Pregnant, No Baby

Post Author: Kaji Douša

Last week, the United Church of Christ announced that their health care plan will include coverage of pregnancy terminations for any reasons. In February, Kaji Douša wrote about her experience of being denied that coverage for a dilation and curettage procedure when she lost a pregnancy.

Hospital bed

Hospital bed

Now I wish that I’d had the “abortion.”

He dropped my hand to run across the room. A pan, anything to catch it, but the blood was coming and the staff was too busy and there was nothing he had, ultimately, but his hands. I know those hands so well. He calls them “bear paws” for the way he claws rather indelicately but with force just so when there’s a knot in my neck or to steady our toddling daughter.

The clods of blood embarrassed me and I apologized out loud, to whom, I’m not sure, since the hospital staff weren’t there. In between episodes, I bent over with a towel or whatever I could find to sop everything up, but in time the bleeding became too much and bending over was unwise and I sat on the bed, causing more mess and I hate mess. Then came the pain with an intensity I hadn’t felt since my beautiful baby girl’s birth. I pushed the button for the preoccupied staff because: PAIN. But no one could come right then and my husband took my hand with his sweet bear paws.

Then the expunging surges my uterus proffered to get this all done began and he dropped my hand to try to go see what he could do between my legs, positioned like a midwife at a birth, checking, catching. I saw him look into his cupped hands at this Nerf football-sized clotted thing that he then carefully set aside, as the staff had asked us to do “for analysis” before they left for the other things.

A few weeks before, we were on the primary care side of the hospital complex, excited to have the ultrasound. There was a pregnancy sack, all of the things that say “pregnant,” a positive pregnancy test, but no heartbeat. The midwife was more shaken about it than I was and I found myself reaching out to comfort her when her voice got shaky. My pain was for later, for my secret space in a room by myself in some time with my God.

Faced with two options, one was cheaper. I am grateful to have health insurance through the Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ, the denomination I serve as a pastor. Our plan had covered our daughter’s simple hospital birth at 100% once our deductible was met. But, as I have known for years, as our insurance representatives reiterate consistently when asked why they do not cover dilation and curettage surgeries: “The United Church of Christ does not cover abortions or other elective procedures.” So our second option would be paid entirely out of our own pockets. My health plan did not prioritize my health. Maybe I did not, either.

In earlier, harder days, in between insurance coverage, I frequented Planned Parenthood for my routine women’s health needs. But those were hard days and I did not want to go back to them. Moreover, I was scared of the idea of an abortion. I have close family members who vote solely on whether or not a candidate supports women’s access to abortions, and I knew that if I went forward with one – even though there was no life in my womb – I would be at extreme odds with their position. I was too afraid to face the kinds of conversations that could ensue if I had that D&C.

So, my husband and I made a non-choice. We decided not to decide and just let the clock tick. We would see what would happen if we did not do anything. Maybe my body would make the choice for us.

I will say that my body tried, it really did. I bled for weeks, depleting the iron I tried to replenish with diet and supplements. I cramped intensely as my body attempted to push everything out. And then, one Saturday morning, it cleared everything out as I hemorrhaged into my husband’s waiting hands. Now I needed more tests, and probably a blood transfusion of Lord knows who’s generous blood given for such a time as this.

Faith leaders like me are, in part, responsible for the ethical dilemma families like mine find ourselves in at times like this. Fearing retaliation from an anti-abortion activist community that has seized the moral floor on this issue for decades now, most of us are silent on abortions, letting other pink-hat wearing feminists and so-called “God-hating” scientists take on the topic for us. Meanwhile, we give our people no context or ethical framework for making decisions about what life is and where to find God when there is no heartbeat.

Here’s what I believe: God is many things, including life and love. And God gave me this life as we faced the death of our hope for this child. God gave me love to share as our midwife stammered. God gave me love in my bed with me as I prayed the words of Psalms like the one Jesus quoted on the Cross: my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? God was in my husband’s heart as he wondered how to say goodbye to a child he would never know. God would have loved us through either of the choices presented to us. God was in the emergency room with the staff who had to care for people other than me. God was in my husband’s hands as he caught a life that was not to be. God breathed life into me in the months it took to get back up.

I have learned not to try to speak for God. But I have also learned to speak up when I see God, and I saw God in all of this. God is in the comfort I receive in sharing my truth despite the hate I will surely face for saying any of this, as The Rev. Amy Butler, my sister in the ministry, experienced in sharing her own abortion story.

Oppressive forces try to keep these kinds of truths quiet. They teach women like me to feel embarrassment for our blood on the floor. They are attempting to legislate away the ability of women like me to have any choice at all in the matter. The truth is that faith leaders like me know better but we have been too scared to do anything about it. Maybe standing with millions of people a few weeks ago at Women’s Marches around the world will give me the strength God was encouraging me to feel all along to say: no more.

Kaji S. Douša is Senior Pastor of the Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City. She is the first woman called to this role in the church's 206 year history, though countless women paved this path ahead of her.

Image by: inspiri
Used with permission
7 replies
  1. Leslie Clark
    Leslie Clark says:

    Thank you for your courage and your strength, and for being a true servant of love. May God’s love enter the hearts of all who judge you with scorching heat and may they be saved from facing their own judgement from others if they face similar circumstances. I wish you well for the grieving.

