by Rachel

August 24, 2022

This is not a quick story.

My husband and I had been building a life in Colorado and in November of 2020 we finally decided that things were calm and stable enough for us to bring a little one into the world. I got pregnant right away with no problems in December 2020.

We were contacting our family, posting ultrasound photos, and making plans over the next few months. But it was not to be. My pregnancy symptoms were strangely severe and at my 4th ultrasound appointment the doctor found a cystic hygroma on my baby’s neck. Most of the days after that started to blur together. The sequential ultrasounds confirmed that the cyst was growing and not shrinking. By four months of pregnancy there was more cyst than there was baby. My husband and I were told that our baby tested positive for Turner Syndrome and that she would die before reaching birth. This devastating moment was also the first time the gender had been revealed to us. It was a girl.

Turner Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder in which a baby girl is missing an X chromosome. TS only effects 1 in 2000 pregnancies and 99% of fetuses with Turner Syndrome do not survive to birth. To continue the pregnancy would be to put my daughter through futile and unnecessary struggle. Her anatomy was “incompatible with life”. We were offered the option to terminate our pregnancy and with reluctant broken hearts we agreed.

The day came. I was familiar with the insensitive antics of the local Planned Parenthood “pro-life” protesters, and frequently voiced my disapproval while driving by their little show. But this time I was a patient and not a mildly annoyed bystander. My baby was dying inside me. Them being there to protest me was surreal. One protester began to approach us on clinic property to discourage us from going in. My husband was not in the mood and started screaming at the protesters like any grieving father would. He even told them our story and the situation our girl was facing. He yelled it for the world to hear. As you can imagine it was very emotionally charged moment. Any reasonable person would at that point put their sign down and go home out of respect for those in mourning. But her story meant nothing to them. They were not fazed by the story of an impending fetal demise. They didn’t care that my baby was dying. They just continued to call my husband and I murderers with their megaphone. It was never about fetal death.

As someone with very dark past traumas and mental health complications, this was a very damaging situation to be in. Eventually, Planned Parenthood security became involved and called the police so we would no longer be harassed. The Planned Parenthood staff was so kind to me when we finally made it in the building. It was such a sobering contrast between the hate and malice aimed at me outside the clinic just moments before.

Things were calm and secure inside the building, and we filled out all the necessary paperwork to send our baby girl off with dignity and grace. The doctor just needed one more ultrasound before the procedure. When the doctor seemed unsure of something on the monitor, I knew something was wrong and asked, “Is she gone?” She was. The sonographer nodded quietly. No heartbeat could be detected. It had stopped beating the day before the procedure. Tears quietly ran down the sides of my face as I stared blankly into the ceiling. My husband had to do all the talking and planning from that point on. I was in no place to be handling anything serious. I was useless and needed a responsible adult to help me navigate through the rest of this tragedy.

Since our daughter died before the abortion procedure, we would have to have surgery at the hospital to remove her instead at Planned Parenthood. The next day I was in and out of surgery by 10 a.m. Our soured daydream seemed to be over until I had bleeding complications within five minutes of leaving the hospital. Soon I was rushed in for emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. I was so weak, sad, and broken in the hospital over the next few days. All I could think about was the series of rare unfortunate events that brought us here.

The nurses at the hospital were very gentle towards me and we talked for many hours about life and everything that had happened. It was very healing and needed support from wonderful compassionate individuals. I’ve seen a lot of things, but I saw the best and worst of humanity that week and I am not the same because of it.

I named our daughter Mercy.

Currently I live in Oklahoma and recently became pregnant with my husband and I’s second pregnancy. We had a pregnancy test done through my primary care provider who referred me to The Women’s Clinic in my area and she told me it would take a couple weeks for them to call and schedule my first prenatal appointment.

