There are so many things about this election which are “triggering” for me, and I’m not going to apologize for using that language, so if you’re going to say I’m too sensitive, have at me, you’re not wrong, but I’m not sorry.
In addition to having to re-live and talk about being repeatedly groped by my dentist as a child, now we get to this issue of the Republican candidate having no idea what actually happens during a high-risk pregnancy. And this sends me down down down (as Flower would say) the rabbit hole of reading “It Happened To Me Stories” of people who actually HAD late pregnancy terminations.
This is not that. I never had a pregnancy termination at all. I had one, very, very early miscarriage, and we moved on. Getting pregnant with Curly was the bravest thing I’d ever done, because of everything we went through with Flower. But here’s Flower now, all smiles. She’s home with a cold, but she’s happy. She had her first cheerleading practice last night, and came home full of herself and the joy of tumbling, which she practiced in her room, with my help, before bed. “Upside down: Funny!” she said. Heart. Melt. So that’s Flower. She’s almost 10 now, can you believe it? She’s doing so well.
For some of these women in the late termination stories, they had that awful moment I did, when the tech rubs the ultrasound wand over your happy warm giant belly, looks, looks again, presses harder, frowns, leaves the room without saying anything while you look at your partner in terror. Then a doctor comes in. Says things you might not understand, and then THINGS start happening. Monitors. IVs. In my case, 2 horrible rounds with mag sulfate to stop my pre-term labor, but the whole time, the whole terrifying time they’re trying to stop the labor, echoes in the back of my mind: THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY BABY AND THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS.
See, Flower had a giant tongue. That was what the perinatologist saw on the ultrasound at 27 weeks. We’d seen it before, but the doctors had said, “Well, isn’t that cute, baby is sticking baby’s tongue out.” We, who think to worry about EVERYTHING, had not thought to worry about that, busy as we were about worrying about the Bishop’s new job, moving half-way across the country, and my case of gestational diabetes that I was managing by ignoring it and eating as many cookies as I felt like eating.
But now here’s the doctor assuring us that it is NOT cute, that it is a sign of something WRONG, and they don’t know what it is. (Oh, and by the way, I was in labor at 27 weeks, so you know, there’s that.)
Bedrest for me, in the hospital, for 3 weeks, where my job was to gestate like a giant oven and starve and worry about what it all meant. And watch TV. I watched a LOT of TV. Starve because hospital food + diabetes + vegetarian + very pregnant = HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. After three weeks of this, Flower stopped moving. During a routine morning monitoring, I told the nurse, “the baby’s not moving.”
THINGS happened quickly again, the ultrasound, the same perinatologist telling me they needed to deliver now. No time to induce me, they needed to get in NOW if they were going to save my baby. Then I’m sitting on a table getting a spinal. Then I’m lying on a gurney, paralyzed from the neck down, having a barely alive infant removed from my womb. “We don’t know the sex,” I told the kind OB, who nodded and squeezed my hand. When doctors are extra nice to you, you know maybe this isn’t going to end well, not at all.
The whole time, the Kate Bush song “Houdini” is running through my head, do you know that one? Still can’t hear it without ugly-crying. “With your life, the only thing on my mind, they pull you from the water!”
And that’s what they did. They pulled Flower out of the water, where she was drowning, and they saved her life. They ripped her out of my womb at 30 weeks. And things were REALLY touch and go for a long time, because it took them a long time to figure out what was wrong, and why she had a really giant tongue as well as other enlarged organs, but she’s fine now, and she’s not sick except for a cold, and she’s fine because they saved her life. So mine is a story with a happy ending.
Reading these stories brings me back to that day so clearly. I don’t like going back there.
So many of us have faced these awful moments in our pregnancy. They don’t always end with a happy Flower giggling along to Peppa Pig. Sometimes they end with the baby being not able to live, not at all. Having seen tiny preemie Flower suffer the way she did, I would not have wanted to put her through that if it hadn’t meant saving her life at the end. If there had been no hope – well, I can’t imagine it and I’m not going to.