I had an abortion. The date May 13, 2009 will live forever in my heart. To say the word and see it written in black and white brings the magnitude of it crushing all around me with deafening reality.
I made my decision because it was my right as a woman to do so, and I made the choice women have fought for decades to preserve. The father of the baby did not support my decision, and that weighs heavily on my heart, as I sit here, two days after the procedure. But, hard as it was, I know that I made the decision that was right for me at this time in my life. However, the experience of abortion isn’t something I can ever put myself through again-- of that I am now certain.
I arrived at 11:00 a.m., my appointment time. I was ushered in the first door, my I.D. was checked, and then I was sent in through the door to the waiting room. “Check in at the window on your left,” I was told. I was surprised to see about ten people already there. I went to the window, handed them my I.D. and was handed some paperwork to read through.
Soon, my name was called, it turns out, to go watch a video. Another girl and I followed a nurse down a hallway and were told to watch a ten-minute video of what to expect throughout our day. I suppose this is the first point at which some simply get up and leave, deciding this isn’t their choice after all. Maybe I should have left then. After the video, we were told to go back into the outside waiting lobby and wait for our name to be called again, this time filling out medical history paperwork and reading more of what to expect. We were expected to take this to the window to be signed and witnessed. Gazing about the lobby discreetly, I saw girls and women with their support people, and realized that I was the only one there alone. Once again, I was going to face something of this magnitude by myself. But, that which doesn’t kill us does make us stronger, right? Sometimes I need reassurance of that one, ‘cause in that moment I felt completely alone and certainly not strong. Anything but strong.
I carried my clipboard to the window to sign my name in front of the nurse, then sat back down to wait for my name to be called one final time. I would then be on “the other side” for the rest of the day, which I was told would be 4-6 hours long. It was. I heard my name, and walked as casually as I could toward the door. Hey, this is something women do every day, right? No. Wednesdays and Fridays are “abortion days” it turns out. The door buzzed me through and closed loudly behind me.
I was told to go into the little bathroom and give a urine sample to confirm pregnancy. I was thinking sarcastically to myself, “well, damn I think I made sure I was pregnant before I made this decision, a lot to put oneself through for nothing.” But, pee in the clear plastic cup I did and took my new place among those waiting for blood work. We formed a little group at this point, waiting the seemingly endless amount of time to hear our names called again. The lab tech was extremely overweight I noticed. Not relevant, just noticed. She carried a Bojangles cup with her – the Biggie size, with a red straw. Some of the girls made comments about this or that, but truly, it is hard to make small talk when an event such as this is looming in front of you. And it was freezing-- purple fingernails in there.
“We don’t want any pukiness,” the nurses said. “We know most of you are already feeling ill, being in the first trimester anyways.” Those comments were neither helpful, nor funny. One girl had a picture of her 10-month old little girl with her, another girl had a 5-year-old at home and ironically enough, the girl sitting next to me also had four children at home and felt much like I did – tired, overwhelmed, trapped, yet sad to be sitting there feeling as if this was the only alternative. Soon, I faintly heard my name from inside the lab room and went to offer my right arm for the blood. I saw the Bojangles cup sitting there and wondered how many times a day she filled it up and what she was drinking. It took only a minute or two, and then back out to the rows of chairs.
More waiting. I remember realizing at that point, it really was going to take the whole day. This wasn’t going to just be over in a couple of hours, bing, bang boom. No. Lots of waiting, time to think, second-guess yourself, encourage yourself, and wonder what comes next.
After a bit, my name was called again to go to the ultrasound room. I dreaded this part, because part of me knew that if I saw my baby there on the screen, I would be walking out – trapped and overwhelmed or not. The room was, thankfully, warmer than the waiting area. I made the mental note that even though I was glad for the temperature change, it was kind of ironic, and against their logic for keeping it cool to avoid nausea. I am grateful that the machine was turned away from my face and I saw nothing. It was in this room that I parted with my clothing for the duration of the day and paraded around in the typical bluish-green hospital garment from that point on.
All of us were alone now. Support people forced to stay on the other side of the lobby door, waiting and wondering. One by one, we were ushered through the experience – ultrasound, exam, conversation about future pregnancies and prevention of them, bathroom break, more waiting. After the exam I was led into a room that held two recliners with blankets and told that I would be waiting here until “the procedure.” I gladly settled in for a moment in the recliner and used the blanket to attempt to restore warmth to my body.
I noticed that the other girl there with me was the one who was crying silently across from me while we were all corralled in the lab area. She seemed so distraught, hurting so deeply. At first, I just sat in silence, I didn’t want to intrude, but then said to her that it wasn’t too late, she could still change her mind, that I could tell she was hurting. I was also saying these words to myself, though I didn’t realize it at the time. She looked at me and kind of half-smiled, nodded her head. After that, a couple of nurses came into the room to start the IV. She was ahead of me, so they went to her first, but as they began to prep her, she asked them to stop and excused herself to the bathroom. So, it became my turn. A couple needle sticks and all set for the twilight sedation that my $480 fee included. More waiting. By this time, it was 3p.m. and I had been there for four hours.
