Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Statistic

Two weeks ago this past Saturday, a man broke into my apartment and tried to rape me. I fought him off, he escaped, and I suffered only a bloody nose. I am still shaken, but I am okay, and I feel lucky.

I had just moved into a new apartment, where I was living alone, and this was my second night in the new place. I have since moved into a safer neighborhood, second floor 1-bedroom apartment. My investigation is ongoing, so I can't write much about it here. Sufficed to say, I believe the offender is in jail, caught only days ago, on his way to prison, but not for my incident, unfortunately.

Why am I writing about this here, in this blog about my abortion? There are a few reasons.

What if I hadn't had the abortion:
I couldn't help but think, within minutes after the assault, that I could have been almost 8 months pregnant when this happened. Would the offender, when he first opened my door to peer in and see who was in the bedroom, skipped on raping a very pregnant woman? Would I have even been home alone or would this have even happened, as my boyfriend and I most likely would have moved in together and be living elsewhere?

Threats to my reproductive system and my sexual identity:
Thus far, I don't feel scarred sexually or emotionally by the abortion or by the attack. I am aware that these things could impact me down the road, could seep in insidiously, and I keep a check on my sexual and emotional health and happiness.

What if I had been raped:
Because I am slightly psychic but do not learn to listen to my gut, I had this thought the day before the attack: 'It would suck to be raped if you had a yeast infection.' (I had a yeast infection at the time.) Followed by, 'It would suck to be raped if you weren't on birth control.'

The emotional toll of simply having a stranger violate my personal space and attempt to violate my body, it's hard to describe. I cannot imagine the unspoken pain of women who are raped, nor can I imagine the devastation if that rape results in a pregnancy.

That there are people out in this world who would suggest that rape does not "justify" an abortion absolutely sickens me. That they would want to further control the body and destiny of a woman whose control of those very things was violently ripped from her sickens me as well. I usually don't fill this blog with much vitriol toward those people, but fuck it. Those small-minded, self-righteous urchins should feel what that violation of space and body feels like, how it shakes you to your core, how it leaves you jumping at shadows and tree branches cracking, and sobbing at your own fear in the middle of the night, and then experience a lifetime of the product of that violation. Oh, how their hollow ivory towers would crumble.

Amazingly, one of those small-minded people is a friend of mine from high school. She once posted a link to this disgusting (and so-bad-it's-almost-funny) essay that mainly uses the movie Rob Roy as its evidential proof for this opinion. This friend called me the night following the attack after I posted a note on Facebook explaining what had happened. In tears and hysterical (Please don't call your friends who were just the victim of a violent crime if you are in tears and hysterical, by the way. It's not helpful. In fact, it's upsetting.), she said how happy she was I was okay, so glad she was that I fought, how much she wanted to hear my voice. And what might her message have said, I wonder, if I hadn't been able to fight him off, if I had been raped, if I was pregnant with the rapist's child and if I chose to terminate the pregnancy? What if I had shared that on Facebook instead?

Breaking the silence:
It's not my style to be silent. (Have you noticed?) I want to share my experiences and stories from my experiences because it is important to me that there is more understanding, more compassion, more connection between a statistic (like 1 in 1,000 women on birth control will get pregnant on their period; there is one sexual assault every two minutes) and the experience (me).

The day after the attack I wrote a letter to my friends and family. At first, I intended only to send it to a handful of friends and my family members. After I wrote and edited and started adding names to the list, I kept adding more names and more names and more... Soon, I sent the email to nearly 50 friends. Within hours, I decided to post most of the email as a note on Facebook.

Responses came pouring in. Support, advice, words of love. One woman, who I only have met on two occasions and is dating a friend of mine, sent me a private message. Four years ago, in her first week after she moved to this city, she was raped. She admired me for sharing my experience, she said. My heart slammed against my chest. This strong woman, this brave person, I could not imagine what she had been through, and she was reaching out to me. There were others out there, women I knew who had been through much worse, and I wasn't alone. None of us are.

The silence is not okay. It cloaks the experience in a shroud of shame, fear. By sharing our stories, even the most difficult, we support one another.

I am considering creating a separate anonymous blog about further issues affecting women, sexual health and my own experiences moving forward from the abortion. I started this blog with the intent to chronicle one experience, and I'd like it to exist somewhat statically, so that women going through an abortion might refer to the direct experience of the abortion and my healing. However, things keep happening to me (funny how life works!), and I would like to keep sharing. I think another blog may be the answer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

EC and me

I took a Plan B One-Step pill on Saturday.

It goes without saying that I wasn't expecting to do that, but sometimes little slip-ups happen. My little slip-up played out a lot like the notorious sex scene in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up.

At 4 in the morning on Friday night, having lovey, drowsy sex, I realized I was not going to orgasm. Feeling close with my boyfriend and wanting him to climax, I whispered in his ear that I wanted him to, even if I didn't.

'What?!' he said. I whispered yes, and he said, 'No, no no,' and then... he came.

There I was thinking he had been insisting 'no' because we never like to have sex where one person orgasms and the other doesn't. But his shocked and scared face shook me from my lovey-drowsy state, and I asked with panic, "What??"

"Uh, we got kind of carried away there, didn't we?" he said.

"What do you mean?" As the words passed my lips, it dawned on me... No condom.

For a moment, I was angry. How did this happen? I saw him open the wrapper and I thought he had put it on. We had even stopped so he could. But I realized that without my contacts in, and sleepy and distracted, I didn't actually see the condom go on. But what was he thinking?? What happened?

It turned out that our slip-up occurred through a series of miscommuncations, similar to Knocked Up's "Just do it!" sex scene where Katherine Heigl encourages Seth Rogen to hurry up and get the condom on, and Seth Rogen forgoes the condom to, uh, 'just do it.' I thought my boyfriend had put on a condom already, and he thought I, when encouraging him to orgasm, simply wanted him to pull out, or that I had started my period... (Face, palm.)

And to those birth control methods, I held back my exasperation and said calmly instead, "Just so we're clear: As long as I'm not on birth control and I don't have my IUD yet, only condoms. No pulling out. No unprotected sex during my period. That's how we wound up where we were in March."

He didn't say anything but rubbed his head and eyes and groaned. I think he was having a 'oh, yeah, duh' moment. Did I mention it was 4 in the morning?

We curled up together as I pulled out my iPhone to search on Plan B's website for the closest pharmacy that sells it OTC. By noon the next day, I took a Plan B after downing a bunch of water and veggies (I felt nauseous the only other time I took Plan B, about four years ago, so I didn't want to take it on an empty stomach.)

I still can't believe some people feel there's a stigma about emergency contraception like Plan B, particularly people who don't have a problem with birth control. For me, there is no stigma, no humiliation. Mistakes happen. That's that.

Though I did empathize with the dewy-eyed 19-year-old boy working the Walgreen's pharmacy counter whose voice cracked with each phrase he uttered during our transaction. Yes, my dear pharmacy friend, I am a 20-something, sexually-active woman. And yes, my sexual partner and I had an accident last night, but it's okay. And yes, I will also take this plastic cooler as I am going to the beach immediately after this, and thank you very much.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On choices and the course I've charted

I was in a friend's wedding this past weekend. I would have been six months pregnant exactly.

When I found out I was pregnant, in the little game of What If's that one imagines and plays out in her mind, I imagined calling my dear friend  J. to tell her: "I am sorry. I can't be your bridesmaid. I can't stand up there at the alter with you with my belly bursting out of that lovely eggplant purple dress you chose for me." I imagined drinking water while my friends toasted champagne. I imagined sitting at a table while my friends danced. I imagined that maybe I wouldn't go to the wedding at all. I imagined that I might wind up quickly married before my friends' long-planned wedding, that I might be moving in with my boyfriend during that wedding weekend instead, that I might be painting a baby's room in some tiny city apartment.

What if, what if, what if.

But instead, this is what happened:

I stood at the alter as two of my best friends joined in union as a couple. I was not pregnant and I was not married. I toasted them with champagne, and I danced to every song the band played. I was happy. Overwhelmingly so.

But still, there are moments. There was a woman at this wedding--a friend of the couple. She sang during the ceremony. She was 15 weeks pregnant.

At the rehearsal dinner, friends crowded her and touched her emerging belly and awed. She was only one week further along than where I had been when I had the abortion. My mind raced, and a lump rose in my throat. I walked away, took photos of some of the tables with the camera I had brought to help my friends document their weekend and got caught up in a long conversation with friends. Without too much effort, I breathed through my feelings of sadness, I grounded myself, I returned to my table for dessert, and I was fine.

That's what things are like these days. I think about the What If's, but I don't let them occupy too much real estate in my mind. They're there, and that's fine. Something would be wrong with me, I might be dealing unhealthily or repressing, if they weren't.

