Did I Kill My Baby Boy? And If I Had Been in MIssissippi, Would I Be Facing Prison?


See all our coverage on Mississippi Initiative 26 here.

In 1996, I suffered a second-trimester spontaneous abortion, (miscarriage). It ranks as one of the worst experiences of my life, losing a fetus that was hoped for, longed for, and for whom a future had been imagined.

Next week, Mississippi votes on a “personhood” amendment that would define personhood as occurring when the egg is fertilized (not implanted, prior to this, fertilization).

If I had been experiencing the pains and bleeding that I knew signaled the end of my pregnancy, would I have gone to that hospital emergency room? If I hadn’t gone, and had passed that fetus alone, would I have known that I had not entirely expelled the contents of my uterus and was now vulnerable to a deadly infection? Would I have died from fear of being prosecuted for losing my baby?

Friday morning. June 7, 1996, I was attending a conference at a university. I ate some breakfast, and went downstairs. I was having pain in my back and in my groin. I felt the familiar tingle of fear go up my backbone. My hands began to shake. I went into the bathroom, and I felt something pass out of me. I looked at it in the toilet. An unrecognizable blob of something that looked like something an old man would hock out of his lungs floated in the water.  But there was no blood. Still, I knew something was wrong.

I approached the student union information booth. A bored, young woman stood behind the desk, and calmly, I told her I thought I might be having a miscarriage and I thought I needed some help. Her compassion shown through immediately: She called 911. And she escorted me over to a couch, made me lie down.

First, the firefighters arrived. They seemed weighed down in their heavy rubber boots, their fireproof pants with the suspenders that crossed over navy blue shirts. One of them asked me how I felt. When I told him what had happened, that something I thought “the size of a golf ball” had come out of me, he said, “A golf ball?” And then he said, “I don’t think that’s a miscarriage. I think, given how far along you are, it would have been bigger.” I suddenly felt embarrassed, like I had brought everyone out for nothing. I was relieved, yes, because maybe it meant that this thing wasn’t happening to me, but the casual dismissal of my experience left me as flustered as someone caught in a lie.

Two EMTs showed up. I explained to them that I thought I might be having a miscarriage. Explained what I was feeling. I was scared, and I’m sure my fear showed in everything about me. They loaded me onto a gurney, put me in the back of an ambulance, and drove me to the university hospital. I chatted with the EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance. He monitored my blood pressure, my heart rate. He and I talked about why I was in Chapel Hill. It could have been a conversation in a grocery store line, the kind of chat provoked by the need to kill time while you wait for the cashier to get a price check on frozen pizza.

I was examined by a nurse, and then the ER doctor. He checked me for bleeding, and there was none. But, in the time it took for the OB-GYN resident to come to the ER, there was bleeding. Crimson spots. Crimson, like death. I called the nurse back into the room, convinced that all was at an end. “It’s not too much blood, honey,” she said, and she tut-tutted over me as if I was one of her grandchildren who had come to her with a skinned knee.

The doctor came back into the room. He passed the ultrasound wand over my stomach. My baby was in there. “See?” He pointed him out. “Everything looks fine. It’s just a little spotting.”

But the baby’s heartbeat was almost 190. And some voice inside me told me that wasn’t right. But the doctor was reassuring. “I think you’re going to be just fine,” he said. “I think you have about a 90 percent chance of carrying this baby to term. I’m going to release you. Go back to the dorm room. Put your feet up. You’ll be fine.”

I left the hospital. The conference staff had sent a car over to get me, and I happily reassured the worried staffer that I was fine. False alarm. Sorry to have gotten everybody so concerned.

He dropped me at the entrance to the central conference area. I remember I was wearing a pale pink dress. It was loose, and I had purchased it just the week before to serve as a maternity dress that I could wear for the conference. At one pm, an acquaintance of mine was giving a paper in a panel. The room was crowded, and I managed to nab a chair right near the door.

The room filled. There were people sitting on the floor. It was crowded, and I looked around, was thrilled to recognize another rockstar professor whose books had changed my whole way of looking at things. I was thinking about some way that I might be able to talk to her after the session, but I brought my mind back to the panel, which was just about to be introduced. I settled onto the hard wooden chair and then something happened. Something let go inside of me, and I felt a flood into my underpants.

