Monday, February 20, 2017

My Third-trimester Abortion

It's something I don't talk about much.

In the past I referred to it as a stillbirth. It was a stillbirth. But it was also an induced labor in my third trimester, hence making it a third-trimester abortion.

When I discovered I was pregnant I was only 16 years old. I'm pretty sure Christopher was conceived on the night my mom walked in on my boyfriend and I having sex on the couch. I thought she was going to be at work but she came home early. He ran out the door and I cried while my mother yelled profanities at me. It was a horrible night for all of us.

I wasn't smart enough to consider pretending I was on my period. After a few months my mom asked me if I was pregnant. She was right but I denied it just the same. Tim and I had talked about giving the baby up for adoption but we were scared out of our minds and decided I'd get an abortion. Another month or so passed, I hadn't gotten an abortion and I couldn't deny my pregnancy to my mom anymore. I told her about my abortion idea. She said it was too late for that. I think Tim and I both breathed a sigh of relief, neither of us were really okay with the abortion.

One of my mom's coworkers knew a family who wanted to adopt. We didn't meet in person but exchanged letters and phone calls. Tim and I spoke to an attorney about the adoption procedure. My heart broke.

I finally went to the doctor who verified that I was indeed pregnant. I started taking prenatal vitamins and trying to eat healthier for the baby. I enjoyed being pregnant. It was a secret between Tim, my mom, and myself. I was due in October, people at school would find out then, I wasn't going to tell anyone. I decided to see my dad, stepmom, and sisters in May before I really started to show and then see them again after the baby was born. They didn't need to know, it wouldn't be that much longer than the normal amount of time that went by.

My mistake was that I broke down and told my Aunt Susie about my pregnancy. I told her everything. She wanted me to give the baby to her. I tried to explain that it was already set up with this other family and I thought it would be easier to let the baby go rather than have to see him/her  and not be able to be the parent. This was a nice family who would love him/her with all their hearts.

Susie's son, my cousin Doug, had died the year before. She was angry that I refused. She went and told my dad what I planned to do. He and my stepmom came and confronted me in McDonalds of all places. They were heart broken, not disappointed and angry like I expected. My stepmom told me to hold my head high and not worry about what everyone would say or think.

I started to show and I also started to share our secret.

The doctor sent me for an ultrasound. Every ultrasound I had since then I held my breath until I could see the spine connected together like a zipper and heard the words, "Everything looks good." There was silence as the sonographer moved the wand over my belly and stared at the screen. "Is everything okay?" "Uh, yeah, I'll be right back." He went and got another person to come and look at the screen and move the wand some more. They knew something but didn't breathe a word. They told us not to worry and that the doctor would call us.

I don't remember when the doctor called or even what he said. What I heard was that my baby was not going to survive outside of the womb. This little creature who kicked like a star soccer player wasn't viable. My baby had spina bifida and was anecephalic. This means that instead of a formed skull to protect his brain all he had was a strip of skin to cover his brain. His head would cut off at the eyebrows. According to the doctor I had two options, go through the pregnancy as normal and perhaps the baby would live for a few days, he had never heard of such a child living longer than that, or we could induce labor and save time, money, and my emotions.

The family was out, they weren't going to pay for the birth of a baby who was dead. I didn't and still don't blame them, it was their heartbreak too.

After a few weeks along with some pressure from my mom and Tim, we set up the appointment for induction of labor. We had to go to Wichita for the procedure. The night before they stuffed an enormous seaweed tampon inside of me to stretch out my cervix and help me dilate.  In the morning they pulled out the "tampon" and started the induction. I was over 6 months so the only way was for me to go through labor. I had plenty of painful contractions, the only difference was that they let me have medicine for the pain since they knew the outcome was going to be bad.

Finally, I gave birth to a little boy in a silent delivery room. We named him Christopher Thomas. The nurses cleaned him up, swaddled him in blankets and put a little beanie on his head. When the nurse laid him in my arms, she said we could take as much time as we wanted.

We did all the things parents do when there is a crying baby born. We counted his toes and fingers, I gently stroked and kissed his face. I told him how much I loved him.

This is what a third-trimester abortion looks like. It breaks the heart of each person involved. It's not an easy decision. It's hard on everyone, including the doctors and nurses. Our nurses were wonderful and after they took Christopher back, they took pictures of him for us.

Each August I experience a bought of depression. Each year I mark his birthday. Each holiday I think of who he might have been.

This is what a third-trimester abortion looks like.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Good-bye Grandpa Bud

This is my Grandpa Bud, he also goes by Popo but that's what my nieces and nephews call him. To me, he's Grandpa Bud. He became my grandpa when I was about 5. I thought he was one  of the most handsome men I'd ever met. He looked like a movie star to me, I thought he was the spitting image of Clark Gable (I'm not sure how or why I knew who Clark Gable was but I did). He was also one of the kindest men I had ever met. I loved him immediately and took great pride when he named me Pistol.