I recently stumbled upon a fabulous advice blog called Dear Sugar. Sugar responded to one letter writer who asked how he should know if he wants children, quoting a beautiful poem by Tomas Transtörmer:
'Tranströmer’s narrator is capable of seeing his life for what it is while also acknowledging the lives he might have had. “The sketches,” Tranströmer writes, “all of them, want to become real.” The poem strikes a chord in me because it’s so very sadly and joyfully and devastatingly true. Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are.'
It's a stunning image, that sister ship setting course in a different direction. But the choices we make set us on the course we take. 'Thank you for this life!,' his narrator exclaims. And that is the wonderful thing: We can shout our gratitude both to the void for the beautiful improbability of our existence and to ourselves for making the choices we have to define our lives.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stuff Mom Never Told You

If you're a lady or are interested in lady issues, you should check out the fabulous podcast from HowStuffWorks called Stuff Mom Never Told You.

The podcast is full of awesome information on everything from nuns to kegels, smoking to subliminal ovulation. One of their latest podcasts explores the phenomenon of unknowingly being pregnant.

The ladies address the horror they imagine at such a discovery (as most of us would, and some of us have), and they also get to the heart of the issue. They wrap up their podcast with these points:
Sometimes we’ll hear things like an irregular cycle is normal, or feeling awful around the time of your period is normal, or just feeling awful in general, it’s hormones. People are quick to write off women’s health problems. And women are less likely to take time out of their day to go to the doctor and find out what’s going on… I think the lesson here is to take some time for yourself… Going to the doctor regularly, checking in on your sexual health with yourself, what’s going on here?

As I've shared my own experience with other women, their reactions have revealed all sorts of misconceptions about their own reproductive health and ways in which we women don't always spend the time with our bodies we should.

I've heard so many anecdotes. One girl friend has been fighting monthly yeast infections for two years to no avail; Another friend is facing entometriosis and taking hormonal birth control for the first time to manage it but having terrible side effects from the birth control; Yet another friend had an abortion after going off birth control because she thought you didn't became fertile again until after your period, when in fact you will first ovulate and then have your period.

What we don't know, or assume, or accept from our doctors, is often short shift of what we deserve. There's no reason to accept a shitty health situation as normal, and I hope that podcasts like this one help women see that. It's exactly the kind of by women and for women media that helps inform and connect us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharing the Experience

I didn't expect to tell as many people as I did about my abortion. In the end, I told 14 people--12 friends, my parents, my boss--that I found out I was pregnant at thirteen weeks and aborted at fourteen.

I didn't tell everyone beforehand. Seven people knew where I was when I suddenly dropped off the map for a week. The other people I told later for varying reasons. And while everyone I told supported my decision, the reactions varied.

My boss, the first person to know aside from my boyfriend, witnessed my breakdown after seeing my ultrasound. She placed her hands on my head as I doubled over sobbing, and tried to say something helpful. "Tell your boyfriend and be sure to consider all your options," she said. I know she meant well, but well, sometimes we don't say quite the right things. I assured her that my decision was made, despite the feelings of confusion and upset that waved about me.

My best friend K, whose apartment I immediately drove to after telling my boss and leaving work. She was my biggest support throughout the process, an amazing friend. When I told her she hugged me and listened and supported. After I left, she later told me she cried when she shared with her boyfriend, who is also my friend.

My parents learned two days before the procedure. I shared with them when I decided I really needed their support. Losing our house to foreclosure last summer and having them live with me since has strained our relationship. For the first time in a long while, they could be my parents, support and love me, and I could rely on them. I learned that my mom had an abortion, and while we both confront our experiences differently, it was a comfort to know she had been through this as well, that one of the 1 in 3 women I knew who had an abortion was my mother.

My ex-boyfriend, J who, as a raised Catholic, was petrified of abortion in our relationship. When I took the morning after pill in our relationship, he was conflicted and upset by it. But when he learned of my news the day before the procedure, he was nothing but supportive. He checked in after the procedure to see how I was doing, and we talked at length about his current relationship and their birth control choices.

My boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, C, who learned from my boyfriend before the procedure. They went through this experience together. She even had the same doctors and nurses as me. She's the only other woman I've been able to talk to who has been through this experience, and we've shared some really great conversations. I'm thankful that she has been there for both my boyfriend and me.

My friend at work, M, I told a few weeks after the procedure and only after learning that she was seeing my old, terrible gynecologists. When I learned that, I first blabbered about how terrible they are and not to see them anymore. She asked, "What happened?? Your face is turning red!" and I told her everything. She cried when I told her. She was the only person who did that, and I'm relieved it didn't happen when the experience was fresher.

My old college roomie, J, I told on the phone after the procedure. I'm in her wedding next month, and we've remained close through the tough times we've both experienced these last few years. She shared with my friend and her fiancee, M. I saw them last week, and we three talked about it together.

My old college friend B, who I told weeks after the procedure. I blew off plans with him when my complication happened, and we have been close confidants for years. It was natural to tell him, and his reaction was one of shock and support. He, like many people I told after the fact, wished I had told him before so he could have been there for me.

My boyfriend's family friends, B and C, who are brother and sister, found out from each of us after the procedure. Two weeks after my abortion, they learned their mother had had a daughter when she was 18 and when she could not receive an abortion as it was illegal. That news shook us both--it seemed to relate so strongly to the "what-if's" I was experiencing at the time, and we each shared our news with them.

B's girlfriend, K, shared with me her own reproductive issues a few weeks ago--she most likely has endometriosis and is in the midst of tests. In turn, I shared with her my own, also assuming incorrectly that B had told her. We grabbed drinks and talked for hours about the procedure, her reproductive issues and birth control.

The two women I know who had abortions have not told many people. My mother doesn't understand why I shared with people and even suggested I shouldn't tell people. She and my father told no one of her abortion until they told me. C, my boyfriend's ex, did share with a few people but does understand why I would be compelled to share my experience.

And why share the experience?

To destigmatize it.
If one in three women you know have had an abortion, could you say who they are? Probably not. I'm not happy that I had an abortion--nobody signs up smiling for that kind of thing, but I am happy to talk about it, to reassure women who have not had abortions that it's okay, to share experiences with women who have had abortions, to talk with as many people as possible about birth control and reproductive health.

To be close with the people I care about.
I am a sharer--extroverted and generally open. It was important to me not to block out friends from my past and present from this experience. We talk about everything else--why not talk about this?

To create a conversation that I hope goes forward.
I hope that these people tell others that they know someone who had an abortion. I hope they tell them that this person had an abortion when she was fourteen weeks pregnant. I hope it stirs conversations and further destigmatize the experience. I am not ashamed nor do I have any regrets about my choice. I want as many people as possible to know that, and I want women to know that they will be okay if they one day choose the same thing I did.

Finally, there was one woman who I did not tell but with whom I did have a long conversation about abortion. A. and I grew up together--ballet class at age seven was where it all started. We've never been particularly close friends, but she was visiting in the city, so we got together for drinks a few weeks ago.

"I like all your Facebook posts," she said with a smile, referring to my multitude of pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood postings.

"Oh," I laughed a little. "I may have gone a bit overboard, but it's something I feel really strongly about."

A. went on to explain that she worries that she and her husband, both musicians, cannot afford a child but that her husband staunchly opposes choice and abortion. It's a difference between them, she explained.

"I don't know," she said, sounding slightly defeated. "I always say, I'm pro-choice, but anti-abortion. I could never do it myself."

Bells rang inside of me. She sounded like me at age 17 in our high school AP Government class arguing for choice but conditioning my own response. She sounded like me when I learned two years ago that my current boyfriend and his ex had had an abortion. She sounded like me only a few months ago, before I learned that I was pregnant.

"I don't think you can know that, A., until you face it," I said quietly.

She nodded and then said, "I think you're right."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maybe Not the Mirena...

I canceled my appointment for the Mirena IUD. After weeks of talking with many ladies about birth control, chatting with a few other friends who have or have had IUDs, I began to question my decision to go with the hormonal IUD. Maybe it would have been fine for me, but the Depo shot and its insane hormones made me increasingly wary of using any hormonal birth control, regardless of how "locally" the Mirena's hormones work.

I talked with my very patient OB/GYNE about my concerns, and we discussed non-hormonal options. In the rubbers department, my doctor said she does not really recommend cervical caps or diaphragms. I wasn't really interested in those options anyway and am more interested in the copper, non-hormonal Paragard IUD.

I hesitated to go with the Paragard initially. Like many women, I heard the word "copper" and balked. The idea of heavier periods also isn't hot (though my periods have never been very heavy or crampy). My dad also shared a former coworker's horror story of infection on Paragard. That pretty much sealed the (initial) deal that Paragard was not for me.

However, after almost two months of weight gain, breakouts and mood swings, the Paragard appeals way more than any hormones at all. Riding yet another hormonal birth control rollercoaster sounds like an exhausting trip that I am not up for right now.

The post-operative Depo-Provera shot lasts until June 7th. I am no longer pressuring myself to come up with a quick birth control solution. If I am not certain, the boyfriend and I can use condoms until I feel sure of my choice.

Here I want to say a lot about how the pressure, (oftentimes) cost, and crazy side effects of birth control weigh on the woman in a relationship. How the woman becomes the sole vessel for these issues and stress. How insane it is that birth control options are not more thoroughly discussed--in school classrooms, in doctor's offices, among women. I, for one, have been talking VAGINA with my lady-friends NON-STOP recently. It feels great, too. With those women whom I've shared my experience, there is closeness and support, and simultaneously I can offer advice and knowledge. It's awesome.

