Why I Hope My Daughter Won’t Be Afraid To Use Planned Parenthood

Since she could speak Billie has asked me for a sibling.

As a lightening strike of wit and ferocity, she found it hard to bond with any child her age. They didn’t seem to understand her. Her humor was beyond them. Her thought process was too much a wobbly matrix of adult musings mashed up with poop jokes for anyone her age to follow. As a result, she’s naturally gravitated toward older children and adults. That hasn’t stopped her, of course, from begging me, quite desperately, for a younger companion.

For that and many other reasons, My husband, Doug, and I had been trying to conceive. After two miscarriages in a very short time, we were beside ourselves to find me pregnant again in June 2016. But, by early July, something was terribly wrong. I knew the signs. I knew how it felt in my body. I took one horrified look at Doug and said, “It’s happening again. We have to go to an ER. Now.

The first E.R. visit yielded inconclusive results. There was too much blood, too much clotting, too much everything for the doctor to be sure. She ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech knew the situation. I told her about my previous miscarriages. I was shaking and clutching the thin hospital gown as I relived them. She thought she was calming me down when she showed me the 8 week old fetus’ heartbeat. She thought that would help.
But… wait…” She turned the screen suddenly. “It’s just… the heartbeat is a little slow… I’m sure it’ll pick up! You’ll be fine!

It didn’t and I wasn’t. Within two days my hormone levels stopped increasing at the rate they were supposed to. Another ultrasound revealed there was no longer a heartbeat.

I was in and out of the hospital for the next five weeks as they did test after test. The fetus was not dislodging from my uterus. I was getting weaker and constantly doubled over from the pain. It became hard to walk. We had just moved back to my home state but I refused to see any of my friends. I was in too much pain to see people who probably could have relieved some of it. I was in too much pain to even realize that’s what I was doing.

As we had just moved to a new state, I was dealing with a new primary care physician. He knew the miscarriage wasn’t going normally but he was reluctant to help me much beyond “just wait a see.” I begged him for another answer. At this time it had been 6 weeks since the miscarriage diagnosis. I had already taken “the pill.” The inviable fetus was not detaching. My blood pressure was dropping, I was running a fever more often than I wasn’t, and I was vomiting more than I spoke (and, even for a sick person, I spoke a lot).

The doctor was quick to tell me that this wasn’t really his “forte.
You see,” he continued pleadingly, “I’m a little out of my element. I’m used to dealing with successful pregnancies.
He stressed the word successful earnestly, as if he was hoping that, by drawing the word out as long as he could, he could magically make the dead fetus inside me spring to life and do the Charleston.

My expression did not change.
Yes,” I replied, my heart swirling to dust inside my chest, “this must be really tough for you.

It’s not that,” he continued, “It’s just that you’re asking me for an abortion. You know that, right? I know there’s no heartbeat and it’s medically necessary in your case, but the name of the procedure is an abortion. So that’s what you’re asking me for.

My mother, who is a warrior and a godsend and happened to be in the room with me, turned her eyes into slits while she breathed through her teeth, “Then what, pray tell, do you recommend?

The doctor faltered. He left the room for a second opinion and came back. Turns out the abortion a.k.a. a “D&C” (Dilation and Curettage) Procedure really was my only option. He scheduled one for 2 and a half weeks out on the condition that I do several (6, I think) pre-op appointments before then.

I barely made it out of the waiting room before I lost myself. I doubled over from the pain with tears snotting over every part of my face as I wept gape mouthed and bereft.

Hezzie,” my mother pleaded with me, “You’re not going to make it another two weeks. Please. Turn around and tell them you won’t make it.

But the “abortion” comment threw me. I have long been a pro-choice advocate so I didn’t rightly know why, exactly. I had wanted this pregnancy. More than anything. I could see Billie’s pleading eyes as she grappled my face and begged me for a sibling. I could feel the swelling in my chest in preparation for a child that would never come. I still close my eyes to this day and see the heartbeat on the ultrasound flickering erratically and desperately. Damnit, I wanted this. My whole family wanted this. But now they were recommending I just go to Planned Parenthood and do the D&C as soon as possible. I was barely functioning. That entire 6 weeks was a haze of pain and blood and vomit. But I wanted to follow the doctor’s suggestion. He was, after all, the authority here.

