Editor’s note: I awoke this morning to find a message from my friend “Rose” who lives abroad. Rose and I have never met in person, but have been friends online for a number of years. We actually “met” through a mutual friend who died suddenly a few years ago. Rose has always cheered me on as a writer and editor and talk show host. She is a conservative woman of faith who, though she no longer lives stateside, nonetheless loves America. I wrote an article, “Choose Life: Defund Abortion-Centric Planned Parenthood” and published it yesterday. Rose read that article and it touched her heart. I had no idea about Rose’s story. This is a vivid example of Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” You see, behind the battle for life in our nation are not only millions of babies we’ll never know here on earth, but also millions of mothers (and fathers) whose hearts are impacted. I hope my words are full of truth AND grace AND love. That “my tongue” (and often my pen) speaks words of life that will help lead to healing and never condemn or compound sorrow. Read on. And if you’re not deeply moved by Rose’s story you have no heart. Tami Jackson
Eight years ago…
I am 42, I live in Los Angeles with my 12 year old son from my first marriage and my second husband. Several weeks after the civil ceremony in a Beverly Hills court, standing under the chuppah, surrounded with family and friends in my home country, I realize I am pregnant, about 18 weeks into it.
Upon returning to LA, we do an ultrasound. It’s a boy. We see the baby’s face and the technician humorously says that he looks like his dad. Everything seems fine, but we are referred to do an amnio, as my age prescribes. At the doctor’s office he explains the risks of the procedure, and I say I’m fine, only I don’t really know for sure what I would do with the results. Doc says that even to know what to expect helps some parents. I go through with it, and after 24 hours of rest and no major incidents, I feel the worst is behind me. I feel the little baby’s movements, like a goldfish in a bowl. I start loving it, and count my blessings for this pregnancy.
A week goes by. I am at a Friday work meeting with a client, when my phone rings and I take the call. It is from genetics counseling of Kaiser Permanente. I am told the genetic test shows positive for Down Syndrome. I am told to come to the office on Monday, a doc would be available to talk to me in the afternoon. Shocked, I go home and sit at my computer and type in Down Syndrome. Among the top results is a parent support group, giving testimonials of how their children have been a blessing in their lives. I scan it haphazardly. My husband arrives home. We speak with the doctor by phone. The gist of the conversation, though I do not remember the details, is the need to move as quickly as possible. See you on Monday.
Throughout this long weekend I talk with many people. It seems like everyone has figured out the next step – it is a given. The pregnancy has become unwanted. Think of your life, think about your eldest child, think how difficult it is, you know these kids suffer other fatal physical problems, and may die in the months to come in utero, or shortly after breathing their first breath. Be thankful for the test and the ability to act. Other than those few posts in the blog, there is no advocacy for the baby. None. I appreciate the support I am getting in order to take the inevitable action. Only much later do I resent the one-sidedness of it all. Only much later do I regret not having made a real choice.
On Monday, at Kaiser, we meet with the doc and the genetic counsellor. The path is self-evident. The right thing to do is to terminate the pregnancy. I am told that since I am not that far along in order to go through induced labor, the procedure that is called for – D&E – cannot be done at Kaiser. This procedure is outsourced to Planned Parenthood.
I am told to go there on a certain day when D&Es are done (it’s a two day procedure). On other days they do D&Cs. We arrive on the scheduled day. My memories of those two days is clear on some points, foggy on others.
The clinic is far from my home, in a neighborhood I had never been to before. The building looks industrial and dreary. The atmosphere inside is cold and silent. The ‘patients’ are separated from their chaperones by a locked secure door. There are 10-15 women, and the process is like a conveyor belt, each of us taking her turn one after the other at each stage of process. There is hardly any talk among us. I sit enwrapped in my grief, and feel alone in it – no one shares it. I see none of it reflected in other faces of other women or of the staff. Only in my husband, which I see briefly every once in a while when I ask to be allowed to cross the locked door.
I go through the consent forms. I ask what D&E stands for. Dilation and Evacuation I am told. The first 24 hours will be the “dilation” part, and then the “evacuation”. The nurse/doctor (not sure what she was) who is in charge of the D, sees me several times across the first day, each time inserting one or two more twigs into my cervix. They look like thin cinnamon sticks. The insertions themselves are painful, and the nurse/doc slowly but surely becomes the devil in my eyes. She has no empathy for me or my pain. At the end of the first day I go into a different room in which it turns out I will be getting a shot. What for? Stopping the baby’s heartbeat.
Bawling, I go out to my husband. I was not prepared for this. He hugs me and gets teary eyed himself, and I go back and get the injection.
There is no more movement. The whole afternoon, evening, night and next morning, I am still carrying the baby, but he is no longer alive. I am a walking tomb for my baby.
The next day I return to the conveyor belt. Checking the Dilation part has been successful, I am wheeled to the operating room. The doc who is in charge of the “Evacuation” part has been flown in from another city, not sure which. At some point, I am not sure when, I get a few details about the E part, but I cannot bring myself to repeat them. I am put to sleep, and I wake up only 20-25 minutes later, with the sense of time completely skewed. Maybe 30 minutes later I go out through the back door with my husband, and we are sent off to resume our lives.
There is no follow up by Kaiser or by Planned Parenthood. No support, no counseling, no discussion, no processing. Just another day at the job.
I cannot imagine how my life would have looked today had I not terminated this pregnancy. I imagine it would not have been easy. I cannot say that I regret the termination or that it was the wrong decision. I do know that it has left a deep, dark, empty space in my soul.
Even if it was the right decision, its repercussions have been very painful.
I felt betrayed by Kaiser, having sent me to a place where there was such a discrepancy between what I felt and the surrounding atmosphere. Where the disregard for the immensity of what was going on was so blatant. The baby, both physically and spiritually was just tossed away. I regret that. I regret not having followed through with a few ideas I had of commemorating the boy, which I even had a name for.
The one thing I did several months later was ask for a meeting with the genetic counsellor, to tell her that I wish there was more than one voice in the decision process – that someone would have talked to me of the option of delivering the child and raising it. The right to choose is emptied of its meaning if the option of life is not even considered, and the path to eliminate it is so nonchalantly undertaken.