Tennessee Stories Project 

Here’s the link for the Tennessee Stories Project! It’s a site for women to share their experiences with abortion. My story is one of many being shared there, and I hope to see more added with time! I’ve started to read through, and I love it so far. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, much like ours, but it’s wonderful to feel like we’re not alone.  

The idea behind the site is to work on reducing the stigma surrounding abortion. It’s very common to see women avoiding the word abortion even when speaking out about their experiences. I’ve used “termination” far more often myself. Abortion just has such negative connotations, especially having grown up religious. But avoiding it just contributes to the problem. I’ll be using the term abortion going forward. Hopefully this site will help with normalizing abortion further. In particular I hope it helps women who are seeking an abortion to feel like it really is okay, and not something shameful that they need to hide. 

 

I’m also hoping, as I’ve mentioned, to do more going forward to fight the anti-choice politics we’re seeing more and more of. Unfortunately I’m afraid that may require some public speaking, but if that’s what I need to do, I will. Fingers crossed that I can find a good way to be involved! And those of you who support me, please share this site far and wide. It’s very appreciated.

  

 tnstories.org

💕☺️💕

-In the last day she’s discovered how to make a deliberate little smacking kissy noise. She likes to do it back and forth, and it’s freaking adorable.

 

-Last year for our anniversary Christopher and I went to Gatlinburg. It was just the two of us (well, and unborn Lily, but she didn’t need much attention then!), and it was so relaxing. We rented a beautiful cabin, and just had fun for a week. We played putt-putt, had delicious food, watched movies, got pedicures, went to the aquarium, walked around the shops, got massages out on the porch of the cabin (it was raining (porch was covered) and it was so peaceful!), and just generally did what we wanted. I was thinking about that this week, with our anniversary coming up again soon, and at first I was kind of sad. I miss that freedom to do whatever, and to spend so much time with Christopher uninterrupted. But then I got to thinking how excited I am to take Lily to Gatlinburg when she gets a little bigger. She’s going to love the aquarium and the go karts and the ten zillion awesome candy shops and all of it! And she’s not going to be this dependent forever. We’ll go on relaxing, child free vacations again, and it will be relatively soon in the long run. So I’m just going to keep looking forward to the fun stuff, and enjoying the baby cuddles, and quit worrying about the fact that we have to spend a few of our years together without the free time that we might prefer.

 

-On a tangentially related note, Christopher and I met when we were 19. We’re now 30. We’ve spent over a third of our lives together! (And we met Jo at the same time, so we’ve all three been friends for over a third of our lives!)

 

-Arg. I HATE when the baby rolls on her stomach to sleep. I’ve had Back to Sleep repeated to me so many times it’s just ingrained. I know once she’s old enough to roll easily it’s not a big deal, but I worry too much as it is; I don’t need this too! And the ridiculous part is that before I had her I swore up down and sideways I would let my baby(ies) belly sleep from day one if that’s what they preferred. I wasn’t going to let paranoia keep them from sleeping! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I will wake her up every 5 minutes myself if that’s what I need to do to be sure she’s as safe as she can possibly be. 

 

-When I was pregnant with Lily, it was always a little scary. There was this undercurrent of fear, what if something goes wrong again? I was a nervous wreck before every ultrasound, terrified that this time they would get quiet, and call for a doctor, and it would be bad news again. It never happened; every ultrasound ended with good news, and a still-healthy baby growing strong. But the whole time part of me was looking forward to her being born, because once she was here it wouldn’t be so scary. Even after she was born premature, I was relieved because she was here and she was healthy, and no more worrying about pregnancy going wrong again! But I forgot one little thing. My biggest fear was that she’d develop a hydrocephalus. And as scary as ultrasounds were, they meant that every few weeks I got to see inside her head and be sure that her brain was developing normally. And now she’s here and, oh wait, hydrocephalus can develop at ANY time in life, and hey, I don’t get to see inside her head anymore! Crap. I mostly don’t give it much thought, but every so often I look at her and her head seems awfully big (hello, she’s a baby, babies have big heads!) and feel a moment of panic. And I get a little bit more nervous about upcoming doctor appointments, when they’ll measure her head and be sure it’s growing normally. I dreaded every one, because they were so nerve wracking, but turns out, I really miss ultrasounds.

