A Horrific & Traumatic Chain of Events
Recently, I made an offhand comment in a post about how the ultrasound I had before my abortion was one of the most horrific and traumatic events I faced in nearly 2.5 years of recurrent pregnancy loss. As I now have a more routine ultrasound coming up right away, I realized I really need to spend some time with the emotions around this event. Honestly, this is probably one of, if not the hardest post I’ve written to date.
Our abortion was scheduled to be the very first one of the day. It was a Wednesday morning. Or maybe a Thursday. Those details are a bit sketchy for me, as time sort of stopped when we discovered my septic infection.
Anyways, prior to having an abortion the clinic requires you to get an ultrasound. It’s done at the hospital, just a few steps down the hallway from the actual abortion clinic. I think we got there around 6am. Again, the details are fuzzy, maybe it was 7.
After checking in at the abortion clinic we were sent to wait for our ultrasound. I noticed another young women sitting there with her mom, holding hands – I would later see them in the clinic as well. We were called in first.
We had what appeared to be a novice ultrasound tech. She told my husband to wait there. I said no, he’s coming with me. She said he’s not allowed. I said much more forcefully that he’s coming with me as this is a family decision. She related, he came with.
He held my hand. She would not answer any questions.
Suddenly the door opens, as I’m lying there facing the door with my legs spread open with an internal ultrasound wand between my legs. Some guy, who never bothered to introduce himself starts talking with the tech. They never did tell us who he was. Somehow, neither one of us thought to ask. But we both did think it was a bit odd. First that some random guy just walked into our ultrasound. Second that my vagina was just shown to the entire hallway and everyone in the waiting room.
The guy left, the tech kept working away. Still refusing to speak to us.
The guy came back, flashing my vagina to the entire world again. And still did not introduce himself. He took the wand from the girl, used the machine for a few minutes, pointed to a few things on the screen that we were not allowed to see. I assumed he probably knew a thing or two about ultrasounds.
He left again.
The girl finished things up. The ultrasound ended.
I asked to speak to the radiologist.
I got dressed
She came back to give me a sheet with details for the abortion clinic. I asked again to speak to the radiologist. I needed to know the fetal heart rate and the gestation age. I needed to know that our baby had not miraculously improved over night, since our last scan the day before. I needed to know. With all our other scans the radiologist had always taken the time to speak with us and go over the results so that we didn’t have to wait for a report to get to our doctor. As this was our third pregnancy/loss, and we’d been watching our baby slowly die for the last 6 weeks, we knew the important of the fetal heart rate. We also knew the standard procedures.
We were told he would not speak to us. I DEMANDED that he speak with me as we needed to know everything before we could go through with the abortion. Much to my surprise he eventually came into our room.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: What is the fetal heart rate and what’s the baby measuring?
Radiologist: 58 and 6w1d. But you never know, the baby may still survive. You know, you don’t have to have an abortion, there are other options.
Me: This is the most wanted and most loved baby on the planet. This is our third pregnancy, and will be our third loss. We know that a fetal heart rate of 58 coupled with the fact the baby has not grown in over 6 weeks means that the chances of a successful full-term pregnancy are slim to none. If you looked at my case history I have early indications of a septic infection and this procedure is an attempt to end a non-viable pregnancy before my life is compromised. This is the most wanted and love baby, we would do anything to not be here.
Radiologist: Well, the baby may survive so you should wait and see what happens.
Needless to say, I left that room shaking. First, the radiologist had the nerve to not look up our case history. Second, he had the nerve to tell me, in my state, after meeting with multiple OB/GYN’s, ER doctors, counsellors, etc., that an abortion wasn’t needed that we should just wait He had the nerve to plant another seed of doubt in my mind, as if I didn’t already have enough of them.
We went back to the abortion clinic with a sheet of paper indicating the fetal heart rate and gestational age. We sat down in the waiting room. We saw the mom and daughter enter the room after us. We saw mostly couples our age. I lost it. I began crying almost uncontrollably, gasping for air. My body was shaking. I couldn’t take my head out of my hands, I couldn’t look at women and couples who were choosing to do this, not in that moment. (As an aside, I respect the right of a women to have an abortion and do not mean to be disrespectful. I realize I do not know their stories. I realize virtually no-one is in an abortion clinic as their first choice. I realize everyone in that room has their own immense emotions to contend with. I also realize that in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about anyone other than me. In that moment, instead, all I could think about was how much I wanted the pregnancy they were choosing to end).
