It’s never broken my heart to know that I had an abortion.

The part that breaks my heart is knowing that I can’t tell people. It kills me to know that even those who love me unconditionally would hate what I did. It kills me that society views 1 in 3 women as heartless and cruel. It kills me that I have to argue and persuade people that other women should have this choice.

It kills me that people can’t understand-they can understand the concept but they can’t truly understand-they can’t empathize-unless they are female and 1 of every 3.

It kills me that people don’t want to understand. They would rather protest outside of clinics with signs depicting mutilated bodies. They would rather tell me I am an awful human being rather than acknowledge that I did what I felt was best for all involved.

I’ve only willingly told 2 people. Ever. I’ve only met one other woman who aborted her pregnancy. My baby would be 5 this year. 6 in February. Almost all the women in my family are February babies, myself included. I always felt that this baby would have been a girl. So many years and I’ve only ever told 2 people.

People always assume that we will forever be guilt-ridden. I never was. I’m not sad that I had an abortion, I’m sad that the baby couldn’t be born.

I was healthy, I was happy, I was in a long-term relationship but I knew that I couldn’t bring this baby into the world. I knew my life would not be what I wanted it to be and that my baby would not have a good and healthy life. I wanted to go to college, my partner did not. I was extremely independent, my partner was not. I had very specific ideals about the way children should be raised, my partner did not. I knew these things would ruin my child and I could not put my baby through that life. I do not believe I was selfish, I believe I was selfless.

The clinic in my town did not perform abortions. I drove over 2 hours, 130 miles to a clinic that would. The doctor on duty would not perform an abortion so early on in the pregnancy. They sent me home and told me to come back on the weekend when a different doctor was working. I drove home.

Again, I drove for 2 hours. I didn’t have a car of my own so I rented one. The man behind the desk asked me why I was driving so far. He didn’t know, he couldn’t have known, I gave an excuse-shopping I think-he told me to have fun….I’ll never forget that.

I was told to have a second driver, that I would be in too much pain to drive home safely. My partner didn’t have a licence so we had to ask his father. My partner’s father drove me to my abortion. I’ll never forget that either.

When we got there, there was a line of protesters blocking the driveway. About 20 people held signs that told me I was a horrible women for giving up my baby. I could hear them yelling as I climbed out of the car.

I sat inside on the second floor, surrounded by women looking for basic reproductive care. A couple sat across from me and for some reason I felt that that woman was there for the same reason I was and I wanted to sit beside her and know that I wasn’t alone and tell her the same.

I was led into a second waiting area. I was alone in there. I sat alone with nothing but an old tv and some magazines for an hour waiting for the doctor. There was a window and from it I could see the protesters. At some point I noticed a man standing separate from the other protesters. He stood there, unmoving, hands behind his back, staring up at the windows of the clinic. He stood there the entire time I sat alone. We were both alone and silent. I was making a major life decision and he was silently judging me. I remember being so angry at him. He didn’t know me, and yet he was judging me. Silently trying to persuade me to change my mind.

I was brought into a small room and they pressed an ultrasound machine hard against my belly. It actually hurt. But they couldn’t see this baby. They switched to another camera, one that had to go inside my body. Now they could see my baby. They showed me on the screen beside me but my baby was so small, it was still just an egg, that all I could see was black and white static.

They brought me into an exam room. A nurse made small talk with me as she prepared me. There was a picture of poppies on the wall. I liked it and told the nurse I liked to take pictures. She told me that she would keep an eye out for my photographs after I graduated college. I never told her my name.

I was surrounded by people-at least 4, all making sure my abortion went well. I refused to be put under so I heard everything, I remembered everything. They suctioned out my baby. It sounded like someone plunging a toilet. It was over quickly.

As I got dressed I noticed dried drops of blood on the floor beside my feet where another almost-mother had stood, dressing herself, preparing to go home again.

I left. My stomach hurt so badly. I laid in the backseat of the rental car, stretched across both seats, staring up at the sky through the window, tears silently streaming down my cheeks not because of what I had just done, but because a soul had been denied the ability to live.

Now, several years later, I have to explain feminist views to my friends, to my family. They argue with me, they don’t believe abortion should be legal. In my mind I see those protesters, I see that man staring up at the clinic windows. I try to explain that women have a million different reasons for aborting a pregnancy and that the decision is never made lightly but how can someone explain all of that without telling their truth? Maybe now, after writing this, I will be able to tell people. Maybe now, so many years later, I’ll be able to survive their hurtful words and their judging eyes.