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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Due on Thanksgiving

Being due on Thanksgiving scares me a little. I was due on Christmas with Jenna and look what happened. I'm so afraid of another holiday being ruined for me.

Christmas will never be the same now that Jenna is gone. I know I will always feel at least a little sadness on that day because our second child is not here.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, it probably is my favorite holiday. Even though I'm not religious, I think it's a wonderful idea to be thankful and grateful for all the good things in your life. How am I going to feel if we lose this baby, too?

I'm trying to be optimistic, but it's really hard when you've experienced a loss. Also, I think I know too much now. I keep thinking that I'll be able to stop worrying once we have the CVS done, but I know that isn't quite true. Being a member of deadbabymoma land, I know there is still a chance for uterine rupture, premature rupture of membranes, cord accidents, unexplained fetal demise and premature birth. And, after that, there is always SIDS.

I guess I'm just hoping that come Thanksgiving, I'll have even more to be thankful for this year, and it won't be a ruined holiday for me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Holy Boobies, Batman

It's been a long, long time since I've posted something funny, so I thought it was about time.

This morning, I was feeling kind of yucky (haven't actually thrown up yet, but I've been feeling extremely queasy), and I stayed in my very loose pajamas until almost noon.

When I did get dressed, I looked in the mirror, and oh my goodness, the girls were straining at the seams of my bra. I put my shirt on, one that buttons up the front, and the buttons were gaping. I know for a fact that I didn't get big boobies with Tessa and Jenna until after I gave birth.

I was leaving the house to go to the grocery store, and DH said, "It looks like things are growing around here," and laughed.

When I was at the store, I had to ask where something was, and the man stared at my boobs the entire time. I wanted to tell him that my eyes are up here, but I refrained from it.

I've always been big-busted, but now they're ginormous.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Confirmation appointment today

My appointment was at 1 p.m., today, and we were a little late because we didn't leave early enough and had to do some running around beforehand.

Amy, Dr. McGowen's nurse, took me right back, and we did the pregnancy test in the office. It came up positive right away. They don't routinely do beta tests, so I don't know any numbers or anything.

She gave me my prenatal vitamins, although I've been taking a multi-vitamin and extra folic acid ever since we lost Jenna. She said if the prenatals made me sick, I could just keep on with those like I was doing.

She also recommended I quit taking my Zoloft, but keep taking my Metformin. I'm going to do that. I feel better when I take my Metformin anyway. I wish I could still take my Zoloft, but I'm sure I'll be ok with it for the next few weeks.

She had given me the wrong due date over the telephone. I'm due Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day. I wonder how we do it. Tessa was born on Mother's Day, and Jenna was due on Christmas. Now, we have another holiday baby.

My specialist appointment next week is at 10:30, and we scheduled my first real appointment May 1.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First appointments

I still can't believe I'm a cliche, getting pregnant on a break. We were with Tessa, too, because we got pregnant on vacation. Maybe that's a good sign things will work out this time.

I called Dr. McGowen today and talked to Amy, her nurse. They are the sweetest people ever. She told me she was going to check with Maternal-Fetal Medical Associates (the high risk doctors) to see if they wanted me to come in now or wait until 12 or 13 weeks.

She called me later and said they want to see me sooner rather than later. They told her we have many options this time, and we can do something early. I'm anxious to hear what the options are and what the risks are, but I would like to find out early on if something is wrong. Even though statistics are in our favor, I just don't trust them anymore. They were in our favor last time, too, and we still got a diagnosis of Trisomy 18.

Amy said she was going to try to get both my first appointment with Dr. McGowen and the specialists on the same day, but she couldn't. I go in on Friday for my confirmation appointment with Dr. McGowen and the next Friday to the specialists. I'm a little nervous about that. The last time I was there was the day we found out Jenna had died.

She also told me my due date is Nov. 28 but that is by my last menstrual period, and I don't have a 28-day cycle. I'm going to go with that for now.

I haven't told anyone in real life yet. I'm kind of scared to. I'm definately not telling Tessa for a while longer. I think I might wait until we get some test results. I don't know whether to wait or not.

Finally a test that didn't fade all the way

All of the tests I've taken have faded before I can get a picture of them. I'm a compulsive test taker when I get a positive, so when I took the third one today, I hoped it wouldn't fade like the other two.

It did fade some, but I was able to get an OK shot of it. Here it is, for all prosperity.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So much for taking a break

I thought I was going to start my period yesterday, because I had been having the headaches and cramps. We were also taking a break this cycle from Clomid. I refilled my Clomid and bought some pads.

