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 Laura Slack (the co-founder of Ask Me About My Abortion) and was originally published at the Ask Me About My Abortion site.
How I’ve struggled with chronologically where to start this story.
Not because the pregnancy and abortion I’m addressing itself is a long winded tale, but I know that just as many of you are here to weigh your options as are here with minds made up as are here to be supported and support others by reading accounts after the fact. The reason I’m having a hard time knowing where to begin is because I’ve run the gamut on pregnancy choices, so to speak. I elected to terminate my last pregnancy, but had given a baby up for adoption before that, and had two daughters that I kept and raised even before that. So I have a somewhat unique overview of “the options”, but I want to talk about the abortion first since that’s what this website was created for. I’ll cover the pros and cons in my experiences outside of abortion in a “part two” for those that are interested in exploring those options.
So, onto the story. The year is 2011. I have two preteen daughters and I’m with a guy that things aren’t working out with (mainly because my daughters were having trouble adapting and accepting this person as the object of my affection- as some of you know, when you have kids as a single mom, who you date impacts your entire family and sometimes demands sacrifice). It was a rough time. The worst feeling in the world was being given the cold shoulder by my daughters, who I’ve always been (and still am) extremely close to. I was very much in love with this person, but ended the relationship for the sake of my relationship with my daughters. Here starts the most confusing, fucked up week of my life.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so moody. He asked if we could talk things over a few times, and I just didn’t feel ready, or like there would be any resolution until things with my daughters blew over. I also started feeling really sick to my stomach, was really tired (which was not helping my irritability) and thought I was coming down with something. This person had told me that he was infertile, and when the thought struck me that these might be pregnancy symptoms, I texted him and asked EXACTLY what the doctor had told him about his alleged infertility. Side note: I take full responsibility for not erring on the side of caution and being on birth control. I’m not shaming anyone for NOT using a method of birth control- I missed a few pills here and there in the pack the month I conceived my oldest daughter. I also thought you couldn’t get pregnant right after having a baby and that’s why my daughters are so close in age. I don’t even remember what the fuck I was thinking/doing at the time I got pregnant with my son, who I gave up for adoption. It doesn’t matter. But I just want to make it clear that I should not have taken “I’m infertile” at face value, and that I’m not angry with allegedly infertile guy for not knowing any better. Anyway, he texted back some scientific explanation of what he was told (twisted seminal vesicle? I dunno, something of the sort) and then the inevitable question from him: “Why?” I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test yet and didn’t want to freak him out needlessly while I was freaking out, so I told him I was just wondering. Of course that launched into a conversation about “if that’s the case I’ll do whatever we need to do, etc.” over the next few hours, and to stop myself freaking out momentarily because all this talk was getting real and I was in total denial, I texted “False alarm” to buy some time to find out if I was in fact pregnant without a bunch of drama.
When you have two kids that are old enough to read, it’s hard (especially as a single mother in summer when the kids are out of school and you work from home) to get a pregnancy test at the local Walgreens on the sly. I had to wait a few days for an opportunity to make that trip (and take that test) without any questions. In that few days, the guy started ignoring my texts and calls. When he finally wrote me an email, he said he knew the reason I’d broken up with him was because I’d been sleeping with my ex, which was ludicrous. My ex was living with his new girlfriend, and we were friends (and had known each other for over a decade), but certainly weren’t fucking. He claimed his friends who lived across the street from me saw my ex’s car at my house at 4-5am (months before) while he was living in a different city that was about 2 hours away, as if that was proof of anything (I commended his friends for being able to see through walls- like I told him, that’s pretty amazing). My ex and I had switched cars once a few months prior for a few days so he could take his girlfriend and some other friends on a river-camping trip because I had an SUV at that point. My response, admittedly, maybe predictably, was not too kind. I’m fretting away thinking I may be pregnant with this guy’s baby, and while I’m trying to navigate this, he excommunicates me for “cheating on him”, which I would never do. Ouch.
I finally got a chance to buy and take the test, and at this point I was about a week late getting my period. I can’t even describe the entire-world-crashing-down feeling, the loneliest ever, of looking at that matter of fact little electronic screen on the pee stick with the word “pregnant” glaring back at me. Each positive pregnancy test before was a surprise since they were all unplanned but this was the absolute worst because I knew I would be getting an abortion and I was scared. I had no idea what was ahead except for what I’d learned when I was a kid and a teenager attending Catholic school. My mother had me marching in picket lines with pro-life signs in front of the local abortion clinic when I was a kid because I didn’t at that point know any better. In theology class in freshman year of high school, they wheeled in the TV on a cart (usually cause for jubilation) to show us an awful little anti-choice presentation called “The Silent Scream”. Of course, my views about abortion changed after I escaped the brainwashing (which happened when I was eleven or twelve, much to my mom’s dismay), but this stuff was still being hammered into my head as a youngin’. Guess how I felt then, when I realized I didn’t trust anyone/had no one to turn to with this information *except for my mother*. I was living in a smallish city, one where information travels rapidly especially when alcohol is involved and most people in said city hang out in bars for entertainment for lack of anything better to do. A city where when I left the “party scene” to do the family thing, ridiculous rumors popped up all over the place that still make me laugh. In one, I was a hacker and had been caught transferring money from some business’ banking account into my own. In another, I got addicted to heroin and went to treatment. If the abortion thing got out, I would have faced backlash. Shit talk. Scorn, possibly. Shaming. I was in no mental state to metabolize that, especially after being accused of lying and cheating by the father, which was threatening to level me. He had told me he never wanted to speak to me again, so I complied.