  2. Kelly Hough Rogers
    Kelly Hough Rogers says:

    Dearest Kaji – Your words are so intimate, raw and honest. Thank you for being so brave to share the story of your miscarriage. I pray that others will not be denied this life saving procedure and am grateful that the PBUCC now extends coverage for D&C. I also pray for all of those who’ve had similar experiences to yours after being denied coverage. Many blessings to you.

  3. A
    A says:

    My D&C was not optional. I had to have one because I didn’t have just a simple miscarriage. I had a molar pregnancy, and without a D&C, I can retain tissue that will turn to cancer. I already have a 20% chance of needing chemotherapy by just having a molar pregnancy. Letting me pass the tissue naturally is not a healthy option. Luckily, my healthcare covers a D&C. I can’t imagine if it did. We already can’t afford the D&C after insurance. But I disagree completely with calling my D&C an abortion. It is not an abortion. I wanted that baby, desperately. I did not chose to end the life growing inside me. The procedure is the same but the meaning is not. And I fear, every day, how these reforms to health care will affect women like me, women where it is medically unwise to pass the baby naturally, where a D&C is life-saving. To label the procedure as an abortion gives those who are anti-abortion ammo for eliminating the procedure all together. My rights to healthcare are no less than the person next to me and no more. My God wants me to be healthy, to fight for justice in this world, to see all of us as children equal in sight and in love. God loves me no more or no less than the person next to me. God loves us all equally. I only wish that great equality could traverse from human to human, person to person, Christian to Christian, individual to government.

  4. Collette Broady Grund
    Collette Broady Grund says:

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing this! I had a very similar pregnancy before my first son, and had a D&C. Even though I knew it was an abortion in the sense that pro-life people mean, I still got a number of shocked and questioning responses from others about the morality of this choice. Thankfully, my insurance wasn’t a church plan so I didn’t have that added dilemma, and thankfully my doctor was a person of faith who quickly assured me that this was only a healthcare decision, not a moral issue. I’m sorry you didn’t receive the same support from your church plan. It is so important for us to talk about these things, because this is most of what doesn’t get covered when we try to restrict reproductive health coverage.

  5. Joyce Miller
    Joyce Miller says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am deeply disturbed that you had that experience without medical help. I am sad that you had to make your choice based on finances and concern over others’ opinions.

    I am also disturbed that the language of the anti-abortion minority has been allowed to replace good medical terminology. I had a failed pregnancy 30 years ago and I was given the same two options for dealing with it. I chose the surgery. Regardless, the doctor referred to this outcome as a miscarriage.

    Though not the point of your story, I do hope and pray that you enjoy good health now.

  6. Carol O.
    Carol O. says:

    What is the human race becoming that we can no longer tell the difference between murdering a living being and removing the remains of a dead human from it’s mother’s body? There is no equivalency, no moral grounds, no right of argument about the morality of the second one. Murdering your baby that is living and healthy in your womb is what the pro-life groups want to prevent. When a baby passes in-utero or no baby developed, if there is no heartbeat, it is not murder, it never could be. You can not murder tissue or a dead baby. The fact that there is any stigma to the D&C for removal of non-living tissue is so far beyond ludicrous.

    As humans we can differentiate between variations of 16,000 colors, but can not understand the difference between a healthy, living, baby and a dead baby or tissue that never formed a baby? I think not. I am still fully and unapologetically pro-life. I still believe that abortion is wrong and so is the medical community that uses “abortion” as the term for both purposeful murder of the unborn as well as the medical removal of remains from the uterus, as well as the natural process the mother’s body uses to rid itself of a fetus or tissue that is not viable is so 19th century. Murdering your baby is an abortion. The other procedures are necessary for health and safety and are not moral issues at all and need a new word. Words have meaning and we need to be clear what terms mean. As a human race, we can come up with a new word for medical treatment that is not ending life.

    However, using this as an argument for why you are no longer pro-life is a straw man argument and there is no excuse for this. Saying that abortion should be allowed so your insurance will pay for your D&C makes no sense. I am sorry that your insurance would not cover your procedure and that is shameful. We should work to get accurate labels for procedures and NOT equate what you went through to an abortion. I can not imagine wanting to make that equation, personally, as you, in no way chose to end the life of your baby.

    I wish you blessings as you deal with the emotional repercussions of your loss. I hope that reason will bring you to the place where you value life but fight for appropriate treatment for women, both as good and right and appropriate.

  7. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that you went through all that. I am glad to hear your story because I had a complete molar pregnancy in 2016. In that pregnancy I had 2 embryos: one that was the complete mole and the other that had a heartbeat. At first, we didn’t know that there were 2 embryos and we could detect only one heartbeat. However I kept having slight bleeding and random cramping so I went back to check up on the pregnancy and the doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat anymore. They then determined that the baby was miscarried and thought I had a partial molar pregnancy due to the ultrasound of the placenta. At that point in time I got the D&C thinking I had to take care of the placenta since the baby was gone and remember feeling like there was nothing I could have done differently to save the baby. Funnily enough, they determined that there were 2 embryos after the lab results from the D&C because it came back as a complete molar pregnancy. Complete molar pregnancies don’t have heartbeats and the only explanation they had was that there were 2 embryos, one a complete mole and the other an abnormal embryo. If I didn’t have the D&C, I don’t know what would have happened my body and to have the cells spread to other parts of my body for a baby that is no longer there is ridiculous. Also I didn’t fully understand that there are people who think that just having a D&C is an abortion. That is just crazy.
    Anyway I hope you are in a better situation now. Thank you for sharing your story.


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