I want to share and talk about this experience, about women's health, about sex, about birth control, as much as possible. Knowledge is power, and we must be our own advocates for our health, bodies and wellness. Here's to us ladies and getting the best we deserve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Abortion in the United States

The Guttmacher Institute just released a fabulous video sharing the basic information of who gets abortions and why in the United States. Share this with anyone you can.

Birth Control Lottery

I just got very exciting news from my OB/GYN's office: My IUD and its insertion procedure are covered 100 percent by my health insurance! I kid you not that I feel like I just won the lottery.

I'm scheduled to have it inserted next Wednesday, which will (fingers crossed) be during my next menses.

I am happy to move on from the Depo-Provera shot. While it's been awesome not taking a pill every day, I think that I've had a few negative side effects from the birth control shot.

First, I have broken out like a seventeen year old boy. I don't have bad skin, generally speaking, but man oh man.

Second, I have felt really ungrounded and emotional. This unstableness could be because of the procedure, because of other things going on in my life, or because of the birth control shot, I don't know. I do know that my OB/GYN explained that many women experience "the blues" when they first get the shot. I think I might be one of them.

Finally, I think I'm also among the women who gain weight on the birth control shot. And that just sucks.

So, IUD here I come... I am so pysched.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Month (and Three Days) Later

It is exactly one month and three days since my March 15th procedure. Things return to normal, and I'm still okay.

After meeting with my OB/GYNE last week, I've decided to have the Mirena IUD inserted. We ordered an IUD, and now we wait for insurance paperwork to clear. This process can take up to a month. The ideal time to have an IUD inserted is during menstruation (soft cervix!), so it's too bad that I couldn't have an IUD inserted last week when I happened to have my period during my visit to the doc.

While I'm physically back to normal, and I apparently gained 0.6 pounds in my Post-Abortion Chocolate Chip Cookie Recovery Plan, returning to a normal sex life with my boyfriend has been a bit rocky. The bumps on the road to sexual bliss have nothing to do with any physical ailments related to the procedure or the complication and may not have even anything mental-emotional to do with the procedure or complication either. (I was having infections and vaginal pain prior to the pregnancy.) But, as my gynecologist put it the other day, me and my cervix have been through an awful lot in the last month alone. My boyfriend and I cope with understanding and taking things slow. It seems to be working as my libido is on the rise (hooray!) and sex hasn't been painful in the last several days.

Emotionally, I feel more and more like myself with each passing day. There's no question that the abortion will be a part of who I am, but it will not comprise my entire being as it did during the process and my immediate recovery.

I'm a strong believer that things happen for a reason, though we must have the strength to seek those reasons, make sense of them and then build and follow the paths that lay before us. I feel like I'm emerging from the dark pain and difficulty that obscured my vision and entering into a clarity and light where I'm doing just that. It feels right and good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oh. Hey there, Monthly Visitor.

How about that? I got my period!

It's strange and awesome to get a period again, especially when I haven't seen one in four months.

Way back in September, when I switched to the three-month cycle on oral birth control, I hated that I felt out of touch with my body. I actually missed my period. As relieved as I was that the three-month cycle solved other problems for me, I would never do it again. Ahem...

**Soap Box Alert! If you are taking Seasonale, or simply taking monophasic pills three months at a time like I was, please consider keeping pregnancy tests on hand just to check in with your body every month or six weeks or so. If you can avoid a pregnancy progressing for a full three months and just have peace of mind that you're not knocked up, believe me, IT'S WORTH IT.**

It's quite possible that all those crazy emotions I wrote about yesterday were partly/mostly related to a wild bout of PMS. I have never PMS'd before, so I'm not familiar with how I might feel if I were experiencing it. Physically, I'm much crampier than normal too.

I have an appointment with my OB/GYNE tomorrow, which I am so ridiculously psyched about. We had discussed the possibility of inserting the Mirena tomorrow. She told me at our last appointment that the best time to insert the Mirena is immediately following or toward end of menstruation as the cervix is softest then. Since I just started my period, I'm not sure that will be possible.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Love is Like a Roller Coaster

I am a hormonal mess. Surges of sadness, happiness, rejection, acceptance, love and otherwise wave over me and overwhelm me.

My boyfriend and I have fought like crazy for about two weeks now. I feel so easily hurt by him these days, and I cannot figure out if the normal strains in our relationship and our lives are causing this, or if it's excacerbated by the changes of hormones in my body.

I've read in some other abortion blogs about experiencing wild swings of emotion following the procedure and your body's hormonal readjustment. Because I was entering my second trimester, my body was pumped full of more pregnancy hormones, so it may take me a bit longer to adjust...

Then there's the hormonal change of birth control. I have read a few experiences of women who feel emotionally unstable on the Depo shot.

At this point, I'm not sure which it is, but I'm wondering if anyone out there reading this has experienced mood swings following their procedure and/or a Depo-Provera shot???

Friday, April 8, 2011

I Have Sex and I am Political

I didn't expect my blog about my abortion to wind up being so political. But unless I only focus on the physical aspects of the process, which was never my intent, it's bound to get political and fast.

I'm a political person generally. I've been to rallies in D.C., knocked on congressmen and congresswomen's doors, demanded to be heard by my leaders, made calls from home for politicians' campaigns, joined political groups on my college campus, led political groups on my college campus...

I now live in a liberal area and am no longer registered to vote in my home state, where I often felt I could influence state (but not local) politics. Since then, I haven't been as political as I once was. In fact, I burned out a little bit on being political. It's exhausting, and I don't know where people get the energy for it. It took me two weeks leading my campus College Dems to realize I had no interest in politics as a career.

But only two weeks before I found out I was pregnant, I had a conversation with my boyfriend about how nothing brings out the liberal warrior in me like an attack on women's reproductive rights.

Mostly, I have only seen those attacks at a distance as news about government spending. It had been years since I had seen those attacks up close. Back then, I was a liberal teenager in a conservative town in a conservative state with (mainly) conservative friends. It was those friends who launched ideological attacks on women's rights. It wasn't personal then, and I would try to argue my perspective to them, try to find a middle ground, excuse their judgmental and uncharitable attitudes. We'd usually wind up agreeing to disagree, and I'd excuse their nasty rhetoric and move on.

Even when we discussed my "liberal warrior," my boyfriend asked me how I could be friends with some of these people from my past on Facebook. I'm even relatively close friends with one anti who, on the day I returned to work from my procedure, posted an article about why rape and incest are not reasons to 'justify' abortion. (The article used the film Rob Roy as the basis of its argument... simultaneously laughable and pathetic.)

I made excuses for this friend and others from my past, explained that their judgment of women was something they were raised with, they are good people otherwise, and on and on. He rolled his eyes, expressed that he can't understand how I excuse the behavior of a "friend" who would limit my rights, and we reached our ususal impasse on the topic.

Then I got pregnant, and then I had an abortion.

From my perspective, since then there has been a confluence of personal attacks and political bullying that turns my stomach.

I've seen and experienced in great intimacy what kind of churlish, self-righteous, un-Christian people it takes to personally attack women's rights and choices--be it by commenting on the blog of a woman who is just coping with her experience, by posting judgmental rhetoric on Facebook or by protesting outside of a Planned Parenthood in hopes to intimidate at least one woman and force their opinion upon her. And the political attacks have taken on an even darker tone. What kind of politician will shut down a government and leave his fellow Americans out to dry over pap smears and STD testing?

I could add plenty here about how disappointed I am (and expected to be) by President Obama's weak political hand, or how I wish that other Dems would stand up to the schoolyard bullying by Boehner and his cronies.

But I don't want this blog to become another Internet political blather bucket, so I'll leave it at this: I am incredibly frustrated by this country and its leaders on both sides right now.

In the meantime, I am posting this video (Thanks for linking to it last month, OmMama!!) and calling my leaders to tell them that I support Planned Parenthood. I'm turning off comments on this entry and ask that you, whether you agree or disagree with me, direct your energy toward calling your political leaders instead.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

About the Complication and Being Okay

The lovely ProSanity commented on my lengthy entry about the complication's chronological breakdown, "We need every side of every story. We need everyone to know that an abortion ISN'T the end of the world and a complication after one isn't a death sentence."

Yes, exactly!

I wrote at great length about the complication as that's my style. I personally wanted as many details as possible about what to expect before my procedure.

But I also want to offer up an abbreviated version:

About the Complication

My complication happened because my uterus did not evacuate its lining and blood clots on its own. As the doctors put it, there was tissue left in my uterus.

The complication happened ten days after my D&E procedure. I bled a lot for a few hours, went to the ER with my boyfriend, met some nice medical professionals and was discharged and prescribed Misoprostol (or Cytotec) to help contract my uterus and push out whatever tissue was left.

I took two doses of Misoprostol on two different nights, passed clots, bled more, had some mild cramping, and then, that was it.

