Often, when reading or hearing stories about women who choose to end a pregnancy on their own terms, you hear about how that woman was too young, or in a relationship too unhealthy, or single, or raped. I fit in none of those boxes. I was (and am) 26 at the time I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been with the father for over two years and he is the man I am going to marry. we love each other in that magical, movie way. We are each other’s best friend and #1 priority. And neither of us want kids, maybe ever. We don’t know that yet, but definitely not now. He is about to have yet another surgery to fix his jaw from a shrapnel head injury he got in Afghanistan in 2012. I work all the time and will have to take time off to be his caregiver while he recovers. We live in a rental duplex and live paycheck to paycheck. But we love our little life together, and are neither ready to make a change so dramatic yet as pregnancy and a baby.
I remember feeling strange, like something was not right. I wasn’t late yet, but my boobs were sore and I just kind of knew. I took two tests and they both came back negative. But two weeks later, I was late and terrified. I took the third test. Less than a minute later, that window changed and there was just an instant feeling of dread. I opened the bathroom door to tell my boyfriend, but I didn’t need to. He knew just looking at me. He just grabbed me and held me. I immediately said “we cannot have a baby.” I know he was relieved I knew so quickly. I was, too. I can’t imagine the agony of being unsure about this. There was no part of me that thought “maybe we should try” or “I need to take some time and think.” I didn’t need to think. He didn’t, either. It just was the plan immediately. The closest clinic to do surgical abortion is three hours away. We drove there on a Saturday.
There were protestors waiting outside the fence, but the clinic had security as well as staff members who walked us from our car to the doors under a black umbrella to protect me from the view of the people yelling at us from just beyond the gate. The people inside were so kind, especially helpful since I was anxious and felt like I was doing something wrong even though I knew it was right for us. The ultrasound showed I was 6 weeks and 2 days along. I chose not to look at it. It was two weeks between this appointment and the actual procedure. The entire time, I felt like there was an invader in my body. I told a couple of people and sought their advice. I read so many articles by brave women about their decision to end a pregnancy, but it was hard to find one who didn’t cite their age or situation as the reason they abort.
In my opinion, the only reason anyone needs is because it was the right decision for their life. But just because it is a necessary decision sometimes does not make it easy. I knew the gravity of what I was doing. I had a lot of sleepless nights, and felt like I should be ashamed. But I wasn’t. And that made me question my value as a human. When that happened, I would wake up my boyfriend and he would remind me why we were making this choice: it was right for us.
I had the procedure and I remember looking at the screen while it happened, with the world’s sweetest nurse holding my hand, and just praying that if that little mark on the monitor could hear me, it would know I was sorry. That was the hardest moment. It didn’t hurt physically, but mentally, I felt guilt. But it’s important, i think, to distinguish between guilt and regret. I feel guilty that someone else who wants a child is still waiting and I ended my pregnancy. I feel guilty that I won’t know the child that the fetus inside me could’ve become if I had carried to term, because I know my boyfriend and I would have loved it. We would be good parents and we may still be one day. But most of all, I feel guilty because I’m conditioned to feel that way. I know, scientifically, that fetus was hardly more than a collection of cells. I know it felt no pain, since it would not begin to develop the nerves to do so for another 8 weeks. I know it had no thoughts or memories.
The line between guilt and regret becomes most important here: I am human so I feel guilt. I feel anger when I see others vilify me and women like me as “murderers”. I feel annoyed and patronized when I see bumper stickers about calling this church helpline if you’re considering abortion. I feel sadness because of course there is a part of me that romanticized the idea of starting a family with the man I love outside of our furbabies. But I have not once regretted the abortion itself. I don’t regret that I’m not about to go into labor, or that I won’t have to worry that my child is out in a world so cruel and terrifying. I may be judged, but at the end of all this, I made the best choice for me and my partner.