I do not identify as a feminist. In fact throughout my adult life I have been very vocal about it. I scoffed when others praised Gloria Steinem or Betty Freidan. I understand their efforts through the years did help to bring about positive change in many ways, I do also believe the feminist movement of old was an extremely aggressive and judgmental movement. The negative affects of which are all around us. But that is another story altogether.
So, when Hillary Clinton decided to run for President I didn’t really pay too much attention. My hubby hated her opponent so I guess that was the real reason I was hoping for her to win. In time, as the election drew nearer I was surprised by the people around me and how much they seemed to hate her. Even my own sister who planned to vote republican. She wasn’t voting for Trump, she was voting against Hillary. When pressed about her dislike I was told “Hillary is a liar!” This was a common theme. And yet, no one I spoke with could give me any real insight as to what she lied about. I became intrigued by this woman. I started to read about her. This woman who brought about such incredible deep emotions. What had she done to provoke so many people that her name alone brought out incredible hate and anger. Well just between you and me I still don’t get it. Probably because she really doesn’t seem to be all that hateable. If that is a word. It is like that kid in grade one who somehow is seen as a nerd or geek and this follows them through their entire school journey. No one really knows why but the rep sticks. Just like Hillary. But that isn’t what this is about. She is a big girl. A strong woman. Although I am sure she has shed many many tears through the years from the unkindness shown towards her, she doesn’t need me to stick up for her. No, this is about one moment in time where she taught me an incredible lesson.
My husband was watching one of the presidential debates on TV. I was reading as usual in my chair while I half assed listened to the debate. Not my country. Not my election. Not too interested. But suddenly questions regarding Roe V Wade came up from the moderator. I looked up as the debate suddenly drew my attention and late term abortion was the topic. I can’t speak to what Trump said because it was sensationalized and ridiculous. Hillary’s voice changed. She seemed charged up. She was passionate as she defended her Senate vote and she spoke with such compassion that I was moved to tears. Because I am one of the women she was speaking about. One of the many many women who in an instant are thrust from joy in pregnancy to sorrow.
I have had a history of reproductive issues. My first child in University was unplanned and quite a surprise. Time goes by and when I try to conceive on purpose, nothing. Finally, after three years of temperature taking and tests I see a naturopath in desperation. I was pregnant after a few months. I wait a bit and try again and boom i am pregnant immediately. Try again after a few years and after a miscarriage and two ectopic pregnancies, I give up. That is when I conceived again. My oldest child was eighteen and would graduate from High School before her sibling was born. My husbands co-workers started calling him Grandpa in their good natured ribbing. We had just bought a brand new vehicle to take the place of the multi seat extended mini van. Suddenly we realized the new truck wasn’t ideal.
It was July, and my husband and I were at the cabin with our two youngest children. We were on holidays for a couple of weeks. The morning sickness had stopped and I was looking a little pregnant and not just chubby. I had an ultrasound appointment on the Wednesday and so I booked my monthly Doctor checkup for the same day. We had to drive back to the city so we decided to get everything done on our to do list. We hadn’t found out the sex of our first three kids but we wanted to know with this child. I was 38 years old and not interested in a surprise. So we called our oldest daughter to meet us for the appointment. I went in alone for the initial scan and after all of the measurements and pictures were done the tech printed off a picture and called in my family. She showed them the baby and pointed out little blobs before finally announcing that we were having a little boy. We were all so excited. We had two girls and one boy already so it seemed as if this just completed our little family.
It was after the family left the room that the technician asked about my next Doctor’s visit. When I told her I was seeing my Doctor right away, she told me the results would be sent immediately. Looking back I guess that was when I had my first doubts. After reaching the Doctors office, I was immediately escorted into an exam room. The Nurse asked if I wanted my husband with me? Again, looking back that was the next clue something was amiss. I laughed and said no. Not long after she left the door opened again and my husband was shown into the room. We looked at each other and the realization hit us at the same time. This can’t be good. Nicole, my Doctor came in and opened her little folder. Her first words were “This little boy has some very big problems.” As she started to tell us the results of the ultrasound I found my mind saying. “They can fix that” after every abnormality. Until it hit me. They can’t fix all of that. My husband suddenly fell backwards towards the wall and slid down until he was squatting as he held his hands over his face. He was in shock. This little bundle who initially shocked us and excited us was now scaring us.
