Draw the Line

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New York

Topics: Abortion
Area of Life Affected: Family Relationships

A Page of My Story

Whenever someone would bring up abortion, my canned response would always be, “I support a woman’s right to choose, but I could never personally make that choice.” Of course, I never dreamed I’d be in a position where I was faced with that choice, so it was an easy thing to say. I’d only ever had a few sexual partners and I was psychotic about taking my birth control every day and on time. Unplanned pregnancy would never happen to me.

“I never dreamed I’d be in a position where I was faced with that choice.”

Even though we’d been broken up a month, I was over at my ex-boyfriend’s place to have dinner the night I found out I was pregnant. When I stopped having my period in September, my ob-gyn told me that wasn’t uncommon while on the pill and that if I was worried about it, I should just take a pregnancy test periodically. I took one that night on a whim and was in the middle of telling my ex a story when I looked down and saw the faint blue line.

I immediately started gasping for air and then felt the sticky, hot tears pour out of my eyes uncontrollably. He rushed into the bathroom and saw the positive test, but thought it couldn’t be right. “I want to take another test right now,” I demanded through my tears. He went out to the drug store while I signed onto his computer to read about the reliability of brand we’d used. That night, I lay awake in disbelief. I didn’t feel pregnant. How could this be happening to me?

The next week is a bit of a blur. I remember going to the doctor’s appointments, him kindly holding my hand while they drew blood. We talked to counselors and I cried to a few trusted friends. I couldn’t sleep or eat and agonized over what to do. My parents’ first instinct was to say they didn’t want me to get an abortion, but there were too many things I didn’t want to give up by having a baby. My ex was nothing if not supportive and kind about the matter, but I knew he didn’t want to have a baby at that point, much less wanted have one with me. Even though I was 26, the thought of raising a child alone made me feel sick to my stomach. I wasn’t ready.

Let me be clear, I never once felt like this was my fault – I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong or shameful – but I did feel guilty and awkward that my ex had to be involved, after he’d so recently rejected me. I was afraid that people might think I’d gotten pregnant on purpose to somehow try to win him back. If anything, I was miserable that we were thrown in a position to have so much close contact again; when it was over, I felt like we had been through two breakups.

We made the appointment for Friday the 13th of December. I was relieved we’d finally made a decision and at peace with the path we’d chosen, but I was also nervous about the procedure. I was worried there would be protesters outside of the clinic, but we didn’t see a single one. I sat in a waiting room with a bunch of other women. I was surprised by how many different women were there. Some of them looked just like me: nice, well-educated, middle-class, white girls from the suburbs. There was one girl who looked like she was a ballerina, with perfect skin and gorgeous brown curls. There was another girl with a hijab covering her head. Most were young, but a few were at least in their 40s, a stark reminder that unplanned pregnancy can happen to anyone.

The waiting was endless and I felt sick because I hadn’t been allowed to eat anything since midnight. They played Bridesmaids and Clueless and Pitch Perfect on the TV while most of us sat in silence. I talked to a counselor about what to expect and what type of birth control I’d be using moving forward. The nurses did a pregnancy test, took my blood and did an ultrasound.

After almost 6 hours, they finally called my name and I went to another room and changed into a gown. I had to remove everything but my socks and underwear. After more waiting, this time in a different room, I went to the procedure room. It was dark and busy and loud and I suddenly felt very small and terrified. I tried not to panic while the nurse told me to take off my underwear and lay down on the table. I cried as I laid back and looked up at the ceiling, where someone had taped a poster of a blue sky with white clouds.

The doctor came over and asked why I was so upset, and I told her I was scared. She asked me if I knew that abortion is one of the most common procedures and that one in three women have one before age 45. After she said that, I felt a stinging in my throat as the anesthesia kicked in and I passed out.

I woke up in a chair in the bright recovery room with several other women seated next to me. I started whimpering, feeling overwhelmed and disoriented. The girl recovering next to me stroked my hand and told me everything was over and that I was okay. As soon as they let me, I staggered to the bathroom, an oversized pad lodged between my legs to soak up any blood, and to put my clothes back on. Then I shoved a graham cracker in my mouth and downed it with some apple juice and made my way down to the lobby where I met my ex, relieved it was all over. He hailed a cab and we went back to his apartment, where I slept. I woke up later and he made pasta for dinner and we watched a movie on his computer.

Now, over two years later, I’m happily married and nine weeks into a planned and desired pregnancy. I’ve been brave enough to share my story with many friends and family who have shown me nothing but support. I don’t think about my abortion very often anymore, certainly not on a daily basis. I feared that it would be an experience that would haunt me forever, and while I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever forget, I don’t feel irreparably damaged or scarred. My abortion is something that happened and has become a page of my story, as it has for so many other women, but it doesn’t define me.

An abortion is never a thing I thought I’d have to go through, and it’s something I never want to experience again. I certainly hope my daughters and friends don’t have to experience it. At the same time, it didn’t destroy me in a way I hear crotchety old men in Midwestern state senates or churches warning me it will. And while I did feel a sense of loss for a little while, I never regretted my decision. I’m not ashamed of the choice I made. No form of birth control is 100%, except for abstinence, and “low risk” doesn’t mean “no risk.”

Now, when someone brings up the sensitive topic of abortion, I hope I will continue to be brave enough to share my story. Everyone knows someone who has had an abortion and the more I talk about it, the more I realize that is true. In fact, I now know that at least two women in my family have had an abortion! Perhaps if we can put a face on the issue, it would be more humanized, instead of politicized. I’m sure I’m one of the last people my acquaintances might expect to have had an abortion, but unplanned pregnancy happened to me and I was lucky enough to live in a time and place where I had the option to choose abortion.

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