That was it. I was just fine, felt good and doing well.

I do not mean to suggest that serious complications never happen or that this is a topic to be taken lightly.

Complications happen--I'm proof. And extremely rare serious complications also happen, as with any surgical procedure, and a patient should be fully informed and seek out information from her trusted medical professionals. I found fascinating and concrete statistics on abortions, complications, and more on this stat sheet from the Guttmacher Institute, a fabulous resource that I recommend reading just for starters.

I will also happily add that abortion is legal in my country, and therefore the complication and mortality rates are significantly lower than they would be if the procedure were illegal.

My personal experience with abortion was far from perfect. I saw an ultrasound I asked not to see; The OB/GYNE team I knew was called off my case last minute, and I never met the attending physician who operated on me; I had a complication when my uterus retained tissue and I wound up in the ER.

And guess what? Even with all those less-than-perfect things, I am fine. I am not traumatized, and I am healthy and happy. So are millions of other women out there today who have had this procedure. And if you are in the position I was in, facing an unplanned pregnancy that you know you want to terminate, and you are reading this entry and feeling scared or upset or angry or frustrated or sad, it's okay.

You will be fine too.

Help Indiana Women Out

Indiana's state House just passed one of the most restrictive bills on abortion rights seen in this country.

Most abortions after 20 weeks will now be illegal. In addition to its other restrictions, there is no exemption for women who are pregnant as a result of incest or rape and no exemption for women whose pregnancy threatens their life or may result in serious, irreversible harm.

The bill is passed, but I still feel there is so much we can do to support the women of Indiana.

I suggest making a donation to Planned Parenthood Indiana on behalf of Rep. Eric Turner R-Cicero, who authored the bill. (Or make a donation on behalf of whatever other co-signers you wish. A donation for each, by all means!)

Don't forget to include Rep. Turner's office address so you are sure he receives a Thank You note for your donation:
Rep. Eric Turner
5541 S. Harmon St.
Marion, IN 46953

See also Abortion Gang's write-up on this bill's passage.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recovery Update - 3 Weeks Later

Three weeks after the procedure and eleven days after my complication, I am doing really, really well!

The spotting has dropped off to barely-there, if it's there at all. At this point, I am not sure if this spotting I occasionally see is related to the procedure, the complication or because I had a Depo-Provera shot. The "Birth Control Shot" is known to cause spotting and irregular bleeding.

My appetite is returning to normal too. I realized after the fact that pregnancy made me, well, way healthier. I couldn't get enough veggies, virtually cut out alcohol, and most shockingly, my notorious sweet tooth was replaced with a citrus tooth. (I remarked to my boyfriend after we found out that I was pregnant that the time I ate a whole lemon should have been a clue to strange cravings and pregnancy.) But in the last week or two, I have been happily eating ice cream and cookies and indulging myself. Planning to cut that out before it becomes a problem!

Over the weekend my OB/GYNE called me just to say hi, check in and see how I was doing. How awesome is that? What a great doctor. We scheduled an appointment for next week to discuss future birth control options. I had planned to have a Mirena IUD inserted, but the complication left me feeling relieved that my uterus is finally empty, so I'm a little hung up mentally. I'm debating between continuing with the Mirena IUD plan and scheduling another Depo-Provera shot. Looking forward to discussing my options with an OB/GYNE I trust!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bills, Bills, Bills

The medical bills are beginning to roll in and are about $8,500 for the procedure. My insurance covers everything except for a $250 deductible.

I know that my procedure is a bit more expensive for two reasons: First, I had the procedure in a fancy urban hospital. Second, I was in my second trimester.

My decision to do the two-day procedure at the hospital was primarily impacted by both my former and my new OB/GYNE recommending this particular hospital. One OB/GYNE had just sent a physician friend there for a surgical abortion, and the other OB/GYNE explained that this hospital's ultrasound team (a key component of a second trimester abortion so the physicians can best see the surgery as they perform it) is top-notch.

I remember when I first called the hospital's family planning clinic to begin scheduling appointments, their administrator explained that surgical procedures after 13 weeks can top $10,000. She told me this fact before we knew whether my insurance would cover the procedure. I spent the rest of the day waiting, worrying and wondering what my options were if I was not covered. I am incredibly thankful for my insurance.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

But It Wasn't

I've had quite a few hits from various anti-choice blogs recently. Evidently my raw emotions in the moment of unwillingly seeing my ultrasound (Thanks again for your subersive message and/or negligence, Dr. D.) strike chords with the anti-choice community because I referred to the image I saw in that ultrasound as looking "like a baby."

The passage, specifically, refers to the moment after my gynecologist--informed that I did not plan this pregnancy, wanted to terminate the pregnancy and that I had no desire to see the ultrasound--told me I could go ahead and sit up after she had performed the ultrasound:
I sat up and opened my eyes. To my right, the hovering ultrasound glowed, its screen facing toward me still showing the image of the fetus inside of me. I only saw it for a moment, just long enough to register a little head and nose, arms and a body curled up and facing left.

It looked like a baby.

It looked exactly like the ultrasound that I had imagined for my future.
"Can you please turn that off?" I said weakly, my eyes shut again.

All that I wrote is true. It's exactly what I felt when I was in that moment. It was so upsetting, and it was the image of why terminating pregnancies is so difficult for most women. But for so many women, it wouldn't matter if they saw a fetus at 13 weeks, an embryo at six, or nothing at all. It's upsetting. It's not a happy choice.

The fact that this fetus--this potential life--had begun to take a human form was difficult to see, even for someone like me who has never believed that life begins at conception. Still, seeing the ultrasound had a profound impact on me and on my decision making process.

I researched pro-choice, pro-life and unbiased websites. I spoke to multiple doctors. I read endlessly about the developmental process of the fetus, from conception to birth. I tracked where I was at that point and looked at illustrations of what the fetus looked like and how it had developed. My extensive and exhaustive research even drew my boyfriend and I into an argument.

"You must either want this pregnancy or you are trying to make this as difficult as possible on yourself," he said.

It wasn't either of these things.

Eventually my boyfriend came to understand that I needed to know as much as possible to make my decision. I wanted to make my choice to either bring this pregnancy to term or to terminate it after exploring every facet of our situation. I exposed myself to enlightening, helpful, painful, and even some judgmental information because I wanted to make a fully-informed decision. I did not want to have any regrets.

Perhaps it did make my decision more difficult. Lots of things did: that ultrasound, the sudden bump that appeared, reading terribly derisive websites that called me a baby-killer...

Ultimately, and I have said this before too: "My choice was right for me, my partner and the potential life I carried for 14 weeks. I am grateful to be 26, unmarried and without children, paving a life path that is right for me and that will allow me to flourish as a woman and, one day, a mother."

But the above has also been quoted by both pro-choice and anti-choice websites because, simply, we have different basic beliefs. I don't believe life begins at conception. I also don't believe life begins when a potential life begins to look "like a baby." I believe life begins with sentience, something medical studies (including this JAMA article on fetal pain) find does not begin until the third trimester.

The pro-lifers believe that life starts at conception. I appreciate and respect that belief, though I do not agree with it.

I can understand how a pro-life blog might balk that I saw an ultrasound that looked like a baby and that I could still make the choice to terminate the pregnancy. I appreciate that opinion, though I do not agree with it and I do not respect any individual who believes they are worthy of judging me or my decision.

I will not force my beliefs upon any other individual, and I would ask and expect that other individuals would do the same.

For what it's worth, what I do believe is this:

I believe that I want to provide the very best for my future children.

I believe that I want to give myself the very best in my life to be able to do so.

I believe that I want to be financially sound so I am not scraping by (or helping support my parents) when I have children.

I believe that I want to have a strong, warm and loving home (and not be living out of a bag in my car, bouncing from my apartment where my parents now stay to my boyfriend and his roommates' place) when I have children.

I believe that I want to be in a solid partnership and marriage when I have children.

I believe that I have a right to choose when having children is right for me.

I believe that by living my life the way I want to live it, developing my independence and growing as a person, I will be the best damn mother to my future children.

I believe that this experience has profoundly changed me.

I believe that I am already a more patient, less judgmental and more open person.

I believe that--after years of patience, excuses for anti-choice friends and desperately seeking an understanding middle ground--I am no longer going to tolerate the damaging anti-choice rhetoric that threatens this country, intimidates and judges my fellow women and impinges on tolerance, rights and progress.

I believe now more than ever before that women (not just in this country, but across the world) deserve the very best and so rarely get it.

And I believe that in my life I will help at least some of those women find the support, strength and services they deserve.

Yes, seeing that ultrasound hurt then and it still hurts now, but I made the choice that was right for me. Ultimately, it looked like a baby, but it wasn't.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Chronological Breakdown of My Complication and a Trip to the Emergency Room

*Before you read, you should know that this entry will be relatively graphic--lots of blood, my friends--compared to my other posts.  I should also be clear that this was not a miscarriage, and the tissue left in my body was either blood clots or, at worst, placenta.

I decided to write in detail about my complication because when I went into this process, I never read about any complications on other abortion blogs.

