Abortion: A Love Story

by Kaley Relaz

March 20, 2017

I found out I was pregnant in the public bathroom of a yoga studio. On my way to attend a class, I decided to stop by CVS to get a pregnancy test, just to completely clear my mind of the thought before class started. My period was only a few days late, and I had only had sex with a new partner a couple of times. Condoms and pulling out had never failed me in the past. But after peeing on the stick and seeing those two blue lines, I decided to skip class and go back into my car to call my sister Kristi and cry.

I truly hadn’t thought that I was really pregnant, and I didn’t have plans for it either. I was 30. I was a 7th grade teacher. Very “bright-eyed and bushy tailed,” according to my coworkers. A “mover and a shaker”, according to my last professor before getting my master’s degree in education. I had plans to change the world, and not by being a mom. Plus, I wasn’t too sure about Josh, the other responsible party of this woopsies. Although he was kind, thoughtful, funny, handsome, and had a good job, I had only known him for about a month and gone out with him just a few times. He liked comic books, extravagantly dressing up for Halloween, and was very proud of how many followers he had on his meme account. Nerd alert. I also didn’t really like how he smelled. I remember telling this to Kristi and her saying to me that I should listen to that primitive signal. Although I hadn’t told Josh that he smelled funny, neither he nor I were shy about sharing our feelings of uncertainty about each other and if our relationship had any kind of future. Nevertheless, he was by my side and completely supportive since the night I found out. He came right over after my phone call and brought me chocolate ice cream. We both decided then that abortion was the most practical option.

However, in the next couple weeks I teetered between going through with that plan or somehow managing to actually become a mom. Some days I was bitter towards the thing inside me and couldn’t wait to get it out. I didn’t want to eat the foods I usually loved to eat. Pork tacos were now gag-worthy instead of my go-to. My vagina smelled like 20 vaginas in one. Josh also started to smell like vaginas too. I felt lethargic and nauseous. I felt bloated and fat. I tried jogging and barely made it half the distance I usually ran. I broke down and cried the day I found a rash on my face and shoulders. I thought I might have been HIV positive after recalling scenes from Normal Heart. After spending time Google imaging “rashes” (yikes) and talking to my sister Megan who’s a mom of two, I realized that I likely had something called Cloasma/pregnancy rash and was still HIV negative. Phew, but I couldn’t believe how awful this tiny thing was making me feel and look.

Other days, I imagined my belly getting big. I imagined how excited my 7th graders would be when they found out I was having a baby. I imagined what the baby would look like, and hoped it would have black, curly hair like its dad. I thought about where my baby and I would live, and wondered if it would be with Josh or not. Would we try to date each other and live separately like normal people do in the beginning of a relationship? Or would we fast forward the dating and try living together right away? Because… we had a baby on the way. I thought about the baby’s due date in August and how that coincided nicely with my current apartment lease ending in September, and that my maternity leave would work out nicely as an extension to my summer break. I thought about spending more time with Megan and my niece and nephew, she and I pushing strollers at a zoo or museum and making jokes about not taking a shower for days. This all seemed nice to me.

            I found out about the potential approximate due date of August 17th, 2017 after a counseling session at the Chicago Women’s Health Center on December 22nd, 2016. I also learned about the options of places I could go for the actual abortion. I remember that there were at least five places on that list, with information about cost and options for taking a pill at home or having it done at a clinic. I felt so lucky and relieved to have these safe options and the support from everyone I told: my sisters, Josh, my mom, several friends, and people at the Chicago Women’s Health Center. I cried a lot that day. I felt overwhelmed with the tons of love and support I had been getting from all angles since the day I found out. How did I get so lucky? Why have so many women had to do this without love and support and safe options? I was having a hard enough time in my more/less ideal situation. It broke my heart to think of women in other places where this was illegal, or not easily accessible. Or women who are bound by religion, fear, or shame.  I also just felt sad that day because after that counseling session, I felt even less sure about having the abortion. Learning about that potential due date made an actual baby seem more real, and it fucked me up.

            Josh picked me up from that appointment and took me out to a fancy dinner. He smelled a little less bad that day and looked more handsome than usual. I asked him if he wanted to go home and practice making more babies. He did.