I just jumped up, said, “Oh my God,” and ran from the room. I heard someone sigh behind me, as if I had greatly inconvenienced them, and once again, I felt embarrassed. The women’s restroom was next door. I went in there. It was empty, the tile white, the mirrors everywhere. I went into a stall. I pulled down my underpants and sat down. I hurt. My back hurt. My pelvis hurt. And something passed through me. Something big, like a softball. I heard the plop as it hit the water in the bowl.

I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t look. If I looked, my life was going to end. I stopped thinking. I flushed the toilet without looking behind me. I pulled up my pants. Calm overtook me; Eirene, or perhaps it was Morpheus, laid their hands on me, and I became a sleepwalker. But I was a sleepwalker in the midst of a troubling dream; still, the blank was winning.

I washed my hands. I could feel fluid pouring down onto my legs. I didn’t want to look. I knew that my dress was going to be covered soon. I didn’t want to look. I grabbed my briefcase and walked down a long staircase, into the conference organizers’ room. I walked up to the first person I saw behind a table. “Excuse me,” I said. “I seem to be hemorrhaging. I think I need some help.”

I had to repeat myself. I don’t think she believed me the first time. Someone helped me over to a couch. I lay down. I began to cry. Now that I was not alone, I could allow myself a moment to fall apart. Even still, they were not the great wails of the banshee; my sobs were quiet, reserved, controlled. Tears dripped into my hair, as my uterus emptied out onto my legs. Someone stroked my hair, shushed me. I told them I thought I was bleeding all over the couch. “Do you want me to look?” she said. I nodded. She looked. “It doesn’t look like blood,” she said.

The EMTs arrived. It was the same EMTs from the morning. “Oh God,” I cried to the young one. “I think I lost my baby.”

“Where were you?” he asked.

“In the bathroom. Oh God, I think I flushed my baby down the toilet.” I began to sob. How could someone flush her baby down a toilet? My stomach scrambled; it reminded me of the clatter of a dog’s paws on a wooden floor when the dog is panicked. Panic fought with the need for distance, and the wave of anxiety passed.

He started an IV. I was out of it, alone in a world of pain where my pelvis ached and my brain was actively closing off anything that looked like knowledge of loss. His partner came over, whispered something in his ear.

Again, they loaded me on the gurney. This time, the lights were flashing. I was in shock. I needed attention. We arrived at the ER. The same nurse. She came to me, and I remember saying to her “The baby’s gone.” And she stroked my hair, gave me a hug. I looked up, and the same ER doctor from just a few hours ago was there, too.

Someone from the conference, I never knew her name, had ridden with me in the ambulance. She kept holding my hand. I needed someone to call my husband. He was at work in Syracuse. He needed to know what I had done. I had killed my baby. I knew that. Even as I was transferred from the gurney to an ER cot, that thought imprinted itself on my brain. I had killed my baby. And now I had to pay a price.  Someone in the ER called him. They told me that he had said he would be on the next flight he could get out on. I held onto the hand of a woman I didn’t know.

No one had confirmed that I had lost the baby at this point. I was being treated, but no one had yet told me that the baby was gone. I had somehow convinced myself in the ambulance that the baby was still there, inside of me. At the same time that I was beating myself up for killing my baby, I still thought that perhaps, as it had been earlier in the day, this was simply a false alarm. A second heartbeat still throbbed within me.

The ER doctor came in. “We have the fetus.” he said.

“I don’t understand,” I said. It turned out that the second EMT had retrieved the fetus from the toilet. I had not flushed it down. Even now, my mind cannot go where this image leads.

I remember when I was a child, our dog had puppies. When the first puppy came, the dog was so startled that she ran away from what had dropped out of her body. I had had the same reaction. Pure instinct. To move away from it. To not see it.

The ER doctor told me I was going to be okay. “My wife lost our baby six weeks ago,” he said. “I know this is hard, but you’ll get through this. I promise.”

