, love myself and pull myself back one step at a time.
What took me out of the shame, guilt, and sadness was my brother and his loving words before I had to do the procedure. I had asked him, “Do you think I should have the baby, and let life decide?” My brother replied, “You always want to be a hero. Right now you don’t have to be a hero. There are no heroes in this story.”
Those words carried me through and slowly I pulled myself back together. I started eating again and I sought help. I decided I was not going to let this situation take me down. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what could’ve been. I feel sad that I lost my baby, that we had to say that final goodbye. But if there’s something I can learn from this, it’s that abortion is never black or white. We must support women who are going through traumatic losses with the compassion of humans of a more advanced future and not a closed and retrograde past.