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.