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/