I want to start this post by saying that I have no desire or intention of starting a pro-life vs. pro-choice debate on my blog. I am writing this post because this was an important issue in my life that required many months of careful consideration and soul searching for me to resolve. I hope that my journey might help other women who feel similarly torn between their need for their miscarriage to be recognized as a loss and their belief in a woman’s right to choose.
I have been considering writing this post for a very long time. A very long time. I knew I needed to write it as soon as I came to a place of peace about this issue. I knew I needed to write it because I walked a long road of reconciliation to accommodate the feelings surrounding my loss with my pro-choice stance. At the same time, I was scared to put myself out there on such a hot button topic because I’m not interested in pro-lifers trying to convert or attack me (though I am interested in hearing their thoughts on this issue). Really I want to share my perspective in case it can help someone facing a similar dilemma. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to actually write the post until someone posted this article on Prompt-ly. I guess it made me want to defend the fact that my miscarriage didn’t weaken my belief in a woman’s right to choose, though I wondered, for a time, if it would.
I have always been pro-choice but the reality is that for many years I didn’t think much about what that meant for me. I didn’t start having sex until I was 24 years old so abortion was something I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t have to consider for a long time. From the moment I determined I was pro-choice (and I can’t remember when that was) I never faltered in my insistence that I would always support a woman’s right to choose. I also never faltered in my belief that I, personally, would probably never elect to have an abortion.
Unless, of course, I were raped or a pregnancy put my health in grave danger or some other unforeseen tragedy became my reality. These (and many more possibilities I’m sure I can’t even fathom) are the reasons I am, and always will be, pro-choice. I can’t imagine taking the option of terminating a pregnancy away from a woman when I have no understanding of that woman’s circumstances. It just doesn’t feel right to me.
I have always been sensitive to pregnancy loss. My mother lost a daughter (my younger sister) in the NICU and then three pregnancies, all stillborn boys. I honored miscarriages as real, very significant losses even before I suffered my own. Then I had my ectopic and my world came crashing down around me; I realized knowing that a loss is significant and experiencing that loss for yourself are very different things. Suddenly I was struck with the reality that my loss, at a mere 6.5 weeks, was utterly devastating. It was the loss a child, my child. If I felt I had lost a child at 6.5 weeks, how could I support women terminating pregnancies much later than that?
I didn’t ask myself that question right away. In fact, I didn’t ask myself that for a long time. A hint of it flittered in and out of my consciousness but I choose to push it aside. I knew I could never tell a women what to do with her body. The thought that I might have to reconcile my sense of loss so early in a pregnancy with my support of a woman’s right to choose to terminate her own pregnancy was something I just wasn’t willing or able to consider
Then something happened that forced me to face the issue. A close friend called me to announce that she was having an abortion. While I won’t recount the details of her situation, I will say that it had a profound effect on me. I assumed that if my friend could make this choice for herself, she could never validate my own loss. And if that were true, did my support of other women making similar choices also dishonor the tragedy I felt I’d endured?
These were very difficult questions I felt incapable of answering on my own. I judged my suffering incomprehensible to my IRL friends and I couldn’t explain my inner turmoil on my blog without betraying a confidant’s trust. In desperation I emailed a few select bloggers I’d befriended and with their help I started walking a path to resolution.
My wise, caring friends helped me see that while there might not be physical differences between the pregnancy I’d lost and the one my friend terminated, they represented very distinct things to each of us. The pregnancy I lost was a potential child, one that was planned and hoped for. One that was loved. For my friend, pregnancy was a biological inevitability, the improbable result of failed birth control. It was not wanted and it was not loved. In fact, it was a problem to be dealt with. That distinction meant a lot.
The other important differentiation was choice. My friend was able to make a choice and I was not. I had no choice. My pregnancy, if allowed to progress would actually have harmed me as it was wedged in my fallopian tube. My pregnancy never had a chance of becoming the baby I so longed for. Being denied the choice of whether my pregnancy would continue further distinguished my loss from my friend’s.
That is the other thing I realized: I viewed my friend’s termination as a loss. I was sad to not meet the child her pregnancy would have produced. I mourned the passing of that would-be person. As a woman who tried for many, many months to achieve a healthy pregnancy, who has followed women on journeys much longer and more painful in search of the same, I believe every pregnancy is a miracle. I know that for many pregnancy is not biological inevitability, but something elusive, to be cherished once it’s attained. And I do believe every beating heart, no matter its size, is wondrous to behold.
I also understand that sometimes not even the greatest of gifts can be accepted. Sometimes a new life cannot be. For so many reasons women may not be able to embrace that possibility. And while I can imagine some of those reasons, I’m gratefully ignorant of others. I’m also ignorant of the emotional turmoil that I’m sure surrounds every decision to terminate a pregnancy. The reality is it doesn’t matter why someone makes that choice or how that choice affects her, what’s important is that she has that choice to make.
It was the fact that I wasn’t given a choice that made my loss so difficult. I wanted to nurture the potential for life inside of me but it was forced out against my will. I was robbed of my choice and it was devastating. I would never rob another woman of her choice when I might not fully appreciate the consequences of being denied such an alternative.
Would that this were a perfect world. Would that all women who so desperately want to get pregnant could, and all women who would hope not to, don’t. Would that it were so, but it is not and it never will be. In the absence of this perfect world I can only hope that we would honor the choice of the women fortunate enough to have it while respecting the anguish of the women who grievously do not.