Freedom Claustrophobia: The Fear of Disappearing Choices

Claustrophobia is an extreme fear of confined spaces. When my options are limited, I struggle
with the lack of freedom in choices. However, I make choices every day that affect my body and
my life. Choices that I intentionally make with the help of my past experiences.

As a therapist, I assist people with processing their experiences and choices. And while I have
the professional experience and education to help, I am not the best person to dictate decisions
for other people. We are all the experts of our own lives.

Recently, I made a choice to have a medical procedure to improve my quality of life. I did
research. I spoke with my doctor. I asked other women who’ve had this procedure about their
experience. I used my skills to make a choice for me.

As I prepared for the procedure, I was asked questions which limited my access to care. My
answers would not change the procedure itself nor the status of my health. The questions were
asked because the laws around women’s healthcare have changed. My access to care is limited. I
am no longer the expert on me.

I made a choice to be a mother and assumed the risk of pregnancy and giving birth. Our
experience included eleven days in the NICU for our daughter and five days in the hospital due
to complications for me. I had a c-section because my doctor said that was our best chance of
survival, which included major abdominal surgery, a massive needle stuck in my back risking
paralysis, organs pulled from my body lying on my chest while remaining awake to bring my
daughters safely into this world. The recovery was difficult. Sitting on the toilet was unbearable
for weeks, pads filled with bloody uterine lining, and a massive scar that I still do not have
feeling around. And yet, we are lucky this was our experience.

I was pregnant with twins before my daughters. Babies I planned for and wanted and loved. At
20 weeks an ultrasound showed no heartbeats. No viable pregnancy. I got a choice. I could leave
those dead babies in my body risking infection and continuing the trauma of a failed pregnancy,
feeling the loss every minute of every day. Or I could have an abortion. I could end the physical
trauma and start the healing process. In an impossible situation, I got to be an expert on my life.
Only because I exerted my right to choose, three months later I was pregnant with my daughters.

My nephew Karter died in utero. My sister had a healthy pregnancy until she didn’t and she
almost lost her life for it. By the time she made it to the hospital, she was rushed into surgery.
She had to make choices and answer questions no one dreams of when they become pregnant.

Do you want to be awake or sedated while we remove your dead son from your body?
Do you want to hold him?
Do you want to bury him?
Can you afford it?
Do you want an autopsy?
Do you want him baptized?

I question where Karter’s life was documented. A traumatic stillbirth of a loved baby boy two
days from his due date or was his life used as a “late-term abortion” statistic?

The trauma of this loss changes the choices and questions surrounding a pregnancy. Those who
have suffered this physical and emotional pain understand, as perhaps few others can, the risk
involved with giving birth. They are the experts in their experience.

Having children, in any circumstances, involves trauma. What happens to our minds, bodies,
spirits, careers, relationships, finances, and wellness is massively shifted when a pregnancy
happens, no matter the outcome.

I am freedom claustrophobic. I am afraid of losing the choice to do what I want with my body. I
am afraid of limited healthcare and risking death because we are no longer able to be the experts
on ourselves.

The right to a life of freedom and choice is what I gave birth under and what I lost my babies
under. However, today my choices are limited on how I access medical care. While I have the
resources necessary to meet my needs, resources should not be the limiting factor in the
freedoms I have as a woman.

My claustrophobia has spread to realize that confined freedoms are more terrifying than the
smallest elevator or coffin. Our paths are narrowing right before our eyes. I refuse to sit by in
fear while I watch freedom disappear for myself, my daughters and all women. I know the risks.
I know the power in choice. Our lives are worth the choice.

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