Abortion may not be what you think it is…

 

It is election day in the United States. For the record, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about the plethora of reasons why… but I am not going to. One issue and one issue alone is enough to keep my vote strong and that issue is abortion.

Donald Trump has spent much of his campaign using scare tactics such as graphic descriptions of 3rd trimester abortions, making up scenarios that do not exist in the ob/gyn field, threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade and of course spewing inflated statistics to make it seem that getting an abortion is just a walk in the park.

While I have always been pro-choice, I never realized what it would feel like to have to say goodbye to the baby inside you and sign the papers authorizing an abortion. Now to be clear, as was described in a previous post, I did not voluntarily get an abortion, I miscarried at 12 weeks. However, due to a technicality in our ever so flawed health care system, in order for my insurance to pay for the procedure I had to sign papers authorizing an abortion. I was already weeping from learning there was no heartbeat so to go from that to scheduling my surgery and signing the papers in just a matter of moments was overwhelming to say the least. When they asked me to sign and I saw the word “abortion” on the consent I stared up at the nurse and exclaimed “I don’t want an abortion, I want my baby!!” and she went into damage control saying “no no it’s just what the papers say, you aren’t having an “abortion”, your baby is already gone but this is how we word it.” talk about adding insult to injury.

So now I am part of the overly inflated statistics for first trimester abortions. My tragedy can now be used against me. People won’t know why I had an “abortion” and guess what? They won’t care. Just like me, they are focused on the fact that a baby has died, the difference is that I now know first hand that it isn’t something anyone would want to do… it would only be done if it was in the best interest of mother and baby… and whether it happens naturally (miscarriage) or with help from a compassionate doctor, it is still painful and not something that needs to be thrown in the faces of all of the women who go through it. My doctor told me that 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so if you take the number of those that need a D&C (the procedure which I had to sign off as an “abortion” and is used for abortions) with the number of women who have to make the impossible choice to abort and you are going to have what looks like an epidemic… but you are wrong… you are so wrong and you don’t even know it.

People have this image of a promiscuous girl who uses abortion as her primary form of birth control… and if they are as stupid as Donald Trump they envision a girl who waits until her third trimester and then decides “eh, I don’t think I want this baby afterall, I am going to go get an abortion”… it just does not work that way. I am not saying that every woman who has a miscarriage or an abortion feels the same way, there is certainly a broad spectrum of reactions… and that is okay. I am also not saying that the person who is lax about it doesn’t exist, but they aren’t the majority like pro-lifers would make you think. The “magic pill” that pro-lifers always describe still makes a woman deal with the choice of passing naturally or possibly ending up with a D&C… and either way it goes… natural or surgery, miscarriage or abortion… there will be pain emotional and physical and I would not wish it on anyone.

Sure, you could say that if I was pro-life or if signing the papers for my “abortion” really bothered me that much I could have let my baby pass through my body naturally… I could have sat there at home wondering when the baby would come out of my body… but I wasn’t able to handle that. The change in hormones had already caused one grand-mal seizure and my doctor feared more. Also, the choice to even see the baby after it is passed is incredibly personal and passing the baby at home takes away the option. I know people delivered in the hospital, who spent time with the fetus, took photos and had a funeral… I know people who wanted to see the fetus after their D&C but only after waking from anesthesia did they learn that they could not see the baby because it did not make it out in one piece… I know women who passed at home and then had to take the fetus to the hospital for genetic testing, an event that turned out much more traumatic than they ever imagined. From the moment I found out on Friday, October 28th to the moment I went in for my D&C on November 1  I was an emotional mess. It felt like my heart stopped every time I stepped in the bathroom, changed my clothes, took a shower… I was already bleeding so much, passing clots and much more… I was so frightened that my fetus would pass and I would be alone… so I am thankful that there were options like the one I chose… it could have been weeks and weeks of waiting and I have no idea what that would have done to me… and I would never judge any other woman who had to go through what I did for choosing the way that worked best for them… you have to do whatever you can to get through it.

You cannot imagine the pain of losing a child if you have never lost one. Some of the most courageous women I know have been through this in one form or another. I know women who aborted because it was the right choice for them, the brave choice to say they were not ready for a baby. I know women who lost their child through miscarriage in all different stages of pregnancy that had to be strong enough to make the best choice for their health now that baby was gone. I know women who had to abort based upon fetal/genetic abnormalities… these women knew their child would not survive outside of the womb and new that for themselves as well as their family it was better to end it before things got any worse. I even know a woman who was told by every doctor that the child was suffering genetic abnormalities that made life outside the womb impossible and yet she continued on with her pregnancy. She  wanted a miracle and she believed that it was possible and that everyone was wrong. When her baby was born it was extremely disfigured, internal parts on the outside and as predicted was born sleeping… the laboring and the reality had a detrimental effect upon her livelihood from that point forward. Of course with every tragedy there are times when it turns out alright, or that the choice to continue on even with the sad reality that baby wouldn’t survive was therapeutic and best for their particular situation. But no matter if you choose to terminate or decide to see it through it should be your decision because you are the one who must live with it… and it is not something that just goes away… just like a healthy pregnancy, one that ends tragically makes a lasting impact on your life. That baby was and is a part of you, no matter how short of a time you were together.

