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When I got pregnant in the fall of 2018, I had no idea how profoundly connected I would feel to my child. I was a lawyer, deeply rational and highly intellectual. I was trained to use cold, calculating logic to make decisions.
All I really knew about pregnancy was that my belly would get bigger, my water would break, and I’d heroically push out a baby. Should the pregnancy be unwise for one reason or another, well, I was pro-choice.
In the US, women learn nothing about what happens to our bodies, minds, and emotions during pregnancy. Movies show us that a waterfall will rush between our legs in the middle of a work meeting and we will be carted off to Labor and Delivery.
When I got pregnant, everything I thought I knew went out the window. I was physically connected to the cosmic mystery of life. My blood was her blood. My life was her life. I had no idea love was capable of being this big and deep.
And then through a genetic test called chorionic villus sampling I learned that my child had inherited a devastating disorder. My logic for reproductive choice was cold comfort as the reality of it grew in my belly. What was easy to intellectualize at arm’s length became a complex and harrowing real-life journey.
Regardless of my choice, the experience of making it was life-altering. The obligation to sit at this crossroads and to own my path forward transformed who I am. It birthed deep empathy for anti-abortion people as I came to understand life in a new, visceral way. I’ve read accounts of women who protest outside clinics then later get their own abortions and come to understand abortion rights in a new way.
Only experience can teach us how personal this journey is.
After an excruciating amount of crying, raging, mourning, praying, researching, and remembering to breathe, I terminated the pregnancy.
I was 16 weeks pregnant when I walked into my appointment at a clinic in Austin, Texas. The clinic required me to visit three times. I listened to state-mandated and factually misconstrued information about the safety of my choice, saying termination was a high-risk procedure. Then I said goodbye to my little girl. The doctor muted the ultrasound so I didn’t have to listen to her heartbeat stop. I had woven together flesh and blood, and now I have a paper heart stamped with two impossibly tiny feet.
I understand anyone who believes that termination is the ending of life. But it is also exactly because I terminated a pregnancy that my two children are here.
After terminating that pregnancy in Texas, I elected to use IVF. It was a long, exhausting process that invited doctors, specialists, lab technicians, therapists, mom groups, and family into my bedroom. It involved a second D&C and contraceptives to control my physiology, both of which are now on the legal chopping block.
What my experience has taught me is that we don’t really know what we haven’t experienced, and even when we do experience it we can’t project what we’ve learned onto anyone else. We can’t really ever say, “This is the way it is.”
If we let go of needing to pin down what it means to be pregnant, move away from what is unknowable — when does life begin — and making decisions from this blurry place, to instead pointing our attention to the journey of motherhood and what we can do from a crystal clear place, which is to offer an open heart.
We can focus on offering support, comfort, and compassion to everyone as we traverse the journey of motherhood.