Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Discussing Abortion

I read an article today about a woman's experience of getting pregnant unexpectedly (while using an IUD), and her decision to have an abortion to terminate her pregnancy.

Abortion is typically talked about in the terms 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice,' and we forget about the stories of women, those who decide to go through with the pregnancy, and those that don't. I've never personally heard anyone talk about an abortion that they, or even a friend, went through, and I appreciated this personal account.

Like many women, I'm pro-choice (and support Planned Parenthood), but I would have a difficult time going through with an abortion myself. At this point that's probably because I'm pretty okay with having another baby (though don't want one right now), and know that I would get a tubal immediately after the birth.

But there was a time, when I was pregnant with Felicity and was suffering from PUPPPs (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy, fun name, right?), that Ian and I talked about it. I'm not sure if I wrote much about this experience, so I'll do it now:

When I was three months pregnant, my body broke out in an unbelievably itchy, awful rash, that supposedly occurs in about about 0.05% of pregnancies (1 in 200). It's also supposed to only be bad for about a week (not true), occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy (SO NOT TRUE), and will persist until after the birth of your child (this is true).

The itching is akin to nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm a Minnesota girl that has had her fair share of misquito bites and was susceptible to impetigo as child. The itching of PUPPPs drives you insane. You can't do anything - you can't concentrate, can't complete your sentences, and can't sleep. I went the emergency room at one point because the itching was so awful, we didn't know what else to do. I was put on oral steroids, a dermatology student with poor stitching skills gave me a skin biopsy in my hip, which will forever have a crazy scar, and then I was put on topical steroids. I had to take benedryl to try to sleep at all. When I was able to sleep, I'd wake up repeatedly in the night, having scratched myself to bleeding on my arms, legs, belly, and hips.

We tried all sorts of things. We heard that something called Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap helped, so I started using that (it smells like a wood fire with a hint of... tar). I was taking cool oatmeal baths several times a day, taking cold showers several times in the night when the itching got bad, slathering on pure aloe vera (which smells exactly like a hardware store), and doing a lot of crying.

So we talked about terminating, because both Ian and I felt that I would not physically be able to handle the insane itching for six months (or more, if it continued into nursing, as it does in rare cases). At this point, both Ian and I were barely sleeping, and I had to basically be drugged every night (it got much worse at night), and he would have to hold me, spooning me tightly, while watching the trashiest TV possible we could find online.

Then I found something online called nettle leaf tea, something pregnant women have been drinking for centuries to help with allergies and itching during pregnancy. I was strongly urged by the University of Michigan medical staff not to drink it (not tested by the FDA, anything could happen, they apparently would prefer it if I was taking category-C drugs instead during two-thirds of the pregnancy). I didn't listen. And I'm glad.

I started drinking this grassy-tasting tea 3+ times a day. Within several days the itching had improved, and within a week that actual rash itself was almost gone. I still had flare ups when the weather was hot and humid, and admittedly spent many nights in the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy splayed naked on my bed with a giant fan blowing cold air on my giant belly, slathered in cooling aloe vera, but this amazing tea eliminated about 95% of my symptoms and made pregnancy doable for me.

I'm glad that we didn't have to talk very long about whether or not to keep our baby - she was wanted, and now that we have her, we're so glad we do. But I also don't know if I could have possibly gone through an entire 6+ months of that insane, awful itching - a couple of weeks of it felt suffocating and infuriating, unbearable. I would not have been able to do my graduate work, excel at my job (earn money), interact with Ian in a loving manner, and focus on doing what I needed to do to grow a healthy baby.