I had my first and only abortion at a Planned Parenthood center in April of 2013. Protesters stood outside, calling me a “young mother” and asking me not to do it. I was 22, scared, and miserable.
The father, whom I no longer speak to, was not present, and had refused to be – not because he wanted to keep the baby, but because he did not care enough about me to be there for me. I applied for financial aid from the state for the abortion, and my aloof boyfriend paid for the rest, as I was working for minimum wage at the time.
An older woman I had met at my community college was there with me, and she herself had had three abortions in her lifetime. She was very supportive of me, and walked me to the doors. While I was in the bathroom before the procedure, I held my abdomen and said a tearful goodbye.
I love children, and have always wanted one of my own. But I was raised in a poor family by a mother who was not ready to be a mother. My mother is a high school dropout who does not work. At the time of my abortion, I was two semesters away from finishing an Associate’s degree I never thought I would get to have. I had a minimum wage job, and had moved many states away from my family long ago.
I knew what it was like to grow up in an impoverished household. My stepfather, who also has not worked for many years, is a veteran who receives virtually nothing from the VA. I did not want to raise a beautiful baby on a diet of Spaghettio’s and peanut butter sandwiches. I did not want to raise a baby without a father. I did not want to put a child through all the things I had to go through.
The abortion frightened me. But the nurses and women who were with me held my hand, and asked me to talk to them. They made me laugh – I think the laughing gas helped, too. But after the procedure, I was loopy and in a lot of pain. I cried a lot, feeling sad that my child was gone. I was put in a recovery room, with big armchairs, and was asked to try to settle down by the staff. I realized that I was wailing, mourning my child. One of the nurses brought me water and an ibuprofen tablet once they were sure I was not going to be sick.
But I was not the only woman in the recovery room. A pale blonde woman had been sitting across from me in her gown the whole time, quietly watching my anguish. When I finally stopped wailing, she spoke to me in a thick Scandinavian accent.
“Is this your first time here?”
I told her yes. I told her that I loved children and that this was hard for me.
She explained that she was here because her body was not capable of carrying a child to term, and that birthing was a health risk for her. And that she was sad too.
“But this is not my first time,” she said.
I told her that I wasn’t ready to have a child. And she told me that I was doing the right thing. I thanked her.
After a moment of silence in which I was still stunned and couldn’t think of anything to say, she smiled.
She said, “You know what is funny? My best friend is in a doctor’s office right now, trying to get treatments so that she can have a baby. While I am here, having an abortion!”
Then she began to laugh, a rich, beautiful laugh, and I couldn’t help but laugh with her.
To get to experience laughter immediately after something that had been so emotionally hard for me was a gift and a miracle. To this day I still wish I knew that woman’s name so that I could thank her – but I will never find out.
In the days following my abortion I immediately had to go back to work, and had to do coursework as well, because I was still in the midst of a semester. I worked for a conservative woman for low wages, and had to lie to her, claiming that my abortion was medically recommended and that I had to do it. She told me, sadly, that she had had to have a medical abortion, too, and it made me feel awful. She has one son she thought she’d never have whom she loves very much. I wished that I didn’t have to lie about why I had my abortion. I still live in the same area and have seen my former boss several times even though I’ve worked many different jobs since, and she still does not know that my abortion was voluntary.
Two months after my abortion, I visited Florida to see my mother’s side of my family. My mother was in chemo for leukemia. And my younger sister had had her first child about eight months ago, born without a father. It was the first time I was visiting Florida since the birth of my niece – I hadn’t met her yet. I was afraid to meet her. I felt so much guilt over my abortion earlier that year that I felt like I didn’t deserve to meet my baby niece.
But I went down to Florida in June of 2013, and after arriving on the Greyhound my stepfather picked me up and I slept on the couch that night. In the morning, my sister brought my baby niece out to me. I was terrified to even touch her.
My sister handed me my niece, Sophia. I held her at arm’s length and stared at her. I know that babies are sensitive to facial expressions. I know I was not smiling. I’ve spent lots of time with children over the years, and normally I know to smile and make them laugh. But I didn’t – I couldn’t.
I was expecting Sophia to cry and shriek while I was holding her. I was expecting her to squirm and be upset.
Instead, she looked at my scared face, and suddenly a big, beaming smile spread across her tiny mouth. It grew and grew, and she burbled happily.
I held her close to me, and cuddled her, and cried. This was my forgiveness. Sophia did not fuss one bit while I held her, and shortly afterward my sister came back into the room to take Sophia back and give her the morning’s bottle.
Many years later, I am with a loving man who can talk with me openly and comfortably about reproductive options. He moved in with me just a few months ago. I have my Associate’s, and am now working on my bachelor’s at a four-year-institution. I have a stable living situation, and aside from the Pell Grant, I work enough to not need food stamps or welfare.
I spent a long time wondering whether or not I made the right choice. Today, I know that I did. When I am financially and mentally ready, I will have a child, and that child will be loved, supported, and encouraged. He or she will always have healthy food to eat, and I will always make time for him, or her. And I already love my future child, the same way I loved the child I aborted. It simply was not time yet.
The Scandinavian woman and my tiny niece saved my life after my abortion. I am the first person to jump on the bed with my nieces and nephews on my father’s side of my family. When I am in public and a little one is staring at me over its mother’s shoulder, I am the first person to make faces and make them giggle and laugh. The man I live with now tells me that I will make a wonderful, smart, and fun mother when the time comes.
I would have been just like my mother if I had not had an abortion. I would have been distant, angry, and impatient. I would have not been able to give my child a proper diet. And I would have been so unsatisfied with my life that I would have treated my child badly – just like my mother did to me.
Because of Planned Parenthood, and the older woman who walked me to the health center’s doors, I have done so many things I thought I’d never do. I graduated magna cum laude from my community college. I found better jobs. I even live downtown. And I even have a savings account. I’ve traveled and I’ve tutored.
Thanks to my older female friend, I had the courage to make a choice. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I can be a better mother one day. Thanks to the Scandinavian woman, I can laugh at the ridiculousness of life. Thanks to my little niece, I am free of guilt. Thanks to my state, I have access to low-cost contraceptives so that the current man in my life and I can express that we love each other without fear. And thanks to this website, I can get this story off my chest for good and feel confident when I talk about the choice that I made in 2013.