What does Mississippi have to do with my baby bump? I’m glad you asked…

I never thought Mississippi would somehow factor into my one-day pregnancy announcement, but here goes…

I’m pregnant! Twenty-six weeks along, to be exact. And to answer your next three questions:

1) Yes, we are absolutely over-the-moon elated. Words cannot express, particularly considering how long it took us to get to this point.

2) I’ve been feeling fantastic, thanks for asking. I’ve had basically zero symptoms, except for the occasional virgin Bloody Mary craving, a penchant for challah (once powering through two pounds in three days), and the fact that I now pee when I sneeze or laugh. In all seriousness, I could be one of those women who goes to the bathroom at 40 weeks to take a poop and a baby falls out and she’s all, “I didn’t know I was pregnant!” No fatigue, no sickness, barely showing, etc.

3) Yep, we know the gender and have names picked out – it will start with an E, after Dan’s mom, Ellen.

Getting here was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Now is not the time to go into our journey – the year-and-half of seemingly nonstop intensive medical intervention, the heartache, the intense jealousy I experienced when seemingly every single woman I knew, as well as 87% of female strangers passing by me on the street, seemed to get knocked up with the greatest of ease. There will surely be blogs and magazine articles and a book to come on all of that.

But my current state of incubation has me especially riled up over tomorrow’s ballot vote in Mississippi, in which residents will decide whether to add a Personhood Amendment to their state constitution. Mississippi’s Initiative 26 would redefine life as beginning at the moment of conception; if passed, it will essentially outlaw in vitro fertilization along with the use of hormonal birth control like IUDs or the morning after pill and ban abortion (even in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life was at risk).

Our baby was conceived with IVF. We were fortunate enough (though nothing felt fortunate at the time) to have access to literally hundreds of reputable, highly skilled reproductive endocrinologists. Indeed, we tried two other ones before ending up at the clinic that ultimate did the trick. As it stands now, Mississippi has four physicians offering IVF. For the entire state.

If this amendment passes, the freezing of embryos would be banned. That means that once a woman endures the rigorous three weeks of daily injections (I was up to four a day at one point), pills, suppositories, daily ultrasound scans, exams and blood draws…once she’s dealt with the discomfort and soreness and breast pain and weight gain…once she’s cried herself to sleep every night, agonizing over whether this would be time that worked…once she’s had the surgery to retrieve the eggs (yes, it is a surgical procedure, complete with anesthesia and loss of consciousness)…and once she’s bitten her nails to bloody stumps, praying those eggs are viable and able to turn into embryos once mixed with her partner’s or donor’s sperm…she would then be forced to have all of them inserted into her uterus at once, rather than attempt to conceive with just one, two or three, which is the standard practice.

To put this in perspective: With our last round of IVF, I produced around 50 eggs – an incredibly high response. (I like to think of myself as somewhat of an ova-achiever.) Of those, something like 20 fertilized and 10 lasted – and thrived – during the five days between retrieval and the procedure to attempt to implant them. If Chicago were, say, Biloxi, we would have been required to insert 10 healthy, Day 5 embryos. That would place me in a worse position than Octomom. (As it were, we put two back, and are pregnant with a single, healthy baby.)

Oh, and never mind the fact that my body revolted after pumping out all of those eggs, leading to a horrific reaction called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, during which my ovaries started leaking fluid into my core, causing massive bloating, breathing problems and ghastly pain. So much so, in fact, that we initially had to freeze all 10 embryos while I was wheeled into the OR, where I had 2.5 liters of fluid drained from my abdominal cavity. Picture a 2-liter bottle of pop. Add some more. Now pour it into the area surrounding your stomach. That was my belly. A month later (along with more drugs, injections, scans, etc), we thawed the two embryos that ultimately resulted in TBA – our nickname for the baby, which stands for Tiny Baby Alter and/or To Be Announced. Again if this were Mississippi, I would have had to insert those embryos into my hyperstimulated body – a potentially lifethreatening move, as getting pregnant with active OHSS is incredibly dangerous.

I’m just talking about a few of the physical repercussions of Initiative 26. Lengthy tomes could be written about the emotional devastation that would surely accompany such requirements, not to mention the health effects or financial toll of caring for high-order multiples.

On the abortion front, I used to volunteer for Planned Parenthood as an abortion counselor and advocate. I met with patients prior to the procedure, making sure they understood what would be happening to their body, that the decision to be there was theirs and theirs alone, setting up birth control, explaining aftercare instructions, and more. Then, if they were staying awake for the procedure and wanted someone to hold their hand, I would do that, too. People often stare at me, mouths agape, when I explain this last duty, but it was one of the most richly rewarding experiences of my life. Despite what anti-choice propaganda might have you believe, women do not take the decision to terminate lightly. They need someone to talk to, someone to reassure them that whatever decision they feel is right IS right, and I always considered it an honor to be that person.

But when Dan and I started encountering difficulties getting pregnant, I had to leave; it was simply too difficult for me to face a room for 40 women, all of women had conceived accidentally and none of whom – for very good, solid reasons – wished to continue on with the results.

So you can see why the Mississippi initiative has me fuming. I bitched about it on Facebook last week, but soon realized that complaining was not enough. Tomorrow, I’ll be working a phone bank at Planned Parenthood, reaching out to Mississippi residents and urging them to vote “No” on Initiative 26. Do I think I’ll change many peoples’ minds? I’m not sure. I tend to automatically hang up on telemarketers, unless they’re calling about a cause close to my heart. But I need to do something. I’m scared for the women of Mississippi, and I fear that the amendment, if passed, could set in motion a ripple effect throughout other states. So my bump and I are heading down to Planned Parenthood’s Chicago headquarters to make a few calls. In the meantime, hold on tight to your uteruses (uteri?), because there’s a very real chance that, one day soon, they may be out of your jurisdiction.