I loved going out to the farm and spending the night because it meant that if I woke up early enough, it would be just me and Grandpa Bud sitting at the table together while he drank his coffee. I don't remember what we talked about but I do remember the ways his eyes sparkled and that I felt completely safe in his presence.

Grandpa Bud introduced me to the simple pleasures of buttered crackers dipped in milk, bread dipped in milk, and my favorite as a child, sugar sandwiches--bread spread with butter and cinnamon sugar (or just plain sugar) sprinkled on top.

I learned about cows, separating cream from the milk, and playing UNO from Grandpa Bud. I also learned a lot about love and generosity.

Several years ago we had a falling out. One of Grandpa Bud's grandsons had molested one of my nephews. Grandpa Bud was angry that my sister had called the police and reported it. It was a tremendous divide. Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie said some awful things to my sister and so I simply stopped talking with them and pretty much everyone on that side of the family. I was crazy angry and rightfully so. I supported my sister and nephew 100%, I still do. What happened to him was wrong and my cousin needed to get help and accountability, he wasn't getting it from the family, she had to call the police.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about Grandpa Bud as he died on Valentine's Day. Before I couldn't understand how he came down on the side of my cousin instead of my nephew. I'm not sure that I completely do now but I think I'm a little closer to it. Grandpa Bud was kind and loving, he saw the best in people. He saw the best in my cousin. My cousin had had it rough as a child, without a doubt. Grandpa Bud wanted to protect him and keep him safe. I think he was also in denial and minimized what had happened because it didn't fit in his picture of who my cousin was. The thing that is sad to me, is that my sister called the police not out of anger but out of concern for our cousin getting the help he needed because we saw that if we didn't nothing else was going to happen and he'd probably end up repeating it and hurting other children and possibly going to jail for a very long time. I wish Grandpa Bud could have seen and known that rather than only protecting our cousin. I wish he would have been able to support and show love to my sister and nephew they way he did for our cousin.

As the years passed, there has been more interaction with Grandpa Bud and Grandma Bertie. We never spoke of it but Grandpa Bud's eyes still sparkled with love and kindness. His laughter continued to bring joy to those who were blessed to hear it. I think each of us experienced a bit of forgiveness. I hope so anyway.

My heart broke when I heard the news. I hadn't cried so hard in a long time. I'm thankful that in the past few years I got to see and talk and laugh with him again. I am blessed that I saw my sister laugh and talk with him again so that I could too. I'm thankful that while I'll never forget I have forgiven. I think I may even understand a little bit, I still wish it would have been different but I understand better.

I'm thankful that Grandpa Bud can breathe deeply again, that he is without pain. I can see him fishing in his overalls, having a smoke with that big beautiful smile on his face and winking good-bye.

I love you Grandpa Bud. Thank you for making me feel safe and special.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Falling in love

I've fallen head over heels for the United Church of Christ.

Throughout seminary my friend Rick and I joked about carpooling from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis so we could attend Eden Seminary in St. Louis, MO. We knew the UCC had/has an intense commitment to social justice that surpassed that of the United Methodist Church.  Yet we stayed put in Kansas City and graduated from Saint Paul School of Theology. I loved my time at SPST. I made life long friendships with both students and professors. I learned a lot there. At SPST I fell in love with Feminist, Womanist, Mujerista, and Process theologies. My mind and heart expanded in love and yearning to co-create a better world.

In my pursuit of ordination in the United Methodist Church it was suggested that I hide my love for these theologies. I refused. I fought against the male conservative system in the Missouri Conference.

When we moved back to Colorado and attended my husband's family church, Community Congregational Church of Manitou Springs, I heard the words "No matter who you are or where you are on  life's journey, you are welcome here." Rainbow letters decorated their phamplets and they spoke about helping immigrants at the borders.

Then I attended Vista Grande Community Congregational Church. My first Sunday there, a beautiful woman was having a renaming ceremony. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing as her mother, children, family, friends, and church surrounded her with love reminding her that no matter what she is a beloved child of God, whether man or woman.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Congregations Alive, a UCC conference to build up UCC congregations, coming together for learning and fellowship. I must have walked around with my jaw dragging on the floor. The gathering was small compared to the UMC gatherings I'm used to and people were openly talking politics!  They were openly discussing how Jesus' mandates and messages stood counter to things going on in our government!

I love the UCC's embrace of people living on the margins of life, people who are on the margins of the church. I love how they are not afraid to hide the light of Christ's words when they are in opposition to the ways of the world. I love how you can be you in the UCC. I love that they absolutely mean it when they say "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

I'm excited about what is next on my journey in the UCC!