It’s just that you’re asking me for an abortion.”

I couldn’t un-hear those words. I couldn’t shut them down as much as my proud feminist self wanted to. Because, in the most technical of ways, I was. I was asking for an abortion.

I went home. Maybe I could wait it out.

Two days later I woke up in the Emergency Room. I had blacked out from the pain. My parents were there and Doug was on his way. The doctor in front of me looked grim as I pulled myself together long enough to relay all the facts. I could only offer bullet points with little to no linear grounding: “3rd miscarriage… I saw the heart beat… No rise in hormone levels… Then no more heartbeat… Bleeding and clotting for 6 weeks… Severe vomiting and fever… Intense abdominal pain… I took the pill 8 days ago… Still no miscarriage.. but… i saw… the… heartbeat…

The E.R. doctor ordered another ultrasound. Sure enough, the fetus was very much inviable and still very much intact. “This is not OK,” he informed me, “You should have had a D&C scheduled weeks ago. You’re going into sepsis. Who’s your primary care physician?

I informed him of what my doctor had said and mentioned that he scheduled a D&C for two weeks out.

The doctor looked at me pleadingly, “Look, you don’t have two weeks. I’m not sure you have 48 hours. You need an emergency D&C.” He turned to my parents, “Do you understand what I’m trying to say? She doesn’t have a lot of time. I’m so so sorry.

The E.R. doctor then called my doctor to inform him of the situation. But my doctor’s hands were tied. You see, D&C’s aren’t really that big of a deal in the hospital world. Even emergency ones. It’s a 15 minute procedure that doesn’t even require a scalpel. You would be hard pressed to convince a hospital to bump a cardiac bypass in favor of an abortion. It’d be like trading ice cream in favor of brussels sprouts. Even those who do it aren’t happy about it. The E.R. doctor then proceeded to check the surgery schedule of every hospital in a 70 mile radius. No luck. None of them had the time or space for a D&C no matter how dire. As a last ditch effort, my doctor called Planned Parenthood. He explained the situation and they were able to get me in the next day.

At Planned Parenthood another ultrasound was done. The tech was super kind and informative. She gave me the option to ask questions and educated me about the state of my miscarriage. When I went in to see the doctor she, too, gave me information and advice on how to move forward in seeking a successful pregnancy. She hugged me. Twice. Then she asked if there was anything I needed before we began.
I smiled wryly as if to say, “I need to not be here. I need to have a healthy fetus in me. I need to have not seen that damn heartbeat…
The doctor cut me off from my thoughts and hugged me again.
Then she explained the procedure and the sensations I was likely to feel. The nurse held my hand and told me a story about puppies.
When it was done I rested and was given some more pamphlets, guides, and even the phone number to a recommended fertility doctor.

When I left the clinic I passed the protesters with the signs that called me a “baby killer.” They shook them at me vigorously as I walked by.

Then Doug took me to get a milkshake.

My mother said it was the closest to death that she had ever seen any of her children. I’m one of four kids and my brother has had more traumatic head injuries than should be physically possible yet still I’m inclined to believe her. I felt very close to death. Some days, when I close my eyes and see that heartbeat, I still do.

I would love to tell you that this has a happy ending where I’m bursting at the belly with a child and all is well. But that’s not the case. We won’t be trying for another pregnancy any time soon.

Maybe the happy ending here is just that I’m alive. That I can continue being a good mom to my daughter and a pain in the ass to Doug.
Maybe the happy ending is that this fucked up horror show that happened to me can somehow help someone else.

I’m not sure.

But I can tell you that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for Doug. I’m thankful for my parents. I’m forever thankful for Billie. I’m thankful for every member of my family that dropped everything to help me.

And I’m thankful that Planned Parenthood stepped up and saved my life.
I’m thankful for all the humans that donated and helped someone like me receive care that other’s would have balked at.

