18 and Pregnant

by Y.O.

August 17, 2022

Content Warning: physical abuse

I’ve gone through so many versions of how I would share the things I am about to share and even if I should share these things. The more I watch, read, listen, the more I want to scream and the more I feel like I am hiding a part of me. Fear holds people back from expressing feelings, needs, truths, etc because let’s face it, people can be cruel and unforgiving even those that are closest to you. That has definitely been a concern of mine and crossed my mind multiple times. But for so long shame and fear have driven many people like me to not share their story and because of that many people are under the impression that abortions don’t happen as often as they do and this ruling will not have as big of an impact on people. Even when I think about the 1 in 4 statistic (1 in 4 women will have an abortion during their reproductive years), I stop and think about who I am around. I’m in my late 30s and have only heard from 2 other women that they have had an abortion. But I know there are so many more of us. It’s the fear and fear of being shamed that stops us from talking about something that is normal. ABORTION IS NORMAL and I’ve had 2.

I was 18 and in my first semester of college. I had just gotten over mono and was feeling ill again. I missed many of my 8am classes and almost failed one of them (I got a D). The nausea was unbearable. I could barely walk without feeling like I wanted to vomit. I almost passed out getting food in the food hall because I was likely dehydrated and not able to keep any food down. “Could I have mono again?” I thought. “Am I pregnant? Noooo. I can’t be. Could I?” I scheduled a doctor’s appointment, gave a urine sample and waited. I could hear the ticking of the timer in the hall while they tested my urine. DING. As soon as the timer went off. I knew. I’m pregnant. The doctor came in with a sullen look and told me I indeed was pregnant. My head and my heart dropped. I already knew what I was going to do. The doctor didn’t counsel me on my options or ask if this was a wanted pregnancy. She gave me a prescription for pre-natal vitamins and recommended I find an OB and sent me on my way. I wouldn’t be needing the prescription or an OB because I had no intention of becoming a mother.

I started dating my then boyfriend in high school. By the end of the first year, I knew I shouldn’t stay with him, but I didn’t know how to leave. By the end of the first year our relationship turned abusive. At first it was mostly verbal, but over the course of 5 years (yes, 5 fucking years) I got yelled at, name called, put down, scoffed at and eventually I was shoved, lunged at, pinned to the ground on my stomach, slapped, pulled out of bed by my hair, pulled by the hair while driving, target practice for random items and threatened in multiple ways. I was accused of cheating if I chose to hang in mixed company, say hello to a male acquaintance or wore anything even somewhat revealing. I was gaslighted on a regular basis. I was the crazy one. I was making things up in my head. I was such a fucking bitch. I was blamed for everything. I didn’t react the right way to a gift that was given to me. I didn’t want to have sex often enough so I must be getting it from someone else or something was wrong with me. Photos of me/us were torn up and thrown at me. My things were searched and shuffled through; some were thrown away because if I didn’t want to be with him, I didn’t need to have anything from him or remotely related to him. By the end of it I was beaten down raw. No self-esteem. No sense of self or worth. No power. I didn’t know the depths of my insecurity or damage until years later and by years I mean not until I was like 34.

He was shocked by the news. I told him what I wanted to do. He got mad me for not taking his opinion into consideration. He started listing scenarios. He told me his mom would help. He’d join the army. We could make it work. Fuck that. No way was I bringing a child into this world with him as the father. I didn’t want to be connected to him for the rest of my life and at the end of the day I DIDN’T WANT TO HAVE A BABY or be a mother. I just started school. I wanted more despite being crushed on a regular basis by his anger. I listened to his options. I didn’t like them so I made an appointment. He was mad at me, angry actually. Refused to help me in any way. The day I schedule the appointment, he went to a football game. I disclosed my pregnancy to my roommate because I needed someone to drive me or I couldn’t get the procedure. I am eternally grateful to this person because she put aside her personal feelings on the matter and helped me. I had no one else. My family wasn’t close and I didn’t feel like I could tell them anyway. I had no friends locally. I was alone.

