Hi, my name is puzzled and I had an abortion.
I had never typed those words, with or without my real name until last night. I recently have embarked on a journey toward openness (though not so open I’m ready to give up the relative anonymity of my nom de blog) 🙂 and sharing my story is the next step in that journey.
I have been opening my life up to one particular friend, and decided that I would tell him what I had referred to as my biggest secret on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I was afraid–my heart was pounding as I blurted out (can one actually blurt while typing?) a short version of what I am about to write. Though he is kind and non-judgmental, I worried that he would not understand. His politics are much more conservative than mine, he is a churchgoer, and is adopted. All reasons I should just have kept my secret buried where it has been since I was fifteen. But I seem compelled to share, so I did.
Yes, I said fifteen. It was my first boyfriend. He was sixteen and had a car. I was younger than all the kids in my group, and thought I would never be cool enough or pretty enough to have a real boyfriend. I was at that awkward age, and my insecurities ran high.
Well, the relationship progressed through that winter and spring. Grateful for his attention, I let him go farther than I felt comfortable with, and eventually one of our evenings ended with me being date-raped in his car. I cried all the way home. Hurt and confused, I went in to talk to my mom. I can still picture her, tissuing off her makeup, as I stumbled over the words:
“Steve raped me.” She paused for a second, resumed her ablutions, saying only: “Don’t tell your father.”
I continued dating Steve. Couldn’t tell you exactly why–who knows exactly what goes on in the mind of a teenage girl? We continued having unprotected sex. I was not stupid, I knew the risks, but didn’t know how to access birth control, or even condoms.
Of course, I ended up pregnant. I was at summer camp when I first realized I probably was. I was throwing up all day long, and when one of the counselors confronted me, I shared my suspicions with him. The look in his eyes told me I should have kept it to myself.
When I got back, Steve took me to Planned Parenthood, where a pregnancy test confirmed what I already knew, and I got a referral to an abortion clinic. I knew and he knew it was the only option, although he was Catholic and his mother was very active in the pro-life movement.
The day of the procedure comes back to me in pieces–like a slideshow. I can remember the waiting room, staring at the pattern in the carpet, palms sweating. The shirt I was wearing–red. Jumping when the needle which would deliver the anesthetic to my cervix poked me, and the doctor admonishing me to keep still. Most of all I remember the kind nurse who held my hand and spoke softly to me throughout the procedure.
The ride home is a blur, as is the rest of that day. I remember cramping, bleeding, but putting on a brave face to come out of my room and have dinner with my parents, because the lesson my mother had taught me, wittingly or unwittingly, is that we don’t talk about things like this. I got up the next day and went to driver’s ed., even though I was told not to drive for 24 hours, because I had no excuse and knew I couldn’t tell anyone the truth.
I never did tell my parents. This was before the days when parental notification became one of the strategies to make it harder for young women to get an abortion. Similarly, I didn’t tell any of my friends, though years later, after I graduated from college, I volunteered for an abortion referral service, and shared my story with the Director.
But why should I have felt ashamed? Why, more than 30 years later, am I still reluctant to share my story? Why should it have power over me? It should not, and this is another step in my journey. My friend? He accepted my story with grace and told me to let go of my shame and not worry about what I cannot change. Obviously my trust in him was well-placed.
So judge me. Go ahead. I can handle it. I am no longer ashamed.