When Chrissy Teigen and John Legend shared their pregnancy loss with the world, it was personal to me. For seven years, I served as a labor and delivery nurse supporting patients and families through the heartache of losing or ending a wanted pregnancy. I thought of my patient Lauren* and her husband, who learned after extensive testing that their baby would not survive after birth. I’ll never forget how she asked me — “Will I ever be okay again?” — as I was preparing her for the labor process and completing her hospital admission. I knew she would be, because, in addition to being a nurse, I faced a similar experience three years before. I knew the overwhelming pain she was feeling. “Yes,” I told her, “in time you will heal, but you will always miss the baby girl you’d hoped for.”
Throughout my career, I’ve been there with many patients who have received a fatal diagnosis and learned that their baby will be born with only minutes, hours or days to live. In this painful moment they turn to their doctors, family or faith leaders to plot a course of care they can best live with. And while the experiences are similar, every pregnancy is unique and so are the decisions families make. Some decide to end the pregnancy and induce early delivery so they may hold, comfort and care for their baby and share their final and only moments together.
They spend this time making memories and undertaking the rituals that give them peace. I’ve helped them take pictures and make footprints. Giving families compassion, space and something to hold onto helps support them in their grieving process. Often, the most comforting thing I can do is sit with my patients as they grieve, pray or cry.
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Most of us would never think to intrude on these private moments of loss, but that’s exactly what is happening across the country.
In 2020, anti-abortion politicians introduced 29 so-called “infant protection” bills in 17 states, along with the federal “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.” This week, as we mark 48 years since Roe v. Wade established legal abortion and states begin their legislative sessions, we could see more of these measures introduced.
The fact is, these bills don’t protect anyone. If they become law, doctors would be forced to take babies from their parents and compel them to make futile efforts to save a baby that they just can’t save. They would deny families the ability to make compassionate decisions in these tragic situations. Those fleeting moments, the only ones some families have, would be taken away.
Politicians are lying about family’s experiences just to push an anti-abortion agenda. These bills would only apply in cases like Lauren’s or Chrissy Teigen’s and deny them the time they need to grieve, and I would lose the ability to provide my patients with love and empathy.
I am eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses who guided me through my own abortion experience. When I was 17 weeks pregnant, we learned that our baby had a rare chromosomal abnormality and would not survive. The doctor who consulted us for my abortion held my hands and cried with me in the office as I processed my decision — just as I have with my patients. Every patient who makes this choice deserves the compassion that I received. This is the type of experience that I strive to provide other families — one of love and empathy.
These politicians have no clue what they are taking away. Over the years, patients have written me letters, telling me that the care I provided, the compassion I showed their family, and the ability for them to make the choice they did is what gives them hope on their journey to healing. My patients and their spouses have shared that I made them feel safe, that the way I was able to hand them their baby was the most important moment to them — I cannot let politicians take this compassionate, loving time from families. We must hold politicians accountable for what this will do to families.
*Lauren’s name has been changed to protect her privacy and her story has been shared with her family’s permission.