I felt time drawing near and sure enough, I was asked to come to the next room down the hall and asked to crawl up on a gurney. I was third behind two other gurneys in the “holding room.” Very very cold in this room. I lay there, looking at the ceiling, the signs on the wall for birth control and offered myself one last chance to get up and leave. In all rooms were signs that you could not leave until a nurse had checked you out and told you it was ok to leave. So far, no one had left. One at a time, the ones in front of me were wheeled down the hall for their turn. I listened carefully for any screaming or crying loudly, but heard nothing. Finally, I was next and the nurse came to roll my gurney down the hall, into the unknown. Now things were moving at a lightening speed. Don’t want people changing their minds now. No Siree. I knew in my heart that I would not be the same when I was wheeled out five minutes later. Yes, five minutes is all it takes.
She positioned my gurney in the room and began to place my legs into the big metal stirrups. Then she strapped each leg down. This made me think of horror movies, which I can’t stand to watch, but felt like I was in one at that moment. I focused intensely on the picture of butterflies on the ceiling above my bed. I saw the buckets with the long, clear tubes at the end of the bed and tried not to imagine what it must look like to see the baby being sucked into these clear tubes and deposited into the bucket. What happens to it then? Where does it go? Morbid thoughts, yet couldn’t keep them away. The nurse took my glasses from me, and placed the mask on my face. She told me to breathe deeply in and out of my nose and soon I began to feel completely relaxed, like I was floating.
The Dr. came into the room shortly thereafter and got all set up. This was happening fast, yet seemed to be in slow motion. She asked if I was ready. I didn’t answer. I felt the IV meds being inserted, I felt the Dr. invade my body, stretching it open to retrieve the “products of conception”. Another clinical phrase. I heard the machine turn on and then I heard a noise I will never forget. The baby being suctioned out of my body. If I had been lucid, I would have vomited, screamed, something. A reaction of that sort seemed appropriate. But, as swiftly as it began, it was over and I was being disconnected from the gas, unstrapped, covered up and wheeled out. It was someone else’s turn now. I was helped up off the gurney and back to my recliner – a cup of iced Sprite and three packages of crispy saltines waiting for me. I was brought another Ibuprofen pill and told to relax for a while. It was 3:50p.m.
After about an hour, I felt OK enough to go into the bathroom, wipe the blood off my body and get dressed. All over and done. I felt empty. I walked down the hall with my two packets of meds – one antibiotic, one to control excessive bleeding, signed my name on my chart and was let back out. I walked through the lobby to my ride. The fresh air hit me in the face, but it wasn’t refreshing, as one would expect. I was already nauseous.
The following day was spent crying and wondering if I had made the right decision. I missed my baby more than I thought possible, even though just days before I couldn’t wait to just be done with the whole thing. During the days previous, I had spent time talking to my baby, asking for forgiveness, telling him I was sorry, that I wanted him to have more than I could offer. I willed him to go and find a more suitable Momma, but that I still loved and wanted him very much. I knew the moment I conceived him and knew that he was going to be very special. I was sorry I wouldn’t have the chance to be a part of raising him, but that I still felt it was for the best. I had begged him to come out on his own, to avoid the need for the abortion, but I think the only way my heart could let go was clinically. My intent was clear, but my heart already loved the little guy whom I had already named Clay. To see his name in black and white hurts tremendously, more than I can find words to explain, more than I can wrap my mind around. Part of me wants to scream and wail to God, the Universe, any Power there might be “Why does it have to be so hard?!”
The night before the abortion, I was awakened at 2:30. At that time, I didn’t know why. I lay awake for a long time, listening, waiting, but finally fell asleep. I am now convinced that this is when Clay left my body, his spirit lifted away happy and at peace. When I saw the butterflies on the ceiling of the operating room, it brought some peace to my heart that things really were going to be ok. My heart was and is in the right place. I certainly wasn’t being cavalier about my decision and didn’t make it on a whim. I would have 10 kids and love each of them, if I had created the life and circumstances to be able to do so. But, that isn’t the case right now.
Goodbye Clay. Mommy misses you so much my heart is ripping apart. But I know that you are somewhere happy and that you forgive me for changing my mind.
(Edited to add – three weeks later): Having an abortion has been a spiritual experience for me. And I do not mean that to be confused with "religious." It has brought me to my knees in all ways, broken me wide open, but has also initiated a healing process that would otherwise not have begun. Intense heart pain demands an emotional dig - the messy kind.
Making the decision to abort was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I still stand behind it and would do it the same way again. For whatever reason, I was asked to walk through such an experience and I am truly grateful. I know there is a reason and purpose for everything we go through in this human experience and if my story can touch just one person, or reach the heart of a woman struggling, then I have fulfilled my sacred contract.