After Dr. Tiller was killed, I watched the man I didn’t know would become my doctor talking on the news, rubbed my belly, and wondered how anyone could possibly have a late-term abortion. A month later, I understood. During the 29-week ultrasound, the ventricles in the brain were enlarged. There aren’t adjectives to describe how I felt when we learned a few weeks later her neurological system wasn’t formed. It’s not that I didn’t want an imperfect child; even if we had all the interventions, she’d have seizures 70 percent of the time, never suck or breathe. We couldn’t have detected the problem until then. My first thought was of my 2-year-old son. No one presented abortion as an option—I asked. During the car ride home, I kept saying to my husband, “Please don’t think I’m a bad person.” As far as I knew, only one doctor in the country would perform an abortion that late, even for medical reasons. He had to approve us. He was in Colorado. We were in Maryland. I started to feel her seizing within me. We flew to Boulder the next week, paying for everything out-of-pocket: $17,500 for the procedure and about $3,500 for last-minute travel costs. They did a sonogram to find her heart and injected her with a long needle. I counted four movements, and she was gone. At six in the morning on the day I was supposed to return to the clinic, I felt my water break. I was alone in a hotel bathroom so far away from my home. I wanted to protect my husband. I didn’t let him in. I delivered her intact, sitting on the toilet, and I sat there until the doctor and nurse came and took her away properly. It’s different for me than my husband. I carried her. I didn’t have relief until my next daughter was born. Now we have three living children. That doctor gave me my family.
Although I always thought it was a woman’s right to choose, I honestly thought if I got pregnant I’d find a way to make it work. All that changed. My boyfriend terrorized me. At some point, I decided it was safer to have him in my life than cut him out. But when I got pregnant, I knew right away I didn’t want a lifelong connection to that person. I was right; when we later broke up, he sawed my clothes in half and poured corn syrup in my gas tank. During the ultrasound, I shouted, “We’re not keeping it!” It was a way of not acknowledging the life-form. When I went to the clinic, there were protesters with awful, very graphic signs. I felt their judgment. Other experiences changed me more. This year, I had another D&C after I miscarried, and it’s amazing how much I mourned that pregnancy. The same experience can be so different when you’re in a different place in life. My first husband died. With the slew of shitty things that have happened to me, I wonder, am I paying the price for what I did? I believe in a God who wouldn’t punish that way. But when you don’t want the gift you’re given, will the universe offer up that gift again? As I started to get older and was nowhere near having kids, I started to wonder if that was my chance and I blew it. But I’m 21 weeks pregnant now.