Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Statement On the Upcoming Election

This one goes out to all those I have seen recently who have been stating that they will not vote for the "lesser of two evils". That they will "follow their conscience" and throw their support to a candidate that cannot, and will not, win the Presidency.

I, too, plan to vote my conscience this coming election. In the twenty-eight years I've been casting a vote in Presidential elections, I have only voted major party twice - for Dukakis in my first, and for Obama in my last. Every other vote I've cast, every single one, has been for a third-party candidate.

Not this time.

There is currently one Supreme Court vacancy. There will absolutely be at least one other, and perhaps more, over the next few years. And put simply, I categorically refuse to allow any Republican the opportunity to appoint, and sit, a judge who will not uphold the current laws as outlined in Roe v Wade at a bare minimum. Lest you forget, RvW already has restrictions on late-term abortions. Not once have I seen HRC state a position on the subject that in any way implies that she is willing to extend the restrictions already in place. Nor do I believe she will nominate a judge who will.

I've also seen a fair amount of accusations about those who rely on their privilege to justify their decision to throw their vote away... and make no mistake, it will be a throw-away vote, accomplishing exactly nothing. As much as I hate the system we currently live under, that hatred does not change the simple fact that there are not even close to enough voters out there to make any third-party candidate electable. But again... your right, one I myself utilized for decades. Have at it.

But as far as those accusations of privilege go... every one of you deserves to be called out, hard, for the actions you take that are, absolutely, based upon your certainty that any adverse consequences will not affect you in any major way. It won't be your head on the chopping block, you tell yourself - and as long as you can be fairly confident that you will walk away with nothing more than a few bumps and bruises, it's all good.

I don't have that luxury. I haven't had that luxury since the day I lay on a delivery table, bleeding out, defibrillator paddles slapped to my chest to restart my stopped heart. Not since the day my fatally deformed daughter was delivered dead on arrival, and nearly took me with her.

Because of exactly those people who stand to make those vital appointments to our Supreme Court, who fully intend to alter the makeup enough to further tighten the restrictions that already have enough power to allow a hospital to neglect my care in favor of "saving" a fetus who could not, in any world, be saved.

No, I do not have your privilege. I bled and died for the principles I stand for now. I cannot, in good conscience, allow a single, solitary human being to risk what I did. And for the record, that includes those commenting who, by virtue of their innate biology, do risk that situation, whether they are willing to believe it or not.

I'm not going to waste my time begging you to change your minds. You have every right to vote however you choose, and that includes throwing your vote away for the satisfaction of throwing a big middle finger to the establishment. Enjoy it... no one knows better than I what a wonderful feeling it is, for those few short moments. And quite honestly, I'm really not that worried about your votes anyway. I don't actually believe you make a significant enough percentage to have any real bearing on the outcome of this election.

I, however, will vote my conscience. And if I'm wrong, if it's you who tip the balance and put people in office who stack the courts, and cause the preventable deaths of wives and mothers by the tens of thousands over the next twenty, thirty, forty years...

I will be the one with the clear conscience. It won't be of much consolation, as I mourn those who pay for your intransigence...

But it will be at least one straw I can cling to, and for me, that's enough.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Conversations on Human Rights

I received a message today from a woman who stated she was a pro-life feminist, after commenting on a post she made on Facebook - one that was taken down immediately after my comment, or I would include it. I thought I would post both the message and my response here.

V. S.

Hi Jennie- Thank-you for your comment to my post. I sensed it best to message you as my hope in posting the comment was to simply bring overdue, and loving, attention to the children in the womb who need our protection as well as to mothers in need, including, post abortive mothers. I don't plan to engage in public debate now, although, that can be good.

There can be no debate, today though, that a child in the womb is simply that; a child in his or her earliest stages of life. Human DNA is present at conception. You and I; we were that earliest stage. An abortion kills a child. Just as the law protects children from parents killing their children, so it should with regards to abortion. I am sure my own children have caused me psychological stress over and over; children tend to do that as does love). I am sure I've caused them psychological stress! However, that gives me no right to take their lives and vice-versa. Maybe a parent in stress can get help to have their child(ren) cared for and-or adopted.

