In the past, I have always tried my best to be safe and careful. I was on the pill throughout my sophomore and junior year (but had to go off it due to hormonal imbalances) and would make it a point to have condoms around. But this time, I wasn’t being careful. Nearly five weeks later, I began to take notice that I hadn’t gotten my period in so long that I couldn’t even remember the last time I did. It wasn’t unusual for me to have fluctuating cycles so I figured it would be fine. I waited it out a few days and noticed a mild case of spotting and slight odor sensitivity which alarmed me as it either meant I was about to get my period or something else was going on as the blood did not look like regular period blood. I took a home pregnancy test and that’s when found out I was pregnant, two light purple lines across the stick. I immediately had a breakdown and had no idea what to do. I cried and paced around my room for two days. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think. Coming from a strong Catholic upbringing, abortions were very taboo and often preached at church as a sin which went against all religious morals. Although I do have a pro-choice stance, I never thought of it as a decision I would ever have to make. No woman ever does and no woman ever wants to. A few days after I found out I was pregnant and began to settle down, I told the guy I had conceived with. I told him that I was weighing out my options and I wasn’t closed to the idea of having an abortion. He immediately pushed for that decision and told me that I would have to get it done. He said I had no other choice to make as having a child now would ruin both of our futures. At this particular point, I agreed with him and thought the same as I was just about to graduate high school and have very big plans for my future. I was only 18 and he is 22 so clearly the fact that we are very young and had no means or preparation for taking care of a child, the practical challenges really served a big part and possibly the only reason for me to get the abortion done. Even when leaning towards getting the abortion, I knew something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t 100% okay and comfortable with it. I thought if I had more time to think it through, maybe I would’ve been okay with it but I didn’t and couldn’t get past all the turmoil I was feeling. I turned to my best friend and family, including my mom, for guidance and support. My mom was very disappointed to say the least, as any parent would be, and she yelled at me for hours. She eventually came around and helped me. My best friend was in favor of me keeping it but supported me either way. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and discussions. The final decision made was to get the abortion done, even though I wasn’t completely okay with it, I understood that I just couldn’t have the child. Having very limited knowledge on what exactly happens at an abortion appointment and I don’t know anyone personally who has ever had an abortion, I was going in blind and terrified. I went into my two appointments alone and cried pretty much the entire time through. During the first appointment, they tested my blood along with a other test procedures and consultations. They asked me what my plan was and told me about the different options I had. If I was planning to keep the baby or not? If I was considering giving it up for adoption? If I was going to choose the in-clinic abortion or the abortion pill? The Planned Parenthood staff and clinicians were very informative, supportive and kind. They made sure I was comfortable and assured me that I had the right to choose what was best for me. When it was time for the abortion during the second appointment, choosing the in-clinic procedure, I changed into a hospital gown and was given a combination of pills to prepare me for the procedure. They made me stay in a private waiting room with two other girls who were also there to get their abortions done. These girls were the sweetest and the three of us got to talk and reassure each other that it was going to be okay. The nurse called my name, brought me into another room and made me lay down. At this point, I felt the medication kicking in and was slightly lightheaded. The clinician then explained to me what was going to happen before we started. Basically, how the in-clinic abortion works is by sticking a thin tube-like instrument up the Cervix and then it sucks out the premature baby in clusters. The procedure itself went by really quick, around 5 to 10 minutes, and then I rested and bled out for about an hour. The pain itself is different for everyone but to me felt like really bad period cramps while someone punched in the stomach, but still not as bad as I thought it would feel. I don’t even have the proper words to describe how I felt emotionally in those moments because it all passed so quickly and I just numbed myself. I went back home after that and rested for the next couple of days. Physically, I recovered pretty quickly, flew back to the country I resided in where abortion is illegal and was able to return to everyday routines around a week after. But the real price to pay for my decision was the emotional turmoil that followed. The consequences of our choices never quite hit us the way you’d think they would. Especially in the case of choosing to terminate a pregnancy.

