Could Abortion Become Illegal In The U.S.? Our Story on 1A - Listen Here and Ask Me Anything

Grace's story including learning about her fetal anomaly, our decision to abort, and how it felt navigating Missouri's restrictive abortion laws was included on NPR's 1A show this morning. You can listen here:

Could Abortion Become Illegal In The U.S.? - 1A

New restrictions in some conservative states are urging a high court battle over a woman's right to an abortion.

I wanted to offer up to anyone visiting for this reason: if you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask! I am a pretty open book. This really happened to us, this really is the decision we felt 100% was right for us, and it absolutely continues to happen to women and families around the country. I know you might be coming here as a person against abortion and very uncomfortable with it, and I get that. I really do. But it also is true that our story really happened, and the laws need to acknowledge people like us. 

 

Please feel free to ask me any questions, or send any comments here, on our Facebook, or Twitter

 

Thanks for listening, considering our story, and for really considering this very, very nuanced and difficult topic. 

NPR 1A: Our Story Will Be Featured Tomorrow, Thursday, May 17

Our story of learning about Grace Pearl's fatal fetal anomaly, our decision to terminate the pregnancy, and how it felt to be put through Missouri's abortion laws will be featured on NPR's 1A program tomorrow, Thursday, May 17th. You can learn more about the program here: 

Could Abortion Become Illegal In The U.S.? - 1A

New restrictions in some conservative states are urging a high court battle over a woman's right to an abortion.

1A is broadcast live at 10 am ET. Check with your local affiliate for when it will air there. In St. Louis, I believe it airs live.

NIAW Day 6: The Latest In Our Journey

Today wraps up this year's National Infertility Awareness Week. 

We said a little over a year ago that we had used our last embryo (Grace's sister - we knew both were girls before trying to implant either one thanks to genetic testing that was performed in the hopes of assuring a positive outcome and avoiding a miscarriage or issue like Grace had). Unfortunately Grace's sister didn't result in a pregnancy.

And then we evaluated what to do for a long time.

We grieved. We stalled out. We confronted our fears that we might have another situation like Grace's happen, and all the while, more and more restrictive abortion laws are being proposed and passed all over the country and certainly in Missouri. None of these laws take situations like Grace's into consideration. The only thought that made the thought of facing what we did with Grace all over again WORSE was the idea that we'd no longer have the option to pursue a peaceful experience for her. We stalled some more. We inquired each other, friends, family, trusted advisers, multiple doctors and our spirituality. We grieved some more too.

We looked into adoption with renewed interest but not renewed energy. We realized again there are many, many hurdles that people don't often talk about. Age limits (our combined age is above what many places will allow) and long time periods for biological parents to change minds, and the idea that if we're pursuing infertility treatments we can't concurrently try to adopt. And most of all we observed our exhaustion. We've already been through so much. We want to be parents to a living child, but we weren't sure we had it in us to go through a whole new type of roller coaster. Infertility and loss, for better or for worse, is the ride we already know. That's certainly not to say it can't take my breath away with it's sharp surprises, like crushing ultrasounds proving life we were excited about was now gone or non-viable, or something reminding me of being pregnant and prompting a funk. But I've come to at least feel familiar with all of that. Adoption presents scary scenarios that I'm not sure I'd recover emotionally from.

We decided to give IVF one more shot. One more round of to be able to say we'd given it our all, which is such an odd thing to say because we already had for four years when we decided that. I already am a mom, just not to a living child. No one would blame us for giving up and moving on, and many gently suggested just that. Just about everyone suggested we not put ourselves through IVF again, whether suggesting adoption, living childless, or in one spectacular offer of generosity that will bring gratitude and love to my heart until the day I die, the offer of donor embryos that would link our family to another through shared siblings. But we felt like we wanted to try one more time. The idea made me feel like vomiting, but I also felt restless with moving forward in any other direction.

 The Iv in preparation for the egg retrieval

The Iv in preparation for the egg retrieval

In November of 2017, we tried to do another egg retrieval. It was a hard time as that was Grace's loss anniversary. It was canceled because my body didn't respond as expected, and I found my laugh over how this area of life, which I know so well and find so sadly comforting, could still find ways to surprise me. Having a cycle canceled was a first.