 

-I was thinking today about River some. And I realized something. We could have had River and still had Lily. It would have been ridiculously hard, to have two under one with one being severely disabled. But based on timing it physically would have been possible. If we had, River would be coming up on two. Except that developmentally, Lily (now nine months old) would have long since left her behind. River was never going to progress beyond early infancy. All these skills that Lily is picking up, all the rolling and the “talking” and learning to anticipate, River would never have done those things. It’s a strange thought. 

 

-OH MY GOD MY COUSIN JUST YANKED HER SLEEPING FOUR MONTH OLD OUT OF BED BECAUSE A SCORPION WAS CRAWLING RIGHT UP TO HER!!!! Pardon me while I never sleep again even though we live a thousand miles away and there are no scorpions here. I’m just going to hide gibbering in the corner.

 

-99% sure her top teeth are trying to come in! Eek! She’s gonna look even cuter! I hope they come through soon though. Cutting teeth is no fun.

 

-My husband doesn’t understand me at all. 😩 I’m going to a press conference tomorrow to announce Planned Parenthood of Middle and Eastern Tennessee’s new website. My abortion story with River will be part of it. I told Christopher I’m nervous about it, and he didn’t get it. He was just all, but you’re not speaking, you’re just standing there. Hello! I don’t know where to park and I don’t know anyone there and I have to be social at least some and there will be cameras what if I slouch and what if I’m wearing Lily wrong and everyone judges me and what if she has a blowout in front of the cameras and what if people talk to me I say something stupid and what if there are mean people protesting and and and!!! 😳 I know I’ll be glad I went, but I’m so anxious I may explode. At least I have people who get me to talk to. This is what I get for marrying someone with no social anxiety. Usually it’s nice, occasionally frustrating.

 

-We survived the press conference! Lily was SUPER tired by the end, but we made it all the way home without a meltdown! I got up at 7, and she was awake too. She normally doesn’t get up till 10, but I cuddle her for the stretch between Christopher leaving and her actually getting up, so with me not in bed there was no chance of her staying asleep. And I tried for a nap after I pumped but it just hadn’t been long enough since she got up before we had to leave. But even though she was tired, she didn’t fuss or cause any issues! She seemed to genuinely enjoy being out and about. And it was windy, so walking to/from the car she was basically in heaven. She loves the wind like her momma! And I got through it fine too. I was nervous about figuring out where to go, but I had enough time that even with getting a little turned around I was able to find it and be there on time. I got to meet some really nice people, and they all loved Lily. The only real hiccup was that she had a blowout diaper, but it wasn’t until we got back to the car so I’m counting that as a win. I’m really glad I went, and can’t wait to do more with PP going forward!

 

-Oh, Easter! Totally forgot! We (my mom and I) took her to see the Easter bunny. Christopher was out of town and he said he didn’t care if we went without him (Easter has never been a huge deal in his life). We went to Bass Pro since they do a free 4×6 and you can take your own pictures. I think the one I got on my phone (see below) was the best. Very Lily- totally calm, but very curious. She did look a little uncertain about me backing away after handing her off, but she didn’t get upset! She got two Easter baskets- one from my mom, and one from us (plus her $2 bill from Papa Ray 😊). She’s too young to care that much, but she seemed happy! 

  

 
 

  
 

  
 

And some more pictures since none of them really fit what I wrote about.

 

  
 

  
 

 

SO close to crawling!

 
 

 

I can’t let her play with the curtains, but look at that face!


 

Nobody wakes up happier!

 

   

Happier Post

-Why are babies consistently drawn to the things that they should NOT be playing with? Totally safe and designed specifically to be fun toys? Meh. The pointiest cornered book in the room? Getting warmer. Strings that could easily strangle them? Fun times! Power cords/cables? Best toys ever! Filthy shoes? Clearly they should be chewed on as god intended. 

 

-Baby girl loves her some airplanes! I love living near the airport, since planes have always made me happy. Now she’s started really watching them too! She hears them and starts looking, and seems like she might be starting to understand what I’m doing when I point at them for her. We have to hang out more in the front yard now, because there are too many trees in the back and she seems frustrated that she can hear the planes but not see them. Also, we might be taking her to the air show in June! I read something recently about people (spectators) being killed in crashes at air shows, so it kind of scares me, but I know it’s SO unlikely and she’d love it. Hoping we can make it happen!

 

-Rationally you know to expect babies to grow up super fast. But make it slow down! It’s making me sad. It’s funny because during her nap earlier I was thinking about taking her to the zoo and how excited I am to do things with her as she gets bigger. But I just read an article about the whole “there’s only 936 weeks till your kid is 18” thing, and it made me so sad. Can’t she stay my itty forever? 

