I Didn’t Know What to Expect When I Got an Abortion

Two months ago, I pushed open the doors to my local Planned Parenthood and felt a wave of anxiety, relief, and sadness flood over me. I am getting an abortion today, I thought to myself, six words I never imagined would cross my mind.

After finding out I was pregnant (coincidentally during a doctor’s visit for my last Gardasil shot), I did my due diligence in preparing for the procedure. I dug through article upon article on the web to find out more abortion pills and surgical abortion, and while I could have sifted through the internet all day, nothing I found could have prepared me for the emotional journey I was about to embark on.

For one, I felt stupid and upset with myself for getting pregnant in the first place. I thought the chances of me accidentally getting pregnant would be less when I switched from taking a daily birth control pill to using Nuvaring, a flexible, plastic vaginal insert that promised to give me protection for 21 days at a time. But I must have forgotten to insert a new one in time somewhere in the blur of festivities between Halloween and Thanksgiving, because I was now just over six weeks pregnant. (When you forget to replace the ring, your body gets a cue to start ovulating, making you more likely to get pregnant.)

While I had dreams of becoming a mother — the kind who was president of the Parent Teacher Association and organizing team carpools — I didn’t expect the opportunity to present itself so early on. Having a child at the age of 26 would mean having to press pause on the initial goals I had set for myself and the future my boyfriend and I had planned. Not only that, but if I were to choose to continue the pregnancy, we wouldn’t be able to provide the child with the quality of life we had envisioned. In short, we weren’t ready, and knowing that I was about to say goodbye to the baby I wasn’t going to meet, grief began to crawl into my veins. We’ll meet again when I’m ready, I told myself.

 

We weren’t ready, and knowing that I was about to say goodbye to the baby I wasn’t going to meet, grief began to crawl into my veins.

 

After about 15 minutes of nervously reading procedure documents and waivers in the Planned Parenthood waiting room, my name was called, and I was ushered into a small clinical room.

“You’ll take the first abortion pill here, and then four more after six hours at home,” she shared, pointing at a cartoon woman popping four pills into her mouth. She continued to explain how the first pill would stop my body from producing the hormones needed for the pregnancy’s growth, and how the other four would initiate the shedding of the pregnancy tissue.

She then proceeded to take my weight and vitals before sending me upstairs to get my blood tested and my ultrasound done. With clear jelly spread across my belly, I learned I was, indeed, six weeks and two days pregnant — the clump of cells hadn’t even developed to be a centimeter in diameter yet. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Blood drawn and a bandage stuck in the inner crook of my elbow, I found myself in another waiting room for my turn to be brought into the procedure. When the nurse practitioner called me in and sat me down, she first asked me the typical questions like, “Are you sure about your decision? Why do you want to have an abortion? Is anyone pressuring you to make this decision? Do you have a supportive group?”

Then she asked, “Why do you want to take the abortion pill instead of doing the in-clinic abortion?”

Much to my chagrin, I learned that I was wrong in why I chose the abortion pill. Just because you are early in your pregnancy does not mean that you have to choose to take the abortion pill. An in-clinic abortion can be just as effective, and Planned Parenthood offers two kinds: a suction abortion and D&E (dilation and evacuation). The process for eliminating a pregnancy using these two methods is faster than the pill abortion. They can take, at most, up to 10 minutes, while the pill can feel more like a miscarriage with heavy bleeding for a few hours at a time. Because of this (and for financial reasons), I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to go forward with an in-clinic abortion.

 

I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to go forward with an in-clinic abortion.

 

After going through another walk-through and figuring out my insurance coverage for the in-clinic procedure, I was finally directed to a larger waiting room where I was told to place my coat, cell phone, and other belongings in a locker. With no phone to distract me, I sat twiddling my thumbs on a cushy recliner chair, and absentmindedly flipping through a 2016 issue of People until my name was called.

“Hi, my name is Rachel*,” the nurse told me as we walked past wheelchairs toward a clinic room. “I’ll be with you through the entire process today.”

Upon entering the room, I was greeted by three more women — one doctor, a doctor in-training, and then another nurse. I was handed a sterile set of fabric booties and a medical gown, and was asked to change out of my jeans. All the while, it was normal conversation that I overheard from the other side of the changing curtain, giving me a sense of ease that I wasn’t the only woman getting an abortion that day, and that this was more common than I originally thought.

When I emerged from behind the curtain, I saw that the team and table were both ready for me. Hair nets, hair masks, gloves, and the stirrups were all perched in their places, but my knees, body and feet all had to be placed correctly. I climbed up onto the table, and placed my feet sturdily into the stirrups and took a deep breath.

