Do we need a late term abortion?

Spoiler alert: no. Calm down, mom.

However, I want to tell you about the last 2 weeks of this pregnancy, which have been incredibly stressful.

On the 13th, we went in for a routine ultrasound, part of my heightened monitoring because I have traveled to Brazil and other parts of Latin America (read: possible Zika, though I have consistently tested negative in blood and urine) during this pregnancy. Before you say “hey, dumbass! Why did you do that?!”, research how much Zika is actually getting passed around in São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta (all places I went during this pregnancy), and how it transmitted. I weighed the risk and it was light.

I know from experience that routine ultrasounds can carry terrible news. That is how we found out I had miscarried our last pregnancy: we went in to hear the heartbeat for the first time, and there was nothing. But, for this one, I was 29 weeks. I ‘knew’ I did not have Zika, and she was moving around happily. Things were good.

The tech was quiet as she took measurements, and before she left, she gave us a few pictures and said the Dr. would be in soon. She also told me to clean up (ie: towel my midsection dry from the copious amounts of lube she had used to get the images) since no more imaging was necessary. All was going as expected. When the doctor came back, she asked me to get back onto the bed for some more imaging. I knew this was not good, and she went straight for a black spot on the screen, which she measured several times. Her conclusion was that, though her left ventricle (brains have ventricles, not just hearts. TIL) was measuring large (10–12mm), it was not as large as the tech had seen. However, it was abnormal, and that can mean neurological problems and developmental delays.

I asked for specifics and she mentioned projectile vomiting and seizures, and after that I immediately asked what our options were. She assured us that since we lived in San Francisco, there were always options, and the genetic counselor said the same thing. We scheduled a fetal MRI for the 27th, and left the office staring down the barrel of a possible, if highly improbable, late term abortion. I cried on the way home and texted my 2 pregnant friends. I wondered if I should cancel our double baby shower for the 17th, but didn’t. I worked from home, and waited until I got to my therapist’s office to google what an enlarged left ventricle could mean.

For the first time in my life, googling an illness made me feel better. Every single story similar to mine ended with no issues. I called a pediatrician friend who called a neonatologist, and both were reassuring. Things were looking up. I got my blood and urine tests back: Zika negative. Even more looking up.

This morning was the fetal MRI. Despite some moments of panic and readjustment, and consistent silent and motionless crying, I made it through the full 90 minutes (way longer than I thought it would take), and found out that our our daughter is head down, which was good news because for every ultrasound, she has been breach.

Then the waiting. I took myself to lunch and to get a foot massage. I tried to nap. I called the Genetic Counselor at 3:30, then again at 4:30, and one last time at 4:50, where dispatch said everyone had gone home for the day. I was crushed because though the worst case scenario was really improbably, I needed to hear that the tests agreed with that. So, when I got the call at 5:30 (thank you, Genetic Counselor who stayed late to call me) and heard that the results were reassuring and that anything devastating was off the table, I could finally FINALLY breathe.

Why am I writing about this? Because I stared it down, and if the results had been devastating (your daughter will have painful seizures during her very short life), we would have said yes to a late-term abortion. It would have been terrible, but not as terrible as not being able to give our daughter mercy and love.

Lena Dunham once said that she wishes she had had an abortion, and my response was “no you do not.” But, if that is where the situation goes, I want to always have that choice, and I want you to, as well.

9 weeks to go, and I am glad we are still in this.

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