My vote is with Hillary Clinton. For so many reasons, but if I had to sum it into one word, it would be this: humanity. And last night, for perhaps the first time in this debate series, I saw Hillary go somewhere that I hadn’t seen her go. When the issue of women’s rights arose, something happened to her. Her eyes softened, conveying her sadness. Her stance, less postured. It was as though her words stopped coming from a studied rhetoric, and began to flow from her heart – however “nasty” that heart may be. And that place she went- she took me right there with her.
And that’s why I need to share a story – it is a shared story. A story that has been lived, in all its variations, by millions of women around the globe. It is a story of loss, emptiness, and powerlessness.
I want to tell you about the day I lost my baby. And the story might not go exactly how you would expect.
It all began after a disheartening failed round of IVF. After a second round, our family was deliriously happy when we learned we would be bringing another little girl into the world. When the first trimester ended, our daughter brought home two tiny bracelets she had made at school with string and cheerios.
“I made these for me and for my baby sister, mommy. I can’t wait to meet her. I already love her so much,” my daughter said as she handed me the bracelets.
And as the weeks went on, our hearts enveloped my womb with hope, love and excitement. We were overjoyed. Our family had been through a mighty struggle, not only to conceive our little girl, but to overcome some major personal health issues. Because of these issues, I found myself at a high risk OB ultrasound visit at around fourteen-weeks of gestation. It was my tenth ultrasound of this pregnancy, and the first that indicated that there was a problem of any kind.
I had been excited to lay on the table and see my little girl’s heartbeat that day. But things didn’t go as planned. “Something is very wrong,“ the doctor lamented, with great hesitation. I felt my heart sink into my stomach, and to this day it hasn’t made its way back to its proper place in my chest. I doubt it ever will.
We spent several weeks visiting multiple specialists, reading every article on the internet, and enduring every kind of test in a diehard attempt to give us hope. Every waking moment of that month was spent desperately trying to find a surgeon anywhere on Planet Earth that could operate on our little girl and save her life.
“She has multiple anomalies that are not compatible with life, none of which are operable,” we were told at every appointment. “It’s just a matter of time. She will not live to viability, and if you go into labor it could be extremely dangerous because of your health history.”
“You have a choice: end her life or risk ending her life and your own. There is no saving her.”
My world was spinning out of control. Did they just suggest to me that I should kill my daughter? Losing her was enough- but to be the finger that pulls the trigger? It was too much to ask. Every part of me- from my head to my toes, from my soul to my bones- was shattered. It was all wrapped up in my womb and they were asking me to deliver a death sentence to all of it.
The choice might seem obvious to those of you that did not feel her kicks, or see the love her sister had for her. It might seem obvious to those of you that did not know her name, carry her within you for four months, or love her with the tenacity only known to a mother. The choice wasn’t obvious to me. I lived with the heaviest of hearts until all the amniotic fluid disappeared from my womb. Until I was left with just one choice: deliver a baby that had died in utero, with great risk to my own health, or undergo an abortion procedure.
This is something that the Mike Pences or Donald Trumps of the world never talk about. They never concede that abortion is often a false choice. The only real choice I made was to live another day to care for my daughter that would be still living. Because she lost a sister- her heart was broken. And losing her mother would have been a cruel and unusual fate. An unnecessary and careless ending to an already horrific tale. Mike Pence and Donald Trump want to revoke my right, as a mother, to choose to live another day. That’s the only choice I made the day I chose to have a Dilation and Evacuation procedure. I didn’t choose to end my baby’s life. I chose to save my own.
On a Thursday morning in June, I cried uncontrollably as the anesthesiologist quieted my shallow breaths with a single dose of medication. My doctors saved my life that day. They cried with me, and embraced me in their arms, as we all endured a most soul-crushing and heart-wrenching experience.
So, today and on Election Day, I am asking you to stand with Hillary for women, mothers, and humans everywhere. Like my story, the parts of me that identify my choice are complex:
I am pro-life. I am pro-choice. I am a broken-hearted mother who lost a daughter. I am a survivor; a believer in life in its tiniest of forms. A believer, too, in the lives of women everywhere. #imwithher.
And no two of these parts of me are mutually exclusive.