A second OB-GYN resident came in. The first one, the one who had promised me my baby would live, obviously didn’t want to face me. It was okay. I forgave him. He had tried to make me feel better. It was a lesson in being a doctor. Don’t promise the things you have no control over. I even said that to the new doctor who was examining me. “Tell him this wasn’t his fault,” I said, or something similar. I absolved him of blame. I knew who had really killed her baby.

“I need to do an ultrasound,” he said. “I’m going to turn the machine away from you, so you don’t see the screen. I know you saw a baby there this morning. I don’t want you to see the empty uterus.”

I was so grateful. Such a kindness. I don’t think I could have borne looking where just a few hours ago, a fetus had lived. As it turned out, there was a mess in there. I needed an emergency D&C. I was given an anesthetic, and something to calm me. But as the doctor placed the speculum inside of me, I began to shake, grow cold. “I’m scared,” I said. The nurse squeezed my hand, and more medicine was added to the drip. I zoned out. I was there but not there. I felt the instruments. I knew what was happening. But I was somewhere else. Something inside of me shut off. Completely.

Without the follow-up care I received at the hospital, I would have died of a massive infection. If I thought that what I had done might be perceived as a crime, would I have gone to the hospital when the pain began? When the fever started? Or would I die, as so many millions of women have died, for lack of concern about women in this world.

Jesus. I want to weep.

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  • gale-routh

    fetus (NOT A BABY, THEY ARE BORN…GOOGLE THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT CHART) is a parasite because the classification of the biological relationship that is based on the behavior of one organism (the fetus) and how it relates to the woman’s body:

    as a zygote, it invaded the woman’s uterus using its Trophoblast cells and hijacked her immune system by using Neurokinin B—so her body won’t KILL it, and stole her nutrients to survive and causes her harm or potential DEATH!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophoblast
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune_tolerance_in_pregnancy

    “it is also possible for a symbiotic relationship to exist between two organisms of the same species.”
    http://www.answers.com/topic/symbiosis ––Gale’s Science of Everyday Things:
    Symbiosis

    “an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it”
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/parasite

    if a man can kill his tapeworm at anytime, so should a woman abort her unwanted human parasitic fetus at anytime, too.

  • gale-routh

    ABORTION IS A CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT SUPPORTED BY THE RIGHTS TO PRIVACY, THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE OF 14TH AMENDMENT, AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT.

    no human has a right to life or any due process rights by the 14th amendment to use another human’s body or body parts AGAINST their will, civil and constitutional rights: that’s why you are not force to donate your kidney—the human fetus is no exception; this is protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Protection_Clause

    consensual sex =/= a legal, binding contract for an unwanted fetus to live.

    ALL THE REPUBLICANS ARE PRO-LIFE, SCHIZOPHRENIC FASCISTS WHOSE SUPPORTS REPRODUCTIVE SLAVERY OF AMERICAN FEMALE CITIZENS, WHICH IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY THE 13TH AMENDMENT.

     

    if a man can kill his tapeworm at anytime, so should a woman abort her unwanted human parasitic fetus at anytime, too.

  • kate-in-mississippi

    Lorraine,

    Thank you for sharing your heart wrenching story.  It is such stories that help me remember why I’m fighting so hard against 26.

     

  • crowepps

    I am so sorry this happened to you.  Thank you so much for sharing your experience.   This is traumatic and an indelible memory for the many women  to whom it has happened.  I had a miscarriage over 30 years ago a few weeks after a non-injury car accident and to this day, if I dwell on the details, I tear up.  My doctor at the time assured me that the car accident did not cause the miscarriage but I never believed him.  If that happened in Mississippi, there could have been an investigation at a time when I was bereft and ill, feeling guilty and trying to act normal so my 9 year-old son wouldn’t be alarmed by my sadness.  I honestly don’t think I could have stood the additional stress.

  • sympathetic-reader

    I’m sorry to read about your heartbreaking experience.  More of us moms have flushed fetuses down the toilet than most people may think, in the middle of a traumatic miscarriage.  I hope you are able to heal and forgive yourself.  As a mother of three great kids, with a couple of miscarriages under my belt as well, I cannot even imagine the cruelty and idiocy of trying to criminally regulate what goes on in the middle of a miscarriage.  It’s a horrible enough experience without having some crazy law interfering.  Get some common sense and decency, Mississippi!  Thanks for sharing your personal pain in an effort to stop the insanity.

