Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I'm Pro-Life...and Some Other Ramblings

I have a hard time deciding what my political affiliation is.  I grew up in the strict Pentecostal religion.  I loved going to my friends' Baptist and Methodist churches because it was more fun...they actually had youth groups (most of my teen years, I WAS the youth group at my church), they had fun activities, they just had FUN period.  As I approached the age of majority (18 back then), and looked forward to voting for the first time, I started thinking about my views, and realized I was surprisingly progressive.  A liberal even.  One of my best friend's mother was instrumental in helping me form my views and ideals.  Her older son was gay, and years later we would learn my best friend was too (although I always thought he was, I didn't want to make him uncomfortable by asking).  I actually cried when we reconnected years later and I learned she'd died early.  Wonderful, wonderful lady.

I digress.  Throughout college, I was pro-choice, bleeding-heart Democratic.  I even registered as a Democrat.  I found myself "in trouble" as we would say back then, and allowed myself to be pressured into an abortion.  Suddenly, things started changing in regards to my World View.  I hated what I'd done, and hated myself.  The bipolar really got bad.

I joined the Army.  I went into a predominately male career at that time...UH60A helicopter mechanic.  My actual MOS was 67T - Tactical Transport Helicopter Repairer.  I was one of the only females in my unit...most of the others were either pilots or medics (I ended up in a Medevac unit).  I LOVED it.  I loved showing the guys that I had balls just as big as theirs, if not bigger.  I was gung-ho on women being able to do anything men could do, and I argued frequently and vehemently that women should be allowed in combat arms professions.  You see, I became a Blackhawk mechanic with the broader goal of one day going to flight school and being a pilot...and while I loved my Blackhawks, I wanted to fly an Apache...and only men could do that.

In August 1990, things changed yet again.  Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  In less than two weeks' time, I found myself in Saudi Arabia, living in a hangar at an airfield, discovering what 130 degrees WITH humidity felt like (the airfield was on the Gulf), and realizing just how good we American women had things.  At least we could have a degree of respect, whereas the Arab women couldn't.  Throughout the course of my time over there, I saw and did some things that were shocking.  I was a Pentecostal girl from a then-small town in Mississippi, and while I had "fun" growing up, I realized just how sheltered my life had been.  I saw blood, I saw gore, I saw burned bodies, I fired a rifle, and it wasn't always in self-defense.  Combat and its aftermath will do things to you.  Seeing things you never thought you'd see, or worse, things you thought you were prepared to see, only to discover you really weren't, changes you.  I no longer believed women should be in combat arms professions.  It wasn't just that a woman might not be prepared...many of us overcame the "weakness" of our sex and did the job admirably (it was at night that the weakness hit me personally, when I'd try to sleep).  The bigger problem was the way the men acted.  If a woman was in perceived danger, the inborn gallantry of the male kicked in, causing him to risk life and limb to "rescue" the damsel in distress, even if it jeopardized more lives or the mission.

I started thinking very conservatively.  I started having a lot of nightmares that I couldn't deal with very well.  I started behaving in ways contrary to the way I'd been raised (a lot of drinking, mainly, but also I moved in with my fiance...something unthinkable with the way I was raised).  I found myself "in trouble" again, and again, I let myself get pressured into an abortion.  I was 21 years old, technically a combat veteran, and I let myself get pushed around again.  I really started to hate myself.

I lived with my fiance for well over a year, moving to upstate NY to be with him after I discharged from the Regular Army into the NY Army National Guard.  He and I had broken up briefly when I got back from Saudi...I was dealing with a lot and didn't know quite how to handle it.  During that time, he requested an overseas assignment, to Korea.  We got back together after a couple months, and a year later, he got orders to go to Korea.  We talked about me going with him, but we weren't married yet, time got away from us, and in the end, he went without me.  Depressed, I moved back home to Mississippi.  After he was gone, I found out I was "in trouble" yet a third time.  This time, I was living with my father and his future wife.  I only had a part-time job because I had no transportation of my own, and was dependent on my father's generosity to get to and from work.  I was missing my fiance because he was so far away.  I was 22 years old, a nervous wreck, having constant nightmares, dealing with the pressure of living with my father (not an easy thing to do), hating myself, suffering from a very low self-esteem, and frustrated at the inability to find a full-time job like I'd had in New York.  My dad and his girlfriend started pressuring me to have a third abortion.  My fiance pressured me...I guess since he was overseas, he didn't think the baby was his.  I resisted, and used the valid excuse that I just didn't have the money.  Then one day a check arrived from my fiance.  Suddenly, my biggest excuse was gone.  I let my dad and his girlfriend take me for the abortion. 

