By Cynthia E.
Clinic, Protesters & Disaster
Editor’s note: This part two of a four-part series. It is a brave and unflinchingly honest story involving a rare medical emergency during a clinic D&E, and we applaud the author for her courage in sharing it, and offer our condolences on the loss of her baby and her fertility.
The clinic warned me that there would be protesters but that they could not come onto the property. We nearly struck one when we were pulling onto the premises, and realized they were deliberately walking back and forth across the driveway, trying to block it.
In the parking lot a lady yelled at us. “You don’t need to do this! We can get you help! We can get you a free ultrasound so you can see your baby! They don’t tell you about the risks to you!”
I ignored her and talked to my aunt instead. “I’ve seen my baby on ultrasound like five times in the last two months… really!”
Outside the window I saw several churchy looking people looking very solemn. One was dressed as a preacher. I looked at my aunt and said, “Really? Don’t they have anything better to do with their days than to stand outside and protest?” It was unbelievable to me that people could be so asinine. Last time I checked, abortion was legal. If you don’t like it, then don’t get one. Or better yet, how about you adopt a Down syndrome child and raise it and take care of it for the rest of your life?
The protesters just made me so angry. I have been pregnant twice in my life. Once was our beautiful daughter, Sabrina. And once was this terrible twist of fate. How dare they pass judgment? That is not their right, even if you look to their guiding light. The bible says clearly that God will judge, not them.
My anger was interrupted when they called me back for the ultrasound. The technician said she was so sorry that I was here today. I started crying and I said, “me too.”
I laid on the table and tried to hold back the tears. Think happy thoughts. I pulled out my phone and looked at pictures of Sabrina. The doctor came in. He was a slight man and not very chatty. Of all the ultrasounds I had had between these two pregnancies, his seemed the most rough. He pushed really hard on my abdomen. My belly roll was in his way, so he told me to hold it. He took measurements and said I was 16 weeks 4 days along. This meant for sure that it was a two-day procedure. 16 week was the cutoff for a D&E. Technically I was 17 weeks.
Later they called me back to be counseled on my decision to abort, and described the procedure. Today they would call me downstairs and give me a pill. After 15 minutes I’d be taken to the surgical room to have my cervix numbed and the laminaria inserted to dilate it overnight. She said the next day I would be placed under conscious sedation, but that the drugs would most likely cause amnesia and I wasn’t likely to remember the procedure. She said the fetus would be removed, it wouldn’t be painful and it would take only 5-10 minutes.
When they called me down for the laminaria, I asked about the protesters. “Are they always out there?”
She said not only were they always out there, but they had bought the house next door so that they could protest in style. That’s right: they bought a house for the sole purpose of making people miserable.
“We almost hit one,” I said.
“Darn,” she replied.
Downstairs, I put on a gown and locked my clothes in a locker. They gave me the key to wear on my wrist. There were two other women in the waiting room. One seemed very happy—they must have given her some good drugs. She was a chatty Cathy who told me all kinds of things about her life. She said she was from a very religious family and her parents would never approve of what she was doing. She was 19, sophomore at the local university and the father of her baby was leaving for another university. She had complete faith that they would stay together, but said it was not the right time for her to have a baby. She said someday she might tell her parents about what she did, but not today. I thought it was sad that her parents’ beliefs prevented her from telling them the truth, and that she was all alone in this. Then I realized I had not gotten the good drugs like she had.
I went up to the nurses station and asked about the pill the counselor had mentioned earlier. She checked her records and said “You’re right, I do owe you a pill.
I caught a glance of a girl in the recovery area who looked like she had a bad case of the flu.
When I returned chatty Cathy was asking the other lady about why she was there. She was less talkative but shared that she had two children and didn’t want any more. Plus she and her boyfriend had only been together a short while.
Chatty Cathy turned her attention to me. “Why are you here?”
I told her.
She said, “Wow, I totally respect that decision.”
I explained how far along I was and how my procedure was going to take two days. Soon they called chatty Cathy away. The other lady and I talked a bit. Before they called her away, she shared with me that she had a friend who had a toddler with Down syndrome, and how she has been to the hospital 15 times with the baby for various health reasons. I guess that was her way of saying that she too understood my decision.
The doctor arrived and gave me a shot to nub things. Still, the laminaria insertion hurt. He told me to come back at 8:00 the next morning and that I’d be the first patient, and would be in and out in under two hours.
Right after the insertion, they released me. I was nauseated, shaky, and flipping from hot to cold. My aunt and I had planned to go out to eat afterwards. The car ride to the restaurant was unpleasant. I was tense, and turns made me feel sick. I just laid in the seat hoping it would pass. When we got there, the sight of food made me even more nauseated. I just stared at the food then excused myself to the restroom. I sat there for the longest time waiting for something to pass. I couldn’t even urinate. I felt like I needed to defecate, but nothing. My aunt came in to check on me. I told her I was fine, but still feeling sick to my stomach, shaky, hot and cold.
I called the nurse from the restroom and asked about the symptoms I was experiencing. She said it was normal. I returned to the table and waited for my aunt to finish eating.
When I got home, I still was not feeling well. Sabrina was happy to see me. I sat down on the floor so she could socialize with me for a bit before her bedtime. She brought her stacking cups over and sat on my lap to play with them.
Later, I took some of the pain pills they prescribed and laid in bed, texting Steven. I told him I didn’t feel well and would try to call him later. I didn’t sleep well that night, waking up every hour.
In the morning my mom met me in the hallway, kissed me and wished me well. I couldn’t eat, so I got dressed and gathered everything they said I’d need for the day, Socks, extra underwear, and pads. This time the drive was more peaceful. I called Steven and he was glad to hear my voice. He said this was a big day for us and we just needed to get through it. I told him I loved him and he said that he loved me too.
Thankfully there were no protesters that morning. I guess 8:00 AM is too early for them. Once I got downstairs, I was asked to remove my clothes from the waist down and put on a paper gown. I sat in the recovery area, and they put a blanket over me while I waited. Then they brought me back into a different surgical room. The same nurse was there. She had me get into the stirrups and she started an IV in my left arm. She and I chatted for some time. She kept looking into the hall for the doctor saying she hoped he was getting changed. He arrived about 30 minutes later and the nurse put some drugs in my IV. She stayed by my side.
I didn’t feel anything at first. He started doing some stuff that was causing me some discomfort so I mentioned that it didn’t feel good. Then he started doing more things that hurt, I started taking quick breaths in and gasping. The pain kept increasing. I could feel something tearing at my insides. I was vocalizing my discomfort, but he kept at it. I’d feel a tearing sensation then I’d feel him try to remove his instrument, but running into a wall. So I’d feel another pain of him trying to pull something through. I kept thinking “when will this be over?” Finally the pain was so great, I started sitting up and grabbing onto the nurses, now there were two, one on each side. One nurse said, “That’s right grab on.” Still he continued. I kept thinking, “Any minute we will be done. Any minute now.” Finally it stopped.
The doctor had sweat on his brow. He said they had called an ambulance and that I was going to be transferred to a hospital. He said he believed he did not get the entire baby and that there may be a tear in my uterus from the laminaria dilation. They said they had called my ride and she’d be down soon.
The nurse tried to console me. “Sometimes this happens, too bad it had to happen to the nicest patient.”
Quick links to all posts in Cynthia’s story:
Part I: Pregnancy, Diagnosis & Decision
Part II: Clinic, Protesters & Disaster
Part III: ER, Emergency Surgery & Anger
Part IV: Recovery, Grief & Decisions