So when you cast your vote for a politician, if anti-abortion laws are high on your priority list I hope that you will take a moment to stop and think about what banning abortion could do. Any women who can get pregnant could end up with an “abortion” and not only is that a choice no one wants to make, it is sometimes the result of a choice we didn’t make.

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“I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat”

 

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post called “Life Finds a Way”  it was about how we had just found out we were pregnant for the 2nd time. I included the ultrasound picture and took the same stance as with the “A Uterus from Nothing” series… that yes, this baby was a miracle, but not a miracle of God. Well I figured that I had plenty of time to post and I was super busy with work, family and other activities so still it sits in my draft folder… and now it will not be published.  This is because I lost my baby. I went in for a check up and learned that our baby had died.

I will never forget the look on the technician’s face when she said “I am sorry but I do not see a heartbeat” I started to weep… I wept as they assured me it was nothing I did… I wept as they said it was nature’s way of handling something that wasn’t right… I wept as they handed me a pamphlet explaining what a D&C is and I wept as I signed the papers consenting to an “abortion”.

I haven’t had the procedure yet, that is scheduled for Tuesday. So here I sit with my baby inside of me and no way to help it. I think that is the part that is scaring me the most, that the baby is still here. My tummy was starting to pop and I still look/feel pregnant… but my baby is not alive. As a mother I feel like  I have one main job, to protect my children… and this time I couldn’t do it. My body was supposed to keep baby safe, nourish it, allow it to grow in a warm safe environment… but this time it didn’t work out.

We were not trying to get pregnant. If you read my previous blog series you know that I do not naturally ovulate and used fertility treatments to conceive Arabella. This pregnancy was a shock, but a good one, a welcome one… it was like my body finally got it right after all these years and I was truly amazed…. but somewhere between seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen September 29th and having the screen turned away from me on October 28th my baby died and I will never know why.

I have been running through all the different scenarios in my head. One major standout moment was on October 26th when I had my first grand-mal seizure in 7 years (I have Epilepsy but had only been having petit-mal seizures thanks to the aid of a VNS implant and medication). My OB assures me that the seizure did not cause the miscarriage but more likely the miscarriage caused the seizure. Apparently the fetus was measuring smaller than the yolk sack, and there was something about how my uterus had tipped backwards since the previous visit I really don’t know what it all means, just that the doctor was insistent that the seizure was not responsible… I almost wish it was because even though there still wouldn’t have been anything we could have done i’d at least have an answer… but I don’t and I never will.

One thing that I found very disturbing occurred right after they told us there was no heartbeat. Suddenly my baby stopped being referred to as a baby/fetus and became “the tissue”.  “I will go in and extract the tissue” were words that cut me like a knife. It was as if I was just supposed to forget that this was a part of me, with it’s own developing organs, it’s own skin, it’s own heartbeat. Now it was “the tissue” this just made me weep even harder. I understand that they want you to agree to the procedure and that if they actually said “we are going to scrape out your baby, throw it away and pretend none of this ever happened” no one could bear to go through with it… but that was how it felt when they said it to me and that is what is eating at me right this very moment. Perhaps I will feel differently on Tuesday after it is all said and done. This is just the raw emotions and honest words of a mother trying to comprehend a terrible loss.

So until then I will just continue to hold my daughter close, find strength in Rich,, and accept the support of all of my wonderful friends and family members. Whatever it is you may believe in there is no right answer for how to cope with this… so send me your positive thoughts, your well wishes and even your prayers… lord knows I need them all.  

 

A letter to the judge…

As a mother I cannot imagine a pain more severe than the loss of a child. A woman who lost her child in 2010 was asking for letters to the judge who will preside over an upcoming parole hearing, deciding the fate of her child’s killer. I was honored to provide a letter giving perspective on how that December night didn’t just affect the families involved, but our city as a whole.

I have a strict rule. No matter what, when someone is grieving I will not ever question their beliefs. If it is prayers they need then I will take time to sit and reflect. I have witnessed secularists throw the question “where was your God?” in the face of a grieving mother and it made me sick and still does all these years later. Religion encompassed this particular case. From the fact that both the Clelands (victims family) and the Isimingers (killers family) were extremely religious, to the fact that they had just left Lexa’s church pageant, the mother’s own words “By faith, I know it’s not my fate to judge you. That’s in God’s hands. I can forgive you.” and the killers response “I can never make this right. On behalf of your daughter, I will include a prayer for Lexa and her family every day.”.  

