Friday, June 24, 2011

Pregnancy (and Rights) Lost. My Experience with Miscarriage, Planned Parenthood and the Government.

As some of you may already know, I lost my first pregnancy.  They say you should never get too excited during the first trimester and you shouldn't announce your pregnancy to anyone because so many things can go wrong, but that's just not how it works.  Not for me anyway.

 

My hormones were raging, I was endlessly tired and hungry, my boobs got huge and hurt, and I was nauseated.  Basically, I tested positive, I felt pregnant and I was pregnant.  I dreamt baby, I thought baby, I wondered and worried about the future, and I was basically obsessed whether I wanted to be or not.  Never mind the fact that I'm an extrovert and could never keep something like this secret anyway.

 

Anyway, at eight weeks, Santiago and I went to my OBGYN's office for my first ultrasound.  They say you will see something (I assumed a blob of some sort) and you'll be able to hear the heartbeat.  How can you not get excited about that?!

 

As the ultrasound began, we watched the screen anxiously.  The woman doing the ultrasound told us she'd look around, take some measurements and then explain to us what we were seeing.  She kept coming back to this dark blob, measuring it, then moving around again.  After a few moments, she said, "Well, I'm afraid I don't have good news."

 

I was diagnosed with a blighted ovum.  Basically, fertilization and implantation had occurred (thus triggering hormones and all the pregnancy symptoms), and the gestational sac had been growing, but there was no embryo growing inside.  I can't say I was devastated because I knew this was a possibility, especially with my age, but I was more upset than I imagined I would be.  We consulted with the doctor, they did some blood work and we left the office feeling a little bit shocked and ripped off. 

 

A week later, I was feeling much better about everything, but there was no sign of the inevitable miscarriage.  Since I'm almost 38 years old and because I'm generally impatient, I decided to wait no longer for the miscarriage to happen naturally.

 

My doctor had two options for me.  First, she could prescribe me a cream to try and bring on the miscarriage.  It has a 75% success rate, but is quite messy, painful, could last a week or more and you may have to use two doses.  Second, I could have a D&C procedure at an out-patient surgical center.  Santiago and I decided we'd rather have this taken care of sooner rather than later, and with as little discomfort as possible, so I called my health insurance company to find out if the D&C would be covered.

 

The insurance company told me the D&C would be covered, but only after I met my $3000 deductible.  Then they'd cover 80% of everything after that, and that's assuming all providers involved are in-network.  I know from experience that they'd find plenty of out-of-network expenses, so I'm certain to be out more than the $3000 deductible.  I also learned a D&C runs about $5000.

 

Not wanting to wreck our savings account over a failed pregnancy, I wondered what the difference was between an abortion at Planned Parenthood (PP) and the D&C procedure.  After calling PP, I learned, not much.

 

I told my OBGYN of my plans to use PP, she had no problem with it, and in fact, was all for me saving the money since the procedures essentially provide you with the same end result and have equal risks.  I called PP to make the appointment.

 

Despite having already had two ultrasounds in two weeks and all the appropriate blood work, PP was required to do both by law and could not accept a transfer of my OBGYN's records.  That got me thinking, the government has been involved in my choices from the beginning of this mess!

 

If the government weren't regulating the health care and health insurance industries, not only would my monthly premiums be less, but I wouldn't have to opt for such a high deducible.  Furthermore, my health providers wouldn't have to charge so much for their services and my health insurance company would likely cover more procedures.  I'd likely be able to afford the D&C my doctor wanted to do in the first place.

 

Now I find myself going to PP for an abortion procedure which is subsidized by the government with our tax dollars, plus I'm being forced to pay for yet another ultrasound and blood test because of stupid laws!  If the damn government would've just stayed out of it, I could've made the choice that was best for me and paid for it all myself!

 

I was also a bit worried about subjecting myself to the protesters at PP.  They're horrible people with horrible beliefs and they literally want to violate my individual rights and tell me how to live.  I was told the protesters are there from about 9:30am - 1:30pm every day and that PP's policy was to not engage them.  That'd be hard for a loud-mouth like me not to do!  (I later learned from PP staff that the protesters are paid by various anti-abortion groups and churches.  Ugh!)

 

When I was a conservative (yet not very religious) Republican, I was pro-choice, but I thought using abortion as a birth control method was immoral and irresponsible.  After reading my friends' awesome paper about the Personhood Amendment being proposed in Colorado a few years ago, all of that changed.  Here is a link to that awesome paper and I highly recommend everyone, on both sides of the issue, read it.  It's very informative and covers many aspects of the abortion debate.  I'm so thankful to Diana and Ari for writing this paper and opening my eyes.  Particular the section called The Morality of Abortion.  It's powerful stuff!