Well, yesterday came and went with no period. I woke up this morning, a little sick to my stomach. I kept thinking maybe I'm pregnant, but really doubted it because I've never been pregnant without Clomid. I decided to buy a test, knowing it would be negative, just to keep from torturing myself with the what if's.

I bought the test, came home, ate my lunch and then peed on the stick. It was positive. I am in shock. I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around all of it. I called Brian to tell him, and he's in shock, too.

We are very, very happy but scared to death, too. This baby is due Nov. 30.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Grief is such a funny thing. When we found out Jenna was sick and then going through her subsequent death, I was still grieving for my granny. When we got the call from Dr. McGowen about our AFP test results, I think I put that grief on hold through all the testing, the disastrous trip to Atlanta and the waiting. After Jenna was born, I grieved doubly. I wanted my granny to be there for me, to hold me and to tell me everything was going to be all right.

I never realized until I lost my granny that you could miss someone so much. She used to tell me she missed and thought about her momma everyday of her life, and I just didn't understand that. Now, I do. I think about and miss her and Jenna every single day of my life.

I don't cry every day anymore, just every once in a while. It's funny how you feel like you can be doing fine (and honestly, I am) and then bam, something hits you out of the blue. It happened this week for both my granny and Jenna.

The other night, I was watching American Idol and Adam sang a Johnny Cash song. I think it was Simon who said that Cash was rolling over in grave, which made me think of my granny. She was always one of his fans, until he came out with one of his last songs, "Hurt." She absolutely hated that song. It came out right about the time she started losing her voice. She would sing, "Huuuurttt" and draw it out, which was funny because her voice would go out and in in the middle of it. When she was done singing, she would say, "That has to be the stupidest song I've ever heard."

Anyway, I guess you kind of had to be there and know my granny and her sense of humor for it to be funny, but when I thought of it, I laughed, really laughed. But, soon, it lead me to thinking how I'll never get to experience her sense of humor again and was soon crying through my laughter. But, I told someone today about me thinking of it and was able to talk about it without crying.

Last night, I was watching The Locator, and they had a woman on there who had given up her baby for adoption. She said that no one who hasn't given a baby up for adoption knows the kind of hole it leaves in your heart and what it feels like to give birth and then leave the hospital without a baby. I thought, "I do. I know what it's like. I also know about holes in the heart, too. At least, you knew your baby was alive out there, and maybe you'd meet her one day." The hole in her heart could be filled, when she found her baby as an adult.

The hole in my heart will never be filled. There is always going to be a little hole there that is never going to heal. I know the pain won't always be so strong, and it's not even now, not anywhere close to what it was like just a few months ago. But, I also know I'm always going to be missing someone from my family.

I hope no one thinks I'm falling apart, because I'm not. I'm doing very well, but I think those two things just hit me the right way this week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Raising money for Trisomy 18

I have made a pledge on Facebook to raise $500 in one month for Trisomy 18. I don't normally solicit for charities, but you all know this one is near and dear to my heart. They were there for me when we were waiting on the diagnosis and going through it. Even now, if I have a hard time, I can go to the support boards, and all of the people there are wonderful.

I count the founder of the foundation as a friend. If you could give $10 for this organization, I would greatly appreciate it. Here's a link to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trisomy 18 World Awareness Day

Today is Trisomy 18 World Awareness Day. Could you please take a moment and remember Jenna and all the other babies lost to this disorder? Also, think about those babies who are living with it and struggling from the affects.

If you are Facebook, you can join the Trisomy 18 Cause. I know the 5,000th person joined a few days ago. I hope we can double that number. Here's a link to it.

I had been thinking I would have a three month old right now if not for this disorder. I miss her every day and wish she was here with us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I found out yesterday that I have been mislead for the last few months. I was under the impression that Tennessee had an unconstitutional law on its books regarding abortion, namely the one that requires all second trimester abortions be done in a hospital. It was overturned in 2000 and is no longer enforceable.

I found this out after Rep. Armstrong's assistant contacted Planned Parenthood to find out for me. Planned Parenthood said some doctors may not be aware of the change in the law, and I wonder if that's what happened with us. Dr. McGowen is the one who told us about the law, and the fact is, she told us it had been a long time since she had had a patient diagnosed with a fatal prenatal disorder. The last one she had decided to carry to term. I don't blame her for not knowing.

However, when we got back home from Atlanta, I called an abortion clinic in Memphis. She said they only did abortions up to 14 weeks. When I asked why, she mentioned the law and said their doctors and nurses were afraid of being punished for doing so. If it's not against the law, how can the doctors and nurses get in trouble for doing so?

