I was 25 when I had my first abortion. I had just moved to a new city after graduating college and was interning at a local non-profit, trying to get hired. When I found out I was pregnant a few months later, I had secured a part time job at a group home for boys. I was making $8.50 an hour. I was incredibly nauseated and vomited multiple times a day. It was torture to try and make it through work, and I would focus on herding together my group of sweaty, angry, sad and boisterous adolescent boys and make the best out of the hot July days with no A/C in the large, foursquare home where they all lived. I would go through my ten-hour shift willing myself not to vomit, drive wildly home and spend 15 minutes retching in the bathroom as soon as I arrived. My boyfriend would barely look up from his game of World of Warcraft. I considered continuing the pregnancy for one day, before realizing that having a child with this man would mean he would be in my life forever, and even though I wasn’t ready to end the relationship, I knew I didn’t want to commit myself to a lifetime with a narcissistic, insecure, needy artist. Fortunately, I lived in a state that offered Medicaid-funded abortions, but I had to wait two miserable weeks for them to process my application. I have no idea what I would have done without the insurance. After paying rent, I had less than $40 in my bank account most days.
I had my abortion on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The white-haired midwife who prepped me was kind and gentle. The doctor was efficient and professional. They gave me nitrous oxide and I floated in a haze above my body for a few minutes as I felt the fetus leave my uterus in a violent, painful cramp. I went home and slept for hours, waking to find that the nausea was gone, my body my own again. The next day, I went blueberry picking with my friend, feeling healthier and happier than I had in weeks.
I got pregnant the following year while on birth control pills and applying for graduate school. I was working for Planned Parenthood then and felt like a complete failure. I was still with the same boyfriend and decided not to tell him, taking a test alone in the bathroom and calling the clinic the next morning after he left for work. He returned to find me soaking in the tub with the abortion clinic web page open on the computer. I can’t say he responded much better, though he didn’t argue with me or guilt me this time. I didn’t tell anyone else. I went to work that day, left early to have the abortion, then went back to work. It was a rushed and depressing experience. The medical assistant barely looked at me during the ultrasound, though I think she might have held my hair while I vomited after the procedure. When I was lying in bed tearfully the next morning, my boyfriend told me, “You should stop feeling sorry for yourself.” In that moment, It felt like the cruelest thing anyone had said to me, and it confirmed that there was no hope for our relationship, or for him ever becoming a better person.
I kept the second abortion secret until I was in graduate school, when I told the incredibly kind Dr. Hodson what I had kept to myself for nearly two years. All I did during our first few weeks of therapy was sit in his office and cry. They were not tears of regret. I had not realized how alone and ashamed I felt. Even though I had witnessed and assisted dozens of abortions at my job, I couldn’t tell anyone I had become pregnant a second time. Dr. Hodson sat with me in my shame and loneliness, his understanding and empathy helped me to forgive myself for my perceived fuck up, for making a stupid mistake again, because smart girls like me weren’t supposed to get pregnant by accident, and certainly not more than once. I ended therapy feeling that someone understood me, and could look at me without judgement, with love and compassion. I left the asshole boyfriend, finally. Months later, on a run through the neighborhood, he accosted me, begging me to take him back. After he attacked me, I had him arrested. I never saw him again.
This photo was taken by my husband, 10 years later on the beach in Japan. As I write this, I’m now 14 weeks pregnant with a planned pregnancy. My relationship to pregnancy is complicated, because I don’t enjoy being pregnant at all. But I am married to a brilliant, kind feminist man who makes me tea and tells me how beautiful I am, inside and out, every day. And every day I am thankful for those two abortions for what they taught me about loving myself, and for what they allowed my life to be now.