Yes, I Had An Abortion
No, It Wasn’t At All What You Think
“Tell me, were there any complications following your abortion?”
The doctor stood looking down at me as I sat encased in a paper robe, stiff uncomfortable paper sheet crackling beneath my bare buttocks.
He glanced down at my medical file. “Your abortion.”
Talk about having your flabber gasted! My jaw dropped and hit the floor. I reached down and retrieved it, slapping it back into place under my nose. “I never had an abortion!”
I’m fairly certain I was yelling, but I couldn’t help it.
“It’s in your—”
“Where? Where? You show me, right now!” I reached my hand out for the file. “And tell me how to fix this shit. I never had an abortion!”
“Okay, calm down. Let’s go through this piece by piece…”
Turns out, I DID have an abortion.
Well, a procedure that equates to an abortion.
Okay, now WE are going to go through this piece by piece.
In the autumn of 1980, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
This birth was the fastest and easiest of my four trips to deliver babies. A total of about two hours, one of those spent in a labor room, led to giving birth with the aid of a student nurse when the real nurse ran out of the room to check on the status of the doctor who was on his way. When she returned to the room, the baby was already being held safely by a young woman who was close to tears and repeating, “We did it. We did it.”
The nurse was followed by an emergency room doctor, who placed my baby in my arms and proceeded to begin delivery of the afterbirth (placenta, and other by-products). My actual doctor ran into the room somewhere in the middle of all this, skidding across the linoleum floor. “What’s this?” he demanded good-naturedly. “You couldn’t wait a minute for me?”
My daughter was the second of over a dozen births that day. We spent the whole day in the labor room, mostly alone, with occasional visits by nurses who assured me I’d be moved to a room soon.
It was over 12 hours before that happened. The place was in chaos—nurses and doctors were running down halls, off to the next birth, and the next.
I felt great. Practically no labor, easy birth—I could have run down the hall myself. I took care of my baby and waited.
Whether this chaos was the problem or not, it led to this:
Six weeks later, I was a wreck. I had been ill and feverish for days, but assumed I had the flu. I nursed my baby and took care of my son, and just waded through the days.
I went to my six-week follow-up examination and mentioned my illness.
The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital, my legs spread, my feet in stirrups, and having a D & C.
A small amount of placental tissue had been left inside after my daughter’s birth and had not been expelled naturally by my body, which generally happens within hours or day with the post-birth flow of blood. It had caused a raving infection that had to be dealt with immediately.
My medical record from that procedure read: “dilatation (dilation) and curettage, for the purpose of removing products of pregnancy.”
In other words, an abortion.
In reading my entire procedural record, my new doctor realized that he had made a mistake—sort of. The procedure is indeed the same procedure used to terminate a pregnancy (removal of products of pregnancy). However, the “products of pregnancy” in this case were post-birth remains.
The procedure was done because the “life of mother is endangered without treatment”.
All these medical terms, taken individually, scream “ABORTION.”
But I wasn’t pregnant. I had a six-week-old healthy baby at home. I was bleeding heavily, but the blood was an unhealthy brown in color and had a foul smell. I was suffering an extreme infection that, left untreated, almost certainly would have killed me. The cause of the infection was retained placental tissue and other products of pregnancy. POST-pregnancy.
Well, the doctor explained all this to me, and while it all made perfect sense, it didn’t lessen my outrage at being asked about my abortion. Because—damn! That was the very last question I ever expected to be asked. EVER.
This all occurred well after the birth of baby number four. That pregnancy and delivery had been far different, and afterward I hemorrhaged for months before having to have a hysterectomy to remove the tumor filled uterus that was—again—raging with infection and about to kill me. It had been suggested by one doctor that I have a D & C to try to “clean out” my post-birth uterus and re-regulate normal function, but I was scared and sought a second opinion.
Good thing, too. That procedure would have perforated a uterus that had deteriorated almost to the point of rupturing on its own and I would have bled out before any further treatment could have been undertaken. Doctor #2’s suggestion of exploratory surgery to rule out unknown causes for the bleeding saved my life.
But not my reproductive future. I would never have another baby.
Now, Doctor #3 had thrown me for a loop.