Finding this out has made me madder than ever before. For one, why aren't abortion clinics offering these services if they aren't against the law? Are they allowing the political climate to affect how they treat their patients, even when an abortion is the right health care choice for that woman? Since hospitals are using the political climate as an excuse, this severely limits a woman's health care choices, especially when it comes to a poor prenatal diagnosis.

Hospitals and clinics should do what is right for their patients, regardless of political climate, regardless of its board members' feelings on a procedure. Besides that, why should these board members know intimate details about a patient's health care choices? What happened to the right to privacy guaranteed under Roe vs. Wade? Besides, where does HIPPA come into play?

That reminds me of the doctor I talked to in Knoxville when we came home from Atlanta. They told me that each case has to be taken in front of the hospital's ethics board, which then decided whether or not a woman could terminate their pregnancy. She then said that since I didn't start out as a patient, the hospital probably wouldn't allow it, since it wasn't allowing very many as it was.

Today, I was thinking of a woman, a hypothetical one, in Knoxville, who has received a poor prenatal diagnosis of anacephaly. These babies have no chance of survival. She would have to stand in front of this board and present her story, not an easy feat, especially so soon after the diagnosis. I did it seven months later, and I barely made it through without breaking down. The members of the board would be able to decide the fate of her child, a child that is never going to make it anyway. Where is her right to privacy in making decisions regarding her health and the health of child? How dare they expect her to do that?

So, I'm going to have to change my stance on this. Since the law about second trimester abortions isn't enforceable anymore, I don't need to campaign against it. I think what I need to do is campaign for making clinics and hospitals perform abortions after 14 weeks in the cases of health of the mother, poor prenatal diagnosis and rape and incest.

In Tennessee, health of the mother and rape and incest are being taken into consideration in a lot of cases, but women with poor prenatal diagnosis are left out and forgotten. It's time for women who have gone through this in Tennessee to band together and speak out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Can anyone explain this to me?

I know I have some really smart people reading my blog, and I wonder if any of you might be lawyers. I'm a little confused about something.

A 2000 ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that requiring all second trimester abortions be performed in hospitals as unconstitutional. This ruling came from the case Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee vs. Sundquist. So, we have this unconstitutional law that is still on the books and is still being enforced. I want to know how this is possible.

When we got home from Atlanta, I called several clinics in Tennessee (there are only actually five or six in this state at all; 94 percent of all Tennessee counties have no abortion provider), and none of them perform abortion after 14 weeks. When I asked why, they stated that it was the law in Tennessee that abortions after 16 weeks have to be done in a hospital, and their doctors and nurses could get into trouble if they did so.

I did a little more research later on, and of the ones I didn't call, only one provided abortion after 14 weeks and that was up to 16 weeks. It's all because of the law.

So, can anyone answer this? If a law has been deemed unconstitutional, how can it been still on the books and enforceable? This isn't a rhetorical question; I'm really curious how the law works.

Recording of my speech

All the meetings of the general assembly are recorded, and the hearing I attended was no different. I was able to watch myself, and I'll say it again, I was a rock star. I can't believe how well I did. I still say I talked too fast, but besides that, I only made one slip up during the whole speech.

I can link the video here, so all of you can see it if you want. I'm sure you won't want to sit through the whole meeting, even though a lot of it was interesting. So, if you just want to see me giving my speech, scroll over to two hours, 42 minutes.

I'm proud of myself, and Rep. Armstrong's assistant is going to contact me again if they ever need me to share my story again. She said I did great. I keep thinking that not only am I helping other women who might find themselves in my situation, I'm also sharing Jenna's story, and she'll live in on with others even though she never took a breath, learned to talk, walk, etc. They are going to remember her story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Giving my speech

I'm sorry it took me so long to finish this. I had to work this morning and had some things to do after I got home.

As I was making my way down the row to go to the front, all of the pro-choice women were touching my elbows and whispering that I could do it. When I sat down, two ladies sat down beside, one from the ACLU and the other from a health organization. They asked for my name, and I gave it, then began my speech.

In the back of my mind, I could hear my college speech professor (a class I got a C in) telling me to breath and slow down. I always gave speeches too fast, which is one reason I got a C in the class. I tried to look up at appropriate times. I didn't pay any attention to the audience, instead I looked at our representatives, focusing on Rep. Armstrong and some of the others who seemed to be pro-choice. I watched their reactions, seeing pity in some of their faces. When I finished, no one said anything for a minute, and then Rep. Armstrong thanked me for testifying and sharing my story. Another representative said, "I want to thank you, too. I know as a mother that had to be the hardest thing to go through, and it must have been equally as hard to share it."