Though I respect the rights of those to grieve as they wish I do not believe that it is enough to think that it is in God’s hands to judge or that a prayer a day is penance enough. I want changes in our legal system. I want drunk drivers who kill to be treated like the murders that they are. So I was proud to write to the judge and let him know that six years is not adequate and that we need to do a better job of protecting the public. I am not sure if my letter will make a difference to the judge, but by sharing it I can only hope that at least one person will think twice before they drink and drive.

To Whom It May Concern,

On December 4, 2010 our city suffered a tragic loss as a result of the choices of one man. Travis Isiminger, a young man from a good family, who had values and a bright future ahead of him proved that good people can still do wrong. In choosing to drink himself sick and the Hofbrauhaus, then choosing to get behind the wheel of his car he took all choices away from the public. His actions made those of responsible citizens irrelevant. No matter how careful they were, Travis making the choice to play God put all of our lives in danger.

That night the Cleland family paid the ultimate price on a tab that belonged to Travis. They lost not one but two children and their lives were forever changed. The forgiveness they have offered and the compassion they have shown towards Travis is nothing short of amazing. To be able to look at him, at his family, and take the murder charges off the table was commendable… but I doubt they thought doing so would cut his sentence down to a time frame less than the short life their daughter Lexa was able to live.

There is no sentence long enough to make up for the lives lost that night. The beauty and joy in the face of little Lexa cannot be replaced. The potential of the life forming inside of Nicole cannot even be imagined. Nevertheless, I believe the maximum sentence should be served. I did not know the Cleland family in 2010 but as someone who has lost a loved one to drunk driving I can tell you that I felt a closeness to them and my heart broke with each detail that was released. When you lose a family member to a totally avoidable tragic event such as that on December 4, 2010 it does not just affect the immediate family. Generations of people will suffer a loss from the choices Travis made. From all of Lexa’s future nieces or nephews to the classmates that had to learn the news of their friends death, to every citizen of Pittsburgh that drives down Carson Street and for just a moment catches a glimpse of the memorial cross… lives have been touched and they will continue to be touched until the end of time.

I hope that when you make the choice of whether or not to release Travis you will consider the severity of his crime and the impact he has had. I am sure that it will be said that he has learned his lesson, that he wants to raise awareness, that he is forever sorry for what he has done. That is all well and good, but his wants and needs should not be a consideration. The needs of all those who were touched by Lexa Cleland, especially the beautiful family that has been left behind, are what need to be addressed. Any future plans that Travis has will still be available to him when his twelve year sentence is up, but no amount of time will compensate for the lives he stole that night.

Sincerely,

Allison Reed

 

A Uterus from Nothing (part 9)

Happy Birthday Arabella! That’s right, it has been one year since my “miracle baby” was born. So many milestones, so many memories… year one is just filled to the top with baby moments that you never forget. Though we did not participate in the typical religious ceremonies such as a christening we still had plenty of fancy dresses and special occasions.

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I suppose if you want to split hairs we did technically participate in two fancy dress related “religious” events. Arabella was able to meet Santa Claus to commemorate her first Christmas and then a few months later she found the Easter Bunny at the very same mall! Now I know there are a lot of Atheists who don’t think “religious” holidays should be observed by nonbelievers… well, Rich and I are not those Atheists. Christmas and Easter are significant for our families, they both bring back amazing memories and we want to pass those along to our child… end of story. If you notice I said we met them at the mall, not a church, a mall. There was not a manger or crucifix in sight, just a jolly old man and a big fluffy bunny, sounds pretty secular to me.

I’ve lost count as to how many times religion has tried to sneak into my baby’s first year. Despite my best efforts to not step on the toes of my religious friends and family it seems I managed to somehow offend them with my secular lifestyle. One of the absolute funniest examples occurred around November 21st. We had been taking photos each month to document her growth, the standard procedure involves a little sticker or sign indicating what month you are celebrating and a stuffed animal for size comparison. I chose some cute stickers that had a different color and animal for each month as well as Arabella’s Charles Darwin doll. It didn’t take long before it was revealed to me that some people were less than pleased to see these shots. I was actually told that they didn’t appreciate seeing my baby next to “some heathen”.  Now when I heard that two things immediately came to mind. 1. I cannot believe I am associated with someone who cannot identify the father of evolution. 2. I know this person is not a creationist, I have known them my entire life and do not believe for one second that their fair-weather faith can stretch that far out of the range of sanity.  So why were they offended? Would it have been better if I had used her Nietzsche doll or maybe Marie Curie? What was it about a plush Darwin sitting next to my baby girl that made their skin crawl.  I will never know the answer to this, the discussion will never occur and even if I tried to bring it up, it would just be dismissed. As you can see I did not take their frustrations to heart, I continued my Darwin growth chart and maybe I will never stop.

