By Allyson Budassi
Discussions about a Supreme Court ruling this summer that could remove a woman’s right to choose takes me back to a time in my life when I was forced to make the hardest decision of my life.
I made my choice eight years ago and I stand by it.
Before that day arrived, my husband and I spoke often about starting a family. We had a home and a dog and were ready for that next step. I got pregnant in 2013 and we were so excited that we couldn’t wait to tell our family and friends.
Seven weeks into the pregnancy, we were told there was no heartbeat. The doctor provided options: I could miscarry in the comfort of my home or I could go to the hospital for a dilation and curettage (D&C). I chose the latter as I could not bear dragging out the inevitable. A few days later, I was at the hospital and before I knew it, the procedure was over and I was back home.
We were devastated but my husband was that steady rock I so desperately needed. After a few weeks, I met with the doctor again for a post-op appointment. She encouraged us to try again and with that green light, we were ready.
I was quick to get pregnant, right before the holidays. What a gift! We became superstitious and only allowed our parents to know. We decided to wait to officially announce until after the first trimester. As weeks went by, each doctor’s appointment brought good news. The baby’s heartbeat was loud and clear. There is nothing like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
When the first trimester came to an end, we were thrilled to announce to all our friends and family that we were expecting again. We were planning, we were dreaming, and there were only blue skies ahead. Little did we know the storm that was coming our way.
At the beginning of February 2014, I was 13 1/2 weeks pregnant. I had a doctor’s appointment after work to have a standard ultrasound. I expected this to be a somewhat quick appointment and told my husband not to bother coming. Instead, I asked him to grab dinner for us.
As the nurse started the ultrasound, I saw our little one. I was already in love, but my first thought was that I wasn’t fully sure what I was looking at. I turned to the nurse thinking she would explain what she was seeing, but I was only met with silence. While laying there alone, I had this gut feeling something was very wrong. The nurse asked me to return first thing in the morning for a follow-up visit. I repeatedly asked if everything was O.K. and she said I would need to speak with the doctor. I begged her not to let me leave without telling me something. The nurse finally just said that the baby did not look right.
The next morning, my husband and I quickly got ready and returned to the doctor’s office. He provided another ultrasound, and we were met with more silence. The nurse escorted us to a small room, and right then I knew the worst was coming.
Our baby had Trisomy 18, which means there was an extra chromosome that causes birth defects such as an abnormally shaped head, organs that could appear outside of the body and low birth weight, to name a few. The baby also had Acrania, or the absence of the skull. If I carried the baby to full term, the likelihood that he or she would live past the first 24 hours was slim, the doctor told us.
I asked if he thought it would be best to terminate the pregnancy. He simply replied “yes.”
We did not think twice about ending the pregnancy. We both felt it would have been unfair to the baby, knowing what lay ahead, and it would have been unfair to me to go through any more physical and mental anguish.
One week later, I went in for a dilation and evacuation (D&E). I cried for days after, and for many weeks my husband and I shut down socially. He was my steady rock again, but I know he struggled in private to be strong for me because I had a very hard time coping. I didn’t want to see anyone or be around anyone’s kids, including my own nephews. It took a while, but each day got a little easier.
To this day, I have no regrets about the choice I made. That choice was to protect me and my baby. It was not easy, but it was right for me. Today, my husband and I are the proud parents of two rambunctious boys, with one more miscarriage in between them.
I think about what we went through often, and I light a candle every October in remembrance of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Recently, I have thought more about what we went through after a U.S. Supreme Court justice’s draft decision overturning Roe v Wade was leaked to the press last month. Living in New Jersey, women will still have a choice, even if the right to an abortion is tossed out. But there are many other states where women won’t be as lucky. Hundreds of thousands of women who are pregnant now will be affected.
My doctor gave his advice when I asked for it. These women may get the same advice, but they will not be given the same opportunity to make their own decision. This could potentially lead women to go to other states to get their pregnancy terminated.
Others may not be able to afford to travel and may be forced to go full term. What will happen to them? This will likely cause more mental health issues in women and could potentially increase the maternal mortality rate due to pregnancy-related causes. Every woman should have the right to choose what is best for her baby and her body.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what we have lost, but I am also very aware and thankful for all that we have gained. I made my choice and I stand by it.
Allyson Budassi lives in Mt. Laurel and works as a client services coordinator for a home care agency.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Here’s how to submit an op-ed or Letter to the Editor. Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow us on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and on Facebook at NJ.com Opinion. Get the latest news updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com’s newsletters.