When I sat down, everyone looked at me and mouthed what a good job I did. I looked at the representatives again and saw that some of them were in tears. I didn't really think I had done all that well, but I'm always harder on myself than I deserve.

After the hearing was over, Keri with Planned Parenthood came up to me and said my speech was flawless. She said you couldn't even tell I was nervous. One of the representatives, this one from Chattanooga, actually came up and hugged me and thanked me again for sharing my story. I talked with the lady from the ACLU, and another lady approached me and said she had read my blog and that I was a beautiful writer. I told her that I was a better writer than speaker. I told that to several people, and a lot of them said I did really good. That same lady told me that when the doctor mentioned Trisomy 18, the pro-lifers made some kind of comment, but she didn't understand them. I heard it, too, and I couldn't tell what was said either. She said when I spoke not one of them made any comments, that you could have heard a pin drop back there.

I still can't believe I did it. I am so proud of myself. After it was over and was thanked and congratulated by all those people, I felt like a rock star. I told Keri I would be willing to do it again, and she said she was going to ask me if I would. I guess that goes to show I really was good, even though I was really nervous.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A little of what happened before my speech

The Planned Parenthood lobbyist, Keri, asked us to arrive between 2 and 2:30 p.m., today in order to get a seat. I was able to leave my part-time job at the newspaper early today because I'm going to have to work over tomorrow. We left the house about noon because we had to go to the bank, get gas and pick me up something to eat since I hadn't had lunch yet. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Legislative Plaza from our house.

The public hearing today focused mainly on two bills HJR 0061 and HJR OO66. Both of these measures would add wording to our state constitution that says nothing secures the right of a woman to have an abortion. One of these laws has an exception for life of the mother and rape or incest (notice no poor prenatal diagnosis exception) and the other doesn't. When we arrived, the plaza room was filled with another committee having a discussion, and a big group milled about outside the door, sporting buttons that supported the legislation. This group was from the Tennessee Right to Life organization, and we could tell from what they were saying that they were pretty vehement in their opinion.

One of my best friends is a member of this group, but she isn't anywhere near as militant as these people seemed to be. I've met some very opinionated pro-life people on the Internet but never in real life, so they were kind of a shock to me. I wondered if they would say anything to me while I was giving my speech. I met up with Keri, and she showed us the seats she had saved. Brian and I sat down and waited and tried to save some more seats so all the pro-choice people could sit together, but some of the Right to Lifer's rudely picked up the coats and purses sitting in the chairs and moved them so they could sit down. It didn't matter that Keri and the others had gotten there as early as possible to save those seats.

I don't know why I'm surprised. Most of the militant pro-life people I've "met" online don't really care about the feelings or rights of others; they just want to shove what they think is right down our throats (I'm not saying all pro-life people; just those very militant ones).

We listened as the backers of each piece of legislation spoke. There were lots of questions, especially about the exceptions part. I wanted to speak up and say Trisomy 18 and other poor prenatal diagnosis should count as an exception, too, but I sat there until it was my turn. A constitution lawyer spoke on the pro-life side, but I think he lost a lot of people with what he was saying. I consider myself to be smart, but most of what he said went right over my head. After he finished, Rep. Sherry Jones had some questions about how it would affect a woman's privacy. This lead to a discussion about caring for children after they get here, and Rep. Charles Curtiss said he cared about the unborn children which was why he was sponsoring the bill. Rep. Jones said she cared about the children in the state, too, and several of the pro-life people snickered very loudly. I was so glad when Rep. Debra Maggert, who also sponsored the bill, defended her.

Later, a doctor from Knoxville commented on diseases a woman can go through while pregnant, and she also mentioned Trisomy 18. I heard some whispered comments behind me from the Right to Lifer's, but I am not sure what they said. This made me a little anxious about giving my speech, but I still knew it had to be done. Once the doctors finished talking, Rep. Armstrong asked if anyone else opposing the measures would like to speak. The head of Planned Parenthood looked at me and nodded. It was my turn to speak. I'll tell the rest of this in another blog tomorrow when I'm better rested.

My speech

I really wanted to wait until after I gave my speech to post it here. I posted it at Baby Center and Trying to Conceive to receive feedback, but since this is more public than those sites, I didn't want someone from here in Tennessee to read it before they heard it. So, I'll copy it here and in another post will tell how the speech went.

