The Most Painful Thing I’ll Ever Write

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING ELEMENTS AND WHAT ARE CONSIDERED CONTROVERSIAL VIEWPOINTS. I DON’T WANT TO UPSET ANYONE, BUT I AM ALSO NOT HERE FOR DEBATE. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION.

Today, I’m setting aside the main theme of my blog to write about something I honestly never thought I’d ever write about in a public way. I don’t feel comfortable writing about it on non-anonymous social media. The vast majority of people who ‘know’ me don’t even know this was ever an event in my life, and even the ones that do sure don’t know all the details and delicacies of how it’s shaped my life and worldview. I know I’d get animosity and judgment and meanness and argument and maybe even hatred from some of them, not compassion and understanding, at least when I get to the part about how it’s shaped my world view. I may not get compassion and understanding here, either, but there’s a better chance here than there, and I feel the need to talk about it now. So I’m talking about it today because of a few states passing or trying to pass ‘trigger bills’ to immediately make abortions illegal should Roe vs. Wade be overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court.

I’m not going to talk about bodily autonomy and consent or trusting women to make their own decisions today. I won’t talk about how I believe that every child SHOULD BE a choice. I’m not going to talk about how ‘pro-life’ should actually mean pro-LIFE, not pro-birth, so healthcare and shelter and nutrition and education for all children, and women getting equal pay in the workplace, and workplaces supporting affordable child care and family leave for mothers AND fathers to support strong families and happy, healthy children should be priorities, not just forcing pregnancy and childbirth on women. And I won’t talk about how the anti-choice movement also demonizes and shames birth control, and sex education, and makes them harder to access even though those have been proven to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and therefore abortions. Or how the anti-choice movement frames children as punishment for sex, because what they really want is to control women’s sexuality, not prevent abortions. That’s not what this post is about, even though I do believe all of those things. Today, I want to talk about WHY I believe all those things. I’m going to talk about the implications of personally considering and legally deeming all terminated pregnancies as evil and wrong and bad and criminal. I’m going to talk about MY terminated pregnancy.

In the fall of 2006, immediately before my 28th birthday, J and I found out I was pregnant. We’d made the decision to ‘try’ only about a month before, and I was ‘late,’ and had taken several at-home tests, but didn’t get a clear positive result until I was almost a full two weeks passed when I should have had a period. We went to my family doctor to confirm it on another urine test. We were both thrilled. We went out to a restaurant to eat to celebrate and commenced calling a lot of people who were important to us to share the good news. I called to make an appointment with an obstetrician, who told me I didn’t need an appointment until 12 weeks, which was almost another month away.

I experienced a really stressful event at lunch with a friend at work a few days later, and that (I thought) caused me to feel extra emotional and a little sick and tired. Plus, I mean…pregnancy hormones, right? I was supposed to start feeling emotional and sick and tired. Right? And then J and I took our dog out for a walk, and she was a little pull-y on the leash (she was only 2 then…not 15 like she is now…she was an energetic, adventurous puppy then), and I felt some soreness in my shoulder which I blamed on walking the dog.

what-is-ectopic-pregnancy-spotting-signs-getting-help4

A week later, a few days after my birthday, I woke up in the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my abdomen and lower back, but also in my shoulder. (I’ve been through childbirth once now…I’ve broken two bones…it’s still the worst physical pain I’ve ever been in.)
And I was bleeding. I cried a lot. It was 4 a.m. I called my new obstetrician’s office, obviously after hours on a weekend, and the doctor on call (not the doctor I had chosen) told me I was having a ‘routine miscarriage.’ She said there was nothing that could be done to stop it from happening and that she was very sorry. ‘Wait for nature to take its course.’ I cried more. The pain got worse. J couldn’t bear to watch me in that pain and insisted on taking me to the emergency room. I can remember telling him that the doctor said nothing could be done about the situation, and him telling me that at least I could get some pain relief. When we arrived, I explained my pain and the intake nurses sprang into action and I underwent some rather invasive tests to confirm that I wasn’t having a ‘routine miscarriage.’ (Those words will haunt me forever, by the way. There is no such thing as a ‘routine miscarriage.’) I had a nearly ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which means that instead of a fertilized egg implanting in my uterus, like it’s supposed to, it implanted in my Fallopian tube, where there wasn’t enough room to grow into a baby (it WASN’T already a baby…it was a group of cells with the potential to grow into a baby under the right circumstances). So the tube was on its way to bursting. The pain I was experiencing was from internal bleeding. (If you are early in pregnancy, and experiencing a lot of pain in your *shoulder*, please get examined immediately.) I had to have immediate emergency surgery to remove the rupturing tube and maybe that attached ovary. I wasn’t given a ‘choice.’ There was no ‘choice.’ My ‘choice’ was, ‘You can live now or you can die. Either way, there will be no future baby.’

I wanted that pregnancy. I was excited and optimistic about it. And it was terminated, because I didn’t have a choice. The odds of the pregnancy continuing to be viable AND the odds of me *staying alive* if it weren’t terminated were ZERO. And this is why I am pro-choice now. And this is why ‘trigger bills’ and making abortion illegal hurt me, personally.