In the future, I hope my daughter uses any of the myriad services at Planned Parenthood should she need it. I hope the stigma of a procedure doesn’t prevent her from receiving life-saving care. I hope she’s able to know fact from alternative fact and get treatment from humans who want her to make the best, most informed choice for her body. Because her mother almost didn’t. Her mother almost let the stigma of a silly name drag her down deep into the bowels of guilt and septic shock.

And, one day, Billie will get her sibling. It might be in the form of a close friend or an adopted child or a latent miracle from my uterus. Who knows. Until then, though, I think I’m just going to hug my family. And be thankful I’m still around to do so.

Why I Hope My Daughter Won’t Be Afraid To Use Planned Parenthood

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Billie: “I just hate everyone. I hate them all.”

“Hate is a really strong word. And a powerful one. It’s the kind of word that can really blacken your heart. Are you sure that’s the word you want to use?”

Billie: “Ugh. Fine. Will it blacken my heart if I spell it? I H-A-T-E them.”

“Yea, dude. Still means the same thing.”

Billie: “Then why does this word even exist if you cant use it?”

“Well, it exists because it’s real. “Hate’ indicates a super strong dislike for something that really consumes you. And people can and do use it. And, when they use it against other living things it has the potential to destroy. Hate is what some people used to justify enslaving others. Hate is what makes people walk into schools and shoot up playgrounds. Hate is a very dark thing that can cripple your heart if you let it.”

Billie: “Is my heart broken now because I said ‘hate?’ Did I just break my own heart? Can I fix it??”

“Oh, for sure. The heart is incredibly resilient. And love and patience and understanding can totally drive it out and fix it.”

Billie: “I feel bad that I said ‘hate.’ I feel bad that I felt it.”

“You felt a human emotion, just like everyone else. And the best piece of advice I ever got was to try and judge yourself on your second thought. Your first thought is a reflex- it can be what society trained you to believe or what your darkest thoughts want you to believe. But it’s your second thought that determines who you are. If you think, ‘I hate them’ but then you follow it up with, ‘Ahg! No! Hate is bad. But I really dislike them and I gotta find a way to fix this and make it better’ then I daresay you’re on the right path. You’re doing good work. Just keep working.”

Billie: “So I’m not crazy?”

“You’re one of the most brilliant people I know. Crazy is relative.”

Billie: “I’m going to just take that as a ‘No, Billie. You’re not crazy. You’re awesome.'”

“You should definitely do that.”

Aye.
I call this exchange: “Channeling My Inner Dumbledore.”

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

A Good Bye?

The other parents at gymnastics get these huge, unprompted hugs goodbye. I watch their kids rush toward the gym excitedly only to catch themselves, pulled back by some invisible thread, and throw the whole weight of their tiny bodies into their parents’ arms.

“I love you sooooo much! Have a good day!” they say.

I get no such response. Usually, unless I explicitly remind her that I exist, Billie will methodically pull her things out of her backpack, place them into her cubby in a precise order, then rush off to the balance beam without so much as a glance back. 

In an attempt to get some sort of fanfare for my daily departure, I’ve finally incorporated a “find a way to say Goodbye” rule. It doesn’t have to be showy or even involve touch or words, but she does need to communicate that we’re parting.

Today, after her methodical cubby placement routine and in the midst of two other moms receiving the most genuine hugs from their kids, I tell Billie, “I’m leaving now, love. Can you find a way to say goodbye?”

She walks over to me, hands stubbornly stuck to her side, shoves her face in my chest, and screams,
“GOODBYE WOMAN. GOODBYE FOREVVVVVEEERRRR!!!”
then
“Oooh! Your boobs are almost as bouncy as the floor. Good job on that. Later, lady!!!”

…I’m starting to rethink my rule.

A Good Bye?

The Formidable Debating Prowess of a Six Year Old

Billie: “Moooommmm. I can’t go to the bathroom. It’s dark in there.”
Me: “You have a flashlight to get you to the bathroom and then you can turn on the light once you get there.”
Billie: “BUT WHAT IF A ZOMBIE ATTACKS ME?”
Me: “Then I will grow wings and fly to you, bite off the zombie’s head with my bare teeth, and fly on a unicorn back to bed. Where I belong. Because I’m sleeping.”
Billie: “But- but unicorns don’t exist?”
Me: “NIETHER DO ZOMBIES.”
Billie: “BUT I’M SCARED AND I WILL LITERALLY PEE ON YOU.”

