Before I had my abortion I scoured the internet for stories about the procedure: how long, how painful, etc. Aside from a video of a young woman who calmly undergoes an abortion, making it seem like no big deal, the pain and procedure information was hard to find. Certainly part of this is the subjective nature of the experience and the differences in pain thresholds as well as the emotional pain we may or may not feel. I just want to share my experience for the anxious woman, like myself, who wants to know what may happen.

I was further along than I thought I would be – pushing the limit for a first trimester abortion at 11 weeks (some clinics in my state perform abortions up to 18 weeks). This meant that my cervix had to be dilated a little bit more than it would have been if I had only been 9 weeks. I was tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia with a simple urine test. This is to avoid complications and infection. I was given 800 mg of ibuprofen and I turned down the offered Vicodin (for personal reasons, I don’t like the way it makes me feel).

I had plenty of time to ask questions. The entire procedure is about 15 minutes, with only about 4 minutes of pain or discomfort. My doctor applied a numbing agent internally. I couldn’t tell if this was a shot or just a swab. There was some discomfort with the application of the numbing agent, but fortunately there are very few nerve endings around the cervix/uterus. The numbing agent made my ears ring and certain parts of my mouth went numb (this apparently doesn’t happen to everyone). I focused on breathing and the whole thing was done in a very short amount of time. The discomfort is very mild. The pain is so much less than I was expecting – even cramping afterwards.

I shed some tears part way through the procedure. Mixed emotions are a normal part of this. I was very certain about my decision, but sadness brimmed up in me at points. I was pregnant for three months, too. The hormones are a real factor, and I spent many lethargic days wondering if I could get out of bed without throwing up while I was pregnant. Relief and sadness and confusion were very real to me. Even as the head-strong feminist with spiritual but non-religious views I hold. I am so glad to have my life back. My energy is mine again.

The worst part about having an abortion is the social silencing and shaming we experience as women. The “pro-life” activists at the gate of my women’s health center were the physical manifestations of this silencing and shaming. Don’t look at the images (most of them are fake anyway).

We are strong, intelligent women. Remember that.