Now, if I were to tell this story to the people in my life who are anti-choice, leaving out the parts about me being pro-choice and why, I’m sure I would get pity and sorrow and affected sympathy. I’m sure they would tell me that what happened to me ‘is different’ than getting an abortion…I would have died…I didn’t have a choice…I wanted that pregnancy…etc.
But there are other women who choose to get late term abortions because their lives or the lives of the babies *they wanted* are severely endangered, where their odds of survival are zero or next to zero, *just like mine were*, and they’ve been advised by medical professionals that this is an option for them. And that, to me, is the same. It IS the same. Except, unlike me, they HAD a choice and a say about the best way for their body and psyche to heal from that kind of a major trauma.

And the other reason this bothers me, is that in an era where abortion is illegal, any woman who suffers any form of pregnancy loss could, and in some cases almost certainly WOULD, be suspect of aborting when what really happened to them was what happened to me. Or maybe they really did just have a ‘routine miscarriage.’ And without opening up her private pain and perhaps even her medical records to the people in her life…her church…or maybe even law enforcement…or maybe even publicly documented court proceedings…she couldn’t prove herself ‘innocent.’ That sounds like a nightmare scenario to me. I don’t enjoy discussing this event in my life to people who claim to love me, in whom I have some level of earned and proven trust. Honestly, I rarely even talk about it to J, who intimately shared the event with me, experienced emotional pain from it too, and has always supported me with kindness and understanding through hard times. And I’m not ever considered a potential liar and/or criminal NOW, without opening up my literal medical records to people as proof.  I can only imagine how amplified my pain and how muted my voice would be if it happened to me in a time and place when I could be considered to be trying to cover up a crime with a story at least a percentage of people would think I was making up. I can talk about this here and feel relatively safe about it because abortion is legal right now. Really. Because if I had had an abortion to terminate a pregnancy, for whatever reason, instead of what actually happened to me, and I trusted a person enough to share that intimate part of my life, I could just say, ‘I had an abortion,’ and there wouldn’t be a need to concoct a cover story to protect my freedom and future. I can share what happened to me here now because I know people will believe me, because I have no reason to make it up. My motives and intentions would be questioned if abortion weren’t legal.

Women shouldn’t have to relive the pain of pregnancy loss and open up their private lives and maybe even medical records to prove they aren’t liars or criminals. This is why no form of pregnancy loss or termination should be a crime. Because if one form of it is, the other forms can, and in some cases surely WILL be suspected. ‘How do we know you REALLY had a miscarriage?…How do we know your life was ACTUALLY in danger?…’
Losing a pregnancy is traumatic enough, *in any circumstance.* It is rarely if ever a decision a woman comes to flippantly or lightly, even when she has a choice. Pregnancy loss shouldn’t also be a potential legal problem or at the very least a reason people in a woman’s life withdraw from or reject her because they can’t ‘know for sure’ what really happened.

I am now and will always be pro-choice.
Abortion should be legal and safe.
Pregnancy should be a choice.
Pregnancy loss and termination should be treated with compassion and understanding.

5 thoughts on “The Most Painful Thing I’ll Ever Write

  1. Thank you for sharing. Such an important topic.

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  2. Thank you for opening up and sharing this Jenlyn. Pregnancy, no matter the circumstances is never easy. I can relate so much to what you said. I lost my first one very early and it changed me. I can’t imagine being investigated for the loss, it was hard enough to deal with as it is. I felt guilty even though I had no control over it. I have written about it once here, because I feel the same about being judged out there. So again, thank you.

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  3. Brava Brava!!! Thank you for sharing such a deeply intimate but important part of your life. So needs to be voiced.

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  4. This is such a genuine and articulate break down of the crises we are in with government policing of women’s bodies.
    I am deeply moved by your courage in sharing a very painful loss. The state laws passed on Friday in KY have left me shocked and terrified. It terrifies me to be a woman in my own country right now. I too know the pain of having a miscarriage. I was lucky and did not need a D&C. The majority of the women I know that have also suffered this loss did medically require a D&C to protect their lives and their uterus from potential infertility due to infection. People are absolutely ignorant to the diverse set of circumstances where this procedure is necessary. The abortion issue has been made a divisive, extremest, black and white issue that demonizes us (women) at every turn. It is critical that we speak up and speak out. Thank you dear friend for doing that today. You inspire me and I am so very proud of you…

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  5. @Jenylyn Thawsley. I normally comment on stories, but, yours is different and has opened my mind even more, for that I thank you. I was raised in a Catholic School setting and was taught that abortion for any reason was against ‘Gods Words’. Now after reading this article, on Mothers Day none the less, you have changed my way of looking at pro choice. Though, I may not be all for all abortions, nor the morning after pill. I can see why abortions should always stay legal. More should be done though on sexual education. In todays society where boys and girls are developing earlier, Sex Ed should be taught sooner and more thoroughly than it was when I was in high school. Thanks again for such a great article.

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