  • lizardrebel

    You were shown such compasion; I only wish others could show all Mississippi women the same.

  • stacey-spiehler

    This is heartbreaking to read.  I’m especially conscious of the part where you had to walk through a room knowing that your uterus was emptying – I’ve had to do that too.  As a Mississippi resident who has had 3 pregnancies go horribly awry, I am TERRIFIED of 26.  But I’m fighting it body mind and soul. 

     

    Many, many hugs to you for having to live this, and having to relive it as my state seeks to drastically change how women in our position are treated. 

  • ahunt

    It has been 25 years…and time has not healed all wounds. Thank you.

     

     

  • purplemistydez

    Not sure what to say.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  Your story goes straight to the heart.  If only anti-choicers could know that these laws would have only made your situation even more worse than it was.

  • wendy-banks

    I’m really sorry that happened to you :(

  • lifeisbeautiful88

    Personhood will not make having a miscarriage a crime any more than before Roe v. Wade.

     

  • lifeisbeautiful88

    Gale,

    I’ll keep your comments in mind the next time I go to a “Parasite Shower” and shop for that special “parasite gift”.

  • lifeisbeautiful88

    It is simply bringing the constitution in line with what science already recognizes: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic

     

    “The only times we even question whether human beings are persons (or “truly” human) are during exploitation and injustice. During the Holocaust, in support of slavery, and to spread eugenics, for example, we have questioned whether the people exploited or abused are really, truly human. To me, that’s powerful.”http://liveaction.org/blog/is-it-a-person/

     

    AIN’T I A WOMAN? This is what Sojourner Truth asked when she gave her famous speech about the rights of black women.

     

    WELL, AIN’T I A PERSON?

     

    Ryan Bomberger answers this question in this beautiful music video written by a man who was conceived by an act of rape:
    http://www.theradiancefoundation.org/portfolio-item/unwanted-a-story-about-choice/

     

    How fortunate his mother recognized his “personhood”!

     

  • jennifer-starr

    Not true.  If a fertilized egg  is legally considered a person than that death must be investigated and  reported, just like any born person who dies. It’s not actually the first time the pro-life movement has tried to pull  this stunt.  Congressman Randy Forbes in Virginia tried to pass a law saying that if you didn’t report a miscarriage to the authorities within 24 hours you would be guilty of a felony. 

  • jennifer-starr

    Not true.  If a fertilized egg  is legally considered a person than that death must be investigated and  reported, just like any born person who dies. It’s not actually the first time the pro-life movement has tried to pull  this stunt.  Congressman Randy Forbes in Virginia tried to pass a law saying that if you didn’t report a miscarriage to the authorities within 24 hours you would be guilty of a felony. 

  • goatini

    A bridal shower is given for a woman who is not yet a bride.

     

    A baby shower is given for a embryo/fetus that is not yet a living, breathing person.

     

    Both events are given in anticipation of a future event.

     

    And you are a vicious forced-birther trying to make your idiotic superstitions into laws that HURT LIVING, BREATHING WOMEN.

  • goatini
  • goatini

    YOU MAKE ME SICK.  My father lived through that for me to live in FREEDOM – you make a mockery of his life and his torture by using his suffering to try to force free, autonomous female US citizens to go back to being chattel property for breeding purposes.  My father wanted MORE for me and his other daughters than to have us live in a theocracy as livestock, like YOU want for us.

     

    Posting that Liarla Rose lying garbage that is meant to HURT LIVING, BREATHING WOMEN.

     

    Insulting the memory of the brave Sojourner Truth, a LIVING, BREATHING WOMAN, and diminishing her life and her contributions to free, autonomous female US citizens – comparing her glorious living breathing being to a single-celled organism.  

     

    You are really a vile individual, along with all the rest of your aiders and abetters.  All of the glorious beauty of free, autonomous, living, breathing female US citizens – to you and your cabal they are NOTHING compared to a single-celled organism.  Female US citizens tripped of their human, civil and Constitutional rights – to you and your cabal they deserve NOTHING except to be livestock. 

