Ending our pregnancy, part #2

The night before we terminated our pregnancy, I had to drive by myself to see the surgeon at the hospital. The time by myself led me to reflect on what had happened and what was to come. I felt like life was rolling in slow-motion on a one way street I didn’t want to walk down. Green Day’s “Time of Your Life ” played on the radio as I drove. It felt so ironic. I cried quietly.

At the hospital, I took the lift up to the “abortion” unit. There was a teenage girl and two couples. I wondered what journeys that had been on to find themselves in the same room as me at that same time. I wondered if their pregnancies were all unwanted. I felt ashamed to be in that room, and sad. The hard bump in my tummy made me sick to my stomach with guilt.

When my name was called I spoke with the surgeon. I asked him, I had to know, what happened in the procedure? I wanted reassurance that it would be as peaceful for our baby as possible. I felt sick. I cried. I don’t want to write what he said, not to say he said anything horrific, but it is still too painful to think about it now.

I was called into a cubicle. Two nurses appeared. Both looked at the later stages of their careers. One reeked of stale cigarette smoke. Her teeth and face showed the lines of her habit and probably the stress of her job too. They were hands down the two most wonderful people I met during this time. They asked me to take some paracetamol and joked that they’d fill my cup with vodka instead of water. They asked about me. I cried. I said I had a son, and I wanted this baby so badly. That I wasn’t sure how I would do this. They took me aside. They talked with me and hugged me and sat beside me. One of the nurses told me out of her 11 pregnancies she had four children. That I shouldn’t give up and one day it would be OK.

I was escorted into the surgeon’s room. It was bright and sterile. Having the rods inserted was quick, but it was one of the most horrible moments of my life. I sobbed with so many emotions. Hopelessness. Sadness. Guilt. I questioned myself. I begged our baby to forgive me.

 

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Ending our pregnancy, part #1

I didn’t go to work the week that we ended our pregnancy. I couldn’t of course, I was an absolute mess.

On the Monday afternoon, I received a called from a nurse at the hospital. She was  awful. A stiff-upper-lipped English woman who spoke in monotone, as though she was close to suicide. She advised me, in what sounded like a bored spiel she repeated forty times a day, that on Wednesday I needed to come into the hospital. There I would meet a social worker. On the Thursday I would meet the surgeon. The operation would be on Friday.

I asked whether the operation would be performed under general anaesthetic. There was no way in hell that I wanted any recollection of the procedure. No. Way. She said that the standard procedure was to be sedated only, and that if I wished to take it further I would need to talk with the surgeon as scheduled on Thursday evening.

I found it inconceivable that a woman should have to be conscious throughout a termination for medical reasons or otherwise. My mind wandered. Hideous images flooded in. I felt sick. A lump formed in my throat and my heart pounded with anxiety. I rang BEP. “Please tell me that I can have general?” He was surprised that I wasn’t offered general and told me to call back the nurse and demand general. He said that if an anaesthetist wasn’t booked for that morning in advance it would likely be too late to tell the surgeon at my meeting on Thursday. I had to put my foot down and arrange it now.

I rang back. I talked to a different nurse, one with a heartbeat but still not much compassion. She said an anaesthetist is assigned to the list so there should be no problem arranging general. I didn’t fully trust her, as I didn’t fully trust anyone within that hospital. The goal posts had moved on us before.

On the Wednesday, I visited the hospital to talk to the social worker. I wondered whether people looked at me knowing what I was about to do and what they thought of me. I felt ashamed. The social worker wanted to discuss how we’d come about making our decision, whether I’d been under any pressure to end the pregnancy, and what support I had. I felt lucky. I imagined a terrified teenager who’d been careless sitting in my place, or a woman in an abusive relationship hiding a pregnancy. I wasn’t one of those vulnerable women whom these questions were intended for.

The social worker asked if I wanted to see a picture of a baby at 15 weeks gestation, the same as my own. “What?? Why would I want to see that? What is the rationale from the hospital’s view of asking this question? Do they want to discourage terminations? Honestly, I just want to understand why you asked me such a ridiculous question.” The social worker explained that it was to avoid liability from women who say, “if only I’d known that’s what my baby looked like, I would have never terminated.” It made me sad that such cases must exist, that some women truly have no idea about their babies.

Last of all on the Wednesday, I visited the robotic nurse again. She advised me that at the surgeon’s appointment the next day I would need to have one, maybe two, dilating rods inserted into my cervix to dilate it to a safe diameter for surgery. I broke down, uncontrollably. I had no idea that I would have to go through this procedure. It was  another painful kick in the guts. There was no avoiding it. How I was going to summon the mental strength to get through the next few days I had no idea. As I left the robotic nurse stood in the doorway and said in her awkward monotone, “all the best, things will get better.”

 

 

 

 

 

The decision

We decided to terminate our pregnancy. I find it hard to write that. I feel like I need to justify to myself and to others that our decision was one in a range of morally acceptable decisions we could make. I don’t know if it was.

Once we learned that our baby had 100% Down Syndrome chromosomes and a likely heart defect, it was as though the decision about whether we would terminate had been made for us. Even so, we researched all the possible outcomes for our baby. Some of these outcomes seemed bearable to me, others not. I found it difficult to turn my mind to the fact that at forty years old our child may well only have a mental age of seven. That he or she would likely be infertile and may never have a family. That he or she may require constant care his or her whole life. That care may be required well beyond my life, or my husband’s life, what then? It was hard to digest.

I despised myself for thinking about terminating the pregnancy. To me, our reasoning for terminating was entirely selfish. We wanted our child to have a full life, to be able to do all the things we wanted him or her to be able to do. To not burden our son once we were no longer around. Writing this, two months later, I am still coming to grips with what it all means.

In our hearts though, the decision had been made.

We rang BEP, our obstetrician on the Monday morning after learning of our baby’s condition a few days earlier. I was crying before I could say it. But I did say it, somehow. We wanted to terminate the pregnancy that coming Friday, please.