I want to preface this by saying that this is the first time I’ve ever spoken or written about this publicly. I find this a really brave thing to do, so if you, as a reader find it necessary to give criticism and feedback, please do so through a private message. I will be glad to answer questions. The recent research I’ve done on others telling their stories has empowered me to tell mine after five long secretive years. The faces of the woman who’ve told their stories in a recent article by the guardian showed me that there are many, many faces in this social issue, including mine.
Reeling from a break up with a guy I’ve been with for almost three years, I was reckless and carefree. Most of the time, I was just sad; but I was also 20—young, confused, and with so much time on my hands.
It was the summer of 2010 and I was working part time at a local daycare. I’d sleep all day, work in the afternoons, and party all night. That summer, I got acquainted with a boy who lived a few houses down the block from mine. His name was Chris and while he wasn’t much of a looker, he was a smooth talker. We hung out with other kids on the block—drinking and smoking until daybreak. I believed him when he said he was in the trenches of a breakup, too. So I partied with him and eventually, we hooked up. Again and again. That summer was a big blur of short shorts, cheap bottles of mad dog, and weed.
While I played the “too-cool-for-school” act, in reality, I was an A/B student. And I attended class at a nearby college almost religiously. In fact, I was on a full scholarship the previous two years until my GPA dropped by .03 points. I was a smart girl now that I look back at it.
I can recall that my home life was in a strange kind of arrangement. I wasn’t old enough to drink, but I wasn’t too young anymore to wrangle up and lock into my room anymore. My parents seemed to come to terms with my very social, social life. It didn’t mean that they weren’t weary of my new friends on the block. Sometimes I’d catch my dad trying to do a drive by. One time, he even tried to warn me about Chris, but I didn’t care to listen. He said something that sounded like, “you think you’re the only one?” Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
After hooking up all summer, this fantasy ended brusquely. Summer was over. I went home early from work one day—for a reason I cant remember—and there he was, sitting on his porch with the girl he’s supposedly broken up with. As I walked toward them (I had to pass his house to get to mine), I can feel my face turning red from shame. He wrapped his arms around her, pretending he didn’t even know me. I walked home and felt angry with myself.
Flash forward a week or so to a Saturday morning. I wake up, and without thinking, pull a pregnancy test out of my stash of “just-in-case” pregnancy tests. I walk over to the bathroom, using my morning pee, and boom. There it is. Two lines. Those two lines that would toss my life into a wildly emotional and painful but still very short storm. After I’ve used both “emergency” pregnancy tests, I sent a sixteen-year-old kid, Jorge, from across the street to a nearby pharmacy to buy some more tests. I’m not sure what I was thinking. This kid, who wanted to fit in with the “big kids,” has all of a sudden become my lifeline and my first source of comfort.
Surprisingly, for such an immature kid, Jorge waited outside my house, on my porch, for me to come outside. I told him the results—they didn’t change from the first two times. Jorge, naively told me that it would be okay, and that I would figure it all out. At that point in time, I wasn’t sad or upset. I just remember thinking, “I’m fucked.” Another part of me was also very sure that I was to get an abortion.
My life flashed before my eyes, actually. I had so many thoughts – “what would my parents say?” “they’re going to kill me,” “I wonder if/that I used my mom’s insurance card, she would find out.” I also knew that my family would disapprove as basically, nobody ever uttered the word, “sex,” in our family. I never got “the talk” beyond “don’t do anything stupid.” I knew I couldn’t go to my parents – not even my own mom, who was [is] a nurse. Basically everything I knew about the logistics of sex and contraception, I learned from the internet, which is still cringe-worthy.
That Monday, I went to the neighborhood Planned Parenthood that I went to as a high schooler to get free birth control and annual examinations. Ironic that I was there considering that I as no longer taking birth control. I paid $10 to take another pregnancy test, which was basically the same ones I took at home, but somehow, it felt more official. They gave me a piece of paper stating that I was pregnant. Ha, what was I going to do with this piece of paper? I laugh now at the possibilities.
Later that day, I texted Chris to tell him that I was pregnant. Of course, and to no surprise, he was not happy. Even unhappier was his older brother, who vehemently denied that this unborn child I was carrying was his brother’s. Right, because he was there watching us have unprotected sex. Not.
I didn’t care. I had a few bucks. Since I was young and mainly stupid, I was afraid to use my insurance, since I was still insured under my mom. I imagined that the insurance company would call her or bill her and she would be dumbfounded and I’d have to confess. Again, while I had a lively social life, talking about sex with my parents was still taboo. It still is sometimes. I called the abortion clinic to inquire about the costs. Three hundred fifty dollars. Three hundred. And fifty dollars. It seemed like such a large amount at the time. It still does.
I confided in my best friend that I was pregnant and all the drama that came with it. He, too, was confused by Chris’ brother’s reaction when just a few weeks ago, we were all having a fine time together. I told him that when I asked Chris to at least pay for half of the cost, his brother spoke up for him and said that he will not be incurring those costs. Angry, my best friend said he would cover Chris’ half of the costs, and that when he came to his senses, he would realize that he’d owe my best friend, not me. In reality, I didn’t care for the cost. Yes, it was pricey for me, but I also didn’t care. I wanted Chris out of my life and it felt like this was the only thing that was holding me to him—an unborn child.