 

We arrived a little early for my appointment and were very pleased to find NO protesters!  Yea!!!  The facility was very nice and appeared relatively new.  There was lots of thoughtful landscaping such as trees lining the fence to provide privacy and flowers.  Inside, the front desk was staffed with armed security personnel who buzzed us in.  As we entered, I noticed the following awesome quote painted above the entry way:

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead

 

The receptionist was behind bullet-proof glass, we signed in, she confirmed we had an appointment, then she buzzed us into the main clinic waiting room.  There was only one other couple there with us so far, but as we waited for about 15 minutes or so, several others arrived. 

 

The demographics were interesting to me.  Some people looked clearly impoverished, but most looked like those of middle-class means.  I couldn't help but wonder why they were there.  Were they being tested for STDs perhaps?  Maybe some of the men were getting their HPV vaccines?  Perhaps some women were there with wanted, yet nonviable pregnancies like me?  Perhaps others were desperate to get rid of their viable pregnancies?  Who knows?  PP sees many people for a variety of reasons, which is yet another reason the protesters are so ignorant, foolish, cruel and evil.

 

Once my name was called, I said goodbye to Santiago who had waited with me, but was not allowed into the rest of the facility.  I would have plenty of time to call him from recovery when it was time to come pick me up.

 

(As an aside, when Santiago left the clinic, he saw the small group of pitiful protesters.  He said they'd taken baby dolls, dismembered them and strewn their body parts about the sidewalk.  Then they had their standard issue gross signs and were chanting and yelling stupid slogans that were, of course, totally inappropriate.)

 

Back inside, a nurse took me into the ultrasound room where she again apologized for making me have another ultrasound.  I told her it was no problem, not her fault and I understood she was just abiding by some really stupid laws.  She said she had to ask me, if she saw evidence of twins, would I like to know.  I told her, "If you see anything alive in there, please let me know right away and I am so out of here!"  We both laughed and she proceeded with the ultrasound which, for the third time, confirmed my blighted ovum.

 

I was then taken to a smaller waiting room in the back of the facility.  Through the windows, I could see the beautiful, warm, sunny day.  The breeze was blowing all the lovely trees along the fence and a nice patio area had been set up with tables, chairs and umbrellas.  I could see no way to access it from where I was, so I just waited inside and read my book.

 

After another few minutes, a nurse came out and took me in for a consultation.  She apologized, but said she was required by law to ask me a lot of questions that she realized did not pertain to my situation.  I was asked whether or not I needed birth control education, birth control, STD education, STD tests and a bunch of other silly, irrelevant stuff.  I then filled out some forms, consented to the procedure and the nurse told me about all the details and the risks.  She was very nice, informative and professional, as everyone else had been.

 

We also talked about pain medication.  I could opt for nothing, which would mean the procedure would feel like anything from mild to very strong, awful menstrual cramps (no thanks!), or I could opt for IV or pill pain medication.  Since I hate needles and am pretty tough, I opted for the pills.

 

After the consultation, we went to the lab where she took my blood for the unnecessary-but-required-by-law-at-my-own-expense Rh Factor and anemia tests which I'd already had at my OBGYN's office.  As we already  knew, I was Rh positive and my iron levels were awesome (thanks to the paleo diet!)

 

I was then taken to the payment desk where I paid $425 for the entire appointment, then I was sent back to the smaller waiting room again.  I sat there for a long time. 

 

About an hour and a half later (perhaps a legally required wait time, I'm not sure??), a nurse arrived with a cup of water and a cup of four pills.  There were two valiums and two pain pills.  She said she had to watch me take them, which I did, and said she'd be back in about 20-30 minutes.  After about 15-20 minutes, my crossword puzzle started getting very difficult to focus on and within another minute or so, the nurse arrived to take me back for the procedure.

 

Feeling pretty loopy and dizzy, I disrobed from the waist down and sat on the bed with a blanket.  The doctor came in, introduced himself and started the procedure.  The whole time, the nurse kept making small talk with me about whether or not we planned to try again, where I got my hair cut and who knows what else? 

 

The procedure felt weird, but not too bad.  It felt like moderate menstrual cramping.  After only 5-10 minutes, the doctor announced, "You're all set!" and told me to follow the discharge instructions, take it easy and on his way out the door, wished me luck.  And that was it.  The nurse helped me off the table and I dressed. 

 

I was then led to the recovery area which consisted of some reclining chairs, heating pads and blood pressure monitoring equipment.  Since I was having some pretty good, but very manageable cramps, I put the heating pad on my abdomen and tried to relax and breathe slowly.  (Thanks yoga classes!)  The nurse checked my blood pressure, which was excellent and said it was okay for me to call Santiago. 

 

After about 20 minutes or maybe a bit more, she had me go to the bathroom to check my pad.  I was bleeding, but not an alarming amount and I was definitely on the lighter side of what the chart in the bathroom indicated were my choices.  After about another 15-20 minutes, the nurse again checked my blood pressure, then said I was okay to go.

 

She escorted me out to a very small waiting room, opened another door and called for Santiago.  He was next to me before I had time to turn around and I don't think I've ever loved him more than I did in that moment. 