     

    LIFE AS CHATTEL PROPERTY AND LIVESTOCK IS NOT “BEAUTIFUL” – IT IS SLAVERY.

  • colleen

    Last time I checked, Lila Rose, (who is getting a bit long in the tooth) has not gestated any children. I find it odd that women who are so ‘pro-life’ they make their living advocating for a world where other women are forced to breed or die, have so few children themselves. We should call this the Ann Coulter syndrome.

  • lifeisbeautiful88

    Just as all parents with children who die of SIDS are not investigated without probable cause, the same would be true here.  

     

    Maybe you can explain why even though the eagle is no longer an endangered species, its eggs are still federally protected while they’re still in the mother eagle; once they are laid; through the 35-day incubation period and beyond through hatching. In fact, even the nonliving eagle egg shell is protected by the federal law. We’re talking a $100,000 fine! Shouldn’t a human baby have at least the same protection under the law?

  • forced-birth-rape

    Quotes from pro-forced birthers.

     

     

    “Anders Behring Breivik christian terrorist, pro-forced-birther.

    What he thinks about womens rights, women need to breed, breed, breed.

    He has the same ideas for women as republicans, conservatives, and pro-lifers.

     

    1. Limit the distribution of birth-control pills (contraceptive pills): Discourage the use of and prevent liberal distribution of contraceptive pills or equivalent prevention methods. The goal should be to make it considerably more difficult to obtain. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points but would degrade women’s rights.

    2. Reform sex education: Reform the current sex education in our school institutions. This may involve limiting it or at least delaying sex education to a later age and discourage casual sex. Sex should only be encouraged within the boundaries of marriage. This alone should increase the fertility rate by 0,1 points.

    3. Making abortion illegal: A re-introduction of the ban on abortion should result in an increased fertility rate of approximately 0,1-0,2 points but would strip women of basic rights.

    4. Women and education: Discourage women in general to strive for full time careers. This will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate by up to 0,1-0,2 points.

    Women should not be encouraged by society/media to take anything above a bachelor’s degree but should not be prevented from taking a master or PhD. Males on the other hand should obviously continue to be encouraged to take higher education – bachelor, master and PhD.”

     

    Self-Described ‘Christian Counterpart To Osama Bin Laden’ Arrested In Plot To Bomb Abortion Clinic

    Justin Carl Moose describe “himself” as the Christian counterpart to Osama bin Laden. Moose wrote: “I have learned a lot from the muslim terrorists and have no problem using their tactics.” ”

     

     

     

    “St. Augustine said, “Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.”

     

     

    ”Martin Luther wrote: “God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all. Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear children. And if a woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing; she is there to do it.”

     

     

     

     

    Pro-lifers favorite piece of literature of all time.

     

    Genesis 3:16

    “I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children. Yet your desire and cravings will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

     

     

     

    ”Church excommunicates mother of 9-year-old rape victim – but not accused rapist.”

     A senior Vatican cleric has defended the Catholic Church’s decision to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old rape victim who had a life-saving abortion in Brazil.”

    “Police believe the girl was sexually assaulted for years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six. That she was four months pregnant with twins emerged only after she was taken to hospital complaining of severe stomach pains.”

     

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/church-excommunicates-mother-of-9yearold-rape-victim-ndash-but-not-accused-rapist-14218389.html

  • jennifer-starr

    Lifeisbeautiful, I’ve already explained that to you. It’s a bad analogy and not the ‘gotcha’ question that you think it is.  If the mother eagle harmed or destroyed her own eggs, no one would fine or prosecute her. 

  • crowepps

    Just as all parents with children who die of SIDS are not investigated without probable cause, the same would be true here.

    Well, yeah, but you see, that’s part of the problem.  The nice middle class White lady who has the Pastor’s wife over for tea and gets all tearful about her ‘tragic miscarriage’ may have made a quick trip over the State line to have an abortion but she isn’t going to be bothered at all.  The poor single girl who’s still living with her Mom, the married woman with three kids exhausted from working as a waitress, since they don’t have social protection or money, they will be prosecuted, especially if they’re Black.

     

    By the way, those baby eagles?  Most common cause of death is one of their siblings shoving them out of the nest.  Nature is cruel.