I woke up that morning, like any other morning, giving no thought to the day ahead of me. For a few moments, I could only think about stumbling over to the coffee maker and in to the shower.
I rubbed my eyes as the coffee dripped in to the cup, and I remembered that in a few hours, I would be at Planned Parenthood for my abortion.
Tim wandered out of the bedroom and it was clear, from the tired look on his face, he hadn’t forgotten at all. “Here, take this.” I gave him my cup and waited for another to brew. I could see the sadness in his eyes. The least I could do was offer him some coffee. As I walked towards the shower and stepped underneath the warm water, my thoughts drifted off to the beginning of this story.
My story is not unusual. I got pregnant on the night of my senior prom, in a sexual encounter fueled by Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka and teenage hormones. Shortly after my prom, I stopped seeing the boy I had taken as my date, and had begun seeing Tim. In the middle of an awkward high school love triangle, it seemed clear that I was in no position to become a parent and so I decided to have an abortion. When I told Tim I was pregnant, he offered me his unconditional support and kindness, an act of bravery I will be forever thankful for. Suddenly the car came to a stop in the parking lot, and I realized I had spent the entire drive silently reflecting. “Are you ready?” As I’ll ever be.
Shortly after we arrived at the Planned Parenthood, I was beginning to feel the effects of the Vallium. Tim stayed in the waiting room while I was taken to a procedure room for an ultrasound. I asked how far along I was. “10 weeks.” Prom night. After the ultrasound, they prepared me for the procedure and Tim came to hold my hand. During the few minutes of intense cramping, I looked up, through tear filled eyes, at the world map hanging on the ceiling above my head. I wondered if the person who chose that poster thought global geography would be comforting to the women who found themselves in my position. Tim interrupted my thoughts by squeezing my hands. “I love you.”
As quickly as it had begun, the procedure was over and I was being discharged. Next, I remember sitting in a cart in the Hannaford’s, while Tim pushed me through the aisles in search of snacks. Once we had settled on freezer pops, and mac and cheese, we drove back to the house with plans to paint, sleep, and heal together. His presence, a reminder that I was not alone.
For the following days, I was a confusing mix of hard-to-name emotions. Tim and I continued painting, binge-watching Netflix, and eating junk food until we felt ready to reconnect with the world. And when we were ready, we moved forward. I finished my summer job and started my first year at college. Tim found an apartment in my new town and continued his art. I expected to feel regretful and ashamed, and was surprised to find that I felt relieved. I felt grateful. My decision was not an easy one, and there were many moments where the feelings of loss overwhelmed me. But I made a decision which allowed me to continue my life, pursue an education, travel, and focus on a career until I was ready to start a family, intentionally. For that, I was grateful. I was grateful to have been able to make this decision without fear of intimidation and violence, or use of a dangerous back-alley provider. When I think about the many women before me who had abortions in unsanitary, unsafe, or unpleasant circumstances, I am grateful for the incredible progress that’s been made… but am also uncomfortably aware of the stigma still surrounding abortion. I am telling my story to end that stigma, and encourage a more understanding and honest discourse about sex.. I am telling my story for those who feel they cannot. I am telling my story because I refuse to be isolated by my silence while male politicians determine the future of my right to choose. I am telling my story because I am grateful for and unashamed of my choice.