 

Not only do I have a deeper connection with him than I've ever had with any other human being, but in that moment, there was just no doubt whatsoever about how we feel for each other or that our decision to have a child together is the right choice.  As difficult as this situation has been, he's been there for me every step of the way, making me laugh when I needed to laugh, allowing me to cry when I needed to cry and constantly providing me with love and hope.

 

And he had brought the apple I'd asked for.  I was hawngry! =)

 

We left through a discreet side door that went straight out to the parking lot.  My cramping was feeling much, much better already and although still loopy and a little dizzy, the drugs were starting to wear off.  I called my mom to let her know that everything went fine and I was heading home, as I'd promised.  I ate my apple as Santiago drove us home. 

 

I felt really good!  I felt happy and ready to start anew.  I also felt really thankful that PP exists and that there are people in this world who are rational and intelligent and willing to do the right thing even when it's not the popular thing to do.  Planned Parenthood is definitely PRO-LIFE!!!

 

That being said, it is important to note that I don't think PP should be government-funded or regulated.  I'm a capitalist and I know people will voluntarily pay for things that are of value to them.  I certainly would've paid PP more for the services I received, and I will also voluntarily donate money to their cause on a regular basis now.  (Of course, it would be nice if the government allowed me to keep more of my income to spend or donate as I see fit.)

 

Two days later, I'm back at work, I'm feeling really good, really strong and really hopeful.  I'm ready to get back on the bull that threw me and take life by the horns.  If this experience has reminded me of anything, it's that I'm tough and I can overcome adversity.  I'm confident, rational, intelligent, principled and not bad looking either. 

 

And you know what?  I think I'll make a great mom. ;-)

14 comments:

jenns27 said...

Kelly you are such an amazing person! I wish I had half the strength you have! I totally agree with everything that you said! PP is a great resource to have and we are very lucky to have places like that! My doctor's office is not government based as far as I know! I make donations almost every time I am there! Hang in there and I know that when the time comes you will be great parents!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

David Buchner said...

Wow.

Scott Connery said...

What a tough process to go through. It would be bad enough without the government meddling.

Chelsea Leis said...

Your strong character is very admirable. A true test of character is the ability to face all the challenges and problems that life has to bring, and at the same time, the willingness and readiness to face more of the same. You are right: you will make an excellent mom someday.

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela said...

Thank you for the kind comments, everyone! =)

pregnancy after miscarriage said...

Developing an underactive thyroid during pregnancy is a major concern for aspiring mothers. Learn how to catch the symptoms early on so you can have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela said...

I have a friend with hypothyroidism and have heard all of her stories about struggling with treatment, so I know what you mean!

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl in June and we're all doing great! =)

preeti said...

thank you for sharing this.pregnancy is the one of the best part in every woman's life.but in between miscarriage within 6 weeks or later is happens only if the woman should not prepare to cure herself.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is absolutely an amazing story. What happened to you could be an exact story of what is happening to me now. I am so sorry for your loss.

My 8 week ultrasound revealed a 6 week embryo with no heartbeat. I was/am devastated.

My insurance does not cover a d&c, so I'd have to meet my $2,400 deductible, and then they cover 80% after that - similar to your situation. My husband and I can't afford that right now. It's just not an option.

I've already waited almost 2 weeks, with no cramping or bleeding. I'm afraid to wait much longer.

It's disgusting they can charge that much. I understand medical costs can be expensive, but that seems so high to me for such a short procedure.

I'm calling my local Planned Parenthood tomorrow. I am hoping some small comfort (saving thousands) can come about during this difficult time.

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela said...

Hi, Anon! I do recommend this over a D&C (which is essentially the same thing, but more expensive.) Be sure to give your insurance card to PP though. They didn't ask for mine, and come to find out, Anthem would've covered at least part of it, but not after the fact. At least it went toward my deductible that year, which was good since I did get pregnant again three months later. It's a rough time, and frustrating, but hang in there! Miscarriages are very common. In fact, my OBGYN had one in between each of her three children! Yikes! Stay strong!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story.
I was in the same circumstance to you.
I'm new to the US and really discouraged by the American health insurance system.
I read all articles and scholarly treatises about management for missed-miscarriage, and started to doubt my OBGYN.
I was scared, confused, desperate, and feeling to be fooled by the medical salesman(my doctor.)
My husband found your blog article and sent me to read. and I felt this is it.
Yesterday I had my surgery(vacuum aspiration) at a local PP clinic. It was a wonderful experience.
All the staff ladies were kind and helpful, treated me in a respectful manner.
The clinicians encouraged me to have next pregnancy, that stilled my sadness of losing a baby.
I chose an IV sedation. and thanks to it I don't remember the nightmare moment at all.
now I'm feeling good. feeling positive about the future.
Thank you again for sharing your experience with us!

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela said...

I'm so glad you're feeling more positive. Getting the miscarriage behind me made me feel much better too! Hang in there!

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