The very next week I went to the ER because over the weekend I began passing large clots with heavy vaginal bleeding, and I could no longer hold down food or water without vomiting. We waited four hours in the ER to see the Dr. for a total of 5 minutes. An ultrasound and bloodwork were done, and I was diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage. The Dr. suspected that I miscarried a twin because there was still a live fetus inside me. I was a little shocked and horrified because I had just passed so much but I was still pregnant. The Dr. casually said, “It’s a good thing” as he walked out the door. I didn’t think it was a good thing to have just miscarried one of my twins and I was amazed at his apathy toward my circumstances. No treatment was administered for my bleeding, and I was sent home. When I finally received a call from The Women’s Clinic, I was informed that my first prenatal appointment for this high-risk pregnancy would not be until NOVEMBER. I would be mere months away from delivery by the time my first prenatal appointment would happen. Two weeks later I was taken to the ER in an ambulance because I was having severe constipation and was unable to pass stool or gas for 5 days, I was still bleeding, and I could no longer hold down food or water. I was not able to walk and had to be held up by the EMT going down the stairs to get me out of my house. At the hospital, the same Dr. was there from my previous visit. An ultrasound and bloodwork were done. My constipation was not addressed or treated, and my increasing vaginal bleeding was diagnosed as a UTI. The Dr. again saw me for 5 minutes and I was sent home with antibiotics. Finally, my husband and I found a women’s clinic that could see us the next week. At our first appointment we laid out our high-risk history and all the recent events of our current pregnancy. Two days later, at our first routine prenatal ultrasound with the new OB, we were told there was no amniotic fluid surrounding our baby, the baby was, as the OB put it, “not good” and that we could not be seen there for our high-risk pregnancy. We were referred to a perinatology center an hour away and they would be able to call us for scheduling in about two weeks. Before I could be seen at the perinatology clinic, I had to submit blood samples ordered by the previous clinic. I went in person to get the blood drawn and immediately felt blood saturating my pants after the last tube had been filled. I was told in the next week I would be sent an at home DIY blood sample kit to draw my own blood for the perinatology clinic.

At this point, I had gone from a weight of 130 lb. at the beginning of my pregnancy to 117 lb. and I began wearing diapers to control my excessive chronic bleeding. I had no color in my skin or lips and could not see my veins anymore. My husband and I decided to call my Colorado OB in desperation. Since it was the weekend, we spoke to the triage nurse and were told that if we could make it to The Women’s Clinic Colorado my OB would see me immediately. The next day we drove 11 hours to a friend’s house and the next morning after that we were at the Colorado clinic telling my OB everything that happened. My OB, and everyone who took care of me from that point on, was horrified by the series of events that had transpired and was very concerned for the state of my health. The two MDs overseeing my care kept apologizing to me on behalf of the health care system. They were very angry with how my pregnancy had been handled and how I had been treated. They were once again saving my life from a rare pregnancy complication, something my care providers failed to do in Oklahoma. I would not be alive if it weren’t for my Colorado abortion providers.

I was finally diagnosed with (CAOS) Chronic Abruption-Oligohydramnios Sequence which is a rare condition effecting only 1 in 4000 pregnancies. My untreated chronic bleeding was the cause of my dangerously low amniotic fluid levels, and my baby, a boy, would never develop lungs because of it. I found out these complications are not supportive of future pregnancies, and I would need intensive medical assistance if I wanted to safely carry another pregnancy. The nurses could not find my veins to insert an IV and my blood work shows that by the time I had reached the Colorado Women’s Clinic, I had lost 50% of my blood count slowly over the past 7 weeks. I was poked several times and 2 IVs were placed as a precaution because the blood flow for each was so unreliable. I was admitted to the hospital and scheduled for surgery the next day to remove the fetus. A blood transfusion was administered immediately, and I was closely monitored until surgery. The surgery was uneventful with no complications and by 4pm my OB team felt that I was doing 1000% better and could be discharged. My bleeding was at minimal levels and my strength and color were returning as my blood levels increased. My husband and I drove 11 hours home that night.

My body is returning to normal now. My bleeding is nearly nonexistent, and I can do things I couldn’t before like walk to the mailbox, clean my house, and drive by myself. These things became hard without adequate blood in my body. It effected every little part of my life. I’ve essentially been bleeding to death slowly over the course of this pregnancy. My emotions are 100% out of control this week after processing everything but my husband and I are grateful that I am no longer at death’s doorstep.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!