My name is Tamara Belinc. I want to thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. Seven months ago today, my husband and I discovered our second child, a daughter named Jenna, had died in utero due to complications from Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder doctors deem as incompatible with life.

As I held her tiny lifeless body in my arms after she was born, I vowed I would do something in her name to make a difference, to keep a family from having to go through what we did, which is why I am speaking to you today in spite of the fact that I am normally a very private person and public speaking is one of my greatest fears. I am doing this for her.

We knew a few weeks before she died at 21 weeks gestation that she was sick. After a routine blood test at 16 weeks showed our baby had a one in 10 chance of having Trisomy 18, my doctor set up an appointment the next day with a specialist. An ultrasound showed that our baby had a cystic hygroma (a fluid-filled pocket on the back of her neck which can be fatal on its own), a clubbed foot and growth restriction, as she was measuring nearly a week behind. We had to wait until the next week to do an amniocentesis because the amniotic sac hadn’t yet fused to the uterine wall. While we waited, I researched the disorder. I found the Trisomy 18 Foundation Web site and connected with other families who had gone through what I did. After the procedure, while we were waiting on the results, my husband and I discussed what we wanted to do if she did have it.

The preliminary results would take just a few days, but the full results would take two weeks. Discussing our options and making a decision were the hardest things we ever had to do. From the research we did, we knew doctors would take no life-saving measures once she was born due to the disorder she had. Our greatest desire was to keep her from pain, but how could we make a decision that would end her life? I was her mother; it was my job to take away her pain and to help her. We decided we wanted to end the pregnancy, or say goodbye early as the Trisomy 18 Foundation calls it, through a labor and delivery abortion. With this procedure, we would have been able to hold her, take pictures and have her remains, so we could have her cremated. We would have just a short time to make memories that would have to last us a lifetime.

Even though I had prepared myself for the diagnosis, I was still devastated when we received the news. I don’t have a lot of clear memories of that day, except for sobbing and saying over and over again, “She was so wanted. I wanted her to so much.”
I didn't think we would have any problems having this procedure done since abortion is legal in the United States. Even my doctor thought we would be able to do so, at first. When we met with her a few days later, she informed us that due to state laws and the political climate in the state, none of the hospitals in the area would allow us to do so. I later found out that most hospitals in Tennessee have stopped doing the procedure. Our doctor recommended we go to Atlanta to an abortion clinic that deals exclusively with late term abortions. It wasn’t what we wanted to do, but I was desperate to keep my child out of pain and do what was best for her. We made the appointment at the clinic.

We learned we wouldn’t be able to take pictures or hold her or even get her remains. I was devastated, but again, my desire to keep her out of pain overrode anything else. I did not want her to suffer. We were also told we would be separated from the women who were having the procedure done for reasons other than fetal anomaly, and I would qualify for what is known as a one-day procedure.

As we left for Atlanta, I felt like a criminal, sneaking away to do something illegal. I was afraid of being judged for doing what I felt was best for my unborn daughter and my family, so only a few people knew where we were going and what we were going to do. No one should ever be made to feel that way when they are making healthcare choices for their loved ones.

When we arrived at the abortion clinic, we were not separated from the other women. My husband and I sat in the waiting room as it filled with woman who were wanting to end their pregnancies for reasons other than a fetal anomaly. It wasn’t that I wanted a perfect baby; I just wanted one that would live. Here I was, surrounded by women who were carrying perfectly healthy babies, when my baby was dying inside me. If the laws in Tennessee were different, we would never have had to go through that. We could have ended the pregnancy in a hospital with our own doctor and not been subjected to women who had everything we wanted.

We were called back three times, and each time, I thought we would be separated from the other women and each time I was wrong. Finally, after almost four hours, we were told because of a mistake they made in the paperwork, we would not be able to end the pregnancy that day. If we wanted to do so, we would have to come back a week later. An ultrasound that day showed our daughter had very little brain matter, and the amniotic fluid was even lower than before, confirming our suspicions that her kidneys weren’t functional.

Making the decision to terminate was the hardest thing we ever had to do, and getting up the courage to go to Atlanta was equally difficult. We knew we couldn’t do it again emotionally. And there were other things to consider. We would have to find someone to keep our five year old again while we were gone. We would have to take time off again from work and pay for another trip. All these things, but especially the emotional ones, were just too much to do all over again. We decided to come home and let nature take its course.

