My husband and I were married in September of 1997. I was 35 years old and we wanted to start a family right away. By early December of 1997, (which seemed like forever) I took three pregnancy tests before I told my husband that I was pregnant. Pure joy!
My first visit with the OB-GYN was positive because of my health and negative because my pregnancy was considered high risk because of my age. I was in great shape, hiked mountains, was active. What were the chances? I felt amazing.
Apparently, at the time, my risk was one in 249 for genetic abnormalities and the list went on to other potential issues. I can’t remember being worried.
At my second or maybe third sonogram, I sensed something was wrong. Though I couldn’t hear the words, I caught a glimpse of the doctor and nurse as they headed to the sink behind us to wash their hands. Something was wrong. The doctor left the room and the nurse came back several minutes later to explain why we needed to see a specialist and a genetic counselor.
Nothing happens quickly when you need to make an appointment for genetic testing, waiting for the lab results, then a specialist to review the results, then we met with a genetic counselor. I was 17 weeks, maybe a little more, and had to wait “10 business days” for the lab results.
The test results were vague and terrifying. Our next appointment was with the genetic counselor. Another week passes before we get the appointment. Now we are close to 20 weeks and needed to make a decision. The counselor was wonderful and didn’t say anything to bias our decision. It was ours alone.
We went home and talked about all the information we were given. It was hard, very hard to think about our son not surviving or surviving needing constant care and surgeries. At the time it felt like we didn’t have a choice. We took the weekend to work through the range of emotions and then made the decision to interrupt the pregnancy. It was a very painful decision. There were so many unknowns. By the time we arrived at the hospital, another week had passed.
Meanwhile, in early April 1998, I was the executive director of a rape crisis center hosting our very public annual fundraiser. Our sponsors and guests included members of the media. It was a fantastic day for survivors of sexual assault and all of us personally. Not yet aware of what was to be for our son, Wesley, I shared that I was pregnant.
Three weeks later, on May 3, the Home & Family section of state’s largest paper covering the event announced that I was “definitely eating for two and expecting a baby in the fall.” Five days later, we had the abortion.
I don’t know how long it was when people stopped asking me about when the baby was due, what did you name the baby, etc. I can’t remember how many times I had to explain what happened. In some cases, with older relatives, it was “we lost the baby.”
I remember reaching out to the newspaper to post an obituary. As policy, they didn’t print obituaries for unborn children. Of course, they didn’t. We weren’t thinking about the politics of abortion, we were grieving parents. Their decision made perfect sense to us. My husband and I planted a yellow rose for our son and said good-bye for now.
In the fall of 1998, I was asked to testify on a “late-term abortion” bill at the State House. We were not ready. But I hoped that someday I could tell my story. I did, but only with a few people.
In August of 1999 almost a year later, I joined the NO on 1 Coalition to fight a statewide referendum to ban abortions in Maine. I felt more strongly than ever that women needed access to abortion care services and their decisions should not be made by strangers. How can they possibly know what we went through?
Mainers overwhelming defeated the measure! I felt great to be part of this effort and didn’t want to stop. After the November election, I signed on with Maine Family Planning (formerly, Family Planning Association of Maine) and remained there for 12 years.
I will never stop fighting for reproductive justice, privacy, self-determination and the right to a legal and safe abortion. Never.