It is rare that a woman will lose her life during her pregnancy today with the benefit of medical technology, however and especially because this can occur, it is important to define this. For example, in etopic pregnancy both a mother and child can lose their life. Also, a good friend of mine was five months pregnant and it was discovered that her baby was attached to her uterus an, that, my friend could hemorrhage with a likelihood of death if she carried her baby to term. My friend sacrificed and went into the hospital where she stayed until her baby was able to be delivered prematurely through surgery. Today both she and her son are well and more than thriving.

Please know that I, too, am post abortive and it wasn't until I found the healing in a loving God I'm growing to know through that part of God who is forgiveness and mercy and so much more, Jesus, that I was able to truly begin my healing process and, yet, there is still grief that I took the life of my unborn children. I accept that grief today along with the love and forgiveness of our Creator. Many women become pro-abortion, adamantly, because the pain and grief of the abortion(s) they've experienced is too great to bear and, somehow, making abortion legal can, for some of us, make it seemingly ok then, on the outside, but it is the inside of us women which bears the pain, truth, and loss. Thanks again for taking the time to read my post.

J. F.

Okay, first of all, you need to know that I am in no way post-abortive, having never HAD the procedure. On only one occasion did I seek an abortion. It was denied. My (of necessity) final pregnancy resulted in an anencephalic daughter - she was diagnosed at 28 weeks, at which point my doctor recommended an immediate termination, due to the risk of carrying four times the normal amount of amniotic fluid in this pregnancy. The hospital board denied his request, and I was informed I would carry my fatally damaged child to term and deliver naturally. During that delivery, my water broke, and as my doctor had predicted, tore my uterus to shreds. As a result, I spent the next two weeks in an ICU. I coded twice. I required six pints of blood to replace what was pouring out of my body, and my uterus was removed.

By the way, I'd like to point out that every one of those "rare" pregnancies that result in severe complications represents a real human being - a wife, a mother, a sister, daughter, best friend. I've always wondered at the pro-life mindset that is unwilling to accept the death of so much as one single unborn child - but has no issue dismissing the preventable deaths of thousands of women each year, and the permanent injury to hundreds of thousands more. Perhaps it's merely a question of whether one supports ALL human life, or only supports human lives before birth. Even when those lives will end before birth even occurs, or end in immediate death by suffocation after delivery.

I know no one who disputes that a fertilized egg is the initial beginning of every human life on earth. The dispute comes when one tries to determine which life has the highest value and must therefore be sustained at all costs. For the pro-life side, the unborn fetus owns this ultimate value - no life currently being lived by any person on earth is more valuable than the one in the womb, regardless of developmental stage or ability to sustain life after birth. Even when that unborn child will, with absolute certainty, not survive birth, it must be the sole priority, and any lives lost in the effort to effect the natural delivery of that child are considered to be an acceptable price to pay. For the pro-choice side, a proven viable life, i.e., one already born and self-sustaining, takes precedence over one still unproven.

In truth, the impassable divide between the two points of view comes down to one simple issue - a pro-choice individual believes that the choice to risk one's life must ALWAYS be made by the person whose life stands on the line, and is willing to give their full support no matter what choice is made. They would no more fault a woman who decides to deliver a child that has the potential to cause the woman's death or personal injury, than they would fault a woman who decides that she is not willing to face that risk. The pro-life individual tells women that they WILL face that risk, and will be given no option otherwise, nor will any mitigating circumstances be considered. In my opinion, such dictatorial behavior cannot be supported.