I scheduled an abortion for one of the days in the following week. This is where the days get hazy and time seems to be a blur. With my half and my best friend’s half in hand, my best friend walks into the clinic with me. I think two things—this is a big wad of cash, and I hope it doesn’t hurt. I also felt shame. I was afraid to look at other people and other women in the eyes. We were all there for the same reasons, but everyone was silent, as if it weren’t obvious.
Once my name is called, I’m escorted to a room where I’m asked to undress. Quickly, I’m whisked into a room with four other girls undressed and only covered by disposable examination robes, all holding the robe together to avoid being exposed. Again, an awkward silence and nobody looking at each other. I’m then called into another room to speak to a counselor. She asks me basic questions, “how old are you?” “do you now how far along you are?” “do you have a history of x, y or z?”
Her assistant, I gather, was also her daughter. She was very young, probably my age at the time. She was taking notes and helping with some things in the room.
A few seconds later, I feel a sharp cold wetness on my stomach. The nurse was giving me an ultrasound. It was ultrasound goo. My first reaction was to look away. And then I thought, why not. I didn’t feel emotional at all. I kind of felt blank, and I was okay with that. My feelings mainly revolved around the fact that I thought I was pro-life. I was kind of confused with myself and my feelings on this social issue that I seemed to be sure about. The nurse surprisingly proclaimed, “wow, you must know your body. You’re only five weeks along.” As I was leaving the room to go into the room where the abortion is performed, I hear the nurse scold a girl (in the most motherly way possible), ‘this is your fifth abortion, honey. You’ve got to have a plan. Start taking birth control or something.” While Planned Parenthood is known for being non-judgemental, I still hold on to this, thinking, “I can’t imagine going through this again, and I haven’t even had the abortion yet.”
I think its important to note that during this whole thing leading up to the actual act of abortion, I felt a tinge of guilt from having a Catholic background. Not once, though, did I think “in eight months, I will have given birth,” or even wonder what the baby I was carrying would look like. I also didn’t want to die, or feel pain.
This is where the most unimaginable pain began. I was laid onto a medical table with stirrups. The medical team tied my arms and legs to the table with leather belts. The kind that they use during executions. They shot me up with anesthesia and without waiting for it to kick in, the doctor (who I’ve only seen at this point) performed the dilation and evacuation, better known as the d&c. I moaned and writhed in pain but couldn’t leave. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had tunnel vision and the one thing I chose to stare at was my arm with the anesthesia needle still in it. Its like in my head, I was coaching it to kick in. I wanted to ask them to take it easy, but from the pressure I felt, I knew that wasn’t in the plans. It was only when the procedure was over that I felt the anesthesia kick in.
Once it was over, they made me sit in an armchair for 10 minutes. In that armchair, I was angry but also too weak to do anything about it. I waited for them to let me go, and they asked if I had someone to accompany me home. I said yes.
The car ride in my best friend’s car was quiet. He tried to comfort me. I sat in the back seat, high as a horse with my face leaning on the cold hard glass. The buildings were blurry and I just wanted to sleep. Somehow, I ended up at home with all my medications and painkillers that I needed to take. I don’t even remember how I got them. I do, though, remember that the sleep I got from that anesthesia was the best sleep I’ve had. Ever. And that was it. It was over.
After the abortion, Chris tried to contact me to tell me that he “got locked up” because he was selling weed to come up with his half. I deferred him to my best friend, with whom he had a debt to settle. Almost six years later and I haven’t heard from him since, though I know he still lives in the same house, still does the same shit, sitting on his porch, smoking weed, and at the same place he was when I left the block.
Looking back this huge fiasco, I can’t think of a better story to tell. Yes, it sucked. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but it did and I learned about myself during the process. I learned that I am pro-choice. I learned that while I am pro-choice, I will probably take all the precautions I can to have to avoid going through another abortion again. It was physically painful and uncomfortable. And while it felt costly (I mean, $300 is a lot to a 20-year-old), I look at the grand scheme of things and think about how much that $300 – a drop in the bucket – changed and molded my life. I know at 20, I was in no way ready to parent. I didn’t want to. Simply put.
I’ll never force my beliefs on anyone, but I won’t be afraid to tell it out loud. I believe in safe medical abortion, and I believe that a woman has every right to her own body. I believe that women have the right to adequate healthcare and yes, that includes having the choice to have an abortion. If I weren’t able to make the decisions that I did make, my life would have staggered. Stunted. I’d probably be living below the poverty line. The drama that I was able to leave behind would probably continue. I’ll never forget to talk about the physical pain that I experienced with my abortion, but its legitimately fair to also talk about my amazing life after it.
I’m six years wiser now. Because I had that abortion, I was able to finish college without the struggles and hardship that came with having a child. I watched (some of) my friends with kids struggle to find childcare and to even continue their educational careers, which to me, was and is hugely important. With my education, I nabbed what seems to be my dream job in the city.
On a final note, I want to add that I don’t feel psychological pain. I don’t think everyone does, but I can’t take away from that fact that some people do. And that’s valid. Here and there I think back to it and think, “wow, to think that I’d have a kid right now….thank goodness I don’t!” I often talk about this with my current and long-term partner and I don’t know if I ever sound thankful enough, or lucky enough that I was able to make this life-changing decision. When the time comes that I decide I want and can afford to have children, I’ll make that decision. For now, I’ll support other women. Lift them up. Never judge them or their decisions. I’ll always stand up for other women’s rights because that means standing up for my rights.