Friday, March 16, 2012

Red Choice, Blue Choice, Your Choice, My Choice

Hey guys, guess what?  I'm pro-choice.  (I know, hold on to your drinks, huuuuuuge shock.)  I'm not pro-abortion, or anti-baby, or anti-life by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I'm going to school for three very intensive years and taking on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt (Yale ain't cheap, y'all) to become a health professional whose life's work will be devoted to maintaining the health and well-being of women and babies.  That is, babies that women choose to have.  Because, thanks to some very brave people and the blessing of social progression, we, as women, have a right to choose if and when we would like to have children.  We have the right to use contraceptives in order to prevent pregnancy and we also have the right to have an abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.  There are people who want to take away those rights.  As a future midwife, as a future mother, and as a woman whose body is my own, that frankly scares the hell out of me.  In Texas and other states, there is a law being introduced that will require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before she may proceed with the abortion.  As you might have guessed, the idea behind this law is that forcing a woman to see the fetus on an ultrasound screen will make her reconsider the abortion.  I have a pro-tip for anyone who supports this law - the woman lying there on that examining table, yes, that one, with the ten inch probe in her vagina - she has considered this decision.  More than you can imagine.  It is not a choice that she made easily or lightly or without thought.  But here's the thing - as much as you might not like her choice, it's still hers to make. 

You know how I know so much about what goes on in women's heads who are choosing abortion?  Because I spent an entire summer assisting at a myriad of obstetric and gynecological procedures, about three-quarters of which were D&C's (Dilation and Curettage).  In southeastern Kentucky, there are very few resources for a woman seeking an abortion.  The tiny hospital that I volunteered and shadowed in was lucky enough to have one doctor willing to perform D&C's (both for women who had had a miscarriage and for those who needed an abortion).  Early on Monday mornings, I would show up to the OR and change, shivering, into my scrubs.  I would tie my hair back while I looked in the mirror, and I would tell myself that if those women out there could be brave enough to face what they were facing, I could damn well walk out there and help them as best as I could.  I held the hands of women as they were prepped for the procedure.  I sat with them in the OR waiting bay before they went in, and listened to some of the hardest stories I've ever heard.  I watched procedure after procedure, until I could predict which instrument the doctor would pick up next.  Each procedure took about thirty minutes, start to finish.  Thirty minutes, and the groggy woman would be rolled out the door, the doctor and nurses would leave, and it would just be me and the janitor, cleaning up.  I was part of the clean-up crew.  Of the fetus.  After each procedure, the doctor would wordlessly hand me the basin into which he'd just deposited the contents of a woman's uterus.  The first time he did this, he only looked at me seriously and said softly, "Make sure it's all there."  After each D&C, it was my job, and mine alone, to very carefully examine the contents of the bright orange BIOHAZARD container and look for recognizable parts of the human being that would grow no more.  A hand, a miniscule foot, shreds of placenta - all were good indicators that the procedure had been performed correctly.  I would check, swallowing hard each time, then seal the container and leave the room.

You might wonder, how after all of that, I could possibly still be pro-choice.  Because when push came to shove, when the stakes were high and I was forced to step up to my beliefs and really look them in the face, what I saw was this: face after face of women who were making a choice, that whether I, or anybody else liked it, was theirs to make.  Becoming a parent is a huge choice.  Taking away an avenue for making that choice doesn't help mothers or babies.  As a midwife, I will not perform abortions.  But - given they are still legal - I will refer women who seek them to a doctor who will provide them.  I will do this having seen far more of the reality of abortion than most people who oppose my viewpoint ever will.  There are better ways to help mothers and babies than by removing our rights to contraception and abortion.  I will fight for those.  I will work for those.  I will go into debt for nursing school, I will labor over my own children's births, and I will help as many women as I possibly can that face the decision to become a parent themselves.  I will ease the entry of new life into this world, and I will surely mourn the loss of more than one during my career.  With every slippery baby that I catch, with every hand that I grip through contractions, and with every rapid heartbeat that I search for with a Doppler, I will never stop believing that becoming a mother is a choice too big to take away.  I will continue to fight for the right of a woman to make a different choice.  Because it should always be hers to make.


The Nanny said...

I'm standing, applauding, and damn grateful to you for writing this post. I'm honored that you're going to be my midwife when I'm ready to have children. And I'm so, so damn proud to call you my best friend.

Amazing post, girlie.

Allison the Meep said... And yes. You articulated this so perfectly.


And this is just another reason why you will make a wonderful midwife!

I like to say, "I'm pro-life and I" Because my philosophy that a unique human spirit goes along with each conception has absolutely nothing to do with when, how, why, and with whom another person does or does not have a baby. Especially when it comes to making laws! Nothing—and I mean NOTHING—cemented that position for me as firmly as carrying and giving birth to a child.

Anonymous said...

I'm pro-choice and have been for a long time. I just never thought I'd be in the situation where I'd need to decide to terminate a pregnancy at my age, but I was. I have two beautiful little boys and a great husband. I also have extremel high-risk pregnancies and developed severe pre-eclampsia with both of my children. After I had my children, I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition that makes having a baby even more high-risk.

This past summer I unexpectedly became pregnant and because of my age and my heart condition and my heart condition, I had to make a very hard choice. Keep the baby and risk my health and life and risk leaving my two young boys without a mother, or terminate the pregnancy to keep myself healthy and keep myself around to mother the two children I have.

I saw my doctor, in tears and we talked. She said if it was her, she would terminate and she never says those things to patients. She had her parnter at the practice give her input- this other doctor said that she would never risk it, and she's a devout Catholic. Ultimately it was up to me. My body, my choice, my life. I chose my life and my health.

It was not an easy thing to do and I still cry at times when I look at my children and think about the fact that this month, had I survived the pregnancy, I would be having another child. However, I am then reminded that I will be here with the two children I do have and am blessed to raise and I know that my choice was the right choice.

I told a select few of my friends about this. I am a teacher, I am not uneducated and I did not chose this lightly, but I also know enough that some of my friends who are stauch pro-life would never understand, regardless of the medical issues I have. That makes me sad. I am not ashamed of my choice because it was ultimately the right thing for me, but I am ashamed that others out there would judge me for something that they truly shouldn't be judging me for until they've walked one step in my shoes.

Your post touched me because you get such a young age, you get it. There are people much older than you that will never get it. Thank you for standing for women and for the choices we have.

Cait said...

Anon, thank you so much for sharing your story. You touched me deeply. I wish you and your beautiful family all the love and light in the world.

Olivia Grace said...

Beautiful post, you hit the nail on the head and will make an amazing midwife and advocate for your patients. Thank you for your very insightful comment on my blog. I tried to email you back but your email address was not linked. I did respond in my own comment section, though, and hope that my answer clears a few things up. It made me smile that someone thought the way that you did. More people should.