 

On a related note, I read something that helped me to feel better that she won’t outgrow how I feel about her now. As in, part of me worried that when she got bigger and grosser (toddlers are a mess!) and less adorable, I just wouldn’t feel the same. Certainly teenagers don’t evoke the same feelings in strangers as do babies. But I read the article on that and I realized that that probably won’t happen and I felt better. Except then I realized, she won’t outgrow how I feel about her, but she is going to outgrow how she feels about me. Which on the one hand is a good thing. Having someone continue to have this level of need and dependency for the rest of my life would be exhausting. And I know that this relationship won’t go away, it will just change. I really think seeing how it changes will be pretty cool, actually. My mom and I are still very close, and certainly not in the same way we were 30 years ago. But still. She may always be my baby, but she won’t always be my *baby*. And I mourn that even as I appreciate how much loveliness there is to come. It reminds me of the Harry Potter quote, from the very end (spoiler alert, I guess? Though seriously, they’ve been out for years) when his son is on his way to Hogwarts for the first time, “Harry kept smiling and waving, even though it was like a little bereavement, watching his son glide away from him…” It’s a happy thing as well as a sad one, and I guess that’s just how it is.

  

-She won’t really sleep properly for anyone but me. This is simultaneously rather gratifying and really frustrating. It’s sweet to feel needed, but one of the silver linings to the not nursing was supposed to be that she isn’t dependent on me to nurse to sleep. Gah.

  

 
  

 
-She is so freaking determined not to put up with the fact that she can’t keep rolling when she comes up against a wall/furniture! She had her first good smack on the head today from trying to keep rolling when she was up against the dresser. Not on a corner, thankfully, but still not a first I’m excited about!

   

 
 

-She’s started getting her belly up off the ground, on her knees and elbows! She started right on her 9mo “birthday.” Right now she’s just using it as an easier way to roll over, but it won’t be long on the crawling now!

  

  

 

 -Am I the only one who occasionally has the random worry that my phone is judging me for my spelling? I type really fast and let it just correct the mistakes, but I do notice them! I know how to spell, phone, I swear!

 

-I always want to do something for homeless people I see, but I have this persistent fear that the person will turn out to not actually be homeless and be terribly offended. Aside from just working with the union mission or something, I’m not sure how best to overcome this.

 

-Feeding solids has gotten interesting. I’ll be honest, baby led weaning isn’t my favorite. She gags a LOT, and it scares me every time that she’s choking. And it’s made her puke a couple of times. So we still give her bits of what we’re eating, but I prefer purées, mesh feeders, and some yogurt melts. We still follow her cues- if she’s not interested we stop. And she kinda, sorta understands that if she sucks on a pouch she gets food out. So there’s some self feeding going on, in addition to the melts being something she can do herself. It’s super cute how interested in food she is though. She watches us eat with BIG eyes, and smacks her lips. Only problem? She does it when I feed the dogs too! And there’s no good way to keep her out of the dog food when she gets a little more mobile. We’re in trouble!

   

-Went to the grocery with Lils in the sling, and she insisted on helping push the cart 
  
   

Some cuteness to end on!

 

  
 

 

She loves the wind possibly more than anything else

 
 

  
  

 
 

   
  

She legit farted on his head

 
 

 

She loves “her” pillow

 
 

Best shot I could get of the Chris Farley face

Screw you, Indiana 

I am so

freaking angry right now! Indiana has now passed a bill criminalizing abortion for, among other things, fetal defects. If we had been in Indiana, and found out about River’s issues early enough that we could have aborted in state, the doctor could go to jail for doing it. For something that was BEST FOR THE BABY. This kind of law is what forces women into dangerous back alley abortions, because they aren’t willing to bring a baby into this world just to suffer for their entire life. Or because they don’t want to have to go through a stillbirth, or to give birth knowing their baby will die in their arms in minutes or hours. Fuck every one of the asshole politicians who think that they have the right to judge me and women like me. I believe in every woman’s right to choose, no matter their reasons for wanting an abortion. But it takes a really special kind of bastard to think this kind of ban is anything but evil. 
http://feministing.com/2016/03/25/indiana-passed-a-fetal-defect-abortion-ban-and-put-some-other-restrictions-in-too/

Re: Prenatal Genetic Testing

 Last year around this time I was pregnant with Lily, and we started going to birth classes. We went with the Bradley classes, and overall I was very happy with them; I feel like even with my preterm labor happening so fast that I didn’t get to utilize the techniques as much as I’d hoped (and not getting to even finish the classes since I had her before they were over!) it was still money and time well spent. Hell, I’ve used the techniques multiple times since, getting a cyst drained, and a root canal.   