Learn more and see how you can help at http://www.votenoon26.org/



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15 Responses to What does Mississippi have to do with my baby bump? I’m glad you asked…

  1. bdaiss says:

    First – Congrats again! So glad it’s all going so swimmingly! : )

    Second – Holy Ovum Batman! I’d never considered the IVF angle! Thanks for bringing it to light. As a firm believer in birth control, women’s choice, and just plain old common sense I’ve thought this bill was a disaster to begin with. But add IVF into the mix…do these people have no hearts?!? Or no brains?!?! I’m so glad you’re taking direct action to combat the insanity. Think of me as the invisible little cheerleader on your shoulder cheering you on!

    PS – I just pinned a pumpin challah recipe. Sounds like it might be just what TBA needs. : ) (Oh, and now I’m totally going to over analyze if you’re having a boy with an E name or if you’re trying to be super sneaky and are having a girl named Ellen.)
    bdaiss recently posted..Looking Back…

  2. Shirin Rose says:

    First, off, mazal tov!!! TBA will be a very lucky little kid!!

    Second, is there a way for those of us to help who can’t make phone calls? Sign petitions? Send out emails? I’m not from Mississippi, but this is scary for all women, not just women in Mississippi – if it can happen there it can happen anywhere!!

  3. Good for you, Leslie!!!! As a former Planned Parenthood volunteer myself, I am so proud of you for putting your money where your mouth is and doing something about what you believe in. Love you!


    PS- If the name has to start with an “E” in honor of Ellen, there’s this great name I know of…:)

  4. Thanks for your support, ladies!! Shirin, I update my blog with a web site where you can go to take action – You Go, Girl! Britt, you just inspired me to remove a frozen challah from the freezer to gobble up over the enxt few days :-)
    Leslie Goldman recently posted..What does Mississippi have to do with my baby bump? I’m glad you asked…

  5. Alyssa says:

    First of all, adding my congratulations!
    This amendment is so completely terrifying. I pray it doesn’t pass, but if it does, I hope it’s struck down as unconstitutional, and, in the meantime, i would wish for every single woman in Mississippi to pack up and leave the state.
    One of the craziest things about this is that these same folks also want to outlaw birth control! If you want to reduce the number of abortions that are performed, you need safe, effective, affordable birth control!
    So what happens next: do we arrest people for having sex for reasons other than procreation? Do these same folks who claim to want less government interference then start policing our bedrooms? Does masturbation become illegal? Will every miscarriage then have to be investigated? How far does it go? When will WOMEN be treated as “persons?”

  6. Congratulations, Leslie! I hope your little bump turns into something beautiful and perfect. :)

    As a Southerner (from a state that is consistently thankful for Mississippi and Alabama to make us look less bad!), I am continually amazed at the extremes of religious right-wing stupidity that surround the political agendas of the local governments.

    My hope is that maybe they’ll just enact so many backwards, sexist, and racist laws that the folks who want that kind of lifestyle will all move there, and leave the rest of the country to conduct our lives logically, privately, and peacefully.

    Good luck calling around! I sincerely hope it changes some minds and leaves that piece of legislation in the DUST.
    Pamela | Girl Gone West recently posted..Alone Time

  7. Jill says:

    Congrats on le bebe!!! I’m so excited for you!! :)

    This initiative is scary!! I hope it doesn’t pass.
    Jill recently posted..Mish mash monster mash

  8. charlotte says:

    Yayayay! I’ve been waiting for this post! Congratulations again – you are a gorgeous, smart, wonderful mom already and I’m only a little jealous that you are handling pregnancy so easily;) And thanks for speaking out about the travesty of this type of legislation. These types of situations are always more nuanced than our legal system allows them to be.
    charlotte recently posted..What Does Real Hunger Feel Like to You?

  9. JavaChick says:

    Congratulations Leslie! So happy things are going well with the pregnancy so far.

    And that’s all I will say for now as my brain is not quite awake enough to deal with the rest of it…Other than to say that is some scarey stuff.
    JavaChick recently posted..One Day I Bought a Coconut

  10. Nancy says:

    Great article Les. If you look on my FB page you will see a picture I was able to post regarding this horrible situation in Mississippi. Check it out and feel free to post and/or pass it along. XOXO

  11. Trish says:

    Saw your post earlier this week, but waited to post until I knew the outcome in Mississippi. I actually fist-pumped Arsenio Hall-style to the news on NPR this morning in my car. Sanity prevails…temporarily. Whew!

  12. Gail says:

    Congrats on the pregnancy! I know those blood tests and bags of suppositories in the back of the fridge all too well. Didn’t have IVF but we did have help with a really good reproductive endocrinologist. And now we have a trombone-playing teenager who won’t get off the computer.

    Florida is considering that “personhood” nonsense, too, and I’m glad it failed in Mississippi to take a little wind out of their sails.

  13. uch, gail, so sorry you had to go through it too. but now you’ve got a budding musician! can’t wait to see what instrument our little one picks up :-)

  14. Pingback: Why can’t anyone get pregnant? | Health Breaks Loose

  15. Sarah says:

    I saw your article on the Huntington Post and I love that you, “came out,” that helps make it easier for all of the rest of us. Good luck in your pregnancy and congrats on the end of a long journey.
    Sarah recently posted..Nice Sunday Morning Run

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