Each day that I carried her, I wondered if she had died, and I was walking around with a dead baby inside me. Each morning when I woke, I wondered if this would be the day she died. If I hadn’t felt her move for a while, I frantically called the doctor to see if I could come in to find a heartbeat. Each day was a waiting game, a game filled with tortuous what ifs and pain. What kind of life could she have if she survived birth? How was this going to affect my marriage? How would our five-year-old react to losing the sister she always wanted, especially if we were able to bring her home for a few days? I was a basketcase. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I lost 12 pounds in less than two weeks. Somehow, I got out of bed each morning and tried to make a life for my daughter, even though I felt as though I were traveling through mud.

Seven months ago today, we went in to get a more accurate picture of what birth defects Jenna would have. The ultrasound tech told me there was no heartbeat, and I knew my baby was gone and wouldn’t have to suffer anymore.

I have made a vow to change the laws here, to make sure there is always an exception to any law for health of the mother, poor prenatal diagnosis and rape and incest. No shame should be attached to one of the most loving, selfless acts a parent can make in regards to a sick child. If a born child is declared brain dead, parents are allowed to turn off the machines and allow their children to die peacefully. If a child has a terminal illness and all hope is gone, parents can decide to stop treatment. Why couldn’t we make the same decisions for our daughter? Is it simply because she wasn’t born yet?

Even though sharing this story is painful, I have to do it. I am doing it for myself, for my daughter, my friends, but mostly I’m doing it for Jenna and all those other sick, unborn children who shouldn’t be made to suffer due to the laws in a state. Thank you again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tomorrow is the day

Tomorrow is speech day. I have the speech written, and I've read it aloud and practiced it about 50,000 times because it started out too long and had to be cut down.

So far, I'm not very nervous, but I know I will get that way between now and 3 p.m., tomorrow. I just have to remember, "You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think," as Christopher Robin said to Pooh.

I started working on my speech Sunday night, but today when I was at my part-time job I noticed tomorrow's date. It's March 11, seven months since we found out that Jenna had died. I knew then that I had to rewrite my speech to reflect that, and I did.

I can't believe it's been seven months, and I can't believe I'm going to get to honor her memory by making a speech to change the laws. Please wish me luck that I do well and honor her memory gracefully and powerfully.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Details are still sketchy

A few months ago, Rep. Joe Armstrong sent me the e-mail of a Planned Parenthood lobbyist who might be able to help us with Jenna's Law. She e-mailed me on Friday and asked if I would be willing to testify at a public hearing on Wednesday about the various abortion bills that are going through the state government right now.

She asked me to call her this weekend, and I did but just got her voice mail. I'm going to try again later today when Brian is home and can keep Tessa occupied so I won't have to hear, "Momma, momma, momma" the entire time on the phone with her.

So, as of right now, I don't know what this would entail from me. I don't know how many people I would speaking in front of, but I am sure it will be quite a few. I do know that I will be sharing my story, which means I need to get to work on a speech. I was just hoping to talk to the lobbyist before I did that.

Can I just say that I am scared to death? Public speaking is not my forte. In fact, it is probably one of my greatest fears. By fears, I don't mean butterflies in the pit of your stomach scared; I'm talking about knees shaking, voice gone, fight or flight type of fear. I usually avoid public speaking at all costs, and I'm not sure I can do this.

But, then I think about last summer, about the worst month of my entire life, about how I hope no one else ever has to go through that again, and I know I have to do it. My fears are really nothing compared to the pain that someone else in this state might be going through right now because no doctor or hospital will allow them to make healthcare choices for their sick unborn child. Do I really have a choice?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Helping those who have been through a loss

An internet friend of mine asked me the other day what she could do to help a friend who had a late term loss. I gave her some tips, but I thought about it and would like to compile a list of things people did that helped you and what they could have done that helped. Here are mine, and please feel free to add any in the comments section. After that, I'll go through and write it up.

1. Act as though the parents have lost a child. What would you have done if they had lost a child because of SIDS or a car accident or any other tragic reason? Would you have attended the memorial service, sent flowers, brought food? If so, do that for them.

2. One of the things that touched me the most was something very simple. One of my co-workers at the time came up to me after we got the diagnosis and simply said, "I don't know what to say to you. I even looked up what to do on the Trisomy 18 Foundation Web site, and I still don't know what to say." He then gave me a hug. This gesture meant more to me than just about anything else his words came from the heart.

3. Cut flowers, while appreciated, die, and we don't need anymore reminders of death. A plant, which will live or flower, is even better than a bouquet. Also, angels or other tangible items were also sweet reminders of my baby. I now have them placed around her urn.

