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My sis’ abortion story – trisomy 21

by Sara

April 4, 2019

Content Warning: later abortion

This is my sister’s story as she wrote it to herself.

 

My abortion,

I got pregnant at 35 years old and my husband and I were very excited as it was our fist pregnancy and our first baby and we really wanted to be parents.

The doctors told me that I was of advanced maternal age so they needed to check the fetus for genetic issues and abnormalities. I was very positive because I am a very healthy woman, eat properly, have healthy weight, exercise regularly, and don’t smoke or drink. Our families did not have a history of pregnancy issues so we were positive that in spite of my age, the pregnancy was normal.

At 12 weeks pregnant, our world came crashing down when the blood test revealed that we were having a son and he had a 99.9% possibility of Trisomy 21 or down syndrome. We felt that a blood test was not proof enough for us that the fetus had down syndrome and requested that we get 100% confirmation of the condition. The doctors assured us that the blood test was extremely accurate (and expensive, almost $1,000 that the insurance did not fully covered.)

We were still in denial that our loved and wanted baby had such a hard condition. The doctors told us that there was no way to check the spectrum of the down syndrome therefore, we could have a highly functional son, able to be independent or we could have a highly disabled son that would not be able to perform basic activities.

I cried for days and asked family and friends what we should do. I really wanted this baby but the down syndrome was a difficult condition to live with. He would face many delays in his development and may not be able to attend regular school. I would have to quit my job because our child needed special care and my husband has a higher income so he could help more with the expenses.

My husband and I researched the life expectancy and potential complications for a person with down syndrome and decided that we did not want to bring a baby into this world to face the harsh realities of people with disabilities. I really wanted to have this baby but I was not ready to face the complication of life with a child with down syndrome.

We did not want to have an abortion, but it was helpful to know that it was an option for us if the diagnosis was confirmed. We requested more proof before deciding to terminate the pregnancy because we did not want to have an abortion if the fetus was not sick. We really wanted this baby. The doctors told us that the only way to be 100% sure was with an amniocentesis and an anatomy scan but those could not be scheduled until I was 16 weeks pregnant and the results could take another week. I researched that I could get an abortion in Florida until week 24 of gestation and I contacted the clinics and most of them did not perform after 20-21 weeks of gestation. We knew we needed to make the decision soon, but we could not bring ourselves to terminate the pregnancy until we confirmed the diagnosis of the down syndrome condition.

The hospital we were referred to couldn’t get us an appointment for the amniocentesis and anatomy scan any time soon, so we called all the hospitals in the area and we were able to get an appointment when I was 17 weeks. At the anatomy scan, the doctor explained that the fetus seemed to have down syndrome and had issues with his heart and with his femur bone. He may require surgeries as soon as he was born to correct the cardiac issue and the femur bone issues. We still did not want to give up on the pregnancy and wanted the amniocentesis results which came a week later confirming 100% the down syndrome diagnosis. The doctor performed a genetic analysis of my husband and myself and found no genetic anomalies. The doctors told us that this pregnancy was a “fluke” that it did not come out “normal” it was just bad luck because we did not have any genetic issues.  I was 18 weeks pregnant then and I was going to have a termination for medical reasons.

I cried and cried. I did not want to terminate the pregnancy, but I also did not want to bring a baby into the world with so many issues. I was also scared of the abortion procedure itself and any consequences for future pregnancies. I researched the abortion procedure for a second trimester pregnancy and read that it involved a two-day procedure, that it was very safe and that I should not have any issues for future pregnancies. I felt relieved that I could terminate this pregnancy and try again to get pregnant. I called the clinics and they could not schedule me for the procedure until a week later. I would be 19 weeks at that point but there were no other appointments sooner.

I had to wait another week with a fetus inside of me knowing that I was going to terminate. I was grateful that I did not feel any kicking yet. I did not feel the fetus move inside me at all. But I still cried every day because my belly was big and I knew that he was in there and we were going to terminate his development. It was very hard on me and my husband, but we knew we were making the right decision for our family.

The abortion was scheduled for Thursday February 9, 2017 and Friday 10, 2017. We arrived at the clinic at 8:00 am and found out that the insurance would not cover it, even if it was for medical reasons. We had to pay $2,000.00 out of pocket, right there at the clinic. It made me think what would happen to women who could not afford that fee. Would they have to continue a pregnancy that they can not, do not want to continue? I felt very fortunate to be able to afford that fee, even if it was going to take some time to pay it off.

