For the last several months, stories like mine have been used for political fodder. And when I say months, I really mean years—it just simmers down a bit on occasion. And with today’s decision, the argument will flare up again—into a raging dumpster fire. Are you now wondering if I had an abortion? First, it’s none of your damn business if I did or not. That would be a private conversation between my doctor and me. But no, I did not. It was, however, an option when we learned of Zoey’s diagnosis. You will hear in the news much about “significant fetal abnormalities.” That is one of my stories. Many people know about our daughter, Zoey. They know she was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a condition considered incompatible with life, early in my pregnancy. Since I carried her to term, you may think you know my views on abortion. Then again, I might surprise you. But, again, that’s none of your damn business either. Joe and I had countless unthinkable conversations with our doctors, our families, each other, and therapists. Lots of research and testing was done. And one day we sat in the office of a genetic counselor at a Catholic hospital where they told us we had two options. Carry our daughter to term and “see what happens” or terminate the pregnancy. And while they would not provide termination, they would refer us somewhere that did.
For just one minute, can you stop shouting and think about that? Think about what that was like for two people to sit in a room with a stranger and be told that your child would probably die. As I said, we chose to carry our daughter. But I do not for one minute judge anyone who makes a different decision. Because, and I’ll say it louder this time, IT IS NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS. We were told that Zoey was not in pain. But other babies suffer in the womb. And they suffer when born. I will not judge another person who decides not to put their baby through that. Don’t even come at me with any of the “There. That’s your proof that babies feel pain” rhetoric either. If you do, I’ll clearly see that you have zero idea what empathy is and I don’t have time for that.
I’ll let everyone else share the other horror stories. Rape. Abuse. Life of the mother. Those are not my stories. But there’s a lot of them and they are very real. And very traumatic.
Next up! Adoption. That’s the other option thrown around like Dum Dums at a parade. People look at our family and say, “There! That’s why. Because this couple now has two beautiful boys that are here because a woman chose life.” And YES, I am thankful for these amazing humans every single day. But once again, that’s not the full story. All adoption stories start with loss. Did you know there’s research showing that separation from the birth mother is traumatic to the infant? There can be life-long complications. And while, hopefully, that is manageable for my children, I think it is important to recognize it. Everyone wants to believe that adoption is so easy. It is not. Now let’s talk about the impact on the birth parents. I know there are arguments about how the positive (the life of the child) outweigh the negative (impact on the birth parents) but who am I to analyze the situation of the birth parents to know if that’s really true. I just want to make it known that there is real trauma related to adoption even though things can look rosy from the outside. I carry an immense amount of guilt—both for feeling like the system failed the birth mother in the first place (yes, yes of course she makes choices too, but if you knew the full story, you’d know that society has repeatedly failed to help her.) I also carry guilt for potentially creating trauma for my kids by taking them from their birth mother. If you have trouble understanding that, please research empathy again.
Do you want the statistics on foster care? A quick google search showed more than 16,000 kids in Illinois alone. Nationwide—more than 400,000. Foster care, even when children are placed in loving, wonderful homes is awful. Full of trauma. Full of grief. And yes, I do also carry guilt for not choosing to adopt a child from foster care, but we made an educated choice based on what we felt was right for us and those reasons—yep—are none of your business.
And now, I’m afraid for what the future holds. Because I keep hearing how contraceptives and even things related to in-vitro fertilization could be in jeopardy. Easy to say, “no, it won’t go that far,” but if you recall, we thought Roe v Wade was set too.
Let me explain in vitro. I won’t go into all the details, but did you know we started with about 18 embryos? Some just failed. Some were genetically tested and came back positive for a mutation. We ultimately had three that looked good. They were implanted and did not ultimately produce a living child. But did you know that the genetically abnormal ones were stored? And years after stopping fertility treatments, I received a letter stating a choice needed to be made. Discard them or pay to store them. Within in-vitro, there are multiple ethical landmines. When does life begin? Should we allow pre-implantation genetic testing or “let nature” handle it? What happens to embryos that are not implanted (because some people may get a dozen viable embryos but sure as hell aren’t willing to have 18 children.) Are we going to ban in-vitro too? Does that sound crazy? I fear that the same people who were pissed about drag queen story hour may not think it is so crazy.
Over the next few months, if you see my crying or shoveling a gallon of ice cream into my mouth at 2pm, know that my anxiety, fear, and trauma are flaring up along with the political arguments.
If you’ve made it this far and still want to argue with me, check out this quick explanation of empathy from Brene Brown. It’s based on research by Professor Theresa Wisemann on the fundamentals of empathy: recognizing emotion, perspective taking, communication, and avoiding judgment.
Look, I recognize that people on both sides feel very impassioned. Everyone has a right to feel that way. But I also have a right to be super-pissed that many people don’t stop to really think through the implications of what they say. And yes, I am aware that abortion has implications too. What I’m saying is that first, and foremost, IT’S NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS and two, turning on the news, the radio, social media, and even daily interactions with some people are emotionally triggering to many people who have had to make unimaginable choices. Think before you speak or post some bullshit on Instagram (because I go there to see cute kids and cats—not to see someone who lives in a cushy little bubble with very little traumatic life experience post some meme that’s full of inaccurate information.)