I Had An Abortion On The Same Night RBG Died — Here's My Story

by Amy Schwartz
Originally Published: 
Boris Jovanovic/Getty

At 11:00AM, I took the first dose of medication that would begin my abortion.

At 7:45PM, as the first drops of blood began to flow, my husband came running into our room. “RBG is dead.

I have always been pro-choice. I never wanted to have an abortion.

I am in my mid-thirties. I have two children. Daughters. I love them intensely. They are smart, funny, beautiful. I do not know what I would have done without them the last six months since the pandemic began. They are the reason I get out of bed in the morning and the reason I remember to eat and remember how to smile.

My first pregnancy was easy. I was exhausted but everything else was fine. I was pregnant during the 2016 campaign, not quite three months on November 8th. I sat in silence during the town hall forum when Trump said that women who had “abortions should be punished,” during the debate when he claimed that doctors were “ripping babies from their mothers’ wombs days before birth.” I bawled my eyes out on election night, a combination of horror and hormones. I attended the New York Women’s March and the Tax March. Three days before the baby was born, Jim Comey was fired. I watched MSNBC during my induction of labor.

I brought my daughter to her first political rally when she was six weeks old. By her first birthday, she’d been to four. I dressed her as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her first Halloween.

We decided to have another baby when our first was close to two. This pregnancy was different from the first. The complications were unending. The anxiety started in the second trimester. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t have the energy to run after my two-year-old. The news of the “family separation policy” really troubled me. The depression set in. I lost thirty pounds. I had Gestational Diabetes. I had a milk bleb on my nipple; wearing a shirt was excruciating. I had hypertension. My thighs were bruised from the insulin injections. I was positive for Group B Strep. My husband was at his wit’s end, cooking, cleaning our tiny apartment, working full time, volunteering, and trying to start his own business. The day I went in for my induction, thirty-eight weeks on the dot, I broke something trying to make my toddler breakfast. I was scared and shaking. I thought I was going to die.

My birth plan was simple, a single sentence: Do not cut me without my permission. I thought this was a reaction to the episiotomy I had in my first delivery. It turned out to be a premonition. After forty two hours of labor, I called it. I’d been jostled, scraped, poked and prodded. At hour nine, I had the epidural placed. By the time I reached ten centimeters, I couldn’t feel anything, so they turned it off. I pushed for several hours with no medication, the doctor’s hands inside my body trying to “reduce a cervical lip.” I was exhausted and confused and it was clear that the baby wasn’t coming out. I asked for the c-section. We had to wait until the pain medication was working again. I was terrified. They discovered that the baby’s head had been at an angle. No amount of pushing would have brought her out. They put her next to my face and I looked at her for the first time. I didn’t know her like I did when I first met her sister. Her father held this tiny tiny baby as they sewed me up. I was sobbing.

The baby’s head was compressed. They didn’t know if this was due to the length of labor or anencephaly. She was taken from me for an ultrasound of her skull. I barely held her. She’s fine now.

I shared my maternity room with five other women and their babies. Four of them were ultra-Orthodox Jews. A semi-private room is normal in New York. You’re supposed to have one roommate. I lucked out. I had lost a lot of blood in surgery. I had a transfusion. I couldn’t feel my left leg. I was told this was not uncommon and feeling would come back as the swelling went down. I had no feeling in my leg for ten weeks. I couldn’t walk for ten weeks and nobody knows why.

I found a psychopharmacologist. My body doesn’t tolerate SSRIs anymore, after being on them for most of my teens and half of my twenties, so I was put on an antipsychotic. The first one I was on caused hives so bad I wanted to scratch my skin off. I couldn’t take my baby to her first pediatrician appointment, or her second. At my six-week postpartum appointment, I declined the depression screening. What was the point? I was already in treatment. The doctor looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was a danger to myself or others. “No,” I said, “I’m just really sad.”

At the end of the appointment, she advised me not to have another baby.

During that appointment, I made a joke. I don’t remember what it was, but the doctor told me I was funny. “Thanks,” I said. “I’m a comedy writer.”

I had forgotten. I had forgotten that I am an award-winning playwright and theatre producer with work in four countries. I had forgotten that I have a Master’s Degree. I had forgotten that I’m an expert skier, a great baker, was once a competitive swimmer, a lay expert in the Tudor dynasty. I had forgotten everything except that I was a mom and I was scared out of my mind.

I got through seven months of breastfeeding kicking and screaming, in combination with formula. My husband has had to do all the overnights with both children since December because the medication I’m on knocks me out. He’s amazing but there are only so many sleepless nights a person can handle before they break.

When the baby was four months old, the pandemic hit and we left our home in New York for the family ski house. We’re now living with my mother, stepfather, and brother. This has advantages and disadvantages. In the last few months, thanks in large part to the support of my family, I’ve started to come out of the depression. A few weeks ago, I was even feeling a little sexy.

Last month, our condom failed. I drove the forty minutes to the closest pharmacy and bought the last package of Plan B on the shelf. Whether because I am overweight or, more probably because I had already ovulated, it didn’t work.

In the two weeks between this accidental conception and my abortion, Ted Cruz tweeted that “pregnancy is not a life threatening condition. Mifeprex does not cure or prevent any disease.” Another pregnancy would be life threatening for me. I could have a stroke. I could go into insulin shock. I could become suicidal. If I die, what happens to my little girls? What will my husband do? How will my mother cope? My brother? My father? My grandparents? I have people who count on me.

Sunday my car broke down pulling out of the Walmart parking lot. The pregnancy test was in the trunk. Monday morning the test came back positive. I took a shower. I cried. I thought. I talked to my husband. Things crystalized. My husband and I agreed. We would love to have another baby. We could figure out another baby. If the stork dropped one on our doorstep, neither of us would mind one iota. But I cannot have another pregnancy.

I called the local Planned Parenthood. “Hello,” I said, “I am four weeks and one day pregnant and I don’t want to be. Can you help me?”

Thank God, they said yes.

The first appointment they had was Friday. Rosh Hashanah. I was planning a big family dinner, but I could make most everything in advance. And somehow it felt appropriate. I could go into the new year without fearing that my name would be scrubbed from the Book of Life. I don’t think I’ve ever met a rabbi who would disagree with my decision. In Judaism, an abortion is required if it will save the life of the pregnant person.

So I took the medication Cruz tweeted about instead of passing laws that would help people whose livelihoods have disappeared because of COVID-19. I hoped that Trump won’t find a way to have me “punished.” I mourned for the women ignored by the GOP forced to undergo unnecessary hysterectomies at ICE camps. I curled up in bed, put on The West Wing, and worked on the blanket I’m crocheting for my baby’s first birthday.

And Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.

What will happen to my daughters?

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