Being Pro-Life Will Not Protect You From Abortion...
Being pro-life doesn't protect you from having an unwanted abortion, unless you also insist that your doctor be solidly pro-life as well. (And even that is not a guarantee...) Reprinted with permission of the author.
It's now been over 31 years long ago and far away but I still remember. At the present time I have six children and eight grandchildren and another one expected around the 15th. of September. I have given birth to eight children of which one was aborted by hypertonic saline injection/induction at 28 weeks against my will and one died by suicide at age 18; also a decision I would not have made for him.
This story is in memory of:
I was the youngest of twelve children born to my parents in a small outport community along the southeast coast of Newfoundland. My parents had eight sons and four daughters. At the age of four I developed rheumatic fever and had to be taken to a city hospital by coastal boat many miles from home. Being close to Christmas we landed at the harbour in the city with the evidence of Christmas everywhere. At that time for me it was like being transported into a fantasyland with all of the lights and signs of the festive season. This was 1953 and although most of the rest of the country was bathed in electricity we still relied on kerosene lamps, woodstoves and outdoor toilets.
It wasn't until seven years later that power lines, paved roads and indoor plumbing reached my home community.
That year Santa Claus came to visit me in the hospital. I felt so special there with nurses in starched white uniforms and caps waiting on me hand and foot, even giving me a commode for my very own to pee in. It was sometime well into the month of January when I was allowed to return home the same way I arrived, along with instruction to stay in bed and take my pills. The nurses used to crush them to a fine powder for me and mix them with red jam (raspberry) and spoon it into me along with apple juice, which had been a rare treat. Both my parents were very busy people. Dad would be up at the crack of dawn, down to the stage to load his gear into his boat, then out around the bay for the rest of the day with four of my older brothers fishing till near dark.
Mother, with the help of my eldest sister, prepared breakfast and boiled large kettles of water to wash clothes. After all the children were fed and sent off to school, she would get out her big rising pan to bake bread. Except for Saturday and Sunday, this was her routine every day. While she was waiting for her bread to rise, it was down to my father's fishing stage where she'd split cod fish that had been dumped into the salt barrels from Dad's previous day's catch. Some would be kept for ourselves while the rest was sold to the merchants: the source of my father's income. After the fish were split and placed on the flaker, it was back to the house with a stop at the shed to bring in more wood for the stove and begin the task of preparing the main meal of the day. It goes without saying Mother didn't have a lot of time to spend pampering and catering to this invalid child. In the daytime she made me a cosy spot in a big chair by the window wrapped in flannel blankets warmed beside the woodstove. From there I could watch the other children sleigh riding down the hills across the meadow. They would often come to the window in the parlour (living room) and entertain me by making funny faces or building snowmen that I could admire....oh, how I longed to be out there with them. Most days with my mother busy at her chores, two of my sisters would help Mother by entertaining me, reading books and drawing pictures. As the months of confinement went on, my sisters began to teach me how to read (they were getting tired of the job), write and do basic addition and subtraction.
By the time I was recovered to the point of being able to attend school, it was close to my sixth birthday. I spent about two weeks in kindergarten and then was moved into a grade one class. In the late fall the teacher sent a note home to my parents requesting an interview. It was deemed at that time that I was academically ahead of the other students in the class and, would it be agreeable to accelerate me to Gr. 2? I finished the year in Grade 2 and was promoted to Grade 3. I accelerated another Grade in elementary school and was ready for high school at age 12. Remembering the wonderful nurses who had looked after me in the big city hospital, it was my dream to eventually become a nurse.
A young fellow by the name of Richard used to come by to help my father from time to time and beg for a chance to go out fishing with him. I used to sit down at the fishing stage on warm days watching the boats go in and out of the harbour and the seals playing in the shallows. Richard would come and sit beside me and we would talk and share our dreams. He was 13 and I was 11. Before there was any romantic attachment between us, we had become fast friends and I loved him. I wasn't allowed to date until a few years later but it was accepted that Richard and I were a "couple". Anywhere we went there was always a crowd around, and most evenings that he stopped by were spent in the kitchen with the family around. Prior to my sixteenth birthday, I had graduated from high school and was ready to pursue my dream of becmoming a nurse. It was a time when I was offically allowed to be "courted" by Richard.