Complications? Well…no. There were complication after giving birth to #2 baby that led to the first procedure, but I was able to have two more babies after that. There were complications after the birth of baby #4, but it was suggested after the hysterectomy that the tumors had probably already been there and the high levels of hormones during pregnancy accelerated their growth, and the sudden change in hormone levels, with a subsequent trial of birth control pills after the birth further accelerated growth and deterioration of the uterus.
Having baby #4 was probably a miracle.
All that said, I was back with a new Gynecologist, because I was in severe pain. After EVERYTHING I’d already been through, I was going to undergo another exploratory surgery to see what might be going on with the ovaries and fallopian tubes that had been left in place, so I’d still be able to produce my own natural estrogen and progesterone hormones.
And he wanted to know about my frickedy-fracking abortion. Sheesh!
Yeah…so, everything left in there was removed because I had—get this unlikely shit—endometriosis. “How?” I demanded. “I don’t even have a uterus! That means no endometrial lining! So—what the hell, doc?”
Well, who knew? A microscopic bit of endometrial tissue left on an ovary would react just as it would inside the uterus, growing and shedding each month. With nowhere else to go, it spread throughout the abdominal cavity, attaching to ovaries, tubes, my hip bone, intestines.
Whoo-hoo! It’s great to be a woman, let me tell you!
Good-bye, ovaries. Good-bye, fallopian tubes. Ablation took care of other areas without losing any intestinal tract, but that left me with painful arthritis in my hip.
And hormone therapy was a thrill a second.
No. It was not. It was awful.
I was 25.
I had four young children, and the only thing left of my organs to remind me I was female were my breasts. My hormones were essentially non-existent, which left me vulnerable to all sorts of scary things, like osteoporosis and breast cancer and heaven knows what else.
Testosterone levels rose to abnormal levels. I spent the next several years trying different therapies just to feel human again. I would not wish any of this on my very worst enemy, if I actually had a nemesis.
Why am I telling you all this?
Last week there was a leak from the Supreme Court, suggesting that Roe V Wade would be overturned, wreaking havoc on women’s health care.
The procedure I went through to save my life would have been impossible if not for this precedent. MANY procedures that have absolutely NOTHING to do with ending a normal pregnancy would be restricted or forbidden if Roe V Wade is overturned.
And I don’t believe it will stop there, if it is overturned. Birth control and hormone therapy will be under attack as never before. I was at times suicidal over hormonal imbalance during my mid- 20s and early-30s, and much of what was done for me in trial-and-error attempts to get me to a place of relative normalcy were various birth-control pills, estrogen and progesterone replacements and surgical procedures will be things that will be uber-regulated, possibly outlawed in the future this outrageous idea portends.
Let’s be clear. I was 20 when I underwent my quote unquote abortion. I was young, but not stupid. I understood the procedure—what would be done and why it was necessary.
But at age 25, I was still naïve enough to believe that a less-than-thorough look through my medical records would NOT lead anyone to believe I had terminated a pregnancy.
I was wrong.
The mistake was clearly the doctor’s. He apologized. Repeatedly, as it happened, because I wouldn’t let it go.
But here’s what must be understood. The medical terminology and the procedural definitions and billing codes are the same regardless of the reason for the procedure.
This is why it’s so dangerous to take this precedent and try to regulate EVERYTHING currently protected by it under one seriously leaky umbrella.
I had a medically necessary D & C to save my life. It was discussed at length between my doctor, my (then) husband and me. We made the decision based on the case at hand.
No one woman is the same as every other woman. No one case is the same as every other case. There are far too many reasons that a pregnancy might need to be terminated, and not all of them fall under a single, simple “unwanted” category.
Not only that, but complete and competent medical care should be an absolute right of every human. And it should be private and personal—not a political talking point.
I don’t need an idiot like Ted Cruz taking a cursory glance at my records and sending out a mob to haul me to jail. Politicians have no business up in my…business.
I don’t want Ted Cruz at my gynecology appointment. I don’t want him at my PCP appointment, my dental appointment or my Ophthalmology appointment. I certainly don’t want him anywhere near my bedroom!
(UUUUGHHH! *gag* *choke* VOMIT!)
And if you think it will stop at controlling our pregnancies...it won’t. Look out, gay marriage. Look out LBGTQIA rights. Look out, everyone who doesn’t fit nicely into the niche they want to carve out for their definition of “normal”.
I’m scared. You should be, too.
Don't let this happen.
This story appeared first on Medium.
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