"My fetus had died, but my body didn't get the message."

This story is published at My Body, My Life.

When I was in college, I was in a serious relationship and sexually active with my now-husband, then-boyfriend. I was on hormonal birth control. I worked for a large animal veterinarian, administering medication, often working alone during nights and evenings. One summer I began spotting through my birth control, spoke to my doctor about it, and was told it was normal and I shouldn't worry, so long as I was taking my pills at the same time every day, and I was, so I brushed it off and continued to live my life as usual.

In September of that year, I felt ‘off’, and something compelled me to take an at-home pregnancy test. It was positive. I visited a local Planned Parenthood and had a blood test to confirm. After further discussion with a doctor, it was discovered that one of the medications I was handling at my job could be absorbed through the skin and interfered with my birth control. I wore gloves while handling it, but because I often worked alone, trying to administer it to unruly large animals, it often ended up coming into contact with more than just my hands. It was a tough situation.

I told my boyfriend, and we both told our mothers. My mother was pressuring me to have an abortion, but I was hesitant. I knew in my heart, this man was the man I would marry, and we had talked about having kids in the future. I thought that we could make it work, no matter how difficult it would be. He volunteered to drop out of school and get a full-time job to support us while I was pregnant and finishing my degree. Our lives were about to change drastically, and it was terrifying, but we were prepared to handle it.

Click the picture to see more art by Megan Smith.

Click the picture to see more art by Megan Smith.

At 10 weeks I went in for my first prenatal checkup and ultrasound. At this appointment I had blood work done, and an ultrasound. My bloodwork was indicative of a miscarriage. My pregnancy hormones had dropped. The ultrasound revealed a fetus that was undersized for how far along I was. It had a heartbeat, but the heartbeat was slow and erratic. The placenta was separating from the uterine wall. The doctor didn't know why. He said there was a chance the placenta would reattach and everything would be ok, but that was unlikely. He told me what to expect in a miscarriage, and that it was the most likely outcome.

I was supposed to come back at least weekly for check-ups. I'd probably miss school. I didn't like the idea of missing class. It was my senior year and I was taking a lot of difficult courses related to my major. I didn't want to upset my GPA or my ability to graduate on time, and it terrified me not knowing when or where the miscarriage might happen. I was over 100 miles away from any family and lived in a shared living space. I didn't even have my own bathroom. I had no idea how I was going to handle a miscarriage with nowhere to have it in peace and privacy. It was then that I decided to abort. My boyfriend was supportive. I took a friend with me and we drove 2 hours away to the nearest clinic that would perform one that far along. I did it on a Friday, so I had the weekend to recover and wouldn't need to miss class.

I would have had to go out of state for one that could do it with sedation, so I had a D & C while completely awake and fully feeling. It was the most awful, painful experience, and I couldn't hold still on the table. The doctor couldn't get everything out. I had a roommate take me to the ER the next day, where they did another D & C, this time with sedation. I regret not going out of state to do it with sedation the first time. I'm disappointed that there weren't nearby facilities available to do it. It cost me a lot more than it should have and was a much more painful experience than it needed to be because of that.

At the hospital, I was told I have a small uterine septum, and that was probably why I lost this pregnancy. It implanted in the wrong place, so I would have miscarried. Even with the expensive, round-about way I had to do it, I'm still glad I got the abortion when I did. I didn't end up missing any class, and made a full recovery within hours of the second D & C.

My second pregnancy occurred after we were married (same guy from before). My husband and I were excited. We started picking out names and pinning nursery designs. I went in for a prenatal checkup at about 8 weeks. The heartbeat was slow, and the fetus was small for 8 weeks, but we carried on, having weekly checkups. The fetus stopped growing. At each appointment, the heartbeat got slower until by week 10 it had stopped completely. My blood work was showing normal hormone levels though. My fetus had died, but my body didn't get the message.

By week 12 it still had no heartbeat and had not grown past typical 7-week size. My doctor recommended a D & C to prevent a uterine infection from carrying around a lost pregnancy for so long without any sign of natural miscarriage, so I scheduled a D & C at a local hospital, again on a Friday, hoping I'd have the weekend to recover and wouldn't have to miss much work.

The procedure went well, and I felt fine all weekend, wasn't even bleeding, but by Monday morning was having severe abdominal pains and felt really ill. I drove myself to the hospital where they found a blood clot the size of a football inside my uterus. They had to do another D & C to remove the clot. My doctor said she'd never seen anything like it. Bleeding after a D & C is normal, but my cervix had closed up so tightly that none of the blood could get out. It organized itself into one, giant clot that had to be manually removed. Because I'd been walking around with a uterus full of blood for days, I got an infection. I was in the hospital on IV antibiotics for a few days.

Once the infection cleared, I felt much better. The first abortion was 9 years ago, and the second happened 3 years ago. We've been waiting to recover financially before we try again. My husband and I do want kids, but we know now that there are some things working against us, and that miscarriage is likely to happen again.

I hope and pray that abortion remains legal and available so we can end things on our own terms if a pregnancy goes south. We want to minimize the cost of medical treatment, and the amount of time I have to be off work. This means having access to a D & C in a timely manner, and in a safe facility that can actually use anesthesia.” —Anonymous

"I feel differently this time around."

"Abortion was the best thing I have ever decided in my life. It saved my life."