I scoured those blogs for the details of what to expect from the surgery, what other women's experiences were like, what healing and moving on was like... So I think I should be detailed about this part of the process too. Again, hopefully it helps someone.*

6:50 PM
On Friday evening at work, I suddenly became very crampy. I sat for quite a while at my desk, waiting for the cramps to pass before I got up to use the restroom. When I used the restroom, I felt a huge gush of blood and glanced down to discover the toilet bowl, as I described to the doctors later that night in the ER, "looked like a bucket full of red paint, opaque." Literally, I couldn't see the walls of the toilet bowl or the bottom of it. It was just bright red and thick with blood.

That was disconcerting, but I didn't let it phase me too much. I noted that it the bright red color was something I had been told to watch for, however, and decided to keep my eye on my pad for heavy bleeding. Soaking one pad an hour, I remembered my paperwork saying, would mean a phone call to the on-call doctor at the OB/GYNE office.

7:00 PM
I drove home with plans to eat some dinner with my folks before heading out for a game night with friends.

However, I felt crampy upon getting home, noticed more blood and decided to take a Motrin and a hot shower to try to alleviate the cramping. I explained to my mom what was up, she threw some dinner on for me and I jumped in the shower.

Again, I used the toilet to find yet more blood, though not completely opaque this time. I showered.

7:45 PM
I put a new pad (Pad #1 since getting home) on.

8:30 PM
Forty-five minutes later, I had bled pretty heavily in the pad, but I wouldn't say I had "soaked" it. I had noticed, however, that when I sat on the toilet, lots and lots of blood would come out. So there was blood not catching in the pad that would definitely add to its soaking factor.

With that in mind, I called the OB/GYNE's after-hours emergency number, spoke to a male nurse (I mention this because I have never ever dealt with a man before this moment at an OB/GYNE office. This was a first for me.), described the bleeding in detail, and requested that the on-call doctor call me ASAP.

He said the on-call doctor would call me back within twenty minutes. Happily, she called back within five minutes, and we discussed my bleeding. Since I wasn't quite soaking a pad per hour, she asked me to monitor myself for the next hour or two and call back if things were the same or got worse.

Bleeding is generally a sign of something left in the uterus, she said, either placenta or blood clots that haven't passed. If that was the case, I'd need to come into the ER where she would see me. The ER, unfortunately, was the only way I could get to the OB/GYNE team. She apologized for that, which seemed unnecessary but kind.

8:40 PM
I texted my boyfriend to let him know what was up, in case I did need to go to the ER. I felt bad, knowing he was hanging out with his ex-girlfriend (Yup, both he and I are the types who remain close friends with our exes.) and not wanting to make him worry unnecessarily. It didn't seem possible at this point that I would go to the ER, I kept saying to myself. After texting him, I had some ice cream while I sat on the floor watching NCAA basketball with my parents.

During this time, I could feel the bleeding picking up. I could also feel some small clots passing, which is a bizarre sensation since you cannot control or stop the passage of a clot. It's upsetting in the same way as vomiting or, I assume as I happily have not experienced this, uncontrollable diarrhea. Your body is doing something, and you can't do a single thing to stop it. It's a very helpless and foreign feeling.

8:50 PM
My phone rang ten minutes after my text. It was the boyfriend, very concerned and asking me if I wanted him to come pick me up from my apartment to go to the ER right away. I insisted that I didn't, that it probably wasn't anything, and I'd just keep my eyes peeled. But as I talked to him, I had stood up and I felt another clot pass and I sucked my breath in.

"Ughh," I moaned. "Okay, I may need to go, but let's not go yet. I was told to wait an hour and monitor myself anyway."

He agreed, and we hung up.

I changed my pad again. Pad #2.

9:00 PM
I went back to watching basketball and nervously eating ice cream, wondering if eating was a bad idea if I possibly was going to be rushed into an operating room in the next several hours. At this point, I had had three slices of pizza and now ice cream. I stopped eating the ice cream.

I chatted with my mom about the latest sensations, and she insisted that she used to have clotting with her period sometimes. Maybe this was just a bad period?

Uh, no, Mom. I said. I know what period clotting is like. This is definitely more than just a bad period.

9:20 PM
Thirty minutes passed, and the boyfriend called again around 9:20. This time, he was more insistent. What was the difference, he said, between waiting another thirty minutes or going now? He wanted to come pick me up, and as we talked, I checked my pad.

To my horror, as I checked my pad (which was already pretty bloody), two clots the size of quarters, if a quarter was a sphere, dropped down into my underwear.


"What is it? Is it cramping??" my boyfriend asked.

"No," I said. "No, it's just... it's gross. It's just really, really gross." I paused for a second and fished the clots out of my underwear and dropped them into the toilet.

"Is it bleeding?" he asked urgently.

"No, it's clots," I said. "Uh, yeah. Let's go to the ER. Like, now."

9:25 PM
We got off the phone, and I changed my pad again. (Pad #3.)

It took the boyfriend about thirty minutes to get to his place and grab his car (he had been on his motorcycle, which obviously wouldn't work to transport me) and then to my place.

In the meantime, I called the on-call doctor. I first spoke with a new nurse, who said the doctor would return my call "tonight."

I got hot and bothered, asked her if she was aware that the doctor had already spoken with me and that this was an emergency. The nurse then said in a very disinterested voice that it probably wouldn't be that long.

Thankfully, the doctor called me within ten minutes. I spoke with her and confirmed that I should be coming in. The ER would expect me, she said.

I would go through the ER routine and then be taken back for an ultrasound. The ultrasound would reveal whether I had anything left in my uterus. At that point, they would decide whether I should take a drug to help evacuate the uterus, or if I needed surgery, a D&C.

I asked her if my boyfriend could be with me, and she said he could be at my side the whole time, up until the point and only if I needed surgery.

I packed an overnight bag (I have become an expert at the You're Having an Abortion! checklist, apparently... Sigh.) and was suddenly very happy that I had lots of pads and stick-on heating pads leftover from two weeks ago. I had even bought oversized underwear for after my procedure and never used it. Now was the time! I threw a stick-on heating pad on my back and waited, updating this blog in the meantime.

I then sat with my parents, talked with them about what was going on and got very upset when I explained I might need a D&C. They hugged me as I cried.

10:00 PM
When my boyfriend arrived at 10 PM to pick me up, I thought about changing my pad one last time but wanted so badly to get moving that I didn't. The bleeding didn't seem too bad for the last 30 minutes, so I stuffed two or three extra pads into my purse and off we went. I would later regret this decision.

10:20 PM
We arrived at the hospital complex. I insisted to the boyfriend that I wanted to park the car with him in the garage and walk to the ER. I wasn't interested in going in alone.

However, while walking to the ER, I realized that this may have been a bad idea. I felt small clots passing and blood... not quite gushing, and not quite dripping... from my vagina. I picked up the pace to the ER.

The entrance to the ER features a fun little door contraption that requires you to enter through one set of sliding doors, stand in a particular box, wait for the first set of sliding doors to close and then wait for a second set of doors to open. The boyfriend didn't understand and was complaining about the stupid doors while I could feel more blood pouring out of me, and I dragged him into the right box with perhaps not the friendliest of pulls.

10:30 PM
We checked into the ER.

For my first check-in, I checked in at the front desk just to get the basics in the system. There was, of course, very little privacy for this process. I announced that I was bleeding like crazy from my vagina and that I had a D&E procedure ten days prior. The nurse marked some things down and explained I would now check in to get a wristband.

Then, I moved down the counter for the second part of the check-in. I confirmed my name and birthdate and got my wristband. While we were standing there, an RN moved out right next to us and called my name.

"Right here!" I responded.

She glanced around the room and called my name again.

"She's right here!" the nurse checking me in said louder.

The RN stared blankly around the room, looked at her chart and began to call my name again.

"RIGHT HERE!" the nurse and I both very loudly responded to her. The RN blinked at me several times and then gestured that I join her at her station.

For the third, final and most grueling part of my check-in, I was checked by this RN, Tina, we will call her. Tina had me sit down in her patient's cream fabric chair, which I had  the good sense to throw down my dark coat over before sitting. (No, this may be my most intense, but it is certainly not my first rodeo, Uterine Blood.)

Her station was, like the rest of the waiting room and check-in area, not private. The boyfriend stood somewhat in front of me, blocking most of the waiting room, but conversations and the buzz of the TV could be heard in detail.

Tina took my vitals and asked me a few questions.

Tina:  Why are you at the ER this evening?

Me:  I had a D&E procedure ten days ago, and now I am bleeding profusely.

Tina:  Bleeding from where?

Me:   ... Uh, my vagina.

Tina:  You had a what kind of procedure?

Me:  A D&E.

Tina:  What is that?

Me:  ...A dilation and evacuation.

Tina:  A what? What is that?

Me:  ...An abortion... A pregnancy termination.

Tina:  Oh! ... (Tina gets whispery.) OH, oh gosh. Oh, I am so sorry.

Me:  Uhhh, it's okay.

Tina:  What did you say it's called again?

Me:  A dilation and evacuation procedure.