            Later that night after our practice session, I cried. Still unsure if we would end up being a real couple, I told him that I needed to play Barbie’s Dream House for a minute and imagine what life could be like for us if we had the baby. I felt stupid for actually considering this. I was embarrassed to contemplate this option out loud with him, but I needed to do it. I kept crying while still naked from the sex we just had. I felt very vulnerable as if at any moment he might point and laugh at me. I usually avoided expressing these kinds of raw emotions with new romantic partners. But I knew I had to take a mental trip to this destination, with him, in order to really know I would make the right choice.

He didn’t point and laugh at me. He told me that we’d move in together. He’d save money. We’d make it work. This all made me so happy.  I was convinced that he’d be a good, reliable, involved dad, whether we ended up as a couple or just co-parents. That night I went to bed smiling, wondering if I’d be able to find a cute maternity dress to wear to my friend’s wedding in July.

            But as fast as the next morning came around, I went back to wanting an abortion. I felt sick again like I did all mornings. Josh smelled like 25 vaginas. Then I went to Megan’s house for brunch with her two kids, my cousin and her  two kids, and Megan’s friend and her fresh new baby. I was surprised that I felt really grossed out by these babies after a night of thinking of names for my own. I remember my cousin telling me that there are so many days that she wants to wake up and just have a day off. But of course, she can’t. This resonated with me. I didn’t want that now, or anytime soon. I didn’t even feel excited about holding the baby, and I definitely didn’t want to share the last biscuit with any of the kids.

Also during that morning brunch, I received an email from Josh which included a gift certificate to get a massage. It was just a nice gesture/Hanukkah present to be kind during this sometimes unpleasant time period. I thought that dating him for real seemed like a good idea, and I hoped that we could try when all this abortion stuff was over. I asked him if he might want to take a vacation in August instead of having a baby. He did. Having a vacation to look forward to, something I would not be able to do if I were to give birth or ever do again with the same ease and spontaneity, was a really comforting, affirming thought.

Abortion Day came a week later at Planned Parenthood. Josh, my sister Kristi, and my friend Ellie all came with me. Ellie brought “A-Team” aviator sunglasses for us all to wear and celebrate in, and I wore my Wonder Woman socks she had given me the week before. Josh took that day and the next day off work so he could be with me. He also made me an abortion care package, complete with maxi pads, comfy pajamas and a heating pad. We were at Planned Parenthood for about 5 hours, 11-4. The A-Team just waited all day, entertaining themselves with jokes, communal waiting room daytime TV, and observing the setting. We saw a young woman with her mother and boyfriend there for the same reason as me. She was wearing a sweatshirt that said, “If you need nothing, I am totally here for you.” We all agreed that she was making the right choice.

People-watching was interesting. Prior to A-Day, I thought that at 30, I would be the oldest person getting an abortion. Not the case. Abortion does not discriminate. There were young woman and older woman, some who were already mothers of big kids. There were Black women, Asian women, White women, and Latinx women. There was a young couple, probably in their mid-twenties, who seemed like big-time nerds. They both wore glasses and pants that were too short for them, and talked about literature of which I was unfamiliar. I was happy for them that they were both able to find a date. I was also very comforted to know that even really smart nerds have abortions too.

The day was long. But unlike the A-Team, I had breaks away from the waiting room: an ultrasound where I saw the little 6-week old seed; a counseling session where nice people made sure no one was making me do this and where I learned of the non-hormonal IUD I would get installed that day; a break to get a blood test where I learned I had “RH Negative” blood, meaning that my body would have reacted like it was allergic to the baby, and without taking proper precautions, likely try to kick it out anyway. This news and my new IUD plans helped me feel even more certain that I was making the right choice.

I took my last break from the waiting room when it was finally show time. I was the very last abortion-seeker of the day, so the next name to be called would surely be mine. I just wanted everything to be over.  I wanted to feel good again, thinner and less rashy. I wanted to eat al pastor tacos again. I probably wanted Josh to be my boyfriend. And after learning that being grossed out by the smell of your baby’s dad was somewhat common during pregnancy, I had more faith that a relationship with this wonderful person could be possible. I really hoped he would soon stop smelling like vaginas.