My husband could not enter the clinic with me and was told to pick me up in the afternoon. Cellphones were not allowed, they go in a locker by the door and you can only call outside. I could not call him when it was done. The clinic was going to call him.

I went to the waiting room. It had 8 recliner chairs and a few tvs. There were many women there waiting for a procedure. Some were for first trimester abortions so they would get a pill, wait for an hour and leave. But the ones that were in the second trimester, we had to wait to get the luminaria inserted in the cervix to dilate and open the cervix.

The nurses took my vitals, gave me literature about abortion, showed me an ultrasound of my fetus and gave me counseling to make sure I was completely aware of the decision I was making. I still wanted to have the abortion.

There were other women there for the procedure. We were individually interviewed and explained that we would be sedated from the waist down. We could opt out of the sedation but it would hurt. Some women opted out of the sedation, and we could hear the screams. I was no interested in making the process painful so I asked for the sedation.

By noon, they put the luminaria sticks inside of me to open the cervix. It didn’t hurt because they sedated me, but I threw up and felt dizzy. They called my husband and he picked me up. They told us to bring me back the following day at 8:00 am and we went home. I felt physically fine but stayed in bed the rest of the day crying because I Kept asking myself why did we get a sick fetus? Would I be able to have a healthy baby later? It was a hard day. I felt some discomfort at night, like some menstrual pain, but nothing major.

 

We got there at 8 am the following day on Friday February 10, 2017. Again, no cellphones, no husband allowed. The nurses checked my cervix and I was not dilated enough so they gave me medicine every hour to dilate. I was sitting in a comfortable reclining chair, watching tv and talking with the other women waiting for the same procedure. All of us were there for a second trimester abortion so we were talking about why we waited so long to get the abortion. Some women were having the abortion due to medical reasons with her or the fetus and like me, could not get the abortion until they were 100% sure of the issues. Some had to travel from other states or other countries into Florida and had to pay not only for the procedure, but for hotel and transportation for two-three days so they had to save up money before scheduling the procedure. I felt bad for those women and felt very fortune to have access to clinics in the same city that I live in.

The nurses brought us water and pain medication. We could not eat because we were going to have general anesthesia and you can vomit and choke while sedated.They gave us warm blankets too. It was a comfortable environment in spite of the circumstances.

About 1:00 pm, I was in so much pain on my lower back! I had fever and had contractions and diarrhea. The nurses gave me medicine but I was still no dilated enough, so I had to wait. When other women finished the procedure, they were taken to the same waiting room, with the same reclining chairs and were told in front of all of us to not stand up, to eat a little bit and relax for an hour or so. We saw a woman getting up to talk on the phone outside and picking up her purse. Then she came back in and was bleeding, so the doctor had to take her in again. We learned to follow the doctor’s order that moment. When they finally took me in around 3 pm, I was in pain. I hated every minute of that pain. All of this while fasting. But then I was given the anesthesia and I didn’t feel anything, and I don’t know what happened. Before I knew, it was done and I was in the waiting room again. The doctor was excellent, and I didn’t feel anything after the procedure was done. I did not see the fetus. But I felt better, a sense of relief. I did not have any pain after the procedure, and I did not bleed that much after either.

My husband picked me up and we went home. The emotional pain was harder to endure than the physical pain. That was our first baby and I couldn’t believe we had to lose our baby. I cried a lot that weekend but physically, I felt fine. The nurses from the clinic called me several times to check on me and I appreciated the gesture. I went back to work the Monday after and it helped to take my mind off the loss. It took me weeks of crying to get over it, especially the tenth of every month was hard for me.

I went to the follow up appointment two weeks later and there were some pro life protestor at the clinic harassing people entering. It was hard and scary to hear the things they said to us but I still went in. I had already had the abortion, but felt bad for the women who were starting the process and the protesters were making the decision harder. The appointment went well, my body was healthy and he doctors assured me that the abortion, even that advanced into the pregnancy, was safe and I could get pregnant again.

Then life went on, my husband and I went on a trip to Africa and enjoyed our time as a couple. and I did get pregnant in January 2018. We were ecstatic but cautious about the pregnancy. All the tests came back normal and our rainbow baby boy was born September 2018. We now enjoy our healthy baby boy.

 

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