I’d been feeling…well, off, I guess. Just strange. Even for someone with as many issues as I do. Lots of little things that all added up to one big one. After two years without a period, I had several days of menstrual-like cramping mid-January, followed by nothing, no period, not even spotting. Usually a night owl, I found myself tired enough to go to bed at ten o’clock in the evening. The skin on my face, usually clear of acne despite the telangectasia that marks it with tiny red dots, had started breaking out. My breasts were sore like they’d never been. I’d thrown up two nights in a row.
It took me two months to add all of these things together and reach a conclusion greater than the usual “I’m sick.” And still, as I peed on that pink and white stick, I thought that there was no chance that I was going to see that second little pink line. And then, there they were, two parallel pink lines, sure as day.
I can’t even start to relate the sheer number of emotions that ran through my head. I kept looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself that I should really wipe the grin off of my face because this was not good news. Scleroderma and pregnancy do not mix well. Pulmonary hypertension and pregnancy is frequently a killer cocktail – frequently being one-third to one-half of the time. The probability of this pregnancy ending in my death, the baby’s death, or both was astronomical, but there I was, grinning like an idiot in my bathroom mirror.
After I got over my initial reaction, I was just freaked out. I spent the day and the rest of the week reading everything that I could find about pulmonary hypertension and pregnancy: studies, statistics, other women’s stories. BF and I talked about it. Though there wasn’t really a lot to talk about, we talked anyway. About what a huge risk it would be to try to carry out the pregnancy. About how really truly sick I would get. About how poorly I had responded to these same hormones when we had done IVF and I ended up on a ventilator with acute respiratory distress syndrome. About how hard it would be to terminate. About how hard it would be to deal with the death of the baby, of me. It was an incredibly hard decision, but after talking it over, reading all of the literature, speaking to my doctors, we were resolved that the best decision for us was to terminate. This would not be our only shot at having a child that is biologically ours; our six frozen embryos are just waiting for the time to be right. It was going to be hard, but I really felt like this was the best option.
Let me say now that I thought long and hard about writing these words here, and I almost didn’t, but I feel like it’s important for people to hear stories like mine, and important for me to have a place to tell my story. Maybe it’ll help someone to understand a bit better how real decisions like these are, how hard they are, but how necessary it is for women to have the option to make them. I’ve always been pro-choice on the issue of abortion, but I had resolved that I would do all that I could to never have to make that choice. Now, I’m glad that I had the choice, that I wasn’t forced to carry out a pregnancy that could’ve killed or crippled me, that’s could’ve devastated my family. I feel the need to tell this story because though I believe my reasons to be valid there are those who don’t, and there are those that believe that these may be valid reasons, but that women with other reasons, things at stake that are less than death, ought not be afforded the same choice. Honestly, I think that’s bullshit, choice is choice and anything less than choice for every woman is unacceptable. I think my favorite singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco put it beautifully:
don't have an abortion
teach your children
how they can avoid them
but don't treat all women
like they are your children
compassion has many faces
and if men can kill
and be decorated instead of blamed
when a woman called upon to mother
can choose to refrain
and contrary to eons
of oldtime religion
your body is your only true cominion
nature is not here to serve you
or at any cost to preserve you
that's just some preacherman's oldtime opinion
life is sacred
life is all so profane
a woman's life
it must be hers to name
let an amendment
put this brutal game to rest
trust women will still take you to their breast
trust women will always do their best
trust that our differences make us stronger, not less"
I’ll stop ranting now. It’s just the first time I’ve had a connection this close to this particular issue and it gets to me that there are actually people out there fighting for me to not have this right.
Once I was sure, though melancholy, about my decision, it ended up being made for me. I went for and ultrasound this morning to determine how far along I was. After searching for it for what seemed like an eternity, they determined that I was about ten weeks along, but they were unable to detect the fetal heartbeat. My body, it seems, had made it’s own decision about how safe this pregnancy was and ended it. I feel only relief and validation. This was not meant to be and that’s okay. We’ll have babies when the time is right. In the next nine months, instead of dealing with what would surely have been a difficult pregnancy and, if I beat all the odds, recovery, I will be completing student teaching and finally become a certified teacher. I will have accomplished a major goal and will go on to new motherhood satisfied with my personal and professional accomplishments. I will be ready and healthy (hoping and praying). I will be all the more grateful for my life and for that of my child given what I’ve gone through and given up to get there.