In no other realm of human existence do we require a person to risk their life or health for any reason - this is why the draft has been illegal for nearly half a century.  In no other realm is a person required to provide biological support to sustain another person's life - this is why we are not allowed to require people to donate blood or bone marrow, and why we need written permission to remove an otherwise usable organ from even a corpse. By banning abortion, we place pregnant women in a category in which they are required, by law, to face risks and perform actions that are required of no other class of person, regardless of how many people may be injured or killed by a non-pregnant person's refusal to face those risks. The only way this treatment may be justified is by placing the unborn child at all stages in a category exclusive only to them, one in which they have rights no other human life is entitled to - and by extension, putting pregnant woman into a category in which they lose rights given to every other human life, unborn or otherwise. If this is an acceptable view to you, feel free to work towards making it a reality. But please refrain from stating that you support equal rights of any kind, as your view endows a special class of rights upon one stage of life while removing rights from a single class - and gender - of other lives.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It IS a War.

(This was written in response to a commenter on a friend's posting of a Planned Parenthood meme on their Facebook wall. During the back-and-forth, the commenter asserted that, "It's not anti-choice, it's pro-life. We believe women have plenty of choices but murdering their children should not be one of them. If you don't want kids, close your legs. That's the real choice." He then went on to state that, "If you know the consequences, such as getting pregnant means I have to carry a baby to term, you might think twice or at least take precautions. You would not be denied because of your act, you would be denied because the Right To Life of the child should be protected. It's not your body at that point." My friend then stated, "while we’re living on this planet, in this country, due to irreconcilable differences in morality, it is highly inconsiderate to restrict access to contraception and abortion based only on one group’s opinion with disregard to the dire circumstances many people find themselves in. If you begin restricting access, you risk people with serious need for emergency termination of pregnancy not being able to get it."

This was my response. I'm sharing it here because it covers many of the issues we're currently facing in what is undeniably an open war on an entire gender.)

D*****'s reference above to the restriction of access to contraception has prompted me to follow up on that - because far too often, I see claims that no one, anywhere EVER, is considering such actions. I present Exhibit 1... Colorado House Bill 14-1133, introduced yesterday:

Let me hit the high points for you - the first line reads, "This bill prohibits abortion and makes a violation a Class 3 felony." It goes on to define pregnancy as, "THE HUMAN FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE CONDITION OF HAVING A LIVING UNBORN HUMAN BEING WITHIN HER BODY THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE EMBRYONIC AND FETAL AGES OF THE UNBORN CHILD FROM FERTILIZATION TO FULL GESTATION AND CHILDBIRTH." Fertilization is defined as, "THAT POINT IN TIME WHEN A MALE HUMAN SPERM PENETRATES THE ZONA PELLUCIDA OF A FEMALE HUMAN OVUM." The only exception to this prohibition is if "a licensed physician performs a a medical procedure designed or intended to prevent the death of a pregnant mother". No exceptions for rape. No exceptions for incest. No exceptions for fetal anomalies incompatible with life. No exceptions for health of the mother.

I need to point out here that this means that the mother's life must be in IMMEDIATE danger - you don't get to say, "If this woman's water breaks, her amniotic sac is so overfull due to the child's defect that it will certainly shred her uterus, cause massive internal bleeding and leave her at risk of death." You must wait until her water DOES break, shreds her uterus, and causes that massive internal bleeding before you may begin the procedure to save her.


Sounds reasonable. right? No restrictions there, right? Except... wrong. By including the phrase, "if it is administered prior to conception", they have now outright banned all use of Plan B and its equivalents - as those are administered after a reasonable expectation of conception. They have also laid the groundwork for banning ALL hormonal birth control options and mechanical devices such as IUDs under the premise that, like Plan B, et al., they work in part by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Now, in all likelihood, this bill will never make it out of the Colorado House, much less the Senate, and even were it to jump THOSE hurdles, Governor Hickenlooper would never sign it. Even in the event he did, the first line makes it so unconstitutional as to be laughable - it would never stand up to a SCOTUS review. But these ARE the measures that so-called "pro-life" supporters want put in place. Similar bills have been presented in other states, as well as ballot measures proposed, voted on, and invariably defeated by wide margins, in multiple elections and states as well.

This isn't about "poor choices" or "morality" in any sense of the word, as victims of rape or incest MADE no poor choices and did nothing immoral. Nor did mothers gestating babies so damaged as to have no chance of survival. Nor did wives facing situations in which their health, or very life, is in grave danger - but not yet to the point where if nothing is done, they will certainly die.