First and foremost, before even getting an abortion, I had to find out and deal with the fact that I was pregnant. An unwanted and unplanned teen pregnancy. The ultimate shame and biggest mistake brought upon teenage girls like myself. After I saw those two lines on the home pregnancy test, I took two more just to be sure. I remember just balling my eyes out after each test read positive. At 18 and a month away from graduating high school, I was nowhere near ready to be a mother. Although the guy I had conceived with was a good guy, it was clear that there was no way a co-parenting situation was going to work out between us. I had a breakdown and was in flat out shock that I was pregnant, not because I didn’t know what I did wrong – I had unprotected sex – but because I just never thought my carelessness would catch up to me and I thought how bad could it be? I’ve been careful before. I just wanted it to all go away on its own. This kind of attitude I had towards the pregnancy carried out into getting the abortion. I just tried my best to act like nothing had happened and not acknowledge all the emotions I bottled up. The most I would do was try to talk about it without acknowledging the weight and seriousness of what I had gone through. I just thought, women have abortions all the time, why should I stress about it? And it worked out at the beginning. But what I didn’t realize was that I was holding in so many emotions in so deep and they eventually overflowed and caught up to me. This is when I started getting the worst flashbacks. Almost as if because I had been ignoring the situation entirely that I had to be reminded of what happened by living through it over and over again. One day, around a month after I had the procedure, I just broke completely and ended up hurting myself over it. This landed me in the hospital to focus on both my mental and physical healing and today I am still going through the recovery process.

Having a pro-choice view on reproductive health rights, I understood that the embryo I was carrying was not a full grown baby. However when finding out I was pregnant, there’s no way to stop the constant what ifs and thoughts about my future. Having strong maternal instincts, I knew deep inside that in a world where I had better circumstances I wanted to keep the child. At one point, I even thought of names and how I was going to raise the baby. You can even say I was slightly excited to be a mother for a minute. I’ve always looked forward to becoming a mother in the future. I knew being a single mom was going to be tough and most definitely not my ideal situation but at the end of the day, the child was going to be a blessing. However, the challenges and hardships I would have to face were just too much to handle and I was under no conditions to raise a child. When the decision came down to getting the abortion done, I hadn’t quite let go of the maternal attachment and all the optimism I had for raising my baby. It was going to be my child and I was going to be more than willing to protect it with my life. After a lot of reflecting, I understood that I just wasn’t ready to be mother and I could not provide the best life for my baby. Going through with the abortion was tough and thinking about my decision after was even tougher. I couldn’t help but feel like I had lost something or someone so dear to me. It was this thing or life inside of me that solely relied on me to take care of it and I failed to do so. I struggled with self-validating my feelings of grief because, in reality, I chose the outcome. I still have recurring thoughts of how I could’ve chosen differently. But I’m slowly starting to go through the process of mourning the loss of my baby and asking for my child’s forgiveness. I got a tattoo of a baby angel to help me heal and remind me of what I’ve lost but to also reassure me that even though I chose not to have the child, that my baby will always be with me, watching over me and hopefully, will forgive me.

As the idea of forgiveness is often associated with relief, the path to truly being able to forgive and be forgiven is far from smooth sailing. Being completely honest, I haven’t quite reached the point wherein I can say that I’ve found peace through all this. I still struggle with a lot of recurring thoughts and tend to fall into a pattern of self-blame. The process of forgiveness in this situation had everything to do with making sure I could forgive myself. Getting an abortion done was by far the most difficult choice I’ve had to make so in turn all the pain I felt afterwards seemed like it was my choice too to experience those things. As I explained earlier, I ended up hurting myself which landed me in the hospital with serious health concerns and I now have to go through different treatments and therapy for both my physical and emotional health issues. This was really the turning point for me wherein I had to address what I went through and what I was still feeling head on. It really brought out a lot of resentment I had towards myself and the difficulty I had coping with that and the whole situation in general. Realizing that the effect this had on my health and perspective was that I began to see myself only in the light of my mistakes. In order to forgive myself, it is going to take a lot of reflecting and reassurance that I am not my mistakes. Although our choices collectively make us who we are, I can’t define who I am based upon the shame, guilt and turmoil I have placed upon myself. Telling myself that “I got this” or “I’ll get through it” never really helps in the pit of the situation but I now know that I have to try my absolute best to pull myself out of it. It’s tough but I just have to keep trying even when I feel like it’s not working, in which most of the time it feels that way, because although it feels like I’m falling short in terms relief and happiness, I’m not falling short in terms of recovery and progress.