We tried again in this winter. We were luckier this time, and were able to do egg retrieval. 15 eggs resulted in multiple embryos, which stunned and delighted us. It was our best egg retrieval yet, at clearly my oldest age.

And we tried to get pregnant again later in the winter with one of these embryos. It failed again. There is only a 12% chance of this. Yet again, we're hitting terribly low odds. I've been pregnant twice before. Why can't I get pregnant now?

My doctors (and we have three now, including one out of state) are scratching their heads. Over the past few months I have done painful tests. I have had my Fallopian Tubes removed as they are a suspected culprit. We have looked high and low for the reason and found next to nothing. We are running out of ideas. I have laughed when telling people that have told me 'it'll happen!' that no, no it won't. Not without Fallopian tubes. But who can blame people for their cheerful optimism, especially when they don't know all of the nuances of our story?

And now we're not sure what to do. Again. 

This is yet another example of what infertility looks like. We're not there yet, but we may not get to be parents. Ever. Sometimes that's what happens, because it's difficult, and stunningly expensive (only 15 states require infertility coverage), and sometimes our bodies just won't allow it. 

I hope we can get some answers and make the dream of being parents to a living child a reality, but there's just not telling right now. I hope you'll stick with us as we try to figure this out.

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Announcement: Planned Parenthood's National Speaker Bureau

Hi friends. I'm sorry that I have been missing in action. I keep coming back to update Defending Grace, but it has already been a hell of a year.

I'm going to make a post about that later this week. I'll tell you what we've been up to, what's coming next, and so on. We're not light on updates, fortunately or unfortunately. It depends on which day you ask me.

But for today, I have an announcement that I am extremely proud of. I am have been selected to be a member of Planned Parenthood's inaugural National Speaker's Bureau, and additionally I am serving as the Vice President of the Leadership subcommittee. 

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This is a huge validation of the work I am doing and want to do in the future: encouraging people to share their stories and dispel incorrect assumptions and stigma. I am also utterly thrilled to be part of a cohort of other women sharing their stories about how Planned Parenthood has helped provide the fundamental health care we need and deserve, without the intervention of politicians, and to spend time working with others like me and with perspectives like mine. I didn't ask for Grace's pregnancy to happen the way it did, and I don't believe that we made the wrong decision when we were presented with our worst nightmare. There is no going back in who I am now and why I am this way. My story is not up for interpretation or dispute: it is my LIFE. This reality creates some lonely times for me, and having my perspective and the validity of it be validated, honored and respected feels wonderful. Being able to do this for others, and to greet their experiences and stories with curiosity and learning is a gift I can give in return.

You can watch the announcement, and see many of my cohort members surrounding the speakers, here.

 

 

How the Holidays Feel, One Year Later

Tonight we are getting to see The 14th Annual Rough Shop Holiday Extravaganza: Night 2, which is one of my very favorite holiday things to do each year.

 

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As I've mentioned before, I'm currently learning that the holidays are a tough time for grief because there are so many repeating events and themes that make it impossible to forget what you were doing the year before, and well, a year ago we were a mere few weeks out from ending our very wanted pregnancy at 22 weeks. My hormones alone were a disaster. Tonight's concert is setting up to be a particularly acute memory - it was the first time we saw some friends last year after losing Grace, having to share the news to some that didn't yet know. We're eating dinner at the same place with the same friend before the show. I didn't even realize how similar it was until just a few minutes ago. 

I'm glad to be in a generally more stable, calmer place this year. I'm sadder in general, and angrier (which I have mixed feelings on), but also more peaceful and noticeably more capable of feelings joy at this point too.