And this is not about abortion. This is about whether a woman has the right to ANY option, other than total abstinence, to prevent pregnancy PERIOD. Combine these measures with proposals by certain legislators *coughRichardBlack(R, VA)cough* to legalize marital rape, and what you're looking at is a picture of a segment of society that wishes to relegate women to sub-human status whose entire worth is located in their reproductive organs - to give the entire gender no right to refuse the sexual use of those organs or the incubation of any product of that use.

And THAT, sir, is an open declaration of war. Full stop.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baylee's Story, Part Two

I read this morning that Wyoming is now considering a bill to ban abortions at the first sign of a fetal heartbeat - somewhere around six weeks into the pregnancy. The justification for this is that a heartbeat somehow is an indication of "life". Problem is, that's not entirely accurate. And even if it was, it can be a horribly unfair way to decide what will and what will not be allowed - which is why I'm writing this. Sometimes, the appearance of "life" is nothing more than an illusion, and the consequences of continuing what I'm going to refer to as a "terminal pregnancy" - physical, mental and emotional - are far worse than most people can imagine.

In April of 1996, I gave birth to a daughter with anencephaly. I'm not going to go into the full description - if you're interested, the story can be found here. The part I'm concerned with here is the last few weeks of that pregnancy. Specifically, the period of time after we were told what was wrong, and what was going to happen next.

That something was wrong didn't come as a big surprise. Baylee was my fifth pregnancy - once you've done it that many times, you get a pretty good feel for what constitutes "normal", at least within your own personal experiences. And very little about this pregnancy fit my definition of "normal". I got too big, too fast, and by the time the diagnosis came through, my body was in full revolt.

One of the side effects of an anencephalic pregnancy - and the reason I was so much bigger than I had ever been with any of my previous pregnancies - is the over-production of amniotic fluid. In my case, over three times as much as I should have had. This puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on a woman's internal organs. Standing was bad. Sitting was nearly impossible. And lying down was a distant memory. The only position in which I was even remotely "comfortable" (and believe me, I'm stretching the definition to the breaking point here) was on my knees with my arms braced in front of me, so that my stomach was being pulled forward enough by gravity to allow me to take a breath. Anything else put so much pressure on my lungs that I could get no more than a sip of air at a time.

Eating and drinking were also incredibly difficult. As with breathing, I could only take in a very small amount at a time - there was simply no room for my stomach to expand. The pressure also induced heartburn beyond anything I could have even imagined. A simple glass of water meant a thirty-minute ordeal that would leave me gasping in pain.There was not a single food I could swallow that wouldn't cause a burning sensation in my chest and throat, and that was if I was careful. If I wasn't, the acid would rise to the back of my mouth (I've often wondered how much that contributed to the total loss of every molar in my head over the next few years).

Those were just the physical issues, though. As bad as they were, women are accustomed to dealing with a fair amount of discomfort during pregnancy, and though this was well beyond that "fair amount", it was still something that could be handled. Far worse than that were the mental and emotional effects.

There is almost nothing our society loves more than a pregnant woman (assuming she has a ring on her finger, at least). We hold doors for them, give them our seats... and we so often want to share in their joy. We ask them when are you due, if it's a boy or a girl, have you picked out names...

Now try to imagine what those questions can be like for a woman who has been told that her child will not survive their birth.

There were so many times that I just wanted to lash out at those questions. "What am I having? Why, neither, I'm giving birth to a dead baby" was one that came to mind often. I've never been built that way, though - that level of rudeness simply isn't in me. So my most common response was a very short answer to the question, accompanied by a quick retreat from the questioner. I mumbled a lot. Eventually, I simply tried to avoid leaving the house altogether. Standing in line at the supermarket when every word out of a stranger's mouth makes you want to cry... or scream... becomes more of a hassle than it's worth. I'm very grateful to my husband, who took over the shopping and bill-paying chores when it finally became too much for me.