Parenting: Wherein you can solve the problem, be totally right, have completely sound logic, and still 100% lose the battle.

The Formidable Debating Prowess of a Six Year Old

Just because the day is calm doesn’t mean I have to be

Let me set the scene:
My kid, in the middle of an empty schoolyard (empty because the first bell has just rung and the classrooms are full) flapping her arms like a frantic baby bird, screaming at the top pf her lungs, “IT’S A CALM DAY! IT’S A CALM DAY! YA HEAR ME, HUMANS!?? CALM!!”

“That is so great, sweetie,” I whisper at her, ” but, if that is the case, we might need to calm our energy.”

Her response?
“NOPE. THE DAY IS CALM AND MY ENERGY IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.”

She eventually skipped away but, as she pounced into her classroom, I could hear her mumbling something about being so happy she would do “circle handstands” if she could.

I can only assume she meant cartwheels.

And I can also only assume that her teacher will not be as thrilled as she is about the day…

Just because the day is calm doesn’t mean I have to be

Breakfast for Dinner

My Plan:
Make Billie breakfast for dinner and clean the house before Doug gets home.

What Actually Happened:
Start making bacon
Dog flips over it’s dish
Clean up dog dish
Get out ingredients for mini muffin tin pancakes
Let Billie help
Salt spills all over the floor
Turn bacon
Slip in salt upon closing the oven door after turning bacon
Billie pours milk in the Dog’s dish, because, naturally, it “makes my bones healthy so it will make her bones healthy. Oh! Maybe we can make pancakes IN the dog dish!!”
Clean up dog dish
Stir pancake ingredients
Too thick- add milk
Run out of milk- add yogurt
Billie dumps yogurt on her face trying to pour it into her mouth
Dog tries to lick it off
Clean Billie
Remove dog from room
Pancakes still too thick
“The batter feels like play-doh, mommy! Stick your hand in it”
Scratch making pancakes, play with “play-doh”
Play doh gets on walls
Billie slips in salt
Where did that yogurt come from?
“I like this. It’s like I am wearing a dress made from pancake!”
Why are you naked?
What is that smell?
How did your pants get in the toaster?
Why does this room look like a bakery exploded?
Burn bacon

Breakfast for Dinner

A Most Apt Similie?

Billie: “I can’t do this. You can’t hug me. You smell like peanut butter and jelly in a dip pot of cameras.”

Me: “Wha… What would that even smell like?”

Billie: “It smells like peanut butter mixed with cameras and they’re burning. And they mix up to make cameras you can eat that taste like fired peanut butter but there’s no electricity because your smell put the electricity out and it feels like you’re tasting your own body.”

Me: “Whoa. What?”

Billie: “I’m trying to say you have bad breath.”

…she could’ve just said that out the gate but noooo.
Great. Now I’m craving peanut butter.

A Most Apt Similie?

Just Checking

Billie: “That boy right there is the one who keeps knocking my blocks down.”

Me: “Really? I’m so sorry, Billie. That must be frustrating.”

Billie: “Really frustrating. I build and build and he just knocks my stuff down. I ask him to play but he just pushes my buildings over.”

Me: “Sometimes, when people destroy our buildings they actually help us see the flaws in our design. So that, next time, we can build something even stronger.”

Billie: “Like the pigs and the big bad wolf?”

Me: “Exactly like that.”

Billie: “So, then, I can build something so strong his tiny muscles can’t even touch!”

Me: “Exactly.”

Billie: “But also- he kinda did a mean thing.”

Me: “Oh, yea, dude. That was a totally mean thing to do.”

Billie: “…Mom?”

Me: “Yes, love?”

Billie: “Didn’t the big bad wolf fall into a fire place and catch fire?”

Me: “Billie. You cannot set someone on fire because they knocked your blocks down.”

Billie: “Ok. Just checking.”

Just Checking