In 1988, Ronald Reagan declared that October was to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. He said, "When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
My son Jonathan was delivered on 8/14/20, at just 14 weeks and 4 days gestational age.
Words have power, and language is important. Society has a tendency to place more weight and value on some terms, even when other phrases have the exact same meaning. And that is why I'm writing this blog post today - because if nobody ever talks about it, then nobody can ever learn about it. Knowledge and understanding are stronger than words alone.
I had a second trimester abortion, and this is what you need to know.
My baby had a chromosomal abnormality that was not compatible with life, a random genetic anomaly that could happen to anyone… and my husband and I made the hardest choice anyone might ever have to make - We chose to terminate our pregnancy.
Choices like these need to be made by families and their doctors, not politicians and lawyers with no medical training. In the state of Michigan, an abortion can legally be performed until 24 weeks of gestational age.
On Friday August 14, 2020 I had a second trimester abortion. It was a surgical procedure, done at the hospital under general anesthesia. I bled for another three weeks afterwards as my body tried to recover from giving birth. The hospital needed two weeks for additional testing before the remains were sent to the funeral home. Jonathan was cremated on 9/1/20, and his remains were returned to us. We now have a certificate with his name on it and a small memory box next to his ashes on our mantle.
We made this choice because we knew it was what was best for our family. We made this choice because we knew the consequences of our son’s condition - both for him and for those who would have to care for him. I made this choice so I could continue being the mother my other children need.
The doctors say there was only a 1 in 146 chance of this happening... It was just one of those little mistakes that nature sometimes makes, like the extra leaf on a four leaf clover. He existed. He was wanted. He was loved. I carried him for 14 weeks and 4 days, but I was never able to hold him.
And as painful as it was to choose, I’m still glad I was able to make the choice.
It's been nearly 8 weeks now since my surgery. I'm okay. My body has mostly recovered, but things are still just a little bit out-of-whack. I have bled nearly every day for the last 64 days. My milk came in 4 days after my procedure, to the delight of my toddler who still nurses a few times a day. He wasn't fond of the salty colostrum my body had started producing. I had been looking forward to tandem nursing.
No matter what the text books may say, hormones take a while to normalize just as they would with any pregnancy and postpartum period. And yes, my body has been going through a postpartum period.
Mentally and emotionally, it's always going to be sad. But I also know that I made the best choice for myself and my family.
The truth is that it's a shitty choice for anyone to ever have to make, but that's why it's so important to have options and choices available to women. And being able to advocate for that, and tell my story, helps make it feel like maybe something good can come out of this whole experience.
If telling my story can help just one person understand why safe medical abortion needs to remain legal, then his life and death will have meaning.