My husband got up and asked if we could use a private room until we were called back. Someone must have said yes, because my husband collected me and took me into the private room we had been in the day before. We sat together. He held my hand, he rubbed my shoulders, and he hugged me. The sound of my uncontrollable sobbing filling the deafening silence.
A few minutes later the counsellor we spoke with the day before came and sat with us. Having no idea what we had just been through with the ultrasound, I couldn’t get the words out and honestly, I wasn’t thinking too much about it I that moment. I was just focusing on all my fears and worries, that he just added to. I couldn’t stop questioning our decision. How could I actually do this? How could I knowingly take the life of our child? As if the counsellor somehow knew what I was thinking, she asked if I was still wanting to go ahead with the procedure. My response was simple, Yes, I am. We need to do this. She asked if she could call me in a few days to check in with me, between tears, I nodded, yes.
I have no idea how long we sat there, but my violent tears slowed and turned more into a constant stream running down my face. I was slowly able to feel myself breathe again.
A few minutes later she walked with me to the procedure room. My husband walked with me as far as they would let him. . Everyone in the procedure room seemed to know that I was a little bit different, that all I wanted was my baby to live. That I never dreamed I’d be in their clinic. They all let me cry. I obsessively told them we needed our baby and everything sent for testing. They reassured me, and they promised to send the products of conception for testing to try to figure out why our babies kept dying. I really don’t remember most of what anyone said to me, but I do remember how comforting they were. I felt safe in their hands. The OB/GYN was incredibly nice, as was the anesthesiologist. And a lovely nurse held my hand as they knocked me out.
I woke up sometime later in a recovery area. I distinctly recall begging the nurse to call my husband and let him know I was okay.Everything else is fuzzy.
Eventually, my husband collected me and we left as quickly as I was physically able. The day felt like the longest day of my life – I’ve since been told we were in the hospital/clinic from start to finish for less than 3 hours. And in those 3 hours, my life was forever changed.
A few days later the counsellor called to check in. I told her I was okay, but I was really upset about the ultrasound I had that morning. I told her about, she encouraged me to submit a complaint. I declined, feeling that I simply wasn’t ready to write about it, let alone stand up against the treatment I received. Maybe one day, but definitely not today. So, she asked if she could on my behalf because it just wasn’t acceptable. I said yes.
The next day I got a call from the administrative head of the ultrasound department at the hospital. I was at work, so I quickly escaped to my safety of me car and told him the entire story. He seemed genuinely appalled. First, while they have had a few bad experiences with spouses in the room, he stated that they are a family first department and spouses are always allowed in the room. The ultrasound tech was not following standard procedure when she would not let my husband in the room. He also stated that he was shocked that another staff member would enter an ultrasound room without adequately protecting the integrity and modesty of a patient – he also knew which room I was in because only one of them is designed that poorly. He also acknowledged that the senior tech absolutely should have introduced himself and explained why he was there and why he may come back. Evidently, basic introductions are also standard procedure.
I also brought up that the staff need to be aware of the abortion clinic and not blatantly judge those of us choosing to abort a pregnancy. He actually indicated that all his staff are aware and have agreed to preform these ultrasounds. Just as all the doctors, nurses and counsellors at the abortion clinic know and make an informed decision about working in that clinic.
He also acknowledged that he had no ability to speak to the radiologist about his treatment of me or his decision to share his personal opinion without having reviewed my case – the doctors are outside of his jurisdiction. But, he did tell me that my full final report prepared by the radiologist did state that upon review of my past ultrasounds for this pregnancy he too deemed the pregnancy not viable. So, maybe he heard me and actually did review all of our earlier scans. I will never know and in the scheme of my life it really doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, he apologized for his staff. He indicated that their actions were substandard, and I deserved better care. He promised to talk to both the techs involved in my case individually and to remind all his staff about appropriate and professional standards. I have no idea if he kept his word, but I like to think he did. I like to think he took me seriously and that no other women will ever be forced to endure my experience.
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