This is a point I can’t stress enough. It is super important to have a loving support system when going through tough times. For some people, they think of an abortion as one of the best decisions they’ve made in their lives and have no trouble with it afterwards. As this clearly wasn’t the case for me, I needed the help of people closest to me. However, I wasn’t so keen on reaching out to loved ones as I felt the weight and burden of my situation so heavily that I didn’t want to pass that on to others. It also didn’t help that the fear of being judged or shamed was something always running at the back of my mind. Ultimately, I knew this wasn’t something I could go through alone as the guilt and internal conflict had just been eating me up. I started by reaching out to support groups online wherein I was able to join forums with other women who shared their own abortion experiences and how they got through it. I was able to receive really helpful advice and relieve myself of the shame surrounding what I had gone through. I will probably never meet these women in person but I have no idea what I would’ve done if I never reached out to them. When I became comfortable with talking about it, I started reaching out to a few close friends and family. They reminded me that what I had gone through was something that I shouldn’t be ashamed of or feel guilty for because I made the best choice for myself in the long run. I am so blessed to have the close friends and family I have and they reinforce the love needed to get through this. And a big thank you to all the women out there online who have helped me, been there for me and talked me through the healing process. We may not know each other personally, but some of them have become some of the most important people in my life. Today, I see a therapist/psychiatrist as I go through the counseling process of my recovery. I was diagnosed with PTSD from the abortion and all the events that surrounded it. There I am able to fully and thoroughly go through everything I’m feeling and how I still remain badly affected by the whole situation.

Life after an abortion
Everyone tells you that part of being an adult is making very tough decisions in life, but I never quite understood the magnitude of what that meant until I was faced with the consequences of by far the toughest personal experiences I’ve had to go through. At the age of eighteen, I wasn’t ready to face any of this. At any age really, no woman is ever ready to face any of this. Getting an abortion is not something that is typically called a life changing experience but not only is it the toughest and scariest thing I’ve had to go through, it did mark a very significant point in my life. It’s easy to think of it as just a decision I had to make for my future based on my present circumstances but it’s hard to ignore the realities of how this impacted everything I see and do from here on out, especially on the realm of the long term effects this has on me emotionally. Will I be able to have sex and be intimate again without the mind crippling anxiety and flashbacks? How will this affect me in the future when I’m ready to have children? Am I even allowed to date normally after this without having to bring up what I’ve gone through? I still struggle with a lot of unanswered questions and I still feel the heaviness of it all from time to time. Yes, I will heal. Yes, I will cry about it again. Yes, I will learn. I will never stop going over this time in my life again and again and again. And I will never be able to say that I am truly “okay”. But I hope I am wrong about the latter. Through this and the time and space I am giving myself to find peace, I know deep in my heart that I’m doing my best to get through this.

Finally, even after everything that has happened, I still have a very pro-choice stance on reproductive rights. Although this was and is a very conflicted experience for me and I will never not have recurring feelings of regret, I understand that every woman’s experiences and circumstances vary on different terms and there is no one-situation-fits-all when going through with an abortion. Every woman’s story is different and each woman should still have the right to choose what happens to her body and her life and be respected through the process. And I hope to one day draw enough strength from my own experience to help other women go through what I am going through.

All love no hate or shaming❤️