July 2, 2020
(The following is an accompaniment to our episode, Ariana & Abortion Bans. Listen now to hear Ariana tell her story.)
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, I was so excited, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so careful, I ate all the right things, I didn’t pick up anything heavy, I never smoked or drank, I took all my vitamins. I woke up every morning and went to sleep every night exploding with happiness that we would soon have a baby. I went to my 8 week first appointment holding my breath, just waiting to see the heartbeat. We found out that everything looked good and we had one growing little baby. I went at 10 weeks for a more detailed ultrasound and had blood tests done so they could start checking for any developmental issues and thankfully, everything still looked good. We even found out the sex! We were having a boy! For my husband who had been a bit reserved up until that point, this brought it home. He cried and hugged me and kept saying “I’m having a son? I’m going to have a son?” He was so happy, I can’t even describe our joy that night. At 12 weeks, I had another appointment and quick ultrasound, baby looked good and he had the cutest little nose, he already looked just like his daddy. In my mind, I thought we were safe, we had passed 12 weeks. I started making my baby shopping list and getting ideas together for his nursery. We bought a home heartbeat monitor and started to listen to his heartbeat together every night. I would tell him I loved him and that he was going to be so handsome and smart and kind and he would have his daddy’s nose and hopefully mommy’s hair.
At 18 weeks, I went for another appointment, heartbeat looked good and I was scheduled for my anatomy ultrasound at 19 weeks. This is the ultrasound where we would get to see all the fingers and toes and the first time I would get to see his face again. My husband drove me to that appointment but due to COVID 19, he had to sit in the car. The ultrasound took an hour with the technician and everything seemed fine until the doctor came in. He introduced himself and then immediately told me that he was very concerned with the ultrasound because there were no kidneys and no amniotic fluid. The baby had not developed kidneys and never would, he was not viable, he could never live outside the womb. Without kidneys, a baby does not create amniotic fluid and without amniotic fluid, the lungs cannot develop. My baby would either die during birth or he would be born only to die within a matter of minutes to a few hours while he struggled without lungs and went into renal failure without kidneys. I cannot explain to you the feeling of having your heart ripped out, of knowing that the baby you grew inside you and talked to and had all these wishes for, was not going to survive. I fell apart, I started to hyperventilate and have a panic attack at which point, they let my husband come join us so the doctor could explain more to us together.
The rest of that week is a nightmare I don’t care to remember closely. It was full of anguish and more panic attacks. I was alternately despondent and heart broken. My husband supported me to the best of his ability but he also spent his nights crying, listening to the baby heartbeat with me, and broken that he would never get to meet his son. I went to several more appointments just to confirm that there had been no mistake, no miracle that would fix this misery. Although we had the option to continue my pregnancy, neither I nor my husband felt it was right to prolong the suffering of our baby. It was not a true decision; our baby was not viable.
Although I was broken and suffering, I had to do what was right for our baby and our family so I met with my doctor to schedule the termination procedure. I was met with another shock. Although all of my doctors agreed that our baby had no chance for life and fully supported our decision to terminate the pregnancy, my insurance had still denied coverage. My health insurance through my employer was based in Utah. Although I was in California, because my plan was based in Utah, they said the insurance would be bound with Utah abortion law. Utah abortion law bans all abortion after 18 weeks except for when the mother’s health is at serious risk. So because I would not die, they would not provide coverage for my procedure. If I proceeded on my own, I would be paying $20,000 or more for my procedure. Instead of spending the last few days with our baby being able to just grieve and focus on our family, I had to start advocating for myself to my employer and our insurance carrier. My privacy was gone when I had to explain clearly on the phone and in emails back and forth to my employer and then to an insurance agent that my baby truly had no chance for survival, please don’t make me give birth only to watch him die within minutes or hours. Please.
How is this right? How is this remotely fair? Legislators that don’t know me, don’t know how much I wanted to have a healthy baby, who don’t know that I would rather die myself than to have my baby die, they’ve decided that I shouldn’t have this procedure? What is the justification for this cruelty? Some imaginary belief that only selfish, ignorant, or pressured women would ever choose to have an abortion? That is the furthest thing from the truth. I am none of those things.
I was thankfully permitted to go forward with my termination at 20 weeks although we did not know if the insurance would eventually cover the procedure or not. The OBGYNs who did my procedure were so incredibly kind to me. They entered this profession because of their desire to provide healthcare to women and to help women have healthy pregnancies. Of course they would rather be holding my hand while I push life into this world rather than be holding my hand on the last day that I would have my baby with me. While they were sedating me, I kept begging them to please do their best, please don’t hurt me, please if possible I want to see my baby’s face, please if you can get his handprints and his footprints so I can have something from him, please I need to get pregnant again, please help me. They told me that although today was a horrible day, that this would be over and that I will be pregnant again. They told me not to forgot to update them when we finally have a baby so they can celebrate with us.
When I woke up again, it was just me. I didn’t have a baby anymore but I at least had the hope that one day, we will. My husband and I are still grieving and we will never forget our son. I don’t know why this happened to us or why our baby couldn’t live on this earth with a mommy and daddy who would have done anything for him. But what I do know is that we made the only decision that was right for our family. I fervently wish that what happened to us would never happen again, that no other mom would have to lose a baby she wanted with her whole heart. Until that is actually possible, I just hope that those moms will have access to the same medical care and support that I had during the worst time of my life.
– Ariana, California