Tina:  Ok. Why did you terminate the pregnancy?

Me:  (Given the way things were going here, I got angry for a half-second, thinking that Tina was getting personal, before I realized that she probably was more interested in whether I had any medical complications that led to the termination.) It was unplanned.

Tina:  Unplanned. (She jots some notes down.) Ok. How many pads are you going through?

Me:  (Feeling what is now a sopping-wet pad underneath me.) Uh, more than one an hour, at this point.

Tina:  Hm. OK. (She fidgets a bit.) I'm going to have to ask my neighbor about this. Sorry. I'm new to this, and I don't know what triage to put you at.

Me:  (New to this. Okay, so this explains something...) Okay.

Tina:  (Leaves, returns, holding a urine cup.) Ok, I need you to wait in the waiting room, and we'll need a urine sample from you. The bathroom is right over there. (She gestures to a hallway off the waiting room.)

Me:  Uh, you need me to do the urine test and then hold onto it?

Tina:  Oh yes. We just need to be sure, you know, that you were pregnant. Just in case, you know, the doctors want to do a CAT scan.

Me:  (Though I am thinking, WTF?! Was I pregnant? CAT scan?? Is this really how crazy hospital administrative BS is??? ...) Uh, I absolutely have to do the urine sample out here?

Tina:  Oh, no! There's a bathroom back there if you can't pee yet.

Me:  I think I'll do that, as long as the doctors know they're probably going to wind up with a mess of blood instead of urine.
At this point, I did go to the waiting room bathroom because I was freaked about how wet my pad was feeling. In true shitty waiting room fashion, there was NO LOCK on this door, and I put my purse in front of it in a very feeble attempt to keep anyone from entering the bathroom.

I discovered that not only was my pad a heaping mess of blood, but my underwear was more or less soaked through too, and I had bled through my stretch pants. Now, anywhere I sit down, I would leave a little red splotch. Fabulous.

In trying to clean myself up, I got blood all over the bathroom floor, toilet seat and sink and then spent time cleaning up after myself too.

I finally returned to my spot in the waiting room, recognized that there was indeed a little red splotch where I had sat briefly, tucked my dark jacket underneath me and sat down. I updated the blog again, taking in the sights and smells of the waiting room. I was happy that we arrived when we did as it was clear already that a later-night, crazier and more upsetting crowd was already arriving.

11 PM:
A friendly nurse called me back to the ER. The nurse rotated my bed for me so that it faced the wall rather than the curtained sheet that separated it from a very busy hallway.

The hallway outside my room was full of other cases--people in wheelchairs, people on gurneys. The gentleman right outside my room was a middle-aged black man on a gurney who was high on cocaine, suicidal and liked orange juice. We would listen to several different medical professionals talk to him throughout the evening, the least effective of whom is Tina who chided him repeatedly.

I went to the bathroom in the ER to attempt that urine sample. The boyfriend and I, after I slipped into my gown, tried to guess what substance my urine sample most looked like. I said tomato juice, but he disagreed and suggested that it looked like some kind of chemical experiment.

A nurse took my vitals again since I was losing so much blood. I kept my underwear and my pad on, though a disposable underpad (lifesaver!) had been tucked underneath me. The nurse also took several blood samples and hooked an IV needle into my arm in case I needed fluids later.

The ER resident arrived to discuss my situation with me. She was intense with hair slicked back into an oily ponytail and a bedside demeanor that involved her sitting wide-legged on her rolling stool while she knotted her face into concerned looks and nodded meaningfully. It was a bit unsettling, and as the boyfriend later said, it felt like she had just returned from her fifth tour of duty in Iraq, but I did like her.

She seemed uneasy about the pelvic exam she was about to perform on me.

"Listen," the ER resident said, "nobody likes pelvic exams. I don't like giving them. You don't like getting them. So we'll just do this as fast as possible."

Uh, okay. Pelvic exams are not that bad, in my book, but ten-four.

I explained that I was bleeding profusely, and at this point, I wanted to throw my underwear away. I requested a pair of disposable underwear for later, which the nurse brought me.

11:15ish PM
It's time for Pelvic Exam Number 1.

I peeled off my bloody underwear, wrapped it up as best I could and, with no help from the resident or my boyfriend, tossed it into a distant trashcan.

"Ha! See, I sort of know how to play basketball," I said to no one in particular. (I would talk somewhat crazily like this throughout the entire ER visit. Not totally sure in retrospect if I was just nervous and trying to calm down or losing lots of blood and not thinking clearly.)

The ER resident directed me into the stirrups and immediately said in surprise, "Oh wow. You weren't kidding. That's a lot of blood."

I looked proudly at my boyfriend. Check me out! Lots of blood, did you hear that? Aww, yeah. How awesome is your girlfriend?

As she put together the ambulatory pelvic exam contraption, she explained, "We get lots of women in the ER who say they are bleeding a lot. 'Meh, I'm bleeding through a pad an hour!' Yeah, right. No, this is a lot of blood."

She began the pelvic exam, and it was immediately clear that she's not an OB/GYNE professional. The speculum scraped my vaginal canal, and I tried to stay relaxed.

"Have you been passing clots like this?" she asked.

Oh, I must be passing a clot. Who knew?

"Uh, am I passing a clot? Uh, yeah. There have been lots of them," I answered.

She removed the speculum and began using her hands for the second part of the exam. This process would be the most excruciating thing I felt at the ER.

With the blood I'd been dropping, my pubic hair had become clotted with blood. It was dry, sticky and clumpy. Part of her hand caught, twisted and pulled my pubic hair. My eyes watered and I laughed in the delirium of the pain.

"Try to relax," she intoned.

Fuck you! I wanted to scream back at her. LET GO OF MY PUBIC HAIR.

I made a note that I shall shave myself as soon as I possibly can.

The ER resident finished and explained that the OB/GYNE team would see me soon. They were also waiting on my blood test results, so I should just relax and let her and the nurses know if I need anything.

I requested another underpad right away. I could feel the wet blood underneath me from the exam, and she pulled one out of a drawer and tucked it underneath me.

11:30 to 12:05ish
We hung out and waited for a long while. I had my vitals taken at some point again. The boyfriend and I talked, joked, held hands. We listened to the man outside our room. We got on Facebook on our phones.

I felt a bit light-headed, but I couldn't tell if it was because I was losing blood or if it was because the lights in my tiny little room were really bright and the whole experience was surreal.

Around 12:00 a supervising resident arrived in my room. I barely got a chance to meet him. He was wearing a white coat unlike anyone else I had met at this point, so I assume he was a supervising resident.

He asked me if I was feeling faint, and I explained that I wasn't sure given the situation. He turned the overhead lights off, which helped immensely and immediately. One up-facing medical light over the far wall remained on, lighting the room but not blinding me.

This doctor only had time to introduce himself, ask how I was doing and turn the lights down before he could explain the OB/GYNE team would arrive soon as they literally knocked and entered.

12:05ish to 12:30ish
The OB/GYNE team, a male/female duo of residents, had obviously just walked off the set of Grey's Anatomy.

The woman was petite with a darling face and cute blond cropped haircut. The man was tall and well-built with dark hair and a handsome face. If it were not for the likelihood, given his mannerims and his lingering eye on my boyfriend, that he was gay, I would say that they had just gotten done making out in a maintenance closet. (That is the way hospitals work, right?)

Anyway, they were awesome. They were nice, gentle and confident. For the first time this evening, I felt like I was in really, really good hands.

I explained for the umpteenth time what was going on with me. This time, I explained in more explicit detail. When I said to them that the toilet bowl at work looked like a bucketful of red paint, both the residents squinched up their faces.

Whoops. That's a bad sign if I am grossing out the doctors.

They explained that they've looked over my chart, and that it looks like everything at the D&E went well. (THIS IS LITERALLY THE FIRST TIME I AM HEARING MY SURGERY WENT FINE.)

They had talked with the on-call doctor, who I had spoken to on the phone, and they would now do a pelvic exam. They apologized because they know I already had one from the ER resident. But such is ER protocol.

The male resident performed the pelvic exam. As I mentioned earlier, talking with a male nurse on the phone earlier that evening was the most contact I'd ever had with male OB/GYNE professionals. Now I was getting my first pelvic exam from a male OB/GYNE resident! And I could not have been in better hands.

He was, by far, the most gentle professional to ever dig around in my vagina. In attempting to feel the uterus and identify where my pain was, he was reassuring and gentle in his touch. When I winced once, he squeezed my thigh with his free hand and said he was sorry and almost done. Such a change from the pubic hair twisting I had received earlier that night!

They then explained they would need to do an internal transvaginal ultrasound to see if they can tell what and how much tissue is left in my uterus. Again, the male resident handled the internal wand while the female resident watched the screen and took images from it.

The ultrasound took much longer than I wanted it to, and it made me uneasy.

As the male resident moved the wand inside me, the female resident would say, "Oh, do you see..."

And he would respond, "Yes."

And then she'd take a picture.

WHAT IS IT?! I wanted to yell. WHAT ARE YOU SEEING?