And then there was the worst moment of all - one that my older daughter doesn't remember, but that I will never be able to forget.

One week before the stillbirth of my child, I was at the store when a woman approached my older daughter, holding the hand of her own son, who looked to be about five. She smiled and asked her if she wanted a brother or a sister, and told her that she was having a baby, too, and her son wanted a little brother. My daughter replied, "Mommy says I'm going to have a sister... but she's not going to live with us, because she doesn't have any brain and she's going to die."

That, at least, was one stranger I didn't have to escape... she looked at me in horror, and quickly walked off, dragging her son behind her. That was also the last time I left the house until after it was all over. Part of me - a very uncharitable part, to be sure - still wishes I could have heard the conversation between her and her son after they left. But most of me wishes that it hadn't happened at all.

It all comes down to this: none of the above was necessary. Yes, Baylee had a heartbeat - right up until they cut the umbilical cord. What she didn't have, what she never had, was a chance. Without a brain, she was incapable of breathing on her own. A heartbeat is nothing more than muscle movement. Hearts have been made to beat without even being inside a person's chest. There is more to "life" than a functioning muscle, and until there is a legitimate way to determine what does constitute a viable life, it can not be the sole method of determining such. As heartless as this may sound to those who believe that abortion is wrong in all cases... in mine, it would have been a blessing. I would have been able to spend those last few weeks in physical comfort, if not mental and emotional. I would have been able to start the grieving process without having to fight through the pain and discomfort. I would have been spared the well-meaning but incredibly painful questions from strangers. And in a world with some sanity, with some compassion - with fewer people who think that their view is the only possible "correct" view, and that abortion is somehow always unnecessary and evil, no matter the circumstances that lead a woman to that decision - it wouldn't have happened at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Personhood Lie

First, they confused me.
Then they made me so angry my hands shook.
And now - they simply scare me to death.

They make me feel like I'm no longer safe in my own country... that I'm no longer safe in my own home. They've made me consider leaving a place that has sheltered me all my life, which used to fill me with pride, a place whose beauty takes my breath away every single day. "Consider" to the point of actually researching the laws that would allow my family and me to live in another country.

"They" are the people behind the recent rash of anti-abortion, anti-contraceptive and anti-women bills to hit so many of our state legislatures. They are ALEC, they are AUL, and they are so many other groups: "religious" organizations, political figures - and those that vote for them, donate to them, swallow their lies and fear-mongering and hatred. And, the straw that finally broke this very upset woman's back - they are the people behind PersonhoodColorado. The same ones behind the attempted "personhood" bills in at least fifteen different states.

Let me say that again: fifteen different states. Alabama. California. Colorado. Florida. Georgia. Maryland. Michigan. Missouri. Mississippi. Montana. Nevada. North Dakota. Oklahoma. South Carolina. Virginia. All but one listed on And they won't stop there. Every victory will push them to add another state, or two, or three, or ten, to that list. To go right alongside the ongoing Federal Personhood Amendment that would trump all fifty of our states in one fell swoop.

At this point, you're thinking, "Oh, jeez, another one of those "pro-choice" nuts trying to explain why abortion is such a necessary evil, blah blah blah..."

No. Abortion is not what this is about. If only that's all this was.

Yes, I am pro-choice. I always have been, always will be. And yes, I believe it's important to protect that option for any woman who feels that it is the right choice for them in their personal situation. But understand, please... like most of the people who believe this way, I am not pro-abortion. And I'm willing to accept that some people believe it to be morally wrong under any circumstances - also a choice of their own. I will fight to keep it legal, yes, but I won't fault them for fighting against it.

But this isn't about abortion.

This is about what I found when I started clicking links, and found myself on the above-mentioned PersonhoodColorado website. And discovered that what they want to take away is not my right to decide to terminate a pregnancy that I feel should not produce a child - but the right to decide for myself whether or not I get pregnant in the first place.

Let me state their position in their own words - because they are far more damning than anything I could come up with on my own. First, the lie they lead off with:

Objection: "Personhood will ban common forms of birth control."
Amendment 62 will not ban any true contraceptives that only prevent fertilization.

