I was 19 years old and terrified. I was 19 years old and had never felt so alone.

Ever since I had gotten my period, it was irregular. It was heavy and painful. At 14 years old, I was put on a birth control that would limit my periods to only 4 times per year. During the months that I was not to have a period, I really did not have any gauge to determine if my birth control had failed. After getting out of a rocky relationship that began in high school, I was excited to try the dating scene as an “adult.” I met this guy through one of my close friends and we began to hang out a lot. We really enjoyed each other’s presence, but it was not a sustainable relationship. He was really sweet and caring, but he did not have his life on track. He was 25 and a server at a Mexican chain restaurant. He was not in school and had no real aspirations. I knew that it was not going to last, but I was having fun. We went on bike rides and explored together- it was easy. It was easy until he told me that he loved me. When I heard those words, I retreated. I broke things off with him and decided to focus on myself for a while. I missed him, but it was for the best. About a month later, I was facing a new reality. I did not have many symptoms of pregnancy.

The reason I decided to take a test was kind of strange. For a few consecutive days, I was having a hard time with my gag reflex. Literally every time I put my toothbrush in my mouth, I would start to gag. A few times I had even thrown up because of it. I did a quick Google search, and one of the first things to come up was “Early Signs of Pregnancy.” Huh. I bought two pregnancy tests just to make sure- I mean, there was no way I was pregnant, right? I told my roommate at the time that I was going to go take a pregnancy test. We were really close. We were half-joking about the situation, both of us expecting it to be negative. I went into the bathroom, peed on the stick and then waiting 2 minutes. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the result. I had a lot of mixed emotions, but I responded very matter-of-factly. I immediately took out my laptop and called Planned Parenthood. The lady on the phone was not warm and she kind of frightened me. I decided to look for another clinic. I am so very lucky to live in a pro-choice state, and I found a clinic very close to my home. I called them and made an appointment for counseling.

At the clinic, I had my ultrasound and I was very surprised to find that I was already 14 weeks pregnant. I lay on the bed and silently cried. The decision was not a difficult one. I think that I knew in my heart what I wanted from the moment I read the pregnancy test. I scheduled an abortion appointment for 2 days later. I grappled with the idea of just not contacting my ex boyfriend, but I decided to give him the opportunity to speak up if he wanted to. I called my ex to let him know what was going on and that I had an appointment scheduled, should he want to come or maybe he wanted a discussion beforehand. He did not care what I chose, and told me that he did not want to call out of work to help me. I was upset, but this changed the course of how this abortion was going to go. This phone call was upsetting, but what ultimately led me to calling my mom and being honest with her. I broke down on the phone to my mom and we met up that day. To my surprise, she shared her very own abortion story. She cried with me, hugged me, and let me know that she supports me in my decision. She made my heart feel a little lighter that day.

The employees at this clinic have changed my life. The receptionist, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, the doctor, and the support staff were all so very kind to me. This clinic had a psych counselor onsite to help women make the right decision and to cope with their decision. She was amazingly warm and understanding. On the day of my abortion, I was nervous. I was too far along to have a medical abortion; I was to have a surgical abortion. It was my turn to go in, and my heart was racing. Lying on the table, the nurses are required to ask you again if you are “sure” that you want to go through with the abortion. This question took my breath away. I started to cry, but I said yes I am ready. The anesthesiologist noticed my tears and she grabbed my hand. She walked me through a short breathing exercise and told me that everything was okay. She got me ready to go under. When I was prepped, she held my hand again. The doctor stood by my head and vaguely explained the procedure. Also noticing my uneasiness, he ran his fingers through my hair for a few moments. Their small acts of kindness made this experience as easy as it could have been. I will never, ever forget them and their compassion. Before I could snap my fingers, I woke up in the recovery room. The nurses told me to expect a wave of emotion to come over me after waking up. Sure enough, I woke up in a puddle of tears. The nurse ran over to me and assured me that I was safe and okay. She gave me snacks and juice. She checked on me often before I was ready to go home. If it weren’t for that clinic, this experience would have been much more difficult.

In the days and weeks to follow, I had a lot of mixed emotions and big emotions. I did not realize how big of a hormone change my body would be going through, and how much of an effect that would have on my emotions. I will say that recovery was a little bit traumatic. The sadness I felt was a type of sadness I had never experienced before. I felt that my heart had been ripped out of my chest. The tears were continuous for days. On the day I went back to work, I sat in the parking lot and cried. I had no idea how to be a normal human again. I had no idea how to stop the tears. I pulled out the card I got at the clinic, and called the counselor. She answered and she helped me walk into the doors of my job that day. That first week was hard, but I made it. I questioned myself more than once, but I have always known in my heart that I made the right decision for myself and for my future. I firmly believe that part of my struggles following my abortion were because I was bitter and angry with my ex boyfriend. Why did I have to do this alone? Why did I have to carry this burden by myself? Why was he unaffected by this life-changing situation? I was so mad that he was able to escape this while I had to suffer. As time went by, I stopped questioning myself and I let go of that anger. I let my abortion become a part of my story, not an action I was ashamed of. I am a strong woman. Part of being a strong woman is accepting the additional risks, decisions, and burdens that come with womanhood. Accepting that we have additional responsibilities in life—responsibilities that even the most cowardly women cannot run away from. It may not seem fair, but we are more resilient because of these things. I am more resilient.

Flash forward to present day, and I can tell you that I am happy. I am 24 years old, I live with my current boyfriend, and we have a healthy life together. Our time together has been so special, and I am grateful everyday that we have had this time with just each other. We are still not sure if we want children, but we are ready to make that decision together. I think about my abortion almost every day in some way or another. I never have feelings of regret. Sure, I wonder what “could have been” from time to time, but I never regret my decision. I want every woman to know that having an abortion is not always easy or painless. It is the most difficult decision I have ever made, but I am confident that it was the best decision for me. I was silent about my experience for years, but speaking up and sharing my story with people has been liberating. My abortion does not define me, but my abortion is an important part of what makes me who I am today.