“You’ll feel a little bit of cold pressure,” said the doctor as she peered over the bottom flap of my gown. Suddenly, I felt the coolness of metal pliers slip in and prop me open. “Now, a small sharp pain as I inject the local anesthetic into place.”

While you can do the in-clinic abortion under anesthesia, you can also choose to do it awake. The reasons I chose to be awake included the fact that I just wanted to know what would be happening during the procedure, and because it would have cost $50 more to be asleep.

The anesthetic injection wasn’t the worst pain I felt — it was the actual suctioning and eliminating of the pregnancy tissue that hurt. Sharp, cramping pains ran right beneath the surface of my skin from my belly button down to my cervix. It felt as though a small baby turtle had been smashed against a wall, and then inserted into my abdomen, its shattered pieces of shell scraping my insides as the vacuum pumped and pumped.

I focused on my breathing and wished so hard that my boyfriend could have been there to squeeze my hand, but no one is allowed in the room with you except for the medical team. They did a great job trying to distract me from the pain, slipping into bits of conversation with me about a Netflix series I had been binge-watching, and telling me that I was doing a great job breathing and that I had great control over my body.

 

I focused on my breathing and wished so hard that my boyfriend could have been there to squeeze my hand, but no one is allowed in the room with you except for the medical team.

 

Before I could even dive into an analysis of the show with the doctors, the procedure was over. From what I could tell, it hadn’t even been seven minutes. The doctor exited the room with one of the nurses for a moment, and explained that they needed to examine the discarded tissue to make sure I was no longer pregnant. They came back with the confirmation and a wheelchair in tow. The team wheeled it over to me before helping me stand up and helped me slip into what looked like a giant, cushiony diaper.

“To help with the bleeding,” the doctor said.

As soon as I was wheeled into the recovery room, given a heating pad, some Ritz crackers and apple juice to help with my blood sugar, I broke into tears. Why? Even to this day, I wouldn’t be able to lay my finger on the reason. From the dizziness from the loss of blood to grieving what was a glimpse of motherhood, and finally, succumbing to the overall shock at how fast a pregnancy could disappear, it’s hard to tell which was the true sole reason behind my tears.

 

From the dizziness from the loss of blood to grieving what was a glimpse of motherhood, and finally, succumbing to the overall shock at how fast a pregnancy could disappear, it’s hard to tell which was the true sole reason behind my tears.

 

After about half an hour, 800mg of ibuprofen kicked into my system, and I was finally feeling better. I got my phone back, and quickly texted a “just finished — be out soon” to my sister and my boyfriend to let them know that things went well and to let my sister, who was picking me up, know that I was getting ready to leave. With a bag full of maxi pads, instructions on recovery, and antibiotics in hand, I walked back out to the waiting room to meet my sister who had just arrived. She quickly wrapped me up into her arms.

“I brought you bolognese,” she said carefully, hoping to cheer me up. “And the car is on the way.”

We headed out of the Planned Parenthood — silently thanking them for their healthcare options like abortion and birth control — and climbed into a black SUV to head back to the Lower East Side.

As I looked back toward the clinic, the anti-abortion protestor on the corner stared me down … but in my heart I knew I had made the decision that was right for me.

Abortion is a personal choice, and a common one as 4 out of 10 unplanned pregnancies end in abortion each year. If you choose to terminate a pregnancy, make sure you do your research — look up the options based on how far along your ultrasound says you are, choose your procedure based on your own preferences, and make sure that you have support in whichever decision you choose. Just make sure that you have tons of ibuprofen to help with the on and off cramping in the days following.

And know this — you are not alone.

  • Jessica Camerata

    Thank you for writing this piece. It’s such an unknown to me but a right I 100% fully support and hope to never have to be in that situation. As I imagine the decision is difficult and the aftermath is emotional.

    xo Jessica
    My Style Vita

  • Such an amazing article, brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing your brave and raw story and showing women that abortion is part of women’s healthcare. It’s her decision. Thank you thank you!

    xoxo
    Cathy, your Poor Little It Girl
    https://poorlittleitgirl.com

  • Susan H

    Thank you for sharing a VERY HARD AND PERSONAL DECISION. No one chooses this option lightly. Only you know what is best for you and your body. Keep looking forward!

  • Megan Rasmussen

    Along with giving information about abortion, what about some articles about the heroic and difficult choice to place a baby for adoption? Sometimes I feel like women are given only two options, parents or abortion but there is this amazing third option that needs more attention and press. Just saying.

