Member Voices: AFSCME is Standing Up for Working Families

My name is Amy. I want to share my story, and tell you why I’m proud of my union for standing up for families like mine. Last year, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I were shocked, happy, and overwhelmed. I contacted my health care provider and followed up with prenatal visits. At eight weeks, I took an early chromosome test, which came back normal and indicated that we were having a boy. A few weeks later we’d named our baby Crosby and shared the exciting news with our friends and family.

It was at our 20-week ultrasound when all of our dreams for our son came crashing down. The ultrasound tech told us that something was wrong, and she had to consult with a doctor. The doctor then immediately sent us to a specialist. After reviewing the ultrasound pictures, he told us it would be the “worst day of your life.”

The doctor was holding on to my right hand, my husband held on to my left, and he told us that our son had terminal chromosomal abnormalities. We had him repeat this term over and over. What did this mean? He told us that our son could die in my womb or minutes after birth; it wasn’t if he would die, but when. The specialist told us that if he made it to full term, his first moments would be spent struggling for air because his lungs and brain were not developing. We were told that no amount of procedures or medicine could keep him alive (we asked about this over and over again).

At no moment did anyone tell us our baby would survive. So, as parents, we had to make a choice. Do we continue the pregnancy? Imagine a loved one is on life support and you have to make that choice. For us, ending the pregnancy was the most compassionate and loving thing we could do as parents. We were also concerned about my well-being, knowing that I was at a higher risk of developing an infection, preeclampsia, or depression.

I cried myself to sleep for weeks. In those moments I knew that if I continued the pregnancy my mental health would be at risk. The emotional anguish of knowing that you are carrying a dying child is more than anyone should be forced to experience.

Because of Minnesota’s outrageous restriction laws, we had less than two weeks to make a decision. If we went over the state deadline, we were told we could maybe “find someone else in the country to help us.”  Our hospital said they couldn’t perform the procedure to terminate the pregnancy. They told us we had only two options – another local hospital or Planned Parenthood. During this waiting period I was scared and becoming more and more depressed. There were so many questions in the air. Will the new hospital accept me? Would insurance help pay for the delivery? Will I be able to take time off of work? Will we be able to say goodbye to our baby?  It was all a blur and I still feel like I didn’t have enough time to properly grieve for my baby. 

Our doctor told us that people assume that pregnancy always works out and people rarely consider all of the things that can go wrong – especially after 20 weeks. He said that it would have been impossible to see any developmental issues before an 18 to 20-week ultrasound. We did three chromosome tests and every test came back normal. He told us that there is still a lot unknown about all of the possible chromosomal abnormalities that can occur in pregnancy.

It was in these moments that I realized that policy makers never consider families like ours - those who are faced with the unimaginable and make decisions about ending very wanted pregnancies.

I’m proud that our union has taken a stand to protect our rights as parents. Our union ensures that parents like us do not have to worry about health insurance coverage and that we can take the time off needed to heal and grieve. They understand that any restriction takes away the rights of parents to make informed choices for their family. 

We are not monsters because of the decision we made; we are parents who were faced with the unimaginable. We could be your friend, your neighbor, a family member, your co-worker. This is such a painful and private experience and not easy to share. Families who are told “this will be the worst day of your life” deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and love. Any reproductive restrictions assume that parents do not know what is best for their own child. In reality, it was our only opportunity to be parents and make the best decision we could for our child and family.

Thank you, AFSCME, for standing up for families like ours.