This went on for several minutes. It seemed their focus had changed at one point when the wand was moving at sharper angles to the left and right. Finally the male resident explained, "Don't worry. Right now we're looking for your ovaries. They can be hard to find sometimes."

"Oh, they're very shy," I said, my voice shaking and laughing at the same time, again with the nervous nonsense talk.

He nodded politely and kept working.

During this part of the exam, dear Tina walked in without knocking and then stood there for a solid 30 seconds not talking. She then announced she'd come back another time. The OB/GYNE team didn't glance at her once. Poor Tina.

He finished up and explained that it was very, very difficult to see anything because of the amount of blood I was producing. There was something there, but they could not tell from the ultrasound if it was tissue or blood clots.

The next step was to decide what treatment I needed: either a drug to evacuate the uterus, or a D&C. The residents would confer with the on-call doctor and return to discuss her decision.

12:30ish to 12:45ish
Again, the boyfriend and I found ourselves waiting. Another new underpad had been placed under me after the OB/GYNE exams, so I was relatively dry.

I was starting to feel really tired. The cramps that had woken me up the night before had robbed me of some sleep, and this whole process was exhausting.

The phone for the ER doctors was outside my room, probably right by the dude on the gurney. This set-up led to the interesting situation of hearing every single word my male OB/GYNE resident said to the on-call doctor about my case.


He said that he estimated there was about six centimeters of tissue in my uterus, but that he could not tell exactly what it was. He said that I was a hearty and strong patient, "not at all squeamish" (I wondered if the fact that I made HIM squirm had helped in this assesment) and "handling everything really well." He said I didn't seem to be reacting to losing blood, and I could probably handle taking the pill.

"I just don't think a surgery is necessary at this point," he said.

The boyfriend and I high-fived.

The OB/GYNE duo returned. I would take a dose of Misoprostol, or Cytotec, that night at the hospital. It would cause cramping and hopefully help evacuate whatever was left in my uterus.

I would be prescribed an additional dose of Cytotec to take the next night.

"If you're still cramping and bleeding tomorrow night, call us, and it's possible you'll need a D&C," the male resident said.

"But aren't I supposed to take the Cytotec at midnight tomorrow night?" I asked, confused.

"Well, just go ahead and take the Cytotec no matter what," the female resident said.

"But should I call you?" I asked, looking back and forth at them.

"Only if you think you need to," the male resident said.

"Wait, how do I know if I need to?"

...It had gotten confusing. Eventually, I discerned the following:

I would take one dose tonight. Most likely, the bleeding and cramping would drop off significantly during the next day. Regardless, I should take the second dose the next day, 24 hours later. If, on Sunday, I was still cramping and bleeding like the dickens, I should call right away. Then, a D&C might be necessary.

The residents added that, despite losing blood, I was handling everything okay. They made sure I was still not feeling chills, light-headed or nauseous.

"You have a ridiculous amount of hemoglobin in your blood," the male resident said. (14.4 actually, which isn't too much, but is on the higher end of healthy for women.)

"Yeah, it's awesome," the female resident enthused, nodding. "You're doing really well."

I was feeling super great at this point. I may be sitting in a big pool of blood, but I am a stellar patient and my blood is awesome! Go me!

Before they left, the male resident told us (actually, he addressed my boyfriend completely) that I would take the four pills buccally. (Pronounced buckle-y, it means in your cheeks.) Shoved down into my gums, the pills would dissolve for a half hour, and then I could swallow.

12:45ish to 1:00ish
We found ourselves waiting yet again. This time, we looked up pictures of Japan on the NYTimes, checked out charts explaining radiation and then tried to understand how radiation works. You know, just your usual "1 o'clock in the morning on a Friday night in the emergency room" business.

The very sweet boyfriend also rearranged my bloody bed/butt situation. He folded up all the used underpads so they wouldn't leak on me and then grabbed two new underpads for me. He also put my bed back a bit to make me more comfortable. Then, he snagged two extra underpads and shoved them in my purse! Heck yeah!

1:05 AM
I realized that I should call my parents to update them on my situation. I knew they will stay up all night until they hear from me, so I wanted to put them at ease so they can go to sleep. I no sooner got my mom on the line than Tina, with what appeared to be an incredible knack for timing, marched into the room carrying pills and a cup of water.

"Uh, I am about to put pills in my mouth for 30 minutes, Mom," I said quickly, "so let me just tell you what's going on."

I explained the situation to her quickly and hung up.

"Oookay, then," Tina asked, "Did I just overhear you saying that you are putting these in your mouth for 30 minutes?"

"Yes," I responded, baffled and realizing that she'd brought the water for me to swallow them.

"Hmm," Tina put the pills and water down on a tray. "Okay, then we better do what the doctors told you to do."

Geez, I guess so? How did this part of the process get confused???

I took a quick last drink of water before shoving the pills down my checks, against my gums. For 30 minutes, I fiddled around and finally swallowed them at 1:37 AM.

The Misoprostol hurt my cheeks. It felt like I had burned the inside of my cheeks and my throat. I drank lots and lots of water to help.

1:45 AM
Tina returned with discharge papers and removed the IV needle from my arm.

"You're all set!" she said and told me to feel better.

At this point, I started to feel chilly, lightheaded and nauseous--all those things that I'd been asked all night if I was feeling. Tina had swept off, and there was no one to take my temperature.

My boyfriend wrapped his arms around me, rubbing my arms. We decided that I was probably feeling these things because I was exhausted, worn out and cold from having sat in my own now cold blood with very little covering me.

Shivering, I put my clothes on and felt much better once I had the weight of my coat on me.

2:10 AM
We started to walk out of the ER and into the waiting room before we realized we hadn't been told if we needed to check out. Just waltzing out of the ER seemed strange.

We walked back into the ER, looking for a sign or a nurse at a desk. There was no one and nothing. Finally, I spotted a small Check-Out sign at an empty desk. We waited for a couple minutes before a nurse asked us if anyone had helped us. She sent someone to the desk.

While we waited, we watched some more typical downtown Friday night ER business go down. A woman screamed profanities from her wheelchair at EMTs. Some serious racial lines were drawn, which I suppose is typical of the city I live in. We had seen and heard racism all night with hatred going in all directions. "OBAMA PRESIDENT NOW!" the black woman yelled at the white male EMT, "Don't you forget that!" The white EMT rolled his eyes and walked away.

We were finally checked out, a quick and painless process, and walked back to the car. I was shaking and very, very cold. We decided what I needed was some food, something with sugar and preferably something hot. COOKIES!!!!!!! My apparent favorite comfort food. Hot chocolate chip cookies!!!

I sipped my water and enjoyed the heated seats and cranked heat in the car.

2:30 AM
We finally arrived back home. I updated my blog, jumped in the shower and the boyfriend ran up the street to the 24-hour drug store to pick me up more pads, underpads, lemonade (yay!), cookie dough (yay!) and other goodies.

I also slammed a leftover Norco, narcotic painkiller, before jumping in the shower. I figured it'd be a good idea, as I could expect more cramps as the night turned into day.

The boyfriend made me peppermint tea (to help my Misoprostol-pained mouth) and fought with a feisty oven to make me my cookies. (He is allergic to dairy and cannot eat the store-bought kind, poor dude.) Finally, he succeeded, but it had gotten really late. We were exhausted, but those cookies were damn good and made me feel SO much better.

4:00 AM
We crawled into bed. I stuck a sticky heating pad onto my abdomen, and a heating pad was cranked to the max under my back.

I should mention that I am not a fan of the guest bed at the boyfriend's mom's place, particularly not when one is crampy. The week following my surgery, as well as the first few nights following my compliction, I slept on top of the comforter for extra cushioning support. I brought my favorite fuzzy blue blanket from home to keep me warm and wrapped around me. (This thing is ratty as all get-out, but I adore it. It got me through mono at age 16, and it still helps me today.)

This night, I also devised a Don't-Bleed-on-the-Bed contraption, consisting of (1) underpad on top of the comforter, (2) an old towel on top of the underpad, and finally (3) the heating pad on top of the towel.

I crawled on top of this Princess and the Pea-like structure and almost immediately began to feel a cramp that was unlike any other. They say it takes about 2 to 4 hours for the true brunt of Misoprostal pain to kick in, and I am here to confirm that.

I went to the bathroom and before I could sit on the toilet, I passed THE BIGGEST CLOT I HAVE EVER SEEN. Like earlier, it dropped into my underwear, and I fished it out to examine it.

It was, most likely, almost 4 inches in length and 1.5 inches at its thickest point. It looked like dark maroon Jell-O and had a consistency similar to Jell-O, but a bit stronger. IT WAS SO GROSS AND AWESOME.

I desperately wanted to show my boyfriend how amazing and disgusting and crazy this clot was, but he was very sleepy and I figured running into the bedroom waving a blood clot around was not a nice way to treat him at 4:15 in the morning.

When I mentioned this passing desire to him the next day, he was very disappointed.

"Why didn't you show me?!" he asked sadly. "I would've wanted to see it! It sounds awesome!"