It was the worst experience of my life.  I was sedated, but it wore off completely just as they were starting the procedure.  They hit me with more drugs, but they didn't kick in until it was over.  I felt, heard, and saw pretty much everything.  The pain was unbelievable.  They'd accidentally let me see the ultrasound they did before the abortion, and I saw the heart beating.  On the way home, Dad got mad at me when he and his lady wanted to stop at a local seafood restaurant and I wanted to stay in the car, where I was lying down in the back seat.  I gave in to his demands and went into the restaurant.  Just after the food came, I passed out.  They got me back into my seat, and insisted on finishing their meal.  I had mine put into a doggy-box for later.  They didn't take me to the hospital...they took me home.  Once there I went to bed and didn't get out of bed until a couple days later, when my mom finally came to check on me (I hadn't been able to take her calls and she got worried...thank God).  I was burning up with fever and almost delirious.  She rushed me to the hospital, and they did another D&C because the abortion clinic had left some tissue and I'd gotten an infection.  I refused to be admitted because I didn't have insurance.  I swore the doctors to secrecy and told my mom I'd had a miscarriage, because I was humiliated.  The doctors said I should have no problem having children once I'd recovered.  I went home only to pack my things, and moved in with my mom.

Things with my fiance became really strained...I blamed him for the abortion, even though I'd agreed to it.  I blamed my dad.  I even blamed my beloved aunt, who had referred us to that clinic (she was a nurse).  I sank into a deep depression.  I went out on Thanksgiving with my brother and his girlfriend, got drunk, and met someone I'd had a crush on in college.   A week later we eloped.  After the fact, I told my fiance...he begged me to get an annulment or divorce, and he'd come home and marry me immediately.  I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing.

Looking back, I can't regret that...had I given in to where my heart was leading me and corrected the "mistake" of my hasty marriage, I wouldn't have Jared and Katie.  Things weren't perfect in my first marriage, but I'd do it all over again to have those two wonderful, amazing kids.

I got pregnant shortly after my marriage, and was thrilled.  I was 23 years old, and dying to correct the mistakes of the past and become a wonderful mother.  I miscarried.  I thought I was going to die from despair, and blamed myself for the miscarriage because I'd had three abortions.  A few months later I got pregnant again, and even though I almost lost him twice and ended up with an emergency c-section, I finally became a mother when I was 24 years old.  It was THE happiest day of my life.  I had an amazing son, a full-time job (two actually, AND I was in the Guard LOL), and a decent marriage.  Things were finally going to be ok.

Then I had another miscarriage.  I got over that one a little easier because I had Jared to love and care for, but it still upset me and had me blaming myself all over again.  A little later, I got pregnant AGAIN and experienced a second "happiest day of  my life" when I got to hold Katie, and saw what a beautiful, healthy baby she was.  She was such a GOOD baby too...even though she had terrible reflux, she slept six plus hours a night from the time she was six days old.  She rarely cried, and when she started that adorable baby laugh, it never stopped.  I needed a good baby...Jared had started having horrible health issues when I was pregnant with her.

My marriage fell apart.  I can't blame him, most of the fault was my own.  We had our issues together...we were both Pisces, and while I don't really hold astrology in any great respect, the fact remains that we were VERY much alike, and we really shouldn't have been together.  I brought out the worst in him, and he brought out the worst in me.  Once we divorced, the relationship between us improved.  He's a great guy, a great father, and I have nothing but respect for him.  At times I wish I'd worked harder at the marriage...divorce is so easy, but in the end, it worked out the way it needed to.

