We met with a fetal surgical specialist to discuss in-utero surgery to fix the open spine. However, with my BMI (40) being over the limit and my medical history, it wasn’t a good risk for us.
A Canadian Labour & Delivery Abortion Experience at 21 weeks
by Emily G.
My husband and I were expecting our second child. I was being seen at the high-risk special pregnancy program at Mount Sinai hospital located in Toronto, Ontario Canada for an autoimmune disease. On my 20-week anomalies and gender reveal scan, I brought my sister, my 1.5 year-old-niece and my husband. Since this is a specialist appointment it notoriously takes a long time…
The nurse doing the scan said the baby was moving around a lot and she couldn’t get clear pictures. She told us to wait in the waiting room until the senior tech could try to get new pictures. Frustrated with the waiting as my niece grew restless, I ask my husband to drive them back to our place.
About 15 minutes after they left, I was called into the ultrasound lab again. At the end of the exam, the tech asked, “So, what do you want to know?”
Confused, I said “all good?”
I was in total shock.
I frantically called my husband then broke down in the room by myself. I left and walked the hallways of the hospital sobbing. The head nurse of the special pregnancy program found me and tried to ask what was going on. I couldn’t even speak. She brought me over to see the doctor as we waited for my husband to come back.
My gut reaction to the news was to end the pregnancy. I knew this wasn’t a life I wanted for my child, possible paralysis and endless corrective surgeries. We went to specialists and had tests to find out severity, but they never know exactly. We met with a fetal surgical specialist to discuss in-utero surgery to fix the open spine. However, with my BMI (40) being over the limit and my medical history, it wasn’t a good risk for us.
When we spoke with another doctor about ending the pregnancy. She said I would have to take Mifepristone at home first to soften the cervix, then come in the next day to start labour. I was absolutely terrified of the labour pains as well as delivering a stillborn or living baby. With the mifepristone, they say it speeds up the process so a large number of children are born alive but die shortly after birth. At the time before the L&D, that scared the crap out of me. I didn’t want my baby to suffer. My husband and I talked about if you want to go with the baby after delivery and we both had thought we didn’t want to.
Day of the L&D
We arrived at the hospital around 8:30 am. The first dose of the misoprostol to induce labour was given around 10:30 am. I felt no pain until around the third or fourth dose. Doses were administered four hours apart.
Throughout the labour we met with many people. We spoke with the chaplain who had a lot of great information and changed our minds (non-religiously) about naming the baby, blessing the baby and even holding the baby. We also met with a variety of doctors and nurses who helped with kind words and support. We met with a social worker who informed us that there is a law in Canada that you must have funeral arrangements for the baby if you abort after 20 weeks of gestational age. We called a few places and decided to cremate. The cost was roughly 250$ for the cremation + 200$ for the urn we chose.
Around 8:30 pm the labour pain started, it was very dull compared to the active labour of my first born but still hurt a lot. They gave me fentanyl. (Awful drug, just made me very sleepy and itchy!).
By 10:00 pm I started to feel exhausted. I closed my eyes for what seemed like only a minute and was awakened by my water breaking around 9:45 pm. I frantically called the nurse and she came to change the sheets. My previous nurse warned me that the baby would come very fast since I’d already had a full-term child.
I told the nurse that I needed to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, the toilet had “a hat” or a sterile vessel inside just in case, as most pre-term babies come very quickly with the position of sitting on the toilet. Unfortunately, I delivered my son in the bathroom over the toilet… he was born alive. I feel like this is an unusual occurrence. I’d never read anything on but wished I had. I would have stayed in my water soaked bed had I known.
We named him Andrew Tweed G. My husband held him while the nurse cleaned me up. I got back into bed and held my son for the hour that he was alive. It was a weird moment of relief and complete and utter emotional confusion. It was so similar to when my first son was born and I just held him on my chest. I thought I would want to try to breastfeed him or something, but when I saw how tiny he was (under one pound and as small as my husband’s hand) I simply let him rest until he passed. This almost felt like euthanasia.
Two-three hours later I was still bleeding a lot. A doctor came in and tried to pull the placenta out but it was extremely affixed in my uterus. She said they would continue the drugs to make my uterus to contact to hopefully push out the afterbirth eventually. But this didn’t work.
Around 1:00 am, they ordered a D&C. I was taken into the surgical room and they gave me an epidural while I was still on the drugs for contractions and having them! It was awful, but they decided not to do full anesthesia and put me under because of my medical history (stroke). I felt the pain of them pulling on the placenta, so they gave me the drug ketamine. If anyone has seen the movie Madagascar—the scene will all the kaleidoscopes and crazy music—that’s exactly what it felt like. I thought I was dying.
I woke up an hour later feeling drowsy. They checked me for bleeding every 15 minutes for an hour after the procedure. I was finally taken to my room around 3:30 am.
Next morning, after sleeping on and off, I was up and walking around. No physical pain. I couldn’t bear going to the funeral home, so my mother-in-law and husband went to sign the paperwork for the baby to be picked up from the hospital and cremated. They made an appointment to see Andrew before cremation. I decided I didn’t want to see him that way, I wanted to keep the image of him after birth and alive as my memory of him.
We picked up his ashes about a week after he was born & passed. I had an emotional breakdown seeing his urn.
It has been 15 days since we lost him and I’m writing this through tears. But I just need to keep saying to myself that it was my choice, and although it was one we never wanted to make, we made the right one.
How very softly,
You tiptoed into my world.
Only for a moment you stayed.
But what an imprint,
Your footprints have left
On our hearts
Poem by Dorothy Ferguson
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash