My period’s late. I wonder why. I can’t be pregnant – I haven’t had intercourse. You can’t get pregnant if you don’t have intercourse…….can you?? I didn’t have intercourse – at least not real intercourse (Oh, the innocence and naivete of a 19 year-old girl. Yes, young one, yes you can.)
I think back a few weeks to a wonderful camping trip in the Blue Ridge mountains, just me and my boyfriend, Bob. We’d camped with his younger brother earlier that summer and wanted to go back, just the two of us. And, being just the two of us, we were drawn to stay a night in a motel instead of in a tent – our first time in a motel together.
We were in love, in lust, on cloud 9…well, you know, most of you have been there too….but we did not have intercourse, so we wouldn’t get pregnant. You have to have intercourse, and ejaculation to get pregnant. We knew that, we were ok.
But what were those spots of blood on the bed? Hmmm…. is my period starting early? Did one of us get a scratch while walking in the woods? Oh well, no harm done.
Three weeks later. My period’s late. But I can’t be pregnant – or can I. I think about the blood on the sheets and remember something about a membrane in the vagina. But he didn’t penetrate me – at least not much – maybe just a little. And he certainly didn’t ejaculate in me. We knew better than that!
I tell Bob and we rush to the library to read up on sex, pregnancy, and, yes, termination of pregnancy. Then we make an appointment with an ob-gyn who is a good friend of my fathers (my mom died 8 years ago). Yes, he confirms the pregnancy. Yes, I will tell my father, tonight.
And here is where my story varies from so many pre Roe v Wade stories. My father was an incredibly caring, loving, sensitive, wise and wonderful man. He had experience with abortions years ago, more recently he emotionally supported one friend of my sister who needed an abortion and even paid for an abortion for another friend. So I knew I would be safe and protected by my daddy.
Daddy is open, loving, supportive, as expected. He goes to my doctor’s office and talks with him about abortion alternatives. Apparently Washington D.C. was not a good place and perhaps the US was not a good place because he recommended we go to Puerto Rico.
Wow. Well, ok, Daddy, if you think that is best. Yes, that is best. And it will cost about $500. So Bob agrees to pay for the abortion and my daddy will pay for our plane fare, motel and meals.
On the plane ride down, I’m sitting between these two men who are deeply committed to me and my physical and emotional health. We don’t speak of their commitment but I feel it strongly. Our dinner meals arrive and I eat well – eating for two, I guess. But I notice that I am the only one eating. Bob and Daddy have hardly touched their meals. Their appetites are gone – their minds and bodies are preoccupied with what is ahead, they are holding fear, anxiety, sadness, and more – holding it tight so that I can be at more peace and prepare my body for the upcoming procedure. Bless them for their strength, courage, and unconditional love.
We land in San Juan. We leave the plane and pick up our baggage. As we are leaving the airport, we see several men watching the crowd of passengers. When they spot young women, either alone or with men, they approach. I’m sure they spotted me, Bob, and my father and knew we would be just who they were looking for. Daddy walked ahead of Bob and me and had a brief conversation with one of the men. I didn’t notice money changing hands but I suspect it did.
My father returned to us with the name of a local hotel near a women’s hospital in San Juan. We checked in to the hotel and started to make arrangements to visit the hospital. However, somebody let my father know that “the heat was on” at the women’s hospital and they gave us the name of a clinic about a half-hour drive away. It was early afternoon so we found transportation to take us to the clinic. The clinic seemed clean, warm, professional, and calm. We met with the doctor and were impressed. He examined me and confirmed my pregnancy. Amazingly, I trusted this man in this far away place whose first language was not English. My father had found him and I trusted that he would help me. I turned myself over to him. Now I had three men to take care of me. He asked us to return in the morning and that I should not have anything to eat beyond 10 pm tonight.
That night, I again, turned over my fears, anxieties, etc. to Bob and my father and slept well – better than they did, I’m sure. We arrived at the clinic where there were two or three other women in the waiting room. I was taken to a room with several beds. A couple of women were in other beds, apparently recovering from their procedures. A nurse inserted an IV in my arm and gave me some medication that made me groggy. Soon the doctor came in and said some kind words. I was becoming quite groggy as they wheeled me into another room. The next thing I remember is the strong, kind arms and voice of the doctor telling me that the procedure was over, that it went very well. He carefully and with concern, carried me to the recovery room and put me down, asking if I would like some orange juice. I think I might have said, “thank you so much.” I felt so appreciative. Again, there were a few women in the room and, as I recollect, everyone seemed fairly quiet, calm, and comfortable. Though I didn’t think about it at the time I now realize that I was very, very, lucky to be in this place instead of many, many very dangerous and life-threatening places I could have been for this procedure.
Bob and Daddy came in almost immediately with fresh squeezed orange juice and profound looks of relief on their faces. They said that, while I was in the recovery room and they were waiting for me to wake up, they had lunch with the doctor and had enjoyed fried green bananas and some comfortable conversation.
We returned to the motel in San Juan, stayed one night (Bob and Daddy slept better) and returned to Washington the next morning.
Yes, I was very lucky. I have since borne two children and have had no complications as a result of my abortion. I believe the doctor in Puerto Rico was very capable and experienced. Other than very occasional pangs of sadness and a few moments of wondering what life would have been like if Bob and I had kept the child and married, I don’t believe I have any post-traumatic stress from this experience. I am a lucky woman and my heart goes out to all of those pre and post Roe v. Wade, who were and are not so lucky.
By Holley written on January 12, 2017, 8 days before Donald Trump becomes President of the United States