I married Justin a few years after my first marriage went south, and the miscarriage saga started all over again.  Finally, in 2002, we had Rebekah, and I felt like things were going well for the first time in my adult life.  The bipolar was still an issue, as were the nightmares, but things were looking up.  I continued to have miscarriages though, and still blamed myself because of the three previous abortions.  Finally, in 2008, I got pregnant for the last time.  Unlike the other times, when I knew within days of conception, I didn't find out about this pregnancy until I was eleven weeks along, past the time I'd had miscarriages in the past.  I was afraid to "start over" with a baby at my age (I was 38), but so excited.  I love babies.  I love being a mother.  I always wanted four children.  Life was perfect.  Then two weeks later, I found out the baby would die once it was born...due to a horrible birth defect.  For seven months, I fought tooth and nail for the right to get care for my baby...I fought to save her life...I gave myself insulin shots three times a day...I dealt with the issues carrying her caused for me due to the multiple surgeries I'd had during a bout with liver cancer two years earlier...I dealt with repeated calls from the doctors and even my own family to terminate the pregnancy...I dealt with my "friends" turning on me and claiming I was lying and wasn't even pregnant...I dealt with it all and I had the most positive attitude I've ever had in my entire life.  I struggled to carry a child that I knew in my mind was going to die, but couldn't yet give up in my heart.

And then she was born...and died...and I never even got the chance to hold her while I was coherent.  Against my wishes, they knocked me out during the c-section.  I didn't fully regain consciousness for over four hours.  She lived for just under two hours.  For another few months, I maintained my faith, and I tried not to blame myself.  I lived with an oxygen tank for four months until I'd recovered enough from the c-section that I could have another surgery to fix everything that had been damaged while I carried her.  I cried a lot because I'd let them talk me into having my tubes removed so that future pregnancies wouldn't be an issue.  And, I blamed myself for all the miscarriages, and for her birth defect that took her life.

That's a very, very brief recap (even though its so long...I'm not good at being pithy) of some of the health issues I've had in my adult life...but it pretty much describes the reproductive issues I've had.  All total, I was pregnant thirteen times.  I gave birth to four babies.  I had three abortions.  I had six miscarriages. I may very well have had the miscarriages whether I'd had the abortions or not.  We'll never know.  But I do know that the abortions caused irreparable harm to me...if not proven physically, definitely mentally and emotionally.  Perhaps if I'd come to the decision to abort on my own, I wouldn't have the feelings I have, but I didn't...I was pressured all three times.  I went along with it, more out of a desire to please my partner than anything else, because I didn't stand up for myself.  I didn't stand up for my wishes and desires.  Until Ruby, I'd never stood up for anything really...and for her, there was nothing I could do.

THIS is why I'm pro-life.  I'll never know if the abortions caused my many miscarriages...but the possibility is there.  In a way, I suppose I'm still pro-choice, because MY choice after the third abortion was to NEVER have another one.  My choice was to carry a child that we all knew would die because I refused to have another abortion...because I wanted to give her the best chance at survival...because as a parent, I could no longer tolerate even the idea that I'd kill another baby.  I firmly believe that it is murder, because I've had beautiful children, saw and heard their heartbeats when I was only a few weeks pregnant, watched them form in the womb.

I'm also reasonable.  I accept abortion in the cases of rape or incest, especially of a child.  Having been raped, I know the emotional trauma that causes.  I accept abortion in instances to save the life of the mother.  I don't like it, but I accept it.  So, while I say I'm pro-life, others would say I'm actually pro-choice.  That's just where I stand.

The abortions have been a deep, dark secret most of my life.  I've claimed more miscarriages than I actually had, because I was ashamed to admit to not just one, but three abortions.  Even Justin doesn't know there were three (well, I suppose he'll know NOW).  Only my OB-GYNs knew the medical records told it for me.  Getting it all off my chest though, after twenty years, is finally lifting the last of the emotional burdens I've been carrying for most of my adult life.

My experiences are also why I have little sympathy for people who make poor decisions.  I've made them myself...frequently.  I can't even say I don't make the same mistake twice, because I have, and I do.  I've even been quick to own up to my mistakes...admitted when I was wrong...except when it came to the abortions.  It weighed heavily on me, and I finally had to come clean.

Its kinda funny.  This post started out as a discussion on my inability to find a political party I "fit" into, and was going to be about why I felt we should legalize marijuana.  I guess I needed to unburden myself a bit instead.

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