And I called picket-line Mom. She’s since changed her beliefs, I found out, but I still felt like the loser kid. “You don’t know anything about anyone until you’ve been in their shoes,” she told me, but I still felt disappointment radiating over the phone line. When I called her in the few days preceding the abortion to talk, her responses were somewhat clipped, and they were the only responses I had. I literally had ZERO support other than her promise to take me to get the abortion done. I’d called Planed Parenthood and set it up– they referred me to a private practice doctor in a town about 20 minutes away who told me to show up at a certain time on a certain day with a certain amount of cash. I had no one to talk to, so I scoured the internet for information, having literally no idea what I was in for. I already felt all sorts of things about doing this, and a google search in 2011 let me know in no uncertain terms that I was a baby killer, an irresponsible murderous whore, and from other women’s accounts, I was in for a scary and painful medical procedure and decision that would leave me emotionally scarred for life. Cool.
I did find one blog made by a girl, diary style, in the days leading up to, the day of, and the day after her procedure. Even though this girl was obviously a minor and had a different view of things than I did, it was still an honest account though a bit immature, and that blog saved my life because I suddenly didn’t feel so alone. She had no shame, which I found refreshing. I think her mom took her to get ice cream after they left the clinic. I thought, “Okay, this doesn’t sound so bad.” It was definitely more relatable and less scary than the other stuff I was reading, and it led to the idea of starting this website. So, thank you, anonymous ice cream girl.
The day of, my mom picks me up stupid early (I think I had to be there when the office opened to be seen that day). I was going to be put under short-term general anesthesia, so I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight. I gave them the cash and they had me fill out paperwork. I remember how non-clinical the waiting room seemed. It reminded me of a 70’s den with vaulted ceilings, lots of dark wood trim, big, comfy overstuffed couches, and aquariums. It was sort of spacious, which was nice. I can’t imagine sitting around in a room where everyone would maybe be trying to avoid eye contact. It was a building in a quiet little office building park, and pretty removed from the actual town we were in, which was nice. Very anonymous and the building itself was nondescript. It felt like being in any other doctor’s office, just a little more homey. None of the other women there looked particularly freaked out.
I remember doing two things before the actual procedure. Having an ultrasound, with the screen behind my head so I didn’t have to look if I didn’t want to. The doctor told me I was 5 or 6 weeks along. Back to the waiting room.
Second, I went in for a consultation with the doctor in his office filled with medical books, paperwork, and framed pictures of his family. He asked me why I wanted an abortion, and I told him. The questions were pretty non-invasive and non-specific. It seemed more procedural than anything. He went over all the warning stuff and had me sign more paperwork, and told me what to expect- that I would be put to sleep and wouldn’t remember anything, that the procedure itself would not take long at all, that I would wake up with cramps, but nothing more severe than “really bad menstrual cramps”, and that when the anesthesia wore off and I could move, I could get up, take the Ibuprofen they provided, get dressed, and go home with a driver. I was to take antibiotics that were provided to me in a little envelope after I had eaten that day and a few days after to prevent infection. I was going to bleed afterward, but it was going to be like a light period. If I remember correctly, I was not to wear tampons.
So that’s pretty much exactly what happened. I wear contacts, so they had me take those out. I changed into a gown. I got on a table and a seatbelt was fastened around my waist and maybe my chest? I’m sure it was to assure that I wouldn’t fall off the table, being unconscious and all. They put my in gyno stirrups. I saw a big, square machine that didn’t look scary and guessed that was the machine they used for the procedure since the room was pretty much bare of anything else a regular gynecological exam room wouldn’t be equipped with. The nurses were polite, if a bit brisk, but they do this all day every day so I wasn’t offended by their bedside manner or anything. Truth be told, I was just ready to get it over with. I was put under with an injection, and fell immediately, like drifting off to sleep. I do remember the nurses walking me down the hall to my recovery room in what I call time skips. I don’t remember getting there, but I did remember two on either side, supporting me while they guided me down the hall to my recovery room, with memories of them directing me there like flashes in black.
When I woke up, I was pretty out of it. Bad cramps were to be expected, and that was the first thought that came to my fuzzy brain- “why are my cramps so bad this morning?” Then I remembered where I was, why I was there, and that the procedure had gone by and was over. I could barely move, but I smiled and stretched and went back to sleep. I’m not kidding when I say that was the most relieved I’ve ever been in my entire life. I wasn’t pregnant anymore and could just put everything behind me and go on with my business.
When my limbs started functioning again, I took the horse-pill sized Ibuprofen that had been set out for me on the bedside table, washed it down with one of those little mini-cans of Sprite, and slowly got dressed. I wasn’t in any more pain than just having bad cramps, but I’ve had cramps way more severe than that over my menstruating years.
I still don’t regret my decision. For a while, I felt like I was supposed to feel something- guilt, shame, wishing things were different. I didn’t. I don’t. I love my kids dearly, but I didn’t (and don’t) want another one, plain and simple. Two is enough for me, and they are both going to be 18 within 3 years. I did an inventory, even. Searched for feelings of remorse. I couldn’t come up with any when I tried. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life, and I made it for me. If I hadn’t had an abortion, my life would be drastically different. I told my daughters recently because we were discussing the topic (they are both completely pro-choice), and they only asked me three questions. How did you feel about it emotionally before, during, and after?
I still haven’t told the guy that he got me pregnant. We did talk later over the internet, but I wanted to tell him in person, and that never happened because he excommunicated me again before I had a chance to do that. So, if you’re reading this, hey- you’re not infertile.