Without exception, at that time one had to be 18 years of age to enter nursing school. I was so disappointed and dismayed since I had achieved graduation from high school with the required number of credits and I thought I was a worthy candidate. My case was reviewed and eventually with the special permission signed by the governor general, I was allowed to enter St. Claire's Mercy Hospital in the three year nursing programme opening in September just a month shy of my sixteenth birthday. I felt very isolated and out of place in the city and particularly with the other older students since they were all over age 18. They all seemed so worldly and sophisticated and there was me, a whiney little homesick teenager from "out around the bay". Richard was back and forth between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia fishing. We didn't see each other much and both waited eagerly for the Christmas holidays to be home to renew our time together. That Christmas Richard asked permission of my father for my hand in marriage. Of course I was too young and still had my training to finish but Richard placed a beautiful diamond ring on my finger with the approval of my parents along with lots of oohs, awws, and teasing from my siblings. When I returned to dorm life after the holiday season, I too felt grown up and worldly. By now too, electricity and the beginnings of paved roads to my community made travel much more accessible. At this time as well, Mom and Dad began to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle with electricity, including t.v.(two stations) and electric heaters now installed, indoor plumbing and Mom's pride and joy, her electric stove and refrigerator.
I sailed through my first year of nurse's training and eagerly looked forward to the second year. I was still not in the best of health, having been diagnosed as anemic resulting from the rheumatic fever. Since the beginning of puberty, once a month I had to have blood drawn to check my levels and injections of B12. The insides of my arms resembled pin cushions.
Near the end of my second year of training, my goal aspired to becoming an O.R. nurse. Since my fellow students were older and able to pursue extra curricular activities of the nightlife and dating scene in downtown St. John's, I wasn't old enough and wouldn't have even been able to sneak into a club undetected. Sometimes I would leave the dorm and go to the O.R. and stand at the scrub room window to try and observe some of the procedures and surgeries taking place. Depending on who was working and the attending physician, I was allowed to scrub, gown and enter the O.R. theater to have a closer look. It was awesome. After graduation in May 1969 and then convocation, I was hired to work at the small cottage hospital near our community. Although I was close to home, working on the "medicine unit" (six beds) was not what I had hoped for.
When Richard's boat landed in port to discharge fish and take on supplies, he was usually only around for forty-eight hours and then out again for ten to twelve days. Our times together were too brief and we wanted more in our relationship. Richard had an opportunity to travel to the North West Territories for a contractual time to work on the Hay River and I was investigating a fall opening at a Toronto children's hospital on the surgery unit.
In August, 1969, we were married. In a borrowed dress, carrying my mother's prayer book with a few wildflowers attached to the cover, I walked down the isle on my father's arm to be joined to the fellow who used to sit on the wharf alongside of me and share dreams. My veil was made by my eldest sister from a set of kitchen curtains purchased from the Eaton's mail order catalogue for that purpose.
I was a very nervous bride and Richard was a very nervous groom, but it didn't take long to get the "knack" of consummating our wedding vows as we eagerly looked forward to sharing that part of our marriage. Although all of my siblings were gone except one brother, we had to make do staying with my parents. Richard accepted the job on the Hay River which would begin in September and I was going to work in Toronto. Even though we would still be separated by many miles he would be home for Christmas and the company would pay for his flight to Toronto. We decided to wait till we travelled to the mainland to look for accommodation. During those last two weeks of August so as not to disturb my parents and draw attention to ourselves, we'd steal away to the woods or the hills. Sometimes we'd row the little flat around the shore to a secluded beach to be alone together. Quite often we'd arrive back home with blueberry stains on our bodies and clothes and Dad would comment with a twinkle in his eye that since we were "off picking blueberries it was a wonder that we didn't even bring home a cupful." Richard would blush scarlet and I would run off to our room to compose myself and blush in private. They were such dear parents and I have missed them deeply since they both passed away.
At the end of August, 1969, we travelled to St. John's as Mr. & Missus and boarded a plane to begin our married life together in Toronto. We found a cozy little furnished flat within walking distance to the hospital where I was going to work and happily settled in. I knew I was going to miss Richard when he would have to leave, yet I was looking forward to learning all I could and becoming part of the O.R. team at this prestigious children's hospital. Richard would be back in Toronto with me at Christmas till the beginning of April, so thinking in those terms gave me consolation. My two sisters, who had taught me so much in earlier years, were both married and living in Toronto at the time. One lived only a few stops away along Queen Street, while the other was living in the north west end of the city. My closest girlfriend from home was living and working in Toronto and planning to return home the following summer to get married.
I loved my job and the children at work, although it was often very sad and heartbreaking to be among so many very ill children. Looking back in retrospect, I think it was working with the children that caused me to eventually gravitate to Palliative Care and Grief Counselling. Children can be so accepting of their fate in regard to terminal illness as well as painful surgeries and respond to living their alloted time in harmony with their circumstance.
