Abortion is, as ever, a hot political topic. Never moreso than right now, when the state of Alabama has outlawed ALL abortion for ANY reason. No exceptions in the case of rape or incest. It's disgusting.
So there is a lot of talk right now about abortions, and who has had them and what that all MEANS.
Here's what it means: it means that a woman found herself in a position where she was pregnant and didn't want to be. Maybe it wasn't the right time for her. Maybe she had other medical issues that made pregnancy a bad idea. Maybe it was rape. Maybe it was incest. Maybe it was an ectopic pregnancy or other medical issue that meant not getting an abortion would result in the woman's death.
The WHY is not important. Women should be able to access medical services for ANY reason whatsoever.
So here's my story. 1994. It was not a good time in my life – I was battling an undiagnosed mental illness (at least one, likely three), exacerbated by the stress of trying to go to college with no money and no family support and no idea what it was that I was doing. It was what I like to call the first of the Bad Decision Years.
Trying to continue in college like a normal person was a Bad Decision. The boyfriend I was with was a Bad Decision. I'm pretty sure my hair was the result of a Bad Decision. Lots and lots of Bad Decisions happening.
But, because I'm not a stupid person, I was, and remain, a huge fan of birth control. AIDS was still very much in the collective consciousness so you could get free condoms pretty much everywhere. I was on the pill.
AND I ENDED UP PREGNANT. It was the worst day of my life, actually. I thought there was no way I could be, because we put up SO many barriers to it. But I was at dinner at my boyfriend's house and had to excuse myself to go throw up because I hadn't been feeling that great for the past couple of days.
His dad asked him "is she pregnant?" Us: "nooooooooooo not possible!"
I mean, I couldn't be! I was doing all the right things!
But the nausea wouldn't go away, so a few days later, I bought a test and peed on it.
I never once considered staying pregnant. Not even for a second. My very first thought was about where and how I could get an abortion because I was 19 years old. I didn't have a drivers' license. I still lived at home. I could barely take care of myself, much less a baby. There was no fucking way on earth I was about to have a kid. It was abortion or suicide, frankly.
I did not, could not tell my parents. Our relationship was not great at the time, and my belief in them as a source of support was non-existent. Maybe they would have stepped up, maybe not. Maybe they would have thrown me out of the house, maybe not. The fact that I didn't know for sure and couldn't trust what their reaction might be speaks volumes about what it was like between us. Maybe it would have been okay. I didn't know if it would be and wasn't about to take the chance that it wouldn't be, so I didn't say anything.
That's when things get a little hazy. I do not remember who found the clinic, only that it was in Cleveland. The big city! And this was WAY before GPS and Google Maps, so we really had to figure out how to get there using a paper map and some hastily-scribbled directions.
I do not remember what day it was, only that it was in early September. I don't remember if there were protesters outside. I do remember having to go up there the day before due to that fucking "waiting period" where the asshole white men who wrote that particular law thought women might magically change their minds overnight.
Maybe some of them do, but I will tell you this: once a woman makes a choice to have an abortion, she is strong enough that she isn't likely to be swayed overnight. Making the decision to do it is the hard part. The rest is biology.
I remember asking my best friend to come with us. I know that she was a bit more religious than I have ever been, and I know it had to be hard for her to do this with me and support me the way she did. I remember thanking her at the time, but I don't know if I ever apologized for putting her through that. I never asked. I should.
I don't remember where the money came from to pay for it, but I do know that it cost $250. That was for the "twilight sleep" version, which meant I wouldn't be put under full anesthesia. More of a, well, "twililght" situation. I was awake-ish. To be put under fully was more money and we just didn't have that.
I remember the doctor being very kind, explaining what he was about to do and I remember two nurses in the room, one who assisted the doctor and one who just held my hand.
I wasn't upset or emotional about it. I never was. It was the right thing to do for myriad reasons and if I had the chance over again, I would do it again.
I remember the recovery room – there were about 10 recliners, each one with a woman in it, each one with a small table next to it with snacks and juice. We all had heated blankets on our laps. I'm sure we all had the same different reasons for being there. I don't remember any of their faces. The lights were dim.
I don't remember the ride home.
I have regrets about that period of my life, but getting that abortion isn't one of them. It's not something I think about all the time, but it does come up occasionally. The word that comes up most often when I think about what life might be like now had I chosen differently is "stuck." I would have been stuck. Or dead, let's be honest, but most definitely "stuck." I can't even think about it and say "maybe it would have been all right. Maybe we could have made a go of it." I am certain that it would have been a disaster for everyone involved, starting with me. I wouldn't be here now, either literally or figuratively.
I have tried to remember more of that experience, but it's just not there. I'm not a trained psychologist but I have been in therapy long enough to get to know myself very well and I wouldn't say that those memories are blocked out or faded due to trauma. It was 25 years ago, first of all, and it was a thing that happened to me over a couple of days in what was a very tumultuous year. There are lots of things, both good and bad, from that year that I just don't remember.
But I don't regret it. Not at all, not for a single second. I have many regrets about other things from that time period, but that is not one of them.
Statistically, 1 in 4 women in the USA have had or will have an abortion. So if you think you don't know any woman who has or you don't know any woman who would, you're wrong.
You know me.
One Response to #YouKnowMe
Thank you for sharing this story.