I had an abortion when I was 20, in 2007.
I had been on the Depo shot, but issues with it resulted in my going off of it, and the doctor at Planned Parenthood told me that it could take up to 18 months for the medicine to get completely out of my system, and sent me home with birth control pills instead, which I never started taking.
After a year of regular, unprotected with my then live-in boyfriend, I still hadn’t gotten pregnant, so I naively thought I still had a few months to go before I needed to really start to worry about birth control.
After I broke up with my boyfriend, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to have random hook-ups, which sometimes involved condoms, but mostly involved pulling out. Still nothing happened. Then about six months after we broke up, I met a new guy and started dating him. We never used condoms. I was 20 in my second year of college, and he was 18 in his senior year of high school.
We had sex for the first time in January, and I took a pregnancy test at the end of February following a very light period and then not having one at all. I didn’t have to wait the full three minutes for the positive sign to show up, it came almost immediately. When I told my boyfriend, he suggested we go to Planned Parenthood to get a real one, so we did.
He waited in the car while I went inside, fifteen minutes before they were to close on a Friday afternoon. I was not shocked when the nurse confirmed that I was pregnant, and she was very kind to me while handing me pamphlets that explained the different options I had. When I went back out to the car and I told him the results, all he had to say was “Did you make an appointment to get it taken care of?”
I had, and am, pro-choice, and when thinking about having an unwanted pregnancy before, I had never given a second thought to getting an abortion. But now that I was actually in this situation, I didn’t know what to think.
By the time I made the appointment for the end of March, the first available time, I had told a couple of trusted friends, who were supportive of whatever decision I chose, though one strongly encouraged adoption. When I presented this to my boyfriend, he freaked out and said he couldn’t be with me if that was what I was going to do. That was what made me choose.
My appointment happened to fall on a Tuesday, and my boyfriend was not going to be able to go. Planned Parenthood’s rules at the time were that someone else had to be along to drive me home, because based on what I had given them for a timeline I was too far along to do the pill. I knew I couldn’t ask the two friends I had told, because while they were supportive of me, I knew they would not be comfortable going. The only person I could ask was my sister. She agreed to go along.
The night before my abortion, I couldn’t sleep, and I had to be to the clinic right when they opened, but it was an almost two hour drive. When I checked in I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, and was lead into an examination room where a vaginal ultrasound was conducted, which showed that I was about 11 weeks and 4 days. I declined to see the screen or any photos, staring intently at the ceiling. I stated that I wanted to stay awake for the procedure.
I went back to the waiting room where I was called back to meet with a counselor who made sure I understood the decision, and we discussed what I wanted to do for birth control after that. I had chosen to stay awake, so she also handed me a Valium to relax me, and two extra strength Tylenol for pain. I was then sent back to the waiting room to finish filling out my paperwork and pay, about $350.
By the time I was called in for the final time, the Valium had kicked in, and I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other while trying not to fall over, cursing myself for wanting to sit on the opposite side of the waiting room. The nurse, who had a kind face but whose name I no longer remember, lead me through a maze to a large, bright room with a table like all doctor’s office have and a small bathroom, where she instructed me to undress from the waist down, put a sanitary pad in my underwear, and put on a dressing gown. After that, she helped me walk to, get up on, and lie down on the table where we waited for the doctor and another nurse to come in.
I remember the doctor seeming cold to me. She wasn’t rude necessarily, but just introduced herself and got right down to business. She injected a shot into my cervix (which to numb or expand or both I also cannot remember), which hurt like hell, and then briefly explained to me what was going to happen. After a few minutes, she began the procedure. The kind nurse did her best to soothe me, offering to hold my hand which I refused, and getting me a bed pan when I said I felt like I was going to throw up. At one point I made the mistake of looking to my right, where the tube was running to a giant Mason jar that was filled with blood.
I’m sure the whole thing took no longer than 10 minutes, though it felt like an eternity. When it was finally done, I laid on the table until the doctor and other nurse left, then my nurse brought out my underwear, jeans, and shoes and helped me get re-dressed and lead me to a large recovery room. In there I was lead to a little cubicle where I was hooked up a blood pressure monitor, had a heating pack placed on my swollen stomach, and given some juice and crackers. There was a TV showing Two and a Half Men at the end of my cubicle, and two women in the cubicles on either side. The one to my left was screaming while a man tried to calm her down.
My nurse asked if I wanted my sister to come back (I must have told her it was my sister at some point), and I nodded. While she went to get my sister, the girls working in the recovery room brought me a survey-like thing to fill out about my experience, and said I had to stay about thirty minutes. I tried to fill it out, but when my sister arrived I asked her to read me the questions and write down my responses. I fell asleep after that was done.
When my thirty minutes were up, I felt a volunteer shake me awake, unhook the blood pressure monitor, and direct me to a bathroom where I was to relieve myself and check for blood. There was mild spotting, which I reported, they handed me some antibiotics and pain reliever and sent me on my way.
My sister and I went out to lunch, then she drove us back home, where I had moved back to after breaking up with my previous boyfriend. When we got home, I locked myself in my bedroom and cried myself to sleep.
When I saw my boyfriend the next afternoon, he asked how I was feeling, and that was all, and we went back to the way things were. We never discussed the abortion, and even ended up getting married in the summer of 2009, at which point I seemed to have gotten baby fever. My now husband, however, was not at all on board with that, and soon long buried feelings about the abortion I didn’t even know I had came to the surface.
I never did, and never have, directly told him that I blame him for talking me into getting an abortion, because ultimately I am the one that walked into and stayed in the clinic. I knew then that he had valid points – we were too young, both living at home, no money – but I can’t help but feel that I could have done it. But I can’t help at times but be mad at him that I had to ask my baby sister to take me, that he has never cared to ask then or now how I felt about it. That I felt like I had to choose between him or the pregnancy.
I don’t know how things would have turned out if I had decided not to get an abortion. I’ve never dreamed of the child I could have had, although for whatever reason I feel like I know what sex it would have been and secretly named it. I have never had horrific nightmares of my abortion like I’ve read about, but I also feel like I have this huge weight on my shoulders of this secret, because society says it’s taboo and I’m a murderer.
I can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy when other people I know get pregnant or when I see children about the same age I would have one now. I don’t celebrate a would-have-been birthday or my abortion date, but I do think about them. I can go for weeks without thinking about it, and then I’m emotional at any little thing pregnancy or baby-related.
Ultimately, I really will never know if I made the right decision or not. I could have a 7-year-old right now, probably in first or second grade with adoring grandparents. I could still be in my own house, working a job I love, having completed my four-year degree and all of that jazz. I also know that having done all that would have been much more challenging, and that I probably would have ended up as a single parent.
I do know that the hardest part of it all has been not having anyone to talk to about it. I know in a room of 1,000 women I would not be alone in my experience, but no one seems to want to start the conversation. And we need to know that we aren’t alone, we need to be able to talk about it, cry or scream if we need to, but just to know that we are not the only people. And that the judgmental a-holes will always be judgmental a-holes and not to let them get you down.
I can say with 99% certainty that if I were to get pregnant again, I would not have an abortion, but there is always that 1% chance. I also know that if someone I know chooses to have one, I would gladly go along and hold their hand and tell them all of the things I wished to have heard – it’s okay, you’re not a horrible person.