If I’m honest, my fingers are trembling as I’m writing this post. Only a handful of people know about this extremely personal topic in my life and yet here I am, sharing it with the world. I am aware of the backlash I could receive for sharing my truth. But I’m also aware that this is my truth to share and that it may be beneficial for other people, who have either shared my experience or are considering it, to hear my story.
Choosing to have an abortion was a choice I never want to experience again and yet, I don’t regret my decision. I made the choice that I thought was best at the time, and it’s irreversible. So instead of dwelling on the choice, I choose to acknowledge the result of it– a beautiful and healthy son a year later, a hard lesson learned, and immense growth that helped shaped the woman I am today.
The moment I found out I was pregnant, the walls around me disappeared. The television grew quiet and it was as if the very world around had turned mute. I could hear nothing but my heart beating. My mind, turned scrambled eggs, jumped all over the place with thoughts like: “What is my mom going to say? — What am I going to tell my friends? — What is going to happen to school? — How am I going to pay for a kid?! — How do I tell my boyfriend? — What the hell have I done???” It was all too much to process at once and I began crying. I was completely terrified.
I was 18 years old and a college student living at home with a part-time job at the local movie rental store. My boyfriend was 19 and he was unemployed and not in school. We had little money to our names and no conceivable plan for caring for a child. We were extremely irresponsible.
Of course, it doesn’t make sense to have unprotected sex when we were fully aware of the consequences. However, I was young and dumb and in love and sometimes, I had a hard time speaking up for myself. I knew that unprotected sex was dangerous and stupid. But in my naivete, I was expecting him to address it, or him to bring out the condoms. When he didn’t address it, neither did I — an incredible disservice to myself which I spent the next 5 or so years working on: building my self-confidence and my voice to speak out against the things I’m not comfortable with in a relationship.
My boyfriend now would say I have absolutely no problem expressing how I feel, but it took a long time to get here. In that moment, at 18 years old, I said nothing and the inevitable happened: I became pregnant and I started to panic.
My biggest concern was everybody finding out. So abortion seemed like the right option. If I could have an abortion, no one would ever know it happened. I could go back to my life. I could have another chance. I could learn from this indiscretion and move on. So I started researching health clinics and about the abortion process.
Despite my efforts of concealing my pregnancy, my mom eventually found out. She was completely devastated. A teen mother herself, she did not want the same life for me. I could see the disappointment in her eyes and I could see the guilt, as if this was her fault. I cried all over again. I told her what I was feeling and what my intentions were and, much to my surprise, I had her support. I then continued my research and determined that I was going to go to Planned Parenthood.
On the day of the procedure, I grew increasingly anxious. I seemed to be fine up until the day of and then I started to second-guess if this was the right choice. Nonetheless, I drove to the health care center with my boyfriend, encountered the expected protesters outside, and made my way inside to start the process.
I must say, most of my nerves went away when I met the staff. They were extremely nice and informative. For anybody who doesn’t know the entire process, it is very thorough. I had to speak with a counselor to explain why I was there and why I wanted to get the procedure. I received financial assistance because I was a low-income patient, which I found to be extremely vital. Often times, impoverished young women turn to illegal and dangerous means to terminate a pregnancy because they believe they can’t afford the legal procedure. However, Planned Parenthood was very accommodating. After I handled the financial matters, I had to go through “education”. I watched videos and listened to audio tapes which completely detailed what I was about to go through, what the procedure entailed, how to deal with what I was feeling, etc. Following the education portion, I met with a staff member who then discussed birth control options for me, and I was given a prescription of birth control pills to begin taking afterwards.
All of these steps were crucial to my mental well-being, while going through this process. I appreciated that they were transparent and that they always reassured me that it was OK for me to walk away at any time that I felt unsure.
Finally, I made my way to the procedure room. I remember having a light-hearted chat with the anesthesiologist because I was wearing my beloved Steelers shirt, and then I woke up in the recovery room. I felt a bit lethargic. I was given juice and snacks to munch on and I was told to just remain in my rested position until I felt OK to move. About a half-hour later I was cleared to go home and I left.
It wasn’t until I got in the car that I cried. When I got back to my boyfriend’s house and laid down, I cried. I cried and I slept. I mourned the loss of my unborn child. I felt like I could literally feel the vacancy of my womb, and I cried. I took that day to mourn and then I buried those feelings and moved on.
Not too long after my procedure, I had an allergic reaction to what my doctor and I assumed to be one of the medications I was given — that was the only “change” in my daily activities/diet that could have contributed to the allergic reaction. So I stopped taking all the medication, including the birth control.
Later in the year, I became pregnant again and I knew that I didn’t want to have another abortion. I knew that abortion is NOT a form a birth control. I knew that I needed to take responsibility for my actions. I knew that I had lost myself and that I was making extremely poor choices. And I knew that I would not learn from myself or from my experiences if I chose to “erase” this indiscretion, as I had did the last time. So I decided to keep my child and I decided to leave the toxic relationship I was in.
At the beginning of this story I stated that I did not regret my decision, and right now that is true. But that is not to say I didn’t experience moments of regret throughout my life.
The day I gave birth to my son, I thought about my unborn child. I wondered if this is what they would have looked like. In raising my son, I’ve had sleepless nights where I wonder ‘what if’? The truth is my financial situation was no different from my second pregnancy to my first and yet, it was the reason I used for terminating the first pregnancy. So I felt horrible. I felt like that first baby could have had a chance, because here I was with a 3 year old in school, studying bioengineering and ‘making it’; something I thought I couldn’t do. I also thought about who I would be, if my son wasn’t here? I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
I struggled deeply with internal conflict for years. In moments of immense guilt, I cried. I reassured myself, as I do now, that I made the choice I thought was best at the time. I reminded myself, as I do now, that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to go through that experience, I was meant to make the choice I did, I was meant to have the son I have now, I was meant to succeed, and I was meant to share my story.
It is now 9 years later and I have a beautiful 7-year old who I couldn’t imagine living without and a much clearer sense of self and better decision making. I’ve never had a pregnancy scare since then and I strongly advocate for safe sex, birth control, healthy relationships, and abstinence if you know you’re not ready to engage in a sexual relationship. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are considering abortion, I will always support your right to choose.
This is an extremely personal and unique journey that each person experiences differently. No outside party should have the right to impose their views onto an individual; especially with such a life-changing decision.
When I look back on my actions as a young woman I cringe. Hindsight is always 20/20 and when you know better, you do better. But my actions helped create the woman I am now. And the woman I am now (although my fingers are still trembling and I’m crying), is finally ready to share my personal truth with you guys.
If you’re a woman who has gone through this, know that you are not alone! If you are considering abortion as an option please go talk to a professional, both a doctor and counselor, to determine if this is the right option for you.
And if you are a pro-life supporter, know that women like me exist and that we don’t take this decision lightly. Know that we carry our choice with us for the rest of our lives. Know that our choice doesn’t mean we’re bad people. Know that we’re just people like you and that our stories matter and our truths matter.
Picture: "Return to the Womb" by Patrick Sean Kelley. http://www.absolutearts.com/painting_oil/patrick_sean_kelley-return_to_the_womb-1127140012.html