I promised that if I passed another clot, he would see it. Unfortunately for him, at that point, I seemed to have passed all the clots I would and have not passed any since.... Knock on wood!

P.S. That urine sample/tomato juice/chemical experiment sat on the floor the whole time we were in my ER room until we left. The boyfriend and I put it on the tray, just in case they still wanted it...

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Follow-Up Appointment and (Perhaps No More) Complication Update 5

I had my follow-up appointment today--two weeks after the insertion of laminaria, 13 days after the D&E procedure and 3 days after my apparent complication resulting in an unexpected and bloody trip to the ER this weekend.

I skipped work this morning, slept in a bit and woke up to find a voicemail from the head nurse at the hospital's family planning clinic on my phone. She had heard that I'd had trouble over the weekend and wanted to touch base with me. She seemed to have forgotten or not connected that I also had an appointment that day until I called to confirm that I should still come in for it.

My boyfriend and I went together to this appointment. Initially, I planned to go alone to this follow-up. Everything seemed to have been moving along smoothly, and perhaps in my occasional bull-headed independence, I wanted to go alone and not feel dependent on a boyfriend. That all changed with my trip to the ER, and I also realized that it was important to me that we go together, see this process out as a couple. And happily, he was the one who suggested that he take me to the hospital for my follow-up.

While we waited at the clinic, we sat in the OB/GYNE part of the waiting room for the first time. (For our consultation, we sat in geriatrics, and we sat in the same seats when we went for the laminaria insertion.) Our buzzer quickly buzzed, and we were taken back to a new exam room.

As we walked through the family planning clinic hallway, it felt like a trip through the past three weeks:

First we passed the consultation room where I sat 19 days ago. A young woman about my age sat in the same chair with the door open, waiting for the head nurse to come chat with her.

We then passed the exam room where I had the laminaria insertion two weeks ago today. As we walked by, the door opened, and a nurse walked out. I could see the curtain was drawn and knew that there was someone in there experiencing exactly what I did two weeks ago.

Then we turned a corner where we were led to a new room for my follow-up. My boyfriend and I laughed when we saw the room set-up. For the first time, the visitors' chairs were lined up with a direct view at the table's bottom end. These are VIP seats for vag exams, people.

"Uh, are you sure you want to sit there?" I asked him.

He shrugged and plopped into one of the chairs. "I'll move if they want me to," he said. Of course, aside from the boyfriend seeing my vagina on a regular basis, this is the guy who is disappointed I didn't show him any of the clots I passed. So why on earth would he be freaked out?

The resident who I met at my consultation and who conducted my laminaria insertion knocked and entered the room. She shook my hand and asked me about the ER trip.

I explained that my bleeding and cramping has dropped off, and she explained that she'd do a pelvic exam to check my uterus. (The head nurse explained they'd want to see if it felt "floppy," which would mean that there was more tissue hanging out in there.)

She first used a heated speculum (It was actually super hot, as it turned out, and freaked me out upon entering my vaginal canal. Yipes!) and then did a hand exam. My uterus felt firm, a good sign. No floppy = Great news!

The resident then asked me about the procedure itself, bringing up right away that she was sorry that she and the rest of the scheduled team had been pulled from my case last minute.

"Honestly," I told her, "I think we both felt like there was more disorganization than we expected. I expected to see some of the faces I had seen before, but that didn't happen."

She nodded and explained that the change-up with doctors was frustrating, and she, with the rest of the team, was pulled onto this emergency case that started at 1:30 and lasted until past 6 PM. (Jesus.)

"You know," I said, "I understand that that happened, and it's unexpected. But maybe more upsetting was that I felt like we had to argue with the nurses that I get the shots I needed. We had to remind everyone, and my charts were wrong."

The boyfriend chimed in here, explaining that he had to insist to two different nurses about my depo shot since it seemed they didn't believe me, their patient. He also said that the shift change was a bother, but it honestly didn't bother me as much as the frustration of insisting that you know what care you're supposed to have.

I agreed with him and then added that it was a great thing he was there since, especially post-op, I was hazy, and we were having to act as my case managers.

At this point, I started to feel the emotion of the day rising up in me, and my eyes were getting watery.

Damn it! I thought, I didn't think this would happen! I pulled it together, just barely, to keep myself from crying.

The resident kindly apologized again, and said she felt terrible because if they had been on my team, since they knew my case, it would have been handled better.

She then asked me if I wanted my pathology report.

This stopped me short, though I think I should have expected it. I have even in the last few days been eyeing the number for medical records, considering calling in to request mine. Since I never even heard that everything went okay, I was curious to see what my charts say.

But a pathology report? Suddenly feeling vulnerable from having talked about the day, I immediately said no. I was afraid of what I might learn from it--the sex of the fetus, its viability? I don't actually know. (Does anyone know what exactly I would learn from the pathology report? Would requesting my medical charts reveal this information to me too?)

With that, she said she would chat with the attending physicial (who was supposed to have operated on me, but who I had not yet met) about whether we should do an ultrasound. They'd both be back shortly.

While she was gone, the boyfriend and I chatted more about the day of the procedure. We both felt like we had said what we wanted to say and agreed that the resident was great. There's not anything she can do at this point, obviously, so her words were nice. However, it was the attending doctor who then entered the room who made me really feel better...

The attending physician immediately apologized for the disorganization on the day of the procedure.

In my I-was-raised-to-be-a-way-too-nice-girl way, I said, "It's okay."

She immediately responded, "No. It's not okay." And then delved into how sorry she was that the emergency case had pulled her off of my case and that I hadn't had the familiarity of faces I knew around me for the operation. She said while she was glad I didn't have to face the emergency situation that this other patient did, she didn't think it was fair that I was jostled around because of another case. Basically, I deserved better than I got.

I told her how much I appreciated her saying that, and I didn't repeat that it was okay. She was right, it wasn't okay. So much of what happened was not actually the fault of the OB/GYNE team (in retrospect, it was that fighting to be sure my care was handled by the nurses correctly that was most upsetting), though I did mention that I wished that my operating doctor had made an effort to see me before the sedation kicked in.

We moved on and discussed my complication. Based on my description of what I had passed--dark maroon but not brown in color, gelatinous and smooth, they thought it was most likely blood clots. Tissue would have been darker in color and have had more texture. Chances are less likely that there was anything left in my uterus and more likely that my body simply did not evacuate the way it should have following the procedure.

As I thought I had heard the resident OB/GYNE say on Friday night, the leftover tissue or clots in my uterus were measured at six centimeters on Friday night. While my cervix was completely closed already that night, I passed more and more clots and blood, including that one gigantic clot that must have been most of whatever was in there.

Given that news, the attending physician decided that it was best not to do an ultrasound at this point. 1 or 2 centimeters of tissue in the uterus is normal, she explained. Six centimeters was obviously not normal. But if she did an ultrasound today and saw, say, 3 centimeters of tissue, she'd have to do a D&C procedure, even if my body might still be evacuating clots/tissue. She preferred to avoid subjecting me to another surgery (me too!), and instead monitor my continued recovery.

If my bleeding picks up, then I will need to call right away and most likely have a D&C procedure. Given how things have been going, the doctors are hopeful (and "95%" sure) that I won't need any more procedures. I'm not totally out of the woods, but things are looking good. Some slight bleeding and cramping will be expected--a few days to a week or more, so I'll be diligent in keeping a watch on myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Complication Update 4 - Day 3

That Misoprostol kicked in with a vengeance last night around 3 AM. Literally bolted straight up in bed, clutching my abdomen. The cramps quickly passed, but I didn't bleed very much.

Today, there has been occassional cramping and very little bleeding. I haven't passed any clots since yesterday.

I had my regularly scheduled follow-up tomorrow morning, and I assume that it will now focus on whether my uterus has been completely evacuated. I emailed my supervisor and shared with her my latest update, just in case this complication is... more complicated.... and I need to take additional time off work.

My hope had been to talk more at length with the head nurse tomorrow about the various ways I felt frustrated by the disorganization and miscommunication on my surgery day, but it seems like there'll be more important things to discuss and not a whole ton of time to review what happened. At any rate, I'm hoping that the dropped off cramping and bleeding is a sign that things are good, and my uterus is evacuated. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Complication Update 3 - Day 2

Who knew I'd be back in this good ol' recliner with my heating pad cranked oh-so-very-soon?

I've tried to be as honest and detailed about every single feeling, emotional and physical, I have experienced through this process. My hope is that this writing helps other women who want to know someone else's experience.

However, my friends, I do NOT know how to write about what I felt and saw last night without some seriously disgusting details. I'm not upset, and at this point, I'm not even in that much pain. But I am perversely FASCINATED by my body right now. Who KNEW I could dump so much blood all over the place? The human body is AMAZING.

The good news is that, despite the fact that my uterus is evidently a tank-like lock box unwilling to give up its contents, the Misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) has pushed tons of clots out of my body. I am not too crampy right now, and bleeding seems to be slowing.

I plan to take one more dose of Cytotec tonight. And I also plan to update more about my experience last night just so I continue to be thorough. For now, the boyfriend just got home, and I'm going to spend some quality time with him.