4. If the family has older children, volunteer to help with them. I had to go to Tessa's kindergarten open house two days after we lost Jenna and then take her the next day for her first day. Even though I didn't want to miss it, it would have been helpful to have had someone pick her up (my mom drove me to get her, though, which did help) and take her for a few hours so I could have rested. Also, if someone had brought us meals so we didn't have to cook, it would have been much appreciated. Jenna was born on Tuesday, and Brian went back to work on Thursday, so it was business as usual, even though I wasn't my usual self.

5. I didn't want to talk to people at first. I hated people asking me what happened. I felt like screaming, "Why does it matter what happened? The end result is all the same, my baby is dead." If you do talk to the mother, don't ask what happened. Instead, ask if she feels like talking about it. If she doesn't, don't feel bad. Later, she will want to talk about her loss, and she will need you then. But, for me, at first, I just wanted to lock myself away from the world.

6. Sympathy cards are nice, especially those with a note. I received a few from people on my beat at work who shared stories of their own losses with me. I felt a kinship with them and wanted to get in touch with them later on.

7. I so appreciate it when people remember the anniversary of her death. I didn't think anyone remembered the one month anniversary, but my best friend texted me late that night and told me she was thinking of us. No one else has remembered, except at Christmas, when someone gave me a dragonfly candleholder and another friend gave me a plaque with one of my favorite sayings on it.

If you have any that you want to add, please do so in the comments section, and I'll write a complete blog about it later.

Aren't they restrictive enough?

The other night, I was watching our local news, and one of our state representatives is sponsoring legislation to make the abortion laws even more restrictive than they already are. I did some research and found a quote that said that she believed Tennessee had some of the most liberal abortion laws. This is totally not true, as NARAL has given us a D for women's reproductive rights.

This representative is Debra Maggart, and I have written her a letter telling my story. I am copying and pasting it here. I realize I probably won't change her mind, but I do believe my story is compelling enough that she might be moved to at least help with an amendment so that a woman in my situation, a woman who develops a life-threatening condition during pregnancy or a woman who was raped won't have to go through what I did. Here's the letter. I would love to hear opinions on this letter. If you are from Tennessee, please write to her. I won't list her e-mail address here, but if you do a search on the Internet, you will find her site, which gives her e-mail address.

My name is Tamara Belinc. I am from a small community in middle Tennessee. I am a stay-at-home mom to a five-year-old kindergartener, and I work part-time as a freelance writer. My husband is employed by a long-time Bedford County company. I am educated, and my husband and I own our home. Would you have ever guessed we would have the need of a second trimester abortion?

The other night, I turned my television to the nightly local news, and I saw the story about the abortion law you sponsoring. After doing a little research, I saw a quote where you stated Tennessee has the most liberal abortion laws in the country. I have to disagree, as will many others in this state.

This past summer, our second daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed in utero with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder doctors deem as incompatible with life. An ultrasound showed she also had a cystic hygroma (a fluid filled pocket on the back of her neck), a clubbed foot, very little brain matter, kidney malformations and other problems. My husband and I decided after a lot of soul searching to end the pregnancy. This was the hardest decision we had ever made. Jenna was very much wanted and very much loved. My strongest desire was to keep her from pain.

While we were waiting for our amniocentesis results, I did a lot of research on Trisomy 18 and the options available to us if she did have it. We wanted to end the pregnancy through a labor and delivery abortion at our hospital with our doctor. I wanted to be able to hold her and take pictures of her and make memories that would have to last us a lifetime. I thought I would be able to do this since abortion is legal in this country. Imagine my surprise when my doctor informed me that because I was almost 20 weeks pregnant, we would have to travel out of state to an abortion clinic to do so.

As I am sure you know, all second trimester abortions have to be performed in a hospital, and all doctors and hospitals have the right of refusal, meaning they can refuse to perform certain procedures if it goes against their moral beliefs. There are no exceptions for life of the mother, poor prenatal diagnosis or rape or incest. Because of these laws and the political climate in this state, many hospitals will no longer perform the procedure.

So, we made the appointment to travel to Atlanta, four hours away from where we live, sneaking away as though we were doing something wrong, something illegal, when all we wanted to do was make the right healthcare choices for our child. We knew we would not be able to have Jenna's remains, nor would I be able to give her the blanket, hat and teddy bear given to me by a friend who also terminated a pregnancy due to a poor prenatal diagnosis.

