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The view from a best-case pregnancy

One Madison woman’s experience in the shadow of the Dobbs decision.
“To bring a child into the world who is there under duress is unfair to the pregnant person, to the parents, to the baby, to so many people involved.” Illustration by Kay Reynolds.

One Madison woman’s experience in the shadow of the Dobbs decision.

Diane remembers vividly the moment her husband Jack told her Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, was released. 

“We just had this quiet moment of processing and thinking,” Diane says. “It was a whirlwind of emotions at that point.”

Diane was pregnant, and they had just had their 20-week appointment, which is when doctors can determine whether the fetus has any physical deformities that are incompatible with life. The appointment had gone well and their fetus was not at risk. 

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But the Dobbs decision had been leaked beforehand. So, in the weeks leading up to this appointment—an appointment Diane and Jack knew could lead to some hard questions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy they very much wanted—they didn’t know when the final decision would be released or how quickly it would be implemented.

“We already knew that our baby was not at risk for some of those things but leading up to that and having the Dobbs decision come out,” Diane says. “One day [abortion access] is there, the next day it’s gone. It was really shocking.”

“To imagine being a parent in that circumstance where you’re excited about bringing a life into the world and to find out that your baby wouldn’t be able to survive outside of your womb and then be forced to carry that,” Diane says. “That’s months of grieving this loss, that you’ll never meet them, added on to the loss of losing your baby. There’s months of just having to process that. That was one thing that went through my head.”

In theory, the Dobbs decision didn’t directly affect Diane’s pregnancy. By every metric, Diane’s was a best-case scenario. But experiencing all the complications of a best-case pregnancy, while losing her right to access abortion in Wisconsin, really drove home the importance of abortion access.

“We really wanted a baby. We had planned for it, we had been talking about it for years. I feel like that is the way to bring a child into the world,” Diane says. “To bring a child into the world who is there under duress is unfair to the pregnant person, to the parents, to the baby, to so many people involved.”

Wanting better pregnancies for all

Diane responded to Tone Madison and Madison Minutes‘ family planning survey conducted in August 2022 and wrote at length about the experience of going through her first pregnancy when the Dobbs decision was released. She agreed to speak in depth about her experience with Tone Madison for this series.

If Jack and Diane’s names remind you of a little ditty by John Mellencamp, that’s because they chose to go by pseudonyms. We obscured some of their life details to protect their privacy, with some exposition at the beginning of this article. But her reflections on her pregnancy and Dobbs are in Diane’s own words, provided with minimal editing for clarity.  

“I did grow up hearing about [abortion],” Diane says. “My mom has talked about some of her friends [who] had abortions, and they always regretted it. That was a talking point from my parents growing up. But it was never something that I felt like… No one ever hopes that they have to make that choice, but it was never something that I felt could not be determined by someone other than the individual getting pregnant.

“I was always pretty pro-choice. I had a friend who had an IUD and wound up getting pregnant. It was an ectopic pregnancy, and she only found out because she started feeling really intense pain in her abdomen. She went to a hospital in Chicago; it was a Catholic religiously-affiliated hospital. At first they weren’t going to do anything to help. They weren’t going to provide any medical care because the medical treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is also an abortion.

“Even though an ectopic pregnancy is never viable, that child is never going to be able to survive.It would never properly grow and develop. It would just put her body in immense pain and potentially threaten her life.”

Diane and Jack met while working on a children’s theater program at a Chicagoland university, so “we were already thinking about kids,” Diane says.

“One of our first conversations was about childhood and raising kids,” she says. “Pretty early on in our relationship, we were aware that we both wanted to be parents at some point and grow a family.”

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They moved to Madison so Jack could attend graduate school. Despite the pandemic, their lives started to come together in ways that made them think that maybe it was time to start trying to get pregnant. 

“Around maybe September or October [2021], my husband turned to me and was like, ‘I might be ready to start trying to have a kid,’” Diane says. “I was so surprised.”

Diane has a job working with children, in a workplace that she says is very supportive of mothers. 