Now, let's follow up with their explanation for this statement.

Recognizing personhood has no effect on true contraceptives that only prevent fertilization, including spermicide, natural family planning, and condoms. However, personhood would ban surgical abortion, more than 95% of which is for birth control, and it would prohibit any mechanical (IUD) or chemical (pills) abortifacient that kills the tiniest boys and girls.

And one more time, in case you missed it... "Personhood would... prohibit any mechanical (IUD) or chemical (pills) abortifacient..."

They aren't even trying to hide it any longer. This isn't about abortion. This is about the whole enchilada. This is about banning every form of truly effective birth control ever dreamed up by humankind. This is about making sure no woman, anywhere, any time, in any situation, has the option to decide that she wants to finish school before starting a family. That she wants to wait until her current child is potty-trained before having another. That she wants to make love to her husband, boyfriend, whatever he may be to her - without having to worry that enjoying one of the most wonderful acts to bring two people together will change her life, and his, irrevocably.

This is about putting all women in their place. And guess who is going to be in charge of determining just where "your place" is?

I'll give you a hint: it's not going to be you.

Unless you speak up. Unless you make sure that every woman, every husband, father, brother, every friend you have knows what this is really about. Unless you make sure that all their propaganda and all their lies are exposed for all to see - and then go out and exercise your right to vote every single person who backs these bills out of the offices we put them in.

This is about whether or not we take forty-seven years of progress off the books and take the entire country back to a time when half of the population had no say in the direction their lives would travel.

Please, don't let this happen.

I ask this for my daughter, who deserves to grow up in her home country - without being oppressed by people who feel that she's less of a human being because of her sex. I ask this for your daughters, your sisters, your mothers and the women you love.

Don't let these people win.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Baylee's Story

