I knew I was pregnant all summer. That may be an exaggeration. I was 95% positive that I was pregnant all of August. I had been having unprotected sex for not very long, not very well, with some one that I liked not very much. I had waited on having sex until my senior year of high school. I suppose that I thought the gain in purity points that I had got from waiting would carry over and keep me from getting pregnant. Looking back that obviously doesn’t make any sense, but nothing makes any sense when you are seventeen.
After my period didn’t come, I just knew. It all happened at probably the worst time I could have imagined, weeks before I was to leave for college. I had proven myself to be a level-headed, intelligent, and responsible young woman; one whom her parents could feel generally comfortable about sending off to school in another state. As I realized that I might have internal company I saw my dreams of starting a new life crack with the potential to crumble.
Other things in my life were so much more pleasant; shopping with my mother for pillows and bathroom towels, picking out classes for my first semester. I pushed and pushed everything down and back and away. It was so much easier than I thought. If I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t real. We drove off for college, set up my new dorm room, and said goodbye. My new life started suddenly and successfully. No one had any idea I was carrying a burden, and I seemed to have forgotten too.
I had resolved with myself that my period wasn’t coming. But my mind was clouded now with alcohol and a lot of pot and the exhilaration of meeting new like-minded people that it didn’t scare me as it should have. I had new rules for myself, new friends, new guys, and new adventures. Then a strange thing started happening. I started puking all the time. A little knob clicked over to the left in my brain and I said, oh of course, I am pregnant.
This willed me to the health center asking for a pregnancy test. The nurse was nice, asked how sure I was, took my pee, and left me in the room. When she came back in she said it right away. Well, you were right, you’re pregnant. Oh I cried, really really hard; right there in front of her. That was big for me because I usually try not to cry in front of others. She waited, then gave me some pamphlets, and tried to figure out how far along I was. We figured it was close. I had about a week before I was on the mommy track. Something had to be done this weekend.
I went back to my little dorm room. I cried, oh so much. I don’t even know what I was feeling exactly. Guilty? Bad for myself? Stupid and irresponsible. Like a failure. Like I should have known better. I felt like something inside of me was dying a little; and it was. When I was done crying I called some of the numbers in the pamphlets. I asked questions and seemed to be getting the impression that I needed to do this soon. I looked into being part of a study that would make the abortion free, but didn’t qualify. With little money in my bank account I felt hopeless. I finally called Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. They gave me an appointment, I could pay there. Only two problems left: I didn’t have a car to make the hour and a half trip, and I barely had enough money in my account.
Looking back, if I had had a car, I would have likely driven myself. I would have spent the entire of my savings and perhaps, would have never told any one in my entire family. It probably would be buried down even further now, if that had happened, so I am retrospectively glad that I wasn’t the sole keeper of this secret. I called my parents, who were a couple states away.
I don’t remember much more about that day. I told the boy that I had been seeing at school and that was it. I made sure to tell him it wasn’t his, that I had come this way. He was supportive, but even more at a loss for words than I. So I resented him for not being in my position and preferred my own company for a few days. My parents came up that weekend. My mother saw me and didn’t cry, but said, “I can't believe we sent you to school pregnant.”
I can only imagine what the long drive to the hospital must have been like, I don’t remember it at all. I remember getting there, following the signs to gynecology and feel like I was being set up for a prank. We got there and it was a tiny corner of the hospital, away from everything else. My father and I went to the front desk, he paid and I gave them my name, we sat down. Next to us was a woman with her baby. I felt flat, and angry. Why was she in here? What kind of place is this? I had no information about what kind of a place this hospital was, and it hadn’t occurred to me that there might be women there for having a baby as well as getting rid of one.
They called my name and I went back. My mother came with me. She sat by me and they gave me an ultrasound to see how far along I was. I told him I thought I was about 12 weeks. He said I was a little further than that but it was O.K., because we could still do it. Was he making an exception for me? How far along was I? I don’t know, I just felt my heart momentarily stop and then begin beating again. Then he asked, do you want to see it? What the fuck kind of a question is that? Why would I want to see this thing that I am willing not to exist. What a dumb fuck. This translated to “No, no thank you.”
They numbed my cervix and gave me the medicine to dilate. As the cramps kicked in I felt good, I could see the drive home, and my dorm room waiting for me. I was alone with my thoughts, alone in the final moments before I was a solo flight again. The doctor came in and I put my head back. It hurt; they had some trouble with my cervix because they said that it was titled. It was uncomfortable. I put myself in a different place, an hour from then, driving back in the car. It felt like you might imagine an internal vacuum to feel like. Poking and invasive.
The determination I had felt like a hard rock in my heart go smaller and was replaced with conflicting feelings of exhilaration and grief. It was not guilt, but a small mourning for the end of life. I would not know what to do with this feeling for years. And at times, I am still visited with it. What a predicament. What a power. To say that my life is going to come first, and this potential will stop here. When I think about my experience, the things that were most painful and confusing were external. While I sorted out those conflicted feelings, I felt pushed on by moral judges.
I had always been not just a nice person, but a good person. It was in my self concept that I was the type of person who works for good in the world. It was unnerving to know that some people in the world would condemn and hate me for this. I felt silenced and because of this silence, shame. I told my best friend, but not my close girlfriends. I waited as long as I could stand it to tell partners. And now, even though I have made peace with these events, it is still something tucked down in my mind. Perhaps that is why I have been writing this three page story for two years. As I research abortion for my own work, it seems to me that I will always have this as part of my self though the meaning of it might change through the years.
I came to a point where I realized that I had been punishing myself for that decision, telling myself that I had to do well with my education because that was why I didn’t have it; telling myself that I would never do something like that again. Realzing the feelings that I still had over my abortion has pushed me to reach out and to express my own experience. Being present in the reproductive rights movement, sharing my stories with others, and taking a place in this culture of women has been extremely healing to me. Even just writing this story has been healing. If I had done these things a long time ago, I would have walked lighter.