I was so naïve to the idea of protestors and somehow, I was lucky enough that the day I went, there were none. No one was yelling at me telling me I’m a murderer. No was pleading with me to not kill my baby. No one was telling me I was going to hell. No was promising me they would help me if I would just decide to keep it. I walked in. I checked in. Another urine sample to confirm. I was “counseled,” and asked if I was sure. Yup, let’s do this. They gave me valium and I waited for my turn. I read stories from a book of other women that came before me. There were multiple books of them. I don’t remember specific stories, but there were so many of them. It was comforting. I got called back. They took an ultrasound. I was 8 weeks along. I don’t remember much else to be honest. I think it was a male physician. There was some random poster on the ceiling to help me feel calm I suppose. The doctor told me what tools they would use and what I would feel and hear. It lasted maybe 2 minutes. Pressure, more pressure. Done. They took me to a waiting room where I sat in a recliner with a heating pad on my abdomen and a blanket. I was drowsy. I was a little numb, not physically, but emotionally. But I wasn’t pregnant anymore and was happy and relieved about it.

Fast forward 2 years. I felt ill. Nauseous again. Not as bad, but a familiar feeling. Home test +. Fuck.  A little shame around this one. I “let it happen again.” It happened the same way. Warning: crude language coming. We were having sex, but he never came in me. We were in college, we never really had the time, space or privacy to go at it very often. Penetration but no ejaculation. How could I get pregnant? Well, my quality, non-existent comprehensive sex education would tell me that pre-cum is a thing and those little fuckers are in there too. I was on and off the pill because at the time it felt too expensive to pay the $35 a month for the pill and because I was trying to hide things from my parents. I didn’t know what paperwork they would get about what doctors visits I was going to or what I was being billed for.  So, this time the news was received a little different. The first thing he asked was, “So, are you going to make an appointment?” Yup. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. This time he drove me. He never offered to help pay for either.  It barely if ever got brought up again.

Same clinic. Same process. Same poster on the ceiling. This time I contributed to the book of stories as I waited. Ultrasound. 10 weeks along. Pressure. More Pressure. Done. I remember less about the 2nd one.

3 years or so later, I finally got the courage to leave. At this point, because of a few groups of people, I started feeling strong enough to start breaking away. This only intensified our fights though, but I knew I had to keep trying and eventually I did and didn’t go back. In fact, I crossed state lines to make sure I didn’t go back. Hello, North Carolina. You saved me. You gave me a purpose, an identity, support I have never known that I protect and value fiercely.

It terrifies me to think about going through what I did during present day. I lived in Tennessee, where recently they just put into effect their trigger law that criminalizes abortion with no exceptions even if I had thoughts and a plan to harm myself for not being able to access an abortion. Which, to be honest, I think I would have. I would have been willing to risk my health and maybe my life to not be pregnant. I’m not talking bloody coat hangers, but I would have tried to figure out how to not be pregnant. That’s how much I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was depressed and have struggled with some level of mild at times moderate depression and anxiety most of my adult life post abusive relationship. My roommate, my boyfriend and everyone at that clinic that helped me are criminals in the eyes of some current state laws.

My story is not unique and yet, I’m scared of how some people will react to this or how they will feel about me once they read it. I hope anyone reading this that has opposing views or some initial judgment, will maybe reach out to their empathetic and compassionate side for just a moment to realize that I am just a human that has wants, needs, goals, feelings, values, a vision for myself and my life that is uniquely mine and I should be able to make choices that help shape that vision, including access to healthcare. I wholeheartedly believe abortion is healthcare. I believe no one should be forced to birth a child that they don’t want or aren’t prepared to care for. Parenting and caretaking should not be taken lightly. Sharing these experiences is deeply personal. For a long time, I didn’t want anyone to know. It felt like shame, but it was really fear. I didn’t know how to talk about it and when I did tell anyone, I don’t think they knew how to talk about it either. I’ve never been able own my story the way I feel like I can and should now. I know the vast majority will be supportive and maybe even a few will reach out and tell me their story. I hope reading this helps someone feel a little more normal, a little safer to talk about their abortion story.  Some may still not get it or care to get it and that’s ok.

I’m grateful I did not grow up with an anti-abortion narrative. I remember thinking as young as my early teens that I would get an abortion if I ever became pregnant. It’s always been a no brainer. I don’t regret them. They didn’t scar me. They weren’t painful. They weren’t dangerous. They weren’t sinful. They don’t make me less of a woman. They were normal.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!