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About a month ago Arabella and I were involved in a car accident. I was left with a concussion, eye injury and many bumps and bruises. Thanks to research and development Arabella made it without a scratch on her. In case you didn’t know, rear facing car seats are amazing at protecting our little ones. I was so thankful to the people who invested their time to discover which conditions keep our kids safe from the stupidity of others. Though I may tip my hat to Graco and the other leading companies, not everyone saw it that way. When discussing the accident in mommy groups I was bombarded with prayers for a quick recovery and messages that God was watching over me at that moment, and he kept us safe. Well, as much as I appreciate the well wishes I have to say that not even a traumatic brain injury can make me believe that God saved us that day… nope it was seat belts, car seats and having the speed and impact happen to combine in a way that left us able to live another day.

One year down and a lifetime to go, I have to wonder what challenges I will face trying to raise Arabella to be a strong, secular woman in a world that doesn’t always promote acceptance. Though our parental instincts make us want to protect our children I have no intentions of shielding her from the world. I want her to learn about the beliefs other people hold, to understand reasons why they feel the way the do and to acknowledge that it is okay for people to hold different beliefs. I want her to find that you don’t need to define a friendship, we can love and care for those who do not follow the same path and be supportive of them without betraying our own values. I am still working on all of this myself, I try my best each day and know that it can only get better as I am now setting an example for my child.

When to pick your poison

the poison you pick can have great consequence...

the poison you pick can have great consequence…

I often consider what battles I would want to fight in the name of Atheism. Even more-so, I ponder how my choices will influence the way my children handle themselves in similar situations. Separation of church and state (SOCAS) is a constant battle within the Atheist community and I am not naive enough to think my child will be immune to the discrimination.  Try as I might I will not always be there to hold my child’s hand, so after much thought I have decided on three levels of  SOCAS battles: a level one battle is a situation that I would have to step in on, level two are battles that be left up to the child and level three are battles I would encourage to be left alone. Here, let me elaborate.

When there is a blatant violation of SOCAS I would feel obligated to speak up, not just for my child, but for all the children that it may be effecting. A good example of this would be the presence of religion in the public school system. Whether it be a plaque listing the Ten Commandments,  a teacher trying to implement mandatory prayer before class or  even an instructor attempting to teach creationism- all of these would be completely inappropriate in a public school setting. Though I have every intention of teaching my child the fundamentals of each religion, I do not want it to come presented as fact and I do not want it to come from the mouth of a believer. If ever I found out that the school staff were using the classroom as their own personal pulpit I would have to step in and put a stop to it.  So weather religion sneaks in as a form of decorative wall art or masquerades as science, it has no place being present in our public schools and I will not stand for it.

When it comes to those in-between battles, there are some things that I would have to leave my child to decide. For instance if my daughter decides that saying “under God” is not a big deal I would respect that and if she chose to rebel as I did when I was young and sit down for the pledge that would be fine as well. Though still a separation of church and state related issue, for me it is not at the same level as religious monuments or mandatory prayer. The fact of the matter is that as hard as it is to remove religion from the public schools, removing the government influence would prove nearly impossible. For better or worse, the Pledge of Allegiance is a symbol of loyalty to our country (with or without “God”). Sort of like how people complain that “In God we trust” is on our money, yet they don’t refuse to spend or receive it. We work towards change and yet still award a level of grandfathered in acceptance. Saying the pledge has become the social norm and therefore is in a different league than requiring prayer or providing religious literature to be taught as fact.

This may come as a surprise but there are some battles that I would not want my children to fight in the name of atheism or SOCAS.  A few years ago, right here in Pittsburgh, we had a situation that really made me see that sometimes you have to step back and realize that not all issues of SOCAS are created equal. Imagine being part of this… On December 4, 2010, a 7 year old girl was killed by a drunk driver who smashed head on into her mother’s car while they were on their way to pick up her father after a church event. If your child had attended the same public school as she did, they would have seen a Christmas tree where you were allowed to hang angels in her memory. So right there we have two major religious symbols the Christmas tree and the angel appearing in a public school. This is clearly a matter that falls under the separation of church and state umbrella, but what would  be gained by fighting that battle? Sure, you might get them to take down their tree, but not without appearing to be a heartless individual who has no compassion for those mourning the loss of a child. This was done out of remembrance for the lost life, it was a way to cope with a tragedy but what it wasn’t was a way to proselytize. I am adamant that just because religion appears in a public place it does not always mean that it’s inappropriate… consider the context in which religion is present and perhaps you will see that  some battles are best left for another day.

These examples are just a taste of what you may encounter when raising children in a world where religion wants to dominate all. There is room for adjustment, obviously what works for my secular family may not work for all, but the fundamentals are still there. Fighting for our freedom from religion does not have to be an all or nothing battle- perhaps choosing your battles wisely will yield a greater return in the end.