But all that being said, there was one thing that really upset both of us at the time. I chose not to say anything, because I didn’t want to make it weird with weeks left in the class. And then with everything else, I mostly forgot about it. But it’s been on my mind a lot recently and I decided to go ahead and email the teacher. I’m also going to include most of what I have to say here, because I think it bears saying to a lot of people out there. And let me be clear- I loved our birth class and I loved the teacher. If we have another baby I’ll be contacting her to see if she does a one on one refresher course for non-first time parents. I am not angry about this. But it was something that I think is important enough to bring up, even so long after the fact. 

 

For those who don’t recall, or who aren’t familiar with our story, I had an abortion at 33 weeks because my baby’s brain had been totally destroyed by hydrocephalus. However, her brain stem was unaffected, so she would have lived. She would never have progressed mentally beyond the newborn stage, and would have had zero quality of life. The hydro was discovered during the anatomy scan at 20 weeks, but didn’t progress to the point that it was terminal until 30 weeks.

 

So all that lead up to this- we were in class and the topic of prenatal genetic testing came up. The point that was made was that these tests have a high rate of false positives, so they aren’t a good idea; the stress isn’t worth it. And if the test did show something, “you wouldn’t do anything about it, right?” (Referring, very clearly, to the idea that you wouldn’t want an abortion just because of a genetic defect like Downs, which is everyone’s go to example for these things.) I got up at that point and left the room. It was very normal in a room full of pregnant women for one of us to leave for a bit to make a bathroom run, so I doubt anyone thought anything of it. Also, and in some ways worse, on the website of recommended reading for the class, there was a link to an article arguing that no ultrasounds should be done as long as there were no other factors to suggest any risk of problems.

 

The “I wouldn’t abort, so why worry myself” argument is one that you run into a LOT, both online and in person. The ultrasound thing is far less common, but not by any means unheard of. I actually considered having few or no ultrasounds myself, and skipped the nuchal scan at 12 weeks with River. But the naïveté and presumption in that statement is breathtaking. You really, really don’t know what you would do until you’re faced with that situation. And more importantly, most people say it assuming that it’s more or less a question of willingness to raise a special needs child. Um no, leaving aside the morality of terminating “just” because of special needs, as well as the realities of living with a special needs child who will be dependent on you for the rest of your life, it is often an issue of a child who won’t live, or who will live with constant suffering. Some women, when faced with a stillbirth or a child who will die in their arms in minutes, choose not to carry a pregnancy for nine long, miserable months, just for it to end in tragedy. Others, like me, have children that can survive, but whose quality of life would be so poor that it would be cruel to force it on them. I would pull the plug for my husband if he were in a terrible accident; I chose to do the same for my daughter when it was the kindest, most loving choice I could make.

 

I no longer have the luxury of naiveté. With my first 3 pregnancies I had (or planned to have) no testing done, skipped the NT scan, and considered opting out of all ultrasounds. I definitely had the “nothing bad will happen to ME” attitude. Now, unfortunately, I know better. We had/have ZERO risk factors for anything that’s happened. But so far we’ve beaten the odds (in a bad way) multiple times. Miscarriage after a good ultrasound showing a strong heartbeat and growth on track, 2 unexplained miscarriages in a row, overwhelmingly severe fetal hydrocephalus with no known cause. All of these are very unlikely, especially with no risk factors like a clotting issue on my part or something. And yet. 

 

Because River’s issues were not genetic, a genetic screening did not tell us anything about whether Lily would develop a hydro as well. We had to wait for the anatomy scan to find out anything on that. But at that point, just because it was highly unlikely something ELSE would go wrong, didn’t mean it wouldn’t. So we had the screening, just to know as much as we could. 