    • Rebecca Ann

      Agreed. I was adopted, and I’m grateful that my biological mother made that decision. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy choice, but it is an option that should be discussed.

  • Steph

    Thank you so much for this piece. And thank you, Anonymous for your bravery and strength in sharing your story <3

  • Thank you for writing this. It is so hard to discuss, I am humbled at your bravery. XoXo. You made the right choice for you and I am so thankful you had a choice.

  • Senia E.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your child. Perhaps you cried because you felt a loss that your body understood, but you have denied. I pray for healing for you. Abortion is a difficult thing because we tell women that this is healthcare and freedom. It is not. Abortion sends the message to women that in order to live the life they dream, they must kill their children and be like men. Whatever size, a person is a person no matter how small.

    • S.

      Please, just stop. I’m sure you wouldn’t have been the first person in line to adopt the child. So this entire comment is unnecessary. They are the opposite of a man for very obvious reasons so that was definitely not needed.This person also didn’t need your prayers. They made it clear at the conclusion of the article.

      • Senia E.

        I stand by my comments. Thank you.

  • Colette

    Hi! If anyone is reading this article and considering abortion right now, I want to ask that you consider adoption. There are so many parents I know, myself included, that are looking to adopt. Please contact me and we can talk. No judgement, no pressure, just a woman looking out for other women. My email is [email protected]

  • Wonderful writing. Thank you for sharing your story. “You are not alone” is exactly right, and I’m confident there are many women reading your story right now who needed to hear that, or who needed to hear it years or months or days ago and didn’t. So thank you for telling them.

  • Angela Carey

    Okay, I’m not necessarily taking one side or another, but I have a couple problems with this story. First, she was 26. It’s not like she was a child who had barely lived herself. I understand wanting to be in a better place financially, etc., but at what point does one need to start taking responsibility for their actions? Second, she says she accidentally got pregnant because she forgot to replace her birth control. Again, not taking responsibility. You’re a grown woman, if you can’t be responsible enough to replace your birth control and avoid getting pregnant because you’re ‘not ready’, then maybe you shouldn’t be having sex. Abortion shouldn’t be used as a form of birth control. It could have effected her fertility and she could have ruined any chance of having a future family. That would have been painfully ironic.

    • Nicole Wilkinson

      She IS taking responsibility for her actions – nothing about her choice to abort the pregnancy was the easy way out. There’s no age at which a woman has to suddenly have no options but to become a parent – at 16, 26, or 106 it is ALWAYS her choice. And she’s assuming she made a mistake with her birth control – pregnancy can happen even when you use birth control 100% correctly. She wasn’t using abortion as a form of birth control – it was her choice when her birth control didn’t work due to, presumably, human error. Humans make mistakes – does that mean that the only way to make up for that mistake is to become a parent when you’re not in the position to become one? The child is the one who suffers when that happens.
      I work in a field where I interact a lot with kids in foster care and children’s aid, so I see what happens to kids whose parents aren’t ready for them. I also see just how many thousands of unwanted children there are in the country who are dying to have parents to love them. The last thing this world needs is another unwanted child frankly.

      • Anne

        Do you tell the children you work with that it would have been better if their parents killed them before they were born? That because they are in foster care, they would be better off dead?

        • Nicole Wilkinson

          No, but a lot of THEM tell me that themselves. At the end of the day it is HER decision, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not choosing to give birth and then give the child up for adoption, despite the impression some people give that there are somehow not enough children available for adoption, which is blatantly false.

  • Anne

    Another heart-breaking story of a mother trying to justify her decision to end the life of her child. Using words like “pregnancy tissue” and “women’s healthcare” will never change the fact that her child, a living human being, was unnaturally removed from her womb. Why is our society trying so desperately to normalize one of most emotionally, physically and spiritually devastating acts possible? To me what is so alarming about this mother’s story is that she wasn’t desperate, alone, poor, too young, too old, abused or unemployed (the reasons mothers have been told that our society needs abortion to be safe, legal and rare…one big lie that started with a man who hated children and didn’t want to be held responsible if he wanted to have sex with hundreds of women); she was merely inconvenienced by the timing of the arrival of her first child. So many mother’s are walking around with the veil of denial surrounding their “choice”. I pray that one day sooner rather than later that veil will fall. Those of us who veils have fallen wait to offer healing and unconditional love.

  • Kristen Taylor Kennedy

    Thank you for writing this. I hope this reaches many women and men. No shame should ever be put on a woman for control over her body.