In June of last year, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I expected to have a complicated journey to pregnancy, and we were beside ourselves to discover I was pregnant.
I took the pregnancy test and started brushing my teeth, telling myself not to be disappointed when the test came back with a “NO”. I vividly remember seeing the word “YES” and the little plus sign. I just started screaming and laughing and hugging my husband. I couldn’t believe it. I called my best friend and woke her up at midnight, to tell her I was pregnant. We couldn’t wait to meet our baby.
Then like a slow-moving storm, our world started to darken. It started with abnormal blood work; the doctor told me not to worry, they would run more tests. It could be nothing. My heart still sank, and I cried and worried everyday. The second test came back: everything was fine, and we were having a boy! My husband and I were thrilled — we could continue preparing for the arrival of our son without worry.
We went in for our 20-week ultrasound, confident that nothing was wrong and excited to get pictures to share with our family. The ultrasound tech asked if our blood work had come back normal. This was my first pregnancy; I assumed this was a normal question. I confidently answered yes. The tech said okay, and continued. After the ultrasound our doctor entered the room.
I will never forget the feeling in my heart when she said, “we are seeing some abnormalities.”I just stared at her. I was numb.
There were a million questions I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t speak. Due to our conflicting blood work and ultrasound, she referred me to a perinatal specialist.
One and half weeks later, I was at the perinatal doctor’s office. This ultrasound took over an hour. The more pictures we saw of him on the screen, the more and more my heart broke. It was obvious something was very wrong with the son we wanted to have so much. I felt my husband squeeze my hand, everyone in the room was completely silent. We all knew the same thing, no one daring to say it out loud.
As we waited for the doctor to come in and talk to us, we fought back tears, trying to tell ourselves the doctor might have better news. The doctor didn’t have better news. “Incompatible with life,” “we can’t find all your son’s organs,” “he is severely underdeveloped.”
An amniocentesis was recommended. We agreed, the results wouldn’t be back for another two weeks, maybe three due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We went home, and I cried, and cried. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I called the specialist everyday with new questions. It became clear that if our son survived birth, he would suffer immensely. If he survived birth, he might suffocate to death because his organs may not all be there or be connected. If he didn’t suffocate, he would need multiple surgeries until one caused complications he wouldn’t survive. My son would suffer; it wasn’t something I could imagine asking him to do for me.
My husband and I decided to terminate the pregnancy.
We couldn’t understand why this was happening, but I knew as his mother, it was my job to protect him, and so I chose to take any suffering he might experience onto myself.
I called the doctor and, again due to the holiday, the soonest we could terminate, would be the week after Thanksgiving. Due to the laws of our state, we would have to see someone else to terminate. This was the worst moment of my life — the doctor I trusted was not allowed to help me or my baby. It crushed me, but I knew, as his mother, I couldn’t ask him to suffer for me. My husband and I traveled to Colorado, and we took out a loan to cover the cost of the procedure.
I said goodbye to my son on December 8th. I said goodbye to him, completely encased in my body, in my love for him. As distinctly as I remember the moment I found out I was pregnant, I will remember the moment I was no longer pregnant. The doctor asked me if I was okay. I surprised myself when I said yes. The only thought that went through my mind was “Thank you for giving me the gift of his pain, no one can make him suffer.”
Rachel’s story illustrates the immense emotional, physical and financial burdens restrictive laws impose on women facing the most complex and difficult decision of their lives. It also illuminates the destructive culture of shame and controversy that surrounds abortions in Missouri.
She knew that an expensive price tag would accompany travelling to Colorado for an entire week just in order to access appropriate healthcare. When she went to take out her loan, she told the bank it was for a medical procedure, afraid of their reaction if she explained the real reason. To make matters worse, her insurance company denied covering the costs of her abortion. Later, they rejected coverage for genetic testing, claiming it “was not medically necessary”. Furthermore, her hospital back home refused to receive her baby’s fetal remains for genetic testing on the grounds that they had never seen her as a patient (even though Missouri’s laws banned her from having her abortion there). She remains in a battle with them and her insurance company, hoping for a definitive answer so she and her husband can know if they can try to build a family again. All in all, she spent an estimated $13,000 on her procedure, draining savings intended for buying a house. At NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, we believe Rachel and all Missouri women deserve comprehensive and compassionate healthcare, not a nightmare of added fees, tight restrictions, and complex logistics.