  

Also, even for those who really wouldn’t terminate, I still absolutely wouldn’t want to find out at birth. For the same reason that I chose not to be team green this time, because I didn’t want to deal with gender disappointment once my baby was here, I wouldn’t want to deal with all the emotions involved with having a special needs child at the same time that I’m trying to welcome that child to the world and get to know and love her. And time to prepare is very good to have, so that you can have resources in place BEFORE you’re dealing with a newborn. I’ve read an article by a woman who went through this, finding out her baby had Downs at birth, and it was devastating. And she now feels guilty that when her baby was first born she was devastated instead of elated. We had started the process of preparing for a special needs baby when we thought River would be able to make it, and it was overwhelming. I can’t imagine how much more so it would be when you’re also dealing with the shock of diagnosis and handling a newborn.

 

Last thought, specific to the ultrasound issue- River’s issues wouldn’t have shown up on a genetic screening, but it’s worth noting that had we not found out that she had a hydro before birth, it would have made things much worse. Had it not gotten as severe as it did, we planned to deliver at 34 weeks so the shunt could be placed as early as possible, to give her brain as much time as we could to develop without the pressure of the fluid. Had we not known till birth, that would have been up to 8 more weeks of the hydro growing, and she would have lost all that potential brain development. Once you miss critical windows in development, it can only go back and make up for it so much. (Which is why, in the end, her situation wound up so dire. It was too late for her brain to bounce back from the amount of damage done.) Also, her head could have gotten very, very oversized, making an attempt at a vaginal delivery much more dangerous. Knowing as much as possible ahead of time allows you to make decisions that you might not even know you need to make, in time for them to make a difference.

 

Really, my biggest fear with genetic screenings is not the risk of a false positive, but a false negative. I’m far more afraid of believing everything is finally okay, and being wrong, than a little stress over something that turns out to be nothing. Suggesting that the stress of a screening isn’t worth it is extremely naive. And for someone in a position of influence to say it is bordering on dangerously irresponsible. 

Title!!

-I love when she’s asleep and something startles her, and she opens her eyes, looks around all confused, then looks at me and goes back to sleep. It’s like, oh, mommy’s here, it’s okay.

 

-Going to bed when you have a baby is weird. Because on the one hand, you’re super tired and can’t wait to sleep. But on the other, you know you’re going to be woken up in the middle of the night and that’s frustrating. Still, when you factor in sweet baby cuddles (I really do LOVE cosleeping), it works out in favor of “yay bedtime!”
-Ate so much cake I felt sick not an hour ago, and now I’m debating if I need more. One of these days my metabolism is gonna catch up to me. I guess we’ll see then how serious I am about being body positive and no fat shaming. Eek.

 

-She was just laying on her side facing the changing table, and grabbed the edge and used it to pull herself closer to what she was reaching for. That seems like a big thing to figure out, that she can pull herself by grabbing heavy objects. Go Lils!

 

-I have coffee and I swear the first sip tasted like hot dog. I don’t think my taste buds work so hot.

 

-Alexi Murdoch’s “Song for You” is the best description of depression (as I experience it; everyone is different) that I’ve found. And it’s a really beautiful song.

-The problem with coloring is how slow it goes. This is after a solid half hour of work. But I was surprised how much it improved my mood. I should do it more often. (Also, so excited about this coloring book!)

-This Trump thing has reached the point it legitimately scares me. Like, I’ve read about things leading up to the worst of the Nazis and I know we’re not there but I could honestly see it happening. And what the ever loving f*** is up with that? How did we get here? How, in this day and age in America, am I genuinely too afraid to go to a protest of an actual possible future president? They pepper sprayed the protesters in Kansas City. I have no idea if the cops were out of line (Update- looking more and more like this was the cops at fault from what I’ve read), but that’s really immaterial. This is what it’s come to. A legitimate candidate offering to pay the legal fees of anyone who gets arrested for assaulting protestors. Protests getting broken up by police. How?!

 

I just keep thinking that this is what it must have felt like in Germany as Hitler came to power. You just keep thinking it can’t be for real and it won’t get that bad. But one day they woke up and it was that bad. And surely, SURELY not here. But I do NOT like what it says about people that he has so much support.

 

-Occasionally I stop and think about how lucky I am/have been, and it’s pretty incredible. I have an amazing husband who loves me and is a wonderful father, and a beautiful, healthy daughter. We’re very well off financially, with a good safety net for emergencies, and excellent health insurance. We have family that loves and supports us, and would be both willing and able to help if anything were to happen. Hell, we’re white, straight, and cisgender. One tries not to take anything for granted, but still, you don’t stop and ponder it every day. But the amount of privilege I enjoy is breathtaking. I think I need to remind myself of that more often.

 

 

She started out approximately where I was standing.

 



Would not hold still!