Owen's Story (Part 2): Trigger Warning Pregnancy Loss, TFMR

 The termination procedure we felt most comfortable with was called a D&E (dilation and evacuation) and it would take two days. According to what I could find on the internet, the first day of the procedure would consist of doctors forcing my cervix to dilate since I wasn’t ready to deliver the baby. Then we would come back the next day, they would knock me out, stop Owen’s heartbeat, and vacuum him out of me in pieces. (Each time I think about this, I cry. It sounds terrible.) We also had the option of going into labor to deliver him like we would if he were full-term, but Justin and I both didn’t think we had it in us to go through the trauma of that and not have a baby to bring home with us. With both procedures, I would go through post-partum as if I had delivered him normally. My milk would come in, I would bleed, the hormones would kick in, and it would take a while for my stomach to go back to normal.

Going back to work on Monday was gutting. Justin came with me for the first hour while our school psychologist talked with the class. I also had to have a quick talk with the students about what was going on. I told them that my baby was sick and would have to be born early. I also said that he wouldn’t be alive for very long. Because I was doing this, I would probably be gone for a few weeks before I came back to be with them. One student asked me if I had asked God for help and another asked me if my baby was alive or dead. The day went by smoothly and I was able to fake it for the kids. I also had a pretty good night once I got home—it was the first semi-normal night we had had since our appointment. Right before we went to bed though, I started to cry thinking about what Owen could have looked like, what kind of life we could have had with him, and who he could have been. I thought about what it would have been like to hold him and breastfeed him. To wake up in the middle of the night to his cries. To see Justin care for him and play with him. We wanted him so badly that our future felt hopeless without him.

Tuesday was harder than Monday. I didn’t sleep well the night before because I kept running through different delivery scenarios in my head. I got a call from our genetic counselor and she had bad news. Utah law did not allow for clinics to stop Owen’s heartbeat before the termination. The best we could do is have the D&E doctor cut his umbilical cord so the blood flow was cut off from his heart before he was vacuumed out. However, they couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to do this because it was all a matter of how he was positioned inside me at the time of the termination. I wanted to scream as I was talking with her on the phone. There really weren’t any choices for us—we kept getting cornered into inhumane and difficult situations where we felt we were not putting the well-being of our baby first. I already didn’t want to terminate the pregnancy, and even more than that, I didn’t want his last moments to be painful or agonizing. She then told me that I only had until 24 weeks gestational age to terminate Owen with a D&E procedure. I was already almost 22 weeks along at this point. Our test results also wouldn’t be back for another week or two because they were having a hard time getting a large enough DNA sample from the amniotic fluid. We were doing everything we were supposed to in order to ensure this was the right decision, but there were so many things out of our control that made the process overwhelming.  

She also told me that our insurance (PEHP) would probably not cover the termination since a fetal termination (even when the diagnosis is lethal) is technically a late-term abortion. We could potentially pay up to 100% out-of-pocket to terminate the pregnancy before his delivery date or wait until 32 weeks (the acknowledged viability gestational age in Utah) at the earliest to be induced and be charged the insurance price for labor/delivery (about $10,000). On top of that, we only had 3 choices for D&E to pick from—each of them nothing like what we had expected or wanted for our baby.

The first option was to deliver at a clinic in Utah. If we chose to do this, I could be knocked out and his umbilical cord could potentially be cut so he could die before termination. The drawback with this choice was the time limit we had to work within (two weeks to get everything sorted out—we might not have his test results back in time to verify what condition he has, and would instead have to use a second ultrasound as verification), his heart wasn’t guaranteed to be stopped, we only had until 24 weeks gestational age, and we didn’t know how much the procedure would cost with our insurance.

Our second choice was to go to Planned Parenthood. They wouldn’t be able to knock me out for the procedure, they also couldn’t stop his heartbeat, but we could save some money if we were worried about that (it would “only” be $4,600). However, they only offered D&E terminations until 22 weeks gestational age (which I was just about to reach in a few days) and we couldn’t use test results to verify our decision.

Our last choice was to fly out to a clinic in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado allows fetal heartbeats to be stopped prior to termination, but the procedure wouldn’t be covered at all by insurance since it counted as out-of-state care. We could wait longer for the test results to get back to us because they have a longer termination window than we do in Utah.

I came home the angriest I had ever felt since finding out about Owen’s condition. I was angry that the so-called “Pro-Life” politicians in my state were making it harder for me to treat my unborn child’s life with dignity and love. I was angry that I was being punished for something I didn’t ask for, didn’t look for, and never wanted to happen. We wanted to love and keep Owen from the beginning. If there was even a small chance he could have lived a relatively happy and long life, we would have done anything to make that happen for him. It just wasn’t possible. His little body wasn’t viable outside of my body. I couldn’t bear the thought of delivering him only to see his dead, misshapen body or to have him die in front of me, gasping for air. I wanted to remember him as my baby that I loved and felt kick inside me. My stubborn boy who would never cooperate for ultrasounds, who loved to play with his umbilical cord, and who made me so sick in my first trimester. I wanted to remember him and me at our happiest.

 On top of all of this, the state of Utah wouldn’t give us a death certificate to document his existence because he was being terminated. However, if I miscarried or naturally delivered him early after 16 weeks gestational age, that was totally fine in their eyes and would warrant him being added to state records. They were punishing us for making the most difficult and heartbreaking decision of our lives.

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