We had a plan. We executed it perfectly. And then, on September 21, 2022, it completely fell apart.
In premarital counseling, Josh and I dreamed of having a big family. We wanted four kids: two girls, two boys. My goal was to be finished having babies by age 35.
Between earning many degrees and several career changes, we somehow managed to do it. I gave birth to our fourth child, a sweet peanut princess in October 2017 and turned 35 exactly 42 days later.
I called her the perfect tiny coda to our swelling family song. Little did we know, there was to be a reprise in Act II.
I utilized the same birth control successfully for five years. We changed nothing. I set an alarm on my phone and faithfully took my pill – a pill I need to take anyway to keep my body working properly.
Though I’ve wrung my hands plenty in the past few weeks over what else I could have and should have done to prevent pregnancy, my trusty lawyer sidekick reminds me that “any reasonable person” would have made the same choices I did.
I enjoyed five years of predictability and protection. I had full confidence in the method.
I started a new career in early August. By mid-September, I had hit my stride. I knew all the ways to zip in and out of traffic to ease my commute. I enjoyed lunches with Josh, who works nearby. But I was feeling a little off.
Surely, I just needed more snacks in my office. Two and a half years of working from home had spoiled me to easy pantry and fridge access. Then I started running a high fever. I rested and treated my symptoms while testing negative for flu, strep and COVID-19.
Then I took a pregnancy test, and it was positive.
To explain the sheer terror and immediate whole-body shaking I experienced when the test showed a second line, I have to take you back to fall 2019.
I went to the dentist for a routine teeth cleaning appointment and the rough hygienist nicked some scar tissue from my wisdom tooth extraction. I began experiencing extreme pain and running fever the next day.
I was casually dismissed by the receptionist, “Oh honey,” she said, “People don’t get sick from having their teeth cleaned.” Turns out, while it’s pretty rare for a healthy person in their 30’s to get sick from a teeth cleaning, it’s not impossible.
I ended up running a fever for three months, taking endless rounds of antibiotics, and working with a cardiologist to stop the infection and the damage it was doing to my heart valve. (My next article will be on why people should listen to women and believe what they say. Stay tuned.)
I followed a strict lifestyle change, began focusing on whole food nutrition and moving my body in exactly the ways my cardiologist recommended. My valve was repairing itself, but I still needed to be cautious.
When I found out I was pregnant at almost 40 years old after beginning to run long-term fever again, I completely panicked. My heart was surely struggling (both figuratively and literally), and my body was fighting for survival once again – and this time with the added complication of a high-risk pregnancy.
Unluckily for me, I live in a state that doesn’t consider a pregnant mother’s life at all. I looked at my four kids and knew I had to make some big decisions very fast. If my choice was continuing a pregnancy and dying of cardiac issues or terminating and being here for my children, my choice was clear.
Thankfully, I have a support system and the means necessary to make whatever choice is best for me. I know it is a privilege not everyone has.
I need to pause for a minute to emphasize that many people seeking abortion care look just like me. They’re already parents who have done what “any reasonable person” would do to prevent pregnancy, and they end up pregnant. These difficult decisions should be between a pregnant person and their doctor.
Can you look at my face and tell me I should sacrifice my life and my children’s opportunity to have a mom for the “pro-life” battle cry? If not, then you, my friend and gentle reader, are pro-choice. That’s it.
If I should have a choice, then every pregnant person should have a choice. You are not the boss of a pregnant person’s body. Just because I’m married, old and already a mom doesn’t give me any special choosing privileges.
Pregnancy is a huge, complex decision. Unless it is your pregnancy, your opinion doesn’t matter. And neither should the ever-changing political winds.
I spent $500 on a virtual appointment and emergency pill pack to be sent to me speedy-quick. After consulting with a physician friend, I learned I also needed to have an ultrasound to determine how far along I was to be sure of the pill pack’s efficacy.
Since tracking my cycles wasn’t predictable on the birth control pill I was taking, I had no idea how long I’d been pregnant. I assumed maybe two to three weeks.
I wasn’t comfortable having Josh come with me to my ultrasound appointment because of the gray area around the punitive new laws in our state for people who assist pregnant people seeking abortion care.
On the scariest day of my life, I couldn’t have my partner in the doctor’s office with me. A dear friend bravely accompanied me. She held my hand as I shook and sweated through the scan.
My chest was aching, stomach cramping, hands were icy but clammy. When the nurse let me know I was actually around nine weeks pregnant, my blood ran cold.
I’d been trying not to look at the screen, trying to tune out the rapid staccato heartbeat sounds. I could not believe I was so far along. It made no sense.
I drove myself to work after the scan and gave my first presentation in my new field to about 80 people. I held it together until my commute home. Then the dam burst.
I have never cried so hard in my whole life. My tears were so plentiful they didn’t even run, they all just gathered under my chin in defiance of gravity and physics. My shirt was salty soaked by the time I made it home.
I miscarried a baby before our first child and understood all the implications of how a preterm pregnancy ends. It’s horrific and painful and lonely. The thought of going through that again, the hormones coursing through my body, the fear about how my heart and almost 40-year-old organs were going to handle the process – it was all way too much for one person to handle.
Josh helped shoulder my burden. We cried together for four days while we waited to see my cardiologist, knowing every day would make the choice and the process that much harder. We were prepared to make the tough choice if my life was at risk. It was the pro-est life choice for our family.
In a miraculous turn of events, my scans and tests at the cardiologist were beautiful. My doctor listened with the same kindness he’d shown in 2019 when no one else seemed to hear me. We talked for half an hour about my heart, my circulatory system, how I’d followed his guidance at every step.
As it turns out, he’d done part of his residency at the Mayo Clinic working with advanced maternal aged patients with heart issues and he had a plan for me, supporting whatever decision I made. This little oopsie-baby was in the best possible hands.
We worked out a rigorous monitoring plan to keep me healthy while my body does the difficult job of building another person while healing a heart valve while being “maternally geriatric.”
With my cardiologist’s expertise, my dream OBGYN office, and a high-risk medical team on board with our choice, Josh and I have decided our little Cinco (because it’s the fifth!) will be.
There is grief in this event. Mourning the life we’d planned as a family of six – the vacations we could finally take now that all our kids are potty-trained and independent.
Our perfectly arranged schemes of a partner for every person on amusement park rides. Smooth rounds for every family game for an even amount of people. My plan to finally dig deep into what it’s like to be a professional without having a small child dependent on me for life and food. We’re all still adjusting.
There would have been grief in the other choice as well. I know that too. This baby is a product of almost two decades of love and learning how to do life together. I’ve never been this physically, mentally or emotionally healthy. I have done my hard work in all those arenas.
I’m well on my way to being excited about our expanding family, even if my head still spins a bit when I remember the little nugget at 1:30 am on my nightly pit-stop. (We’ve also made some more permanent family planning arrangements.)
My goal in writing this story for our lovely Good Faithful is to show a human face to the difficult choice many people have to make. It’s taboo, and secretive, and I’ll probably lose some friends and followers over my transparency, but I think it’s important. Those of us who are safe to tell our stories need to tell them.
I recognize my privilege: access to the care I needed (even though it was not cheap or quick – it took almost two excruciating weeks for the emergency pills to arrive) and a wise community who rallied around me as I weighed my options.
How can you support the women in your life? Statistics say one in four will be faced with a similar circumstance. Will you see the politics, or will you see the person? I humbly plead for you to love and vote accordingly.
A director of admissions in higher education, Lockett served previously as executive director of development and marketing for Good Faith Media.