When we arrived at the clinic, we waited four hours with women who wanted to end their pregnancies for convenience reasons, only to be told that because of a mistake the clinic had made, I would not be able to have the procedure done that day. I would have to wait a week or more to have it done. We decided to let nature take its course and came back home.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for me to be around women who were throwing away perfectly healthy babies? I didn't want a perfect baby. They don't exist. I just wanted a baby that would live, and I didn't want my baby to suffer. I carried our baby as long as she lived, and she was stillborn in August. Even though I was able to have her remains and take pictures, I still believe I should have been able to make healthcare decisions for my child.

If your born child is declared brain dead, you have the option to remove him/her from life support machines. If your child has a terminal illness and all hope has been exhausted, you have the right to stop treatment. But, because my child wasn't born yet, I did not have those options.

In the time since Jenna's birth and death, I have been writing to our legislators trying to find someone to sponsor what the people who are helping me write letters are calling Jenna's law, an amendment that states hospitals have to perform second trimester abortions and have doctors on staff who are willing to do so. I don't believe in forcing a doctor to perform a procedure that goes against his moral beliefs. However, a hospital is not human and can not have moral objections.

I realize you probably will not help me due to your pro-life beliefs, but I implore you, whatever you do, please realize that not everyone who has an abortion does so for convenience reasons. Please work in an amendment that would keep someone in my position from being punished even more than they already are. Please do this for me, for our daughters, for all women and especially for my Jenna and babies like her who shouldn't be made to suffer due to poorly written laws.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taking a break

I'm taking a break from Clomid this cycle, and I also decided not to temp this cycle. Of course, I've gotten so used to grabbing the thermometer when I first open my eyes that it's hard not to do it, but I'm trying.

I'm still using my fertility monitor, because I have a three hour window in which I can pee on the stick and insert it into the machine to get a reading. I just can't let this cycle go without doing something, but I'm on CD 13 and still haven't gotten a high reading on my fertility monitor. I wonder if I will ovulate at all. I was hoping to have some residual Clomid in my body that would help me there.

I have been having second thoughts about giving up if we don't get pregnant next cycle. I talked to Brian about it and told him if we didn't get pregnant then, I wouldn't mind taking a break for a little while so we could take a trip to Disney this summer without me being pregnant. But, I don't want to give up completely. I want to keep trying until we get pregnant.

He wasn't as positive about it as I was, although he did agree to try for a little while longer. He doesn't want to be 50 with a two year old, and I can see where he is coming from. He will be 40 this year, and I'm going to be 32 in August. Tessa will be six in May. I know putting off trying to conceive too much longer would result in us having what would essentially be two different families, and I'm afraid Tessa and the baby wouldn't be close.

But, my arms ache to hold another baby of my own. I just don't feel like my family is complete. I want another baby even if that means trying for a while.

The bad thing is if I get pregnant next cycle, I'll be due around Jenna's due date. How ironic is that?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Saying goodbye early is not painful? Says who?

I subscribe to Google alerts for both Trisomy 18 and Edward's Syndrome, so I can visit those blogs and comfort parents who are going through what I did. The blogging world is heating up over a family's accusations that a Catholic hospital encouraged her to terminate her Trisomy 18 pregnancy. I have visited a few of them, the majority of them strict pro-life sites.

One didn't seem to be from that angle, so I left a comment. One of the other commenters had this to say, "Even if a child is sure to die early in life, choosing to abort that child is still an elective, unnecessary abortion performed so a couple or mother doesn't have to face pain."

Excuse me? Did I read that right? Does she really think a family who receives a poor prenatal diagnosis ends a pregnancy early to keep from feeling pain? I don't think she realizes the pain that goes into making the decision to end a pregnancy.

Making the decision to terminate was the hardest, most painful decision I have ever had to make. I agonized over it, reading different information on the Internet, wavering between what I wanted to do. I guess I came about as close to terminating as you can get without actually having to go through it. I know what goes into making that decision, and never once did relieving my pain come into it.

Keeping Jenna out of pain? Yes, I did think about that a lot. It was probably my main reason. To save Tessa from feeling pain? Yes, that was another reason I considered it. But, I didn't think about my pain. I was already feeling the pain a parent experiences when their child receives a terminal diagnosis. How could terminating spare me from pain? Please explain that one to me.

Even though I didn't terminate, I know what it feels like to make that decision, although I don't know what it feels like to actually go through it. I also know what it feels to have a stillborn baby and hearing her diagnosis and making the decision to terminate was just as painful, if not more so in some ways, than birthing a dead baby.

It is because of attitudes like that commenters that many women who terminate due to poor prenatal diagnosis keep quiet about it, afraid of being judged. I'm sure some women who want to terminate don't due to this fear. Instead of judging these women, we need to realize they have experienced a loss just as profound as those whose babies are stillborn.