As I mentioned, by mid October I wasn't feeling very well, and the signs and symptoms pointing to pregnancy were certainly apparent. My sister met me, and together we went to my doctor's appointment. I was definitely pregnant. I knew Richard was aboard the tanker; he was working on the Hay River. The only way I would be able to reach him and give him the news was to call the company and have them place a ship to shore call directly to the boat to leave a message for my husband to call as soon as possible. When I was able to relay the news to him, he was very happy and so was I. I couldn't wait to see him at Christmas. After some more tests, the doctor assured me I was well and the pregnancy should proceed normally with an expected due date around the 17th. of April 1970. Except for the morning sickness that manifested around five o'clock for the next month following, I was on top of the world.
When Richard arrived home at our small flat in Toronto just a few days before Christmas, he was surprised to see that indeed I was very pregnant. I had purchased an empire line style coat and was so proud to wear it to emphasize my expanding girth! I would go to work and come home to wonderful feasts prepared by my husband, who was becoming quite the cook. Although we were both homesick for a Newfoundland Christmas, we made the best of it and enjoyed a wonderful time with my sisters and their families. Whenever we could over the Christmas season, we'd take a walk over to Queen and Yonge Streets to view the wonderful holiday displays in the Eaton's Department Store windows. We hoped that someday we would be able to bring our child to enjoy and delight in these wonderful moving displays.
I found that winters in Ontario are bitterly cold, and when I got off work Richard would come and meet me and we'd almost run home. The one thing that really bothered me was that there was a high possibility that Richard would have to go back to the North West Territories around the time our baby was due to be born. He made several enquiries in hopes of securing work either as a dockworker or deckhand aboard with one of the Great Lakes Carriers.
At that time maternity leave was granted six weeks before the expected due date and eight weeks after, for a total of fourteen weeks. Working during the last trimester was not accepted until a few years later. Since I had worked a lot of overtime earlier on, I had a week of lieu days owing to me and five sick days. With the added weight of pregnancy I was beginning to tire easily and looked forward to extra time off to relax and prepare for our baby.
One evening in early February my girlfriend Elaine called me and asked if there was a possibility that I would be able to act as her matron of honour in her upcoming wedding. Of course I said yes and the thought popped into my mind that since Richard wouldn't be here with me I know he wouldn't mind if I flew home with the baby to participate in my friend's wedding. It would be a great opportunity to present this new grandchild to his/her loving grandparents.
It was mutually agreed between Elaine and I that the following evening, February 8th, she would meet me after work and we'd go to a restaurant to have supper together, then go to her flat and I'd help her with her wedding guest list. My husband decided he would go and help my brother in law for the day and would be home in the evening if I wanted him to come and meet me at Elaine's place.
Elaine and I met and enjoyed a lovely supper in a downtown Toronto restaurant. We then walked for a short distance along Queen Street window shopping, laughing and talking, then boarded a streetcar for the ride to her stop. By that time I was feeling a little nauseated, but I believed it must have been caused by the streetcar ride. A hot cup of tea would revive me and I'd be fine again. We sat around the kitchen table with our cups of tea and began to talk about Elaine's wedding and the invitation list. I was experiencing a gnawing pain on my right side that seemed to radiate into my back. It wasn't so bad that I couldn't stand up and asked Elaine if we could move into the living room so I could lay down on the chesterfield for awhile. I was really beginning to feel worse and expressed that I was in a lot of pain. Elaine was so worried. When she first announced that she was going to call an ambulance, I protested and asked her to call Richard. There was no answer at the flat and he had allready left my sisters place, so he must have been on his way home. The second time she announced that she would call the ambulance I didn't protest, and within minutes the attendants were at the door with the stretcher. As the ambulance attendents where wheeling me out the door, I told Elaine to keep calling the flat to try and get hold of Richard and then meet me at the hospital. The hospital I was being taken to was next to the one I worked at. Both hospitals were connected by an underground tunnel. Upon arrival, I was wheeled straight away to the labour and delivery unit and transferred to a bed in a small windowless examining room. A tall nurse with a clipped tone in her voice helped me undress and proceeded to take my vitals. As she was wrapping the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm, she noticed the tiny scars still quite evident from years of having blood drawn. Because I was in pain, I was having a difficult time answering her questions. As she was tying up the back of the johnny coat I vomited on the floor. She wasn't particularly pleased and left the room, remarking that someone would be in shortly to clean it up and I should keep the kidney basin handy. A member of the housekeeping staff came in almost immediately and mopped the floor. He averted his eyes from me, completing his task and left. I wanted to ask him if he could see a young man accompanied by a young woman with red hair out in the waiting area but it was just too difficult to speak. Shortly thereafter the doctor entered, an austere very hairy man with a stocky build wearing black framed glasses.