Although a trisomy was suspected due to the ultrasound results amniocentesis was recommended. That was scheduled within a couple of days and afterwards we were told the results would be rushed. I was 19 weeks and I understood that an abortion was only available until 20 weeks. Nicole’s husband was an OB/GYN and he was who was taking over my care. We told him that whatever the results, we would not be terminating the pregnancy. By the time the results were back I was past the time allowed for a legal abortion. Stan sat us down to explain the findings from the amnio and we were then walked through our options. My head was spinning. It turns out our baby had a form of trisomy but also a form of translocation. Trisomy is when a person has an extra chromosome. Trisomy 21 is more recognized as Down’s syndrome. These individuals have three 21st chromosomes. They total 47 rather than the usual 46. Our child had half of an extra chromosome. The long arm of the first chromosome was duplicated but it some how detached and then reattached to the y chromosome. This is what is known as translocation. This is what caused all of the abnormalities. Upon investigation it was determined that the abnormalities occurred immediately after conception. All cells were affected.
Stan was gentle but pragmatic when discussing our options with us. It was unlikely that our son would survive but if he did our lives would change dramatically. We both worked and our incomes were relatively the same. Our future showed that we would only have one income, our home would have to be changed to accommodate a wheel chair. Wider hallways, doors, ramps. That is when we were offered the option of early induction. I would be induced into labour and the baby would be born and almost certainly die afterwards. The terminology was different but I was offered a way to terminate a pregnancy that most probably was not viable. It was what Hillary was talking about. A late term abortion. Maybe it was my religious upbringing or maybe it was the strong desire to prove them wrong. There was no way I was going to give up on my son. How do I tell my other children we chose not to have this child. We proceeded with the pregnancy and left it in Gods hands.
In my youth I didn’t chose kind words like pro-life and pro-choice. I said anti-abortion. I didn’t stop to think how hurtful and judgmental those words were. I just knew in my heart I would never have an abortion. In my narrow minded way my terminology was for me and not others. I have a few friends who had abortions when we were younger and I never judged them. I supported their choice to do what was best for their lives. These same people supported me through my first pregnancy when I was so very young. That is what friends do. Whether it is politics or religion or abortion, not everyone will agree but we support those we love when they have to make painful decisions. I had negative comments from people. My husbands brother actually told me I was being selfish by having the baby. His viewpoint was that I was jeopardizing the lifestyle of my other children. In other words, losing one income would change how my first three children would live. They had a pretty privileged life and it would all change. He was right about our lives but calling me selfish was something I have never forgotten. Remember what I said about support? That jerk was not supportive.
I cried a lot during that Presidential debate. Hillary taught me I am pro choice. She taught me I always was pro-choice. She taught me that our words matter. She taught me that compassion and love are what we need when making one of the most difficult decisions in our lives. She taught me that it doesn’t matter what I would ever do it only matters that I have the right to make that choice. She taught me that she is a special woman as she tries so hard to maintain her calm and collected demeanor but her passion shows through in her voice. She taught me that she is someone you want in your corner. I never understood until that moment what I was being offered in the early months of that pregnancy. I went through life as most of us do. With a very egocentric and selfish outlook. Me me me! I didn’t really worry about what others did. I made my choices and I am glad I did what I did. Hillary opened my eyes as I realized that so many women aren’t able to make that choice if someone doesn’t stand up for them. It wasn’t just her passion for late term abortions. It was about every woman being allowed safe alternatives.
We often hear the arguments about whether or not abortions should be allowed based on conception after rape or incest. This makes me think of people who comment on tattoo’s. Often you hear the opinion “as long as it is meaningful”. Meaningful to who? This same logic or lack thereof can be applied to the pro-choice argument. It doesn’t matter if you think a woman has a good reason for an abortion. She has her private reasons. Her circumstances and her thoughts and her views and her decisions are just that. Hers. Not yours. Using your own religious views to control people is wrong. Pretty sure one of my Sunday school lessons was “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” Having opinions is fine. The problem is when we judge others based on our own opinions. I grew up a lot that day as all of the thoughts tumbled through my head. As Hillary schooled me. Thirty eight years old and she threw on the switch. Made me think.
My son Ethan was born 4 weeks early. He was hydrocephalic and his head was getting bigger ad bigger. It became unsafe for me to risk delivering him naturally. I was retaining water and my blood pressure was high. I was induced at 36 weeks. My Pastor was there waiting with my children and he was brought in as soon as Ethan was born in order to baptize him. Ethan died soon after in my arms. My children never saw their brother alive. He died peacefully and I am thankful for that. We knew he would struggle to breathe and we were afraid of what would transpire that day. In the end I guess you could say I had a late term abortion. Or some would say I had an early induction. Or perhaps I gave birth to my son and he died. Semantics really. Through it all the medical community was kind and caring and having my children hold and kiss their brother was an important part of our journey. Leaving the hospital empty handed was hard but in the end that little guy taught all of us so much.
Life throws us curveballs and sometimes we are forced to make decisions that others don’t understand. Hillary didn’t change my views or influence my choices. She gave me a much greater gift. She helped me become a kinder and gentler person. She taught me to chose my words carefully. Because what I say just might not convey what I truly mean. I am grateful. I am pro-choice!