Elegy for Amy

The Scarlet Letter June 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — elegyforamy @ 3:26 pm

I wrote this post over a month ago, and for some reason, today, I am brave enough to share it.


I want very badly to keep this blog honest. To say out loud the things that are in my head, that maybe I wouldn’t say out loud to anyone but Dan. It helps me to do it, to record it, to read it later, and even when all of you comment on it. And I have this hope that it might help someone else, later on, traveling on this same sad road, the way that reading others’ experiences are helping me. Every one so similar, but also different. But some things just feel too awful to say out loud. And I worry about what you will think of me. Friends, family, professional colleagues. Do I keep this one to myself?

I am so afraid of your reactions that I am scheduling this post to be published May 7th, 2013 – one year from today. One year. So I can cancel it. So you won’t learn my secret, and think what I have wondered if I should think, which is that this is my punishment.

I continue to write this because I think it’s important to say it out loud, and really, I can not be the only one. I can not possibly be the only woman who has ever had to review her hospital pathology results and see this: G2P1A1L0.

It’s an obstetrical code, used to quickly describe a patient’s pregnancy history. G is the # of pregnancies you’ve had. L is the # of living children. P is the # you’ve birthed. And A is for abortion. It is also, in this setting, used to describe miscarriage, something which I can imagine is extremely upsetting for a large number of women who have lost some very wanted pregnancies. But in my case, A really is for abortion.

I would love to tell you that I was young and stupid because that is the cliche and that seems easier for people to understand and rationalize and justify than the truth, which is that I was married and financially stable and not sure I even wanted children and, mostly, terrified that I would die if I continued the pregnancy. In light of what’s happened, everything I say sounds in my mind like justification, so I’ll just stick with facts.

I found out that I was pregnant the first time because I got a blood clot. Really. I’m not an idiot, I just had no other reason to suspect. Since I can’t take birth control pills, I had a copper IUD. 99.4% effective in preventing pregnancy. My cycles are overly long, so it wasn’t unusual that it had been two months. Why would I think I was pregnant? So what happened was, I got my wisdom teeth out, and promptly developed a blood clot in my upper arm from the IV. And I’d had my blood checked after my first blood clot, and the doctor had determined that my blood clots like everyone else’s *so long as there is no extra estrogen in my body.*

So my mom was driving me back from the hospital, and she said, rhetorically, “why would you have gotten a blood clot?” And I said, unthinking, “I don’t know, unless I’m pregnant.” And then I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach, because for several weeks my stomach had been so off that I had wondered if I had a serious illness, and I knew it had been months since my period. But I thought, there’s NO WAY. 99.4%! How comforting statistics like that can be, but all it really means to me now is that someone gets pregnant. Six someones, in fact, out of every 1000 women using it.

This wasn’t told to me then, so I can not use it as my excuse, but I was told before this pregnancy, that if I got a blood clot even on the injections prior to 12 weeks, medically, they would recommend terminating the pregnancy, because it would not be safe for me to be on the shots that long or to have an existing clot in my body as my estrogen level began to shoot through the roof.

And another, non-medical fact: We weren’t ready to have a child. I wasn’t sure if I even ever wanted to have a child, at that point. We were 24, we’d been married two months, and it wasn’t your happy, newlywed typical two months. And I was 100% sure I never wanted to be pregnant, ever.

Taking the pregnancy test was easy, so sure was I back then that 99.4% was synonymous with 100%. If you have a weird, lengthy cycle and are overly paranoid/responsible, you have taken your share “just to be sure.” I always bought the digital kind, because I loved the definitive NOT that shows up. But that day, all that showed up was PREGNANT. It was, at the time, the single worst moment of my entire life, and looking back on it, it’s still pretty high up there. Which is really saying something, now.

The next week of my life was the first time I really understood what it means to be pro-choice. I didn’t know what we would do, but I was immediately overwhelming grateful that the decision was ours to make. We had as many reasons to continue the pregnancy as we had reasons to run terrified from it. It was never cut and dry. I can look back on it and see another universe where we made a different choice, it was that close, but in the end, the fact was that I thought I was going to die if I carried a child. That was my truth, and Dan knew it too, and that was really the bottom line for us.

And so we made a choice, one that Dan wouldn’t have made but supported me in doing, and I thought at the time it was the hardest thing we’d ever have to do in our marriage. There were some dark days. There were resentments on both sides. There were fights. We found our way out of it, and it may sound awful to say it, but the fact is that I never regretted it. I have been wistful, and I think about who that baby might have been on his/her would-be due date, and I think it was a sad, terrible choice to have to make, but I never actually regretted it.

Until we were in the hospital, and every doctor who came in asked me if I’d ever had any surgery on my cervix, and how can you not then think, oh god, what if this is my punishment. And every doctor said oh no, an abortion at 7 weeks wouldn’t cause this, but the seed was planted, and within me it grows.

So the short facts are: we were not even remotely ready, and medically, it really was not safe, but still we made a choice, and now, I sit and wonder almost daily if that choice is the reason that we’ve lost Amy.

One more fact, though, and I think it’s an important one: I can never know for certain, but I don’t think there would have ever been a second pregnancy, if it weren’t for the first. It, too, planted a seed, one that kept me wondering. About what our life would be like with a child in it. About whether I could actually get to a place emotionally where I could take those risks. And that kept us talking about it, until one day we landed in this place where we both embraced the whole thing with open arms. Until then, that was an experience I’d closed off to myself, and I’m not sure I ever would have opened the box had it not been opened for me.


One Response to “The Scarlet Letter”

  1. I have been following your story and grieving for you for a while now. I am so sorry that you have had to go through all of this – then and now. And I think you’re incredibly brave for sharing what was a terrible decision for you to have to make.

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