I will never forget him. To this day I have a vivid image of him in my mind.
He introduced himself to me, "Hello, I'm Dr. Campbell, the chief resident of Obstetrics and Gynecology in this hospital." He instructed me to assume the position for a pelvic examination and roughly proceeded without benefit of a rubber glove. I told him I was having a lot of pain. I also tried to tell him that I was a nurse, but he wasn't interested in listening to me. He also lifted my arms (I am assuming it was to check my veins for an i.v. setup). In those days the flower children and hippies roamed the downtown streets of Toronto. I had smoked pot a couple of times with my husband and some friends, but it certainly wasn't a habitual practice. I wasn't into hard drugs and had no desire to experiment. In the style of the time my hair was long and I used to wear it usually parted in the middle. For work I would keep it tied back in a ponytail secured under my cap. Dr. Campbell said to me, "You should really be ashamed of yourself young lady, attempting to induce labour and give yourself an abortion." "Don't you have any idea how far along you are in this pregnancy and then when you mess up you drugged up young tramps come to me for help!" "Now you've started the job, I can't save your pregnancy so you'll just have let us finish the dirty job you've started." His words tore through me like a knife and I was so shocked and horrified. I couldn't believe he was saying this. At this juncture I must interject that from the moment I was wheeled into that room up to that point a lab technician was never called to draw blood. No urine specimen was taken. Something terrible was happening here and I was not able to help myself. I didn't know where my husband was and even though I made an attempt to call his name, I was vehemently told to quiet down; there were other patients on the unit trying to get some rest. I didn't know that Richard and Elaine had been out in the waiting area for some time and Richard had been told that when the doctor was finished examining me he would be allowed to come in and see me. I could hear Dr. Campbell and a nurse outside the door discussing orders and heard the words oxytoxin infusion with a hypertonic saline drip and insertion of a laminaria suppository. I didn't see him again until much later. A different, much kinder nurse entered the room and told me the doctor had ordered a sedative to help me get some rest and relieve the pain. As she gently rolled me to the side to facilitate the injection, she told me the doctor had gone to speak with my husband and he would soon be with me. I was weeping to the point that I was incoherent. This nurse saw my anguish and sympathetically patted my shoulder and left the room. Shortly after, the first nurse and the one who had just been with me began to work to set up the i.v. and drape me for the procedure that would extract some amniotic fluid from the protective sac around my child and inject the deadly saline. Dr. Campbell entered the room and proceeded to "finish the job he had accused me of starting."
[Note: this doctor performed an abortion on her without her consent. --ed.]
By the time my husband, along with Elaine, entered the room, the drug had taken effect. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak; I couldn't lift my arms, my legs, my fingers or my toes. Even my eyelids seemed heavy. I could see that my husband and Elaine had been weeping also. I was to find out that the story Dr. Campbell related to my husband and Elaine was far different than what was actually happening in that room.
Dr. Campbell had presented a very different demeanour to Richard and Elaine. He told Richard that I was dangerously dilated and in premature labour and would probably deliver within the next 24 hours. He told Richard too that the delivery would be done under a general anesthesia since I was in distress as well as the fetus. I was in my 29th. week of pregnancy. Richard sat with me and spoke very little. He held my hand and massaged my fingers as I looked at him and tried to speak with my eyes. He couldn't read my thoughts though and he misinterpreted the sounds I was making as moans of pain. At that point I felt nothing, only a total consuming numbness. Elaine had gone to use the telephone in the waiting room to call my sisters and my mother, who had never been off the Shoal Point since arriving from Ireland many years earlier meeting and marrying my father. For Christmas my sisters and I had pooled money and bought a ticket for her to fly up and spend some time with us. She was staying with my third eldest sister in northwest end of the city and would soon be returning home since my dad wasn't well and she didn't want to leave him alone much longer.
Some hours later another injection was given to me and I could feel myself drifing in and out of a twilight fitful sleep. I truly felt that what was happening to me was a nightmare; I would wake up and all would be well. My thoughts were screeming for help. Elaine stayed the whole time sitting with my mother, sisters and Richard, as well as trying to console me.
As time passed into the night and early morning, it was evident that contractions were starting. Around seven a.m. a lab technician came in to draw blood. Here was a witness. As she placed the rubber tourniquet around my arm and massaged the veins, she commented that I must have had a lot of previous blood work. Although I couldn't respond to her my thoughts were that she would be a reliable witness, someone who could discern what the scars on the insides of my arms represented. A young student nurse followed in, telling Richard that he and my family members could wait for me in another area or go to the cafeteria for some breakfast. I was to be taken to the O.R. and would probably be gone for about a couple of hours.
