My Abortion #75: 23

Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days.

Today’s story comes from The Atlantic’s Personal Stories About Abortion Made Public, a column inspired by Emma Green’s Notes on the Supreme Court Case Whole Women Health vs. Hellestedt.

She had to cancel her college classes to pay for the abortion. Fortunately, her experience prompted her to leave a toxic relationship.

This is the story

I was 23, studying creative writing in college, working as a barista at a coffee shop, and living in North Texas. I was in a short-lived relationship with a fledgling filmmaker who I’d characterize as macho. When we had sex he refused to wear a condom because he said we were engaged and basically married—that was the end of that discussion.

It was late July and my period was lagging, so I decided to purchase an at-home pregnancy test. The experience was almost comical because of my anxiety. The first wand slipped right out of my hands and splashed into the toilet. I had wondered if that was the reason First Response includes two. After I fished out the first wand I unwrapped the second. It was a very discomforting process. Imagine reading very simple but technical directions while peeing, while hovering over a cotton wand and waiting for two little lines to show up. I mean, in what other medical cases are people granted access to examine their diagnosis?

After a few minutes, those two little lines connected to form a pink plus sign.

I wanted professional confirmation. I made an appointment at a Planned Parenthood. I peed in a small plastic cup and awaited the results. The diagnosis stood: Positive.

My heart was pounding. My future plans raced through my head: finishing school, my internship, writing, a career. The nurse asked me about my plans. I immediately said I didn’t intend to keep it. She asked if I would like to make another appointment and I said yes. I was four weeks along—too far for the abortion pill, so it would have to be a surgical procedure.

When I announced my decision to my then-partner, he became irate. Immediately he bombarded me with antagonistic questions. Why didn’t I want to keep it? Was it someone else’s? It must have been if I didn’t want to keep it. He just went off on me verbally.

I couldn’t stand it, so I went to the bathroom to contain myself. He followed me, but I shut the door and locked it. He began to pound and yell at the door. I couldn’t handle it. This was verbal abuse at its most extreme. Once I heard him leave the apartment, I made a mad dash for my purse and car keys. It was late at night and I didn’t know where to go, so I drove my car to a space across the sprawling apartment complex, parked, and cried myself to sleep.

The next day, while he was at work, I gathered up my belongings and moved in with a friend. I kept my appointment.

When the day came, I wasn’t fully aware of what my payment options could be and only had enough to either pay for my fall semester of school or use the money to pay for the abortion. I canceled my classes for that semester and drove myself to the appointment.

When the nurse called my name, my stomach immediately tightened up. She walked me into a clinic room and told to change into a gown and wait on the table. The process from there went rather quickly and was over in a blur. I remember the doctor and nurses who came into the room all wore surgical masks so I couldn’t see their faces. The doctor explained the procedure and told me to lie down. While the procedure was taking place, one of the nurses asked if I’d like her to hold my hand. I said yes to the polite gesture and entrusted her with my right hand.

I looked up and concentrated on the spots in the vanilla ceiling tiles during the procedure and told myself it was going to be alright. Then I felt a sharp stinging pain. I looked away from the tiles and met the gaze of the nurse who was holding my hand. Tears streaked down my face. She looked at me straight into the eyes. I saw her dark brown eyes well up and she quickly looked away. I still believe that was the most intense visual connection I’ve ever encountered with a stranger.

Once the procedure was completed, I was whisked away to another room with other women. I was told to lie down and rest.

I had confided my plans to the friend I was staying with, and she insisted on picking me up from the clinic. On the way home she stopped at Starbucks and bought me some tea. We went home.  I stayed nestled on her couch for the remainder of the day watching movies.

After the procedure I felt a change—not as if I had lost something, but like I had gained, if not power, then a second chance. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt free.

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