I never thought I would actually write about this. For all these years, it's been something I've only shared with my closest friends - partly because it can still choke me up, and I don't like crying in front of people I don't know very well. But I read this last night, then re-read it this morning, and it occurred to me that medically necessary abortions may be more common than the "Pro-Liars" would have you believe - and maybe, just maybe, if a few more of these stories were talked about, someone might finally get a clue.
Given that group's "I'll only listen to points of view that support my own" mindset, I doubt it, but what the hell, it's worth a shot.
I would like to say straight off that in this case it was not necessary - but it was discussed as something that may have become necessary, and the way it was presented is pretty much the whole point of this public up-chucking of my personal business.
In the latter half of 1995, I became pregnant for the fourth time in my (now) 25-year marriage. This was emphatically not a planned pregnancy, nor a particularly welcome one, to begin with. It was, in fact, a "toothache pregnancy" - i.e., my chronically bad teeth had abscessed yet again, and while on antibiotics prescribed for that abscess, I became pregnant. (Tangent alert - at what point will medical professionals routinely start telling their female patients that antibiotics can make birth-control pills ineffective?)
When I missed my first period, I was somewhat horrified. Hoping that I was wrong (I was on the Pill, after all, remember?), I said nothing, waited the preferred two weeks, and when they passed with no sign of a reprieve, walked my seven-year-old son to school, loaded up my five-year-old son and his three-year-old sister and walked down to the local Planned Parenthood office for the test. Which was, gods help me, positive.
I informed the daddy-to-be on his lunch hour that afternoon, and he was as, err, "thrilled" as I was - in fact, the only thing he said for the first fifteen minutes after my announcement was "No", repeatedly. Nothing else - just no.
We sat down that night after the kids were in bed and decided, after a long discussion, that we simply couldn't afford another baby at this point. We were just barely scraping by as it was, and one more child with the attending expense was simply more than our income could bear. We couldn't really afford an abortion, either, but it was our only option at that point.
The next morning, I made the call. The nearest abortion provider was a three-hour drive away, but I made the appointment for the following week, cringed when the woman on the phone told me that I would be walking through a gauntlet of protesters carrying signs, and went home to wait it out.
Thing is, over the next week, we sort of... got used to the idea of another child. The night before the appointment, we sat down for another talk, and discovered that neither of us truly wanted to go through with the termination of something that would add to our family - a brother or sister to our other children, and yes, as corny as it sounds, another proof of how much we truly loved each other. So we simply never showed up for the appointment. I imagine this happens quite often - I mean, I never received a call from the clinic asking me if I wanted to reschedule.
Fast-forward a few months. By this time, I was around 22 weeks, and showing - my first indication something wasn't quite right. My doctor, my friends and acquaintances all pretty much blew me off when I expressed concern over this - the overwhelming response was that I was very thin to begin with, and of course I would show fairly quickly. Thing was, I'd been pregnant before, and I knew at what point I started to bulge, and this wasn't it. The only one who listened to me at that point was my husband, who also knew how my pregnancies usually went, and agreed that this was a bit much. Still, the doctor seemed okay with it, so I let it go. At that point, ultrasounds were not routinely requested, and our insurance wasn't very good, either, so I simply assumed I had a case of pregnant woman paranoia, and let it go.
Another couple of months passed. At 32 weeks, I started to really worry - I was huge, far bigger than I'd ever been at that point, and incredibly uncomfortable. Although we'd had no indication of anything but one heartbeat, I was fairly convinced I was carrying twins, and I started to harass my doctor to the point that he finally scheduled me for an ultrasound.
It went well, at first - there was indeed one baby in residence, and apparently quite healthy. The nurse scrolled across my stomach, and on the screen appeared one of the best face shots I had ever seen on an ultrasound - my beautiful second daughter. I was thrilled. The nurse, however, was not. She got very quiet, printed out the picture (I still have that printout, actually) and left the room to get the doctor. Clueless, I continued to stare raptly at her face on the screen.
The doctor came into the room, sat down - and explained to me that there was, indeed, something very wrong. Our daughter had anencephaly - in other words, her brain had not developed. She was, in fact, missing everything from the eyebrows up and back. The best-case scenario, he told me, was that she would have enough of a brain stem to be able to breathe on her own - but that would be all. She would never walk, speak, play, learn... or live, at least as we define the word. "Devastated" does not even come close to describing how I felt at that point.
I walked out of the clinic and directly to my husband's work. He had told me which building he would be working in that day - he was renovating dorm rooms at our local college, and he told me every morning where he'd be, in case I needed to find him quickly. His co-worker came outside when I whistled - I asked him to please get my husband, and a moment later, he came out to the landing. I still, to this day, don't know what I looked like at that moment, but I know it must have been bad - because he didn't even ask what was going on, simply told me to go wait in the car while he let his boss know he'd be going home for the day. I told him what I'd been told on the ride home - and his response brought it home in a way the doctor hadn't been able to. What he said was, "So what you're telling me, is that instead of planning for a baby - we have to plan for a funeral."
(Brief pause to get a glass of water... and a vodka chaser.)
I told my husband after we arrived home that the doctor had set another appointment for the next morning - for the both of us, this time. When we met with him, he again went over the situation, asked if we had any questions, patiently answered the few we had... and then hit us with the kicker.
See, it seems that my initial alarm at my steadily increasing size was right on the money. One of the side effects of this type of pregnancy was the production of excessive amounts of amniotic fluid. I had been too large all along - but it wasn't baby, or babies, it was extra fluid. Unfortunately, this posed a serious risk. Because of the extra fluid, I was at a much higher risk of the placenta detaching under its own weight, which would then cause me to hemorrhage and could quite possibly kill me. And the baby, of course, but at this point, that was more than a little moot - she wouldn't likely survive more than a few hours anyway. The doctor told us that the best solution, were this to happen, would essentially be a very late-term abortion. He asked if we would consent to this procedure, should it become necessary. We agreed immediately...
...And then he told us that before he could consider performing this, he would have to go in front of the hospital board, present my particular case - and have them approve it.
Of all the issues we'd had to face in the previous 24 hours, this one just floored us. My life was now in the hands of an undetermined amount of people who had never met me... met my husband... met our children... who knew nothing about our lives, our family, anything to do with us. "They" would decide if I would live or die, if my husband would be widowed, if my children would grow up without a mother. And this in a small, insular community made up primarily of Catholics and Mormons. I was already devastated, depressed, and quite naturally blaming myself for every decision I had made over the course of this pregnancy. Now, I was also terrified. So was my husband.
This story, fortunately, has a happy ending - sort of, anyway. The decision came through a week later. I wouldn't be able to have an elective abortion, but they would allow it if the situation deteriorated to the point that my life was at immediate risk. A week after that, I went into natural labor, and after six hours of contractions, delivered our five-pound daughter, Baylee Evelyn. Her dad was the first person to hold her - they let us stay in the delivery room with her for nearly an hour before we finally let her go. We had already requested a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, but it wasn't needed - she never took a single breath on her own. We had her cremated, and her ashes remain in a beautiful box, decorated with a bear holding a balloon and a glitter-glue letter "B" her oldest brother put in the balloon. We still talk about her occasionally - what she would be like now, at 15 years old, what our family would have been like if she had lived.
But I have never, ever forgotten what it was like to realize that we could have lost both her and me - or how it felt to have that decision taken completely out of our hands. No one has the right to decide what is best for a woman facing a situation like that - no amount of schooling, study, medical practice; nothing gives another human being the right to decide that a non-viable fetus's life is worth more than that of the mother carrying that fetus. Ever.
And yet, it goes on every day. In April of 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law banning exactly the procedure that I would have been given - with no exception for any risk to the health of the mother.
I guess I can just thank my lucky stars that it wasn't necessary.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twenty-nine Minutes