“I think that was really huge in making the decision for me,” Diane says. “Knowing I wouldn’t face some of those unspoken effects of becoming pregnant, bad outcomes that can happen to women where it tanks their career.”

Jack was wrapping up graduate school with a part-time job that could transition to full-time once he graduated. 

“We were feeling more comfortable about the prospect that, after the baby is born, we would be financially stable enough to care for a child in a way we would most like to,” Diane says.

So she had her IUD removed and within a few months, she was pregnant. 

In Diane’s words

“My mom had always talked about how wonderful pregnancy was and how much she loved being pregnant, so I kind of had rose-colored glasses,” Diane says. “I did have a pretty good pregnancy overall. It wasn’t too draining. I got very, very pregnant at the end, but I think everyone feels that way.

“But I didn’t have debilitating morning sickness to start off with or things like that. The most—I joke about this now—but I was like ‘Oh I’ll get to eat so many ginger candies and drink so much ginger ale with morning sickness.’ And I would end up having an aversion to ginger, so I didn’t do any of that.

“I wasn’t expecting some of the other discomforts that come along with pregnancy, like swollen feet. I knew it would happen but it’s different to experience it. Or hemorrhoids, if we’re really not glamorous. Those are the worst.

“I’ve always been pretty pro-choice, mainly given the fact that pregnancy changes your body in a lot of ways. Pregnancy comes with a lot of costs. Pregnancy, ideally, if it’s wanted and desired, it results in a lifetime commitment. It’s not something that just happens for nine months and it’s over. 

“There are things that continue on even if someone chooses to put a child up for adoption. I had a C-section; I’ll have that scar for the rest of my life. I’ll have that nerve damage for the rest of my life. There are so many things that go into bringing a child into the world. I really think it’s important that it’s on a woman’s terms, and it’s a choice that someone makes and can be done with joy.

“I can’t imagine going through the medical procedures and the blood draws and being unhappy with the fact that I was bringing a life into the world. There’s so much that goes into that mentally and emotionally too that I wouldn’t even know where to start processing that.

“There’s just so much time that goes into growing a baby. There’s medical appointments once a month, and that’s probably an hour to an hour and a half [for] each appointment. Then, closer to the birth of the baby, the [appointments] are every two weeks, so they’re twice a month. And then even closer, they’re every week. And that’s a lot of time to be traveling to the doctor’s office, to be sitting in waiting rooms, to be talking to your medical professional.

“I was really lucky. I had really good insurance so most of my care leading up to delivery was covered by insurance. I didn’t have to pay for those doctor’s appointments but that could be thousands of dollars. 

“The entire time I was very grateful to have health care that was providing for me and my unborn child and really cognizant of the fact that not everyone has this, especially if you’re a part time employee or you’re a contract worker. I spent many years as a teaching artist, and I didn’t have really good quality healthcare until I got married and then I was able to get on my husband’s healthcare.

“My pregnancy was pretty uncomplicated. I had a medically boring pregnancy. Baby was pretty safe and secure and grew on a good timeline and always had a healthy heartbeat, up until delivery. Which is when I had a C-section, which was unplanned. Everything went really smoothly. Even after the C-section—back to the health insurance thing—I paid $500 to give birth to my baby. Without health insurance, it would have been tens of thousands of dollars.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been in the position where we could feel secure in bringing a baby into the world and really focused on preparing our house and getting a nursery set up and reading books on child development and all of those sorts of things. That feels like a really unique place to be, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. I don’t know how many other parents have that experience, but I would wish that for [them]. 

“During that process I kept thinking of someone going through that without their consent, without their wish to carry a child. There are so many moments that brought me so much joy like listening to baby’s heartbeat, coming up with nicknames, and singing to her. There were all these little moments in preparation for her being here that for a parent or a pregnant person, I would want them to want those things.

“It will probably be a couple of years before we’re ready to have a second child. It could be two years, it could be three years. And I’m very hopeful that things could change between now and then and ideally give women more autonomy over their bodies and their medical choices.”

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