My name was called. It was go-time. I got up and walked away so fast I don’t think I even looked back at the team. I arrived to the room which was furnished with many pokers, prodders, scrapers and suckers. My heart began to beat fast. I had butterflies in my stomach like I was about to bungee jump off a bridge. Even though I already knew the answer to my question I still asked, “Is this where it all goes down?” It was. I had opted to get knocked out, an option I would recommend if it’s on the table. I didn’t feel myself slip into an anesthesia-induced sleep, and I only remember having small-talk with the staff about my job and niece and nephew.

Someone said, “You’re all done.”

And I asked, “With what? Haven’t we just been talking?”

“You were dreaming. It’s all done.”

I was in disbelief but didn’t want to argue. “Even the IUD is in there?”

I cried and put my face in my hands when she said yes. From relief and gratefulness. I gave them hugs. I felt like having a party. I was also starving and felt like going to a Las Vegas buffet. I was excited to have a celebratory meal with the team, something I had been looking forward to ever since one of my friends told me that she went out for Portillio’s after the abortion she had in college. Then I’d go home with Josh, watch Netflix, take more Ibuprofen, and wear the comfy pajamas and use the heating pad that he got me.

            I thought I was home-free. But I did have one very unexpected breakdown two days later on New Year’s Eve. I found the picture of the ultrasound in my wallet that I chose to get before Josh and I were going out to dinner. I initially wanted the picture printed because I just thought it was interesting and cool, from a scientific point of view. I also wanted to show Josh, Ellie, and Kristi in the waiting room. I had some pride in the seed my body was able to make.

            But I didn’t break down because I thought I had made a mistake. I wasn’t mourning a baby that never existed.

            I cried because I mourned the thought of being a mom soon; that life I had been imagining seemed extremely far away now. Saying goodbye to an idea that had consumed me for weeks: of pushing strollers with my sister at the zoo, of imagining how cute our baby would be, whether it would be a boy or a girl. I also mourned the thought of ever getting pregnant accidentally in the future. I honestly thought that this is how it would happen- on accident- and that I’d keep it, be happy and do my best. But now my uterus came equipped with my IUD, 24/7 birth control for up to the next 12 years. I would also need to visit the doctor again when I wanted it removed. Therefore, if I ever do decide to have a baby one day, the responsibility to be a good mom seems like a lot more. It would be something I very much choose and intend to do. And when a person chooses and intends to get pregnant, the bar for doing “my best” seems a lot higher.

            That New Year’s Eve night Josh listened and let me cry, even at the restaurant. He did not point and laugh at me. He did not show signs of embarrassment to be seen with me, even when I ordered a drink with red eyes and smeared mascara. He also smelled like fewer vaginas. Two days later I missed him a lot and asked if I could come over. And when I saw him that night I put my nose right into his armpit and all over his chest and neck. Finally zero vaginas. Every part of him smelled good and handsome.

            I feel so lucky that I was able to get to know him through this experience, and get to know what I had been missing before I met him. I feel so lucky that he was overwhelmingly supportive throughout the process, and more importantly, didn’t try to sway my decision one way or the other. I feel fully responsible for the outcome and 100% peaceful and happy about it. I feel lucky that every person I told, which were several, also supported me in the same way. No one tried to sway my decision, nor did anyone try and make me feel shame or guilt for deciding that abortion was the best choice. I felt lots and lots of love. I feel incredibly fortunate that I live in Chicago, where I had several places I could go to get this procedure done safely. I didn’t have to drive hundreds of miles or buy a plane ticket, lie to anyone, hide anything, or even take off work. This is how it should be. Everywhere, for everyone.

            I also feel lucky and fortunate that I get to go on vacation with my wonderful boyfriend in August, and also continue trying to change the world. Not now by being a mom, but later I hope. I know now more than ever that I want to be a mom one day, whether it’s a kid I grow in my own belly or adopt. Maybe both.

I’m sharing my story because I hope that in doing so, I can help another woman have an abortion story like mine. One that she can look back on with fond memories and that has a happy ending.

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