As they wheeled me through the hallway to the elevator, I wanted to jump off and run but it wasn't possible either.
I looked at the unfamiliar faces to see if I could see Dr. Campbell, but he wasn't around. It was ironic in a way that here was me the young zealous nurse desiring so much to be an O.R. nurse and at that moment it was the last place I wanted to be.
As I lay there in the cold brightness of the room as each person attended to their particular duty, it became very clear that what had transpired on the labour room the previous evening was unfixable and I had no power in this situation whatsoever. As the anesthetic was administered by injection through the i.v. catheter, I was instructed to count backward starting at 100. I woke up several hours later installed in a semi private room on the obstetrical unit.
I was given the pain meds and antibiotics by the doctor before he left my bedside after our discussion. Arrangements were to be made for me to be transported to 7G at Sick Kid's. A call was placed to send a message to my husband to come to my room. One of my sisters arrived and she and my mother (Mom was usually a very even tempered woman) briefly chatted and tried to console me to relax. I was so tired, but there was no way I could sleep. I urged the two of them to go for a lunch in the cafeteria as I would still be here when they returned. As they were leaving, Richard arrived. Poor Richard, he looked a wreck. His eyes were red from weeping and lack of sleep. It was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon. I told him that a doctor had been in to see me and I was allowed to go and see our baby. A young nurse came in an announced that she would be coming for me at 2:30 to transport me to the other hospital to see my son. Richard told me that the baby wasn't doing very well and tubes were everywhere. An endotracheal tube had been inserted into his airway and he was receiving continuous positive airway pressure by means of a ventilator. The prognosis wasn't good. At 2:30 the nurse came to the room pushing a wheelchair. Just before, my husband had helped me brush my teeth, wash my face and comb my hair. Richard helped me to the wheelchair and covered my legs with a blanket. As we proceeded to the elevator, none of us spoke. It was a very busy time of the day with visitors and staff coming and going. It seemed like forever waiting for the elevator and I was becoming increasingly anxious. The trip through the underground tunnel seemed to never end and again we had to wait for an available elevator to the intensive care neonatal unit on 7G. As we got off the elevator at the 7th. floor, we were met by a pediatric resident who I had come to know quite well from the surgery unit where I worked. It was now ten minutes to three. He escorted us to a small room alongside the waiting area. "Mr.& Mrs. K., I am very sorry and regret that I have to tell you both that your son expired at 0345 hrs." Our son was dead. I think Richard and I were both in shock; this whole scenario was just too horrific and Richard didn't even know the details yet. The resident told us to wait and our son would be brought to us to allow us to hold him. He was small but he was so perfect. Every part of him outwardly was intact. His beautiful little face only seemed to be sleeping the peaceful slumber that little babies enjoy, but he was gone. We were left alone to say goodbye to our son for about half an hour. Now, thanks to Dr. Campbell, we would bury our firstborn.
Through my sister's husband, who had done some rennovations at the home of a lawyer, we were able to consult with regard to the possibility of legal action. Medical malpractice would have been very difficult to pursue since after the discussion with the surgeon in the room after waking up, he would clearly have been on the alert that this was a case that would not go away quietly. When attempts were made to secure copies of my admission and hospital charts, they had mysteriously disappeared.
Mom had to leave to go home soon after the funeral for our little son. We didn't bury him in Toronto, but had his tiny remains left with the undertaker. When we finally left to board the plane to go home, the little white lambskin coffin was delivered to the airport, and our son's remains were transported on the same flight.
Our son was buried in the family plot near his ancestors. When my father died a few months later, the little coffin was moved to the foot of my father's grave, where a little stone angel kneels eternally in prayer.
We have survived these tragedies and life is good. Both deaths of our two sons were equally cruel, yet the confidence of our faith has sustained us and empowered us to not bury ourselves with the dead, but to take a lesson from what we have learned and apply it to our lives in positive ways.
In spite of the heartbreak of losing these two important parts of our lives, we have been so blessed and so grateful.
Perhaps I may be thinking in a high minded way, but it gives me comfort nontheless that Dr. Campbell's judgement will be to meet me face to face.
I was prolife before that unfortunate incident. I still have the scars in my arms as a reminder of my illness as a child/youth, although they are long faded but still evident. Those scars remind me that everyday children are lost through abortion, and human life at all stages becomes less important to so many in this so-called enlightened society we live in. Little Jay's too short life and his death made it that much more important to me to continue to fight without ceasing to inform and educate toward the true value of human life.
Peace be with All of You!