To anyone else reliving hard experiences and memories with every holiday decoration and Christmas song (I especially remember singing along to 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year' last year while driving all over my therapist's parking lot in search of a spot, but adding expletives and revisions to the song), I validate you and am with you. I'm especially holding you close in thought and care when when you're searching for a quiet, private space to have a much needed cry, or wanting to blurt out to everyone that no, it Christmas ISN'T holly and jolly, damnit. I hope you're with me in feeling like you're having to hold it all together by a thread a little less than you've had to in the past, and it's ok if you don't, too (though it's easier for me to say that other people that to myself). Hopefully if you're feeling a little better, you're feeling less guilty about that than I am. That's the thing about grief - everyone experiences it, yet it still feels so isolating and confusing. I don't know why that is, but I can say for sure that you're not alone, and thanks to the love of my friends and family, I know I'm not either.

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One Year Ago Today, We Said Goodbye To Grace Pearl

I’ve been dreading this day for a year. The first anniversary of saying goodbye to Grace Pearl.

A year ago today we arrived at a hospital in the pre-dawn hours of the morning and grimly walked into its labor and delivery ward. I had been warned that this might be especially hard emotionally by our doctors, but we opted for the hospital over Planned Parenthood because of my advanced stage of pregnancy: I could get more anesthesia there, would have more privacy, and as it turned out they recommended, an epidural. The doctors were the same at both places, so there was no advantage there. I was also grateful for the lack of protesters as I walked into the hospital; I had heard (and had seen) that people protest Planned Parenthood. I wondered what they’d say to me if they knew our story.

After changing into my gown and having IVs administers, I was given a pill to tuck into my cheek that would further the softening of my cervix. My doctors and nurses checked on us frequently advised that I get an epidural over full anesthesia for my safety (I agreed), and and assured us that they’d do their best to get hand and foot prints from Grace, and asked if we wanted to record her heartbeat. I had done so badly on my phone about a month prior using my home Doppler, so I declined this – I just didn’t think there was any way I could emotionally handle it. My home recording would be sufficient.

After a few hours it was time to go to the operating room and have the procedure done. I was so nervous going into it I started dry heaving and was sent down the room with a bucket in case I did throw up. Once we were in the room they had me sit on the edge of the operating table, hunched over while they administered the epidural, and I noticed a man sitting in the far corner. I asked if he was the doctor that would be doing the procedure (he was the only one we hadn’t met yet), which he confirmed he was, and right then the IV of relaxants, for lack of better term, started. I remember gushing out to the operating room that I had wanted my daughter, that we were doing this out of love. They promised again that they would cut her umbillical cord before doing anything else, and they were tender and compassionate.

I was in and out of consciousness for the procedure, which only took 15-20 minutes. I found myself wishing they had fully knocked me out, but also feeling grateful that I could be somewhat present for the end of Grace’s time with me. I had been advised to bring headphones and music, and I got through 4 songs of her playlist: I think they were “Born To Run”, “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay”, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” (which I always thought was a hilariously awkward choice, but also what we’d do for many nights of her newborn and baby life) and “Superstition”. I loved the idea of Grace and I listening to the same songs at the same time, and her heartbeat ceasing while in the warmth of my body, literally enveloped in love, hearing music tenderly chosen by her father to say goodbye.  

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The next several hours were a blur of being freezing cold, being heaped with heated blanket, sleeping, and brief moments of doctors checking on me, pressing on my now empty abdomen. I felt around for Grace, and mourned for my now missing baby bump. It had never been big – we later learned because of the lack of amniotic fluid and how tightly curled up she was, but I was still acutely aware of what was gone. A chaplain came in and Jim had a long talk with her about God, Grace Pearl, and our decision while I slept. We were given hand and footprints (both which I realized looked just like Jim's which simultaneously filled and broke my heart), and a little bracelet Grace never got to wear that said "BABY".

It was hours later when I was discharged to go home, after I had crossed off all of the checkboxes that the hospital required. We left in much of the same way we’d arrived: the sun was again tucked away, and Jim and I quietly and awkwardly stepping through everyone else’s lives as they continued on with the laughs, smiles, plans and jokes while we wondering how the world hadn’t stopped after such a terrible blow. As we drove off into the dark, back down to a family of two, I wondered how we’d get through Thanksgiving the next day, and then the day after that, and again after that, without Grace.