Twenty-nine minutes... it's amazing how much can change in twenty-nine minutes.

So, I was going through the caller ID yesterday, looking for a number, and noticed that by looking at the times of the calls received, I had a pretty good timeline of my morning - and it was quite a morning.

At 10:10, we received a call from the National Park Service. Al applied for a job there back at the end of June - maintenance supervisor, his old position, at about the same pay level. Thing is, this job is at...

Yosemite National Park.

We'd pretty much forgotten he even applied for it, but he did, and did his phone interview right then and there. It's not a job - yet. But he is in the final running, and it's not one we have any intention of passing on if it's offered.

What, you think we're nuts??? ;)

At 10:21, Nic called. She has a friend with a new baby who was born with heart problems, and in the first ten days of her life has already had open-heart surgery. Little Julieanne was taken off her ECMO machine yesterday morning, and Nic called to let me know that her heart was beating strong, vitals were good and all looked great. YAY!!!

Needless to say, at this point I was riding high. :P Little did I know...

At 10:39, there was a call on the ID from a number that's never called here. That would be a house about four miles down the highway. Immediately after Nic's call, I headed into town to run some errands. I was going down Highway 17, a two-lane road with a 65mph speed limit - which, thank ALL the gods, I was at least ten under - when the tread tore completely off my back right tire. I drifted to the right, took my foot off the pedal in hopes of slowing down enough to pull off the road... and the car immediately bounced LEFT, traded front end for back and wound up at the bottom of the ditch, nose out to the highway. Still running... seems I didn't forget to leave my foot on the clutch, thus preventing any power from going to the wheels and keeping it from stalling out. According to the amazingly wonderful State Patrolman who arrived shortly afterward, it was... "absolutely textbook, you couldn't have handled it any better." :D

Brook and I are both fine, if a bit sore... she banged her knee pretty good on the door handle (we think), and I torqued pretty much everything, but all in all, not nearly as bad as it could have been. To be honest, I truly thought we were going to flip when we hit the ditch - if I hadn't been in the Nova, which is old, STEEL, very heavy and low to the ground, I probably would have. LOVE that car!

So we have a couple of tires to replace - I also flat-spotted the right front pretty good (NASCAR slang, look it up! :P), but we're HERE.

Love you all... and remember... twenty-nine minutes. :P