An obvious choice

by Anonymous

August 25, 2018

As I did my standard morning run, I could feel something was amiss. It felt as if a huge percentage of oxygen had been sucked out of the atmosphere. Each breath was labored and I didn’t have to look at my watch to know I was running much slower than normal.


The run ended. My head buzzed and started to throb. No time to rest, I had to run to the toilet because my intestines lately had become an unpredictable whirlwind between diarrhea and constipation. Instead of post-run euphoria, I felt exhausted, frustrated and could feel anger mixed with fear building in me. I had been so healthy—my iron levels and red blood cell count were high for a woman and I had been working and running at a great tempo. What was suddenly hitting me? Was it a resurgence of Lyme disease? Was I suddenly anemic despite eating an iron-rich diet? Was my Celiac’s flaring up due to unknown gluten contamination? Or was this the start of a lethal cancer?


My symptoms only worsened as the day continued. Papers to write, data to analyze, meetings and talks to prepare for, but as I sat in my office and stared at my computer screen my head throbbed, my eyelids begged to close and my mind lost focus. Something truly terrible was happening to my body.


My period is normally always on time but it didn’t start on its expected date. I wasn’t surprised. Illnesses and stress typically make it a few days late. The days passed and my symptoms grew worse. My period still hadn’t arrived. Finally, it was record-late and it hit me that perhaps it wasn’t late because I was ill— perhaps I was ill because it was late.


I peed on the stick and waited. Positive. The relief was immediate. It wasn’t a terrible infection, a mysterious food allergy, or a horrible cancer. It was just an unwanted growth in my uterus— a simple medical procedure could safely remove it. And once removed, the relief would be immediate and I would be avoiding the larger medical risks involved in pregnancy and delivery.


I called the local woman’s clinic and scheduled an abortion for as soon as possible— one week away. I had wanted an appointment for that same day. I took a deep breath and reminded myself it could be worse: I could live in an even more conservative state and have to deal with the bullshit of mandatory waiting periods; and instead of living within 5 miles from the abortion clinic, I could live much, much further away, like the majority of American women who seek an abortion.


I took the appointment and provided my health insurance information. The nurse thanked me but then informed me I would have to pay the full cost because the Hyde Amendment prevents my public university health insurance plan from covering abortion. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that although the abortion would use a huge percentage of my month’s income, at least my savings account was ready for emergencies like this.


The nurse then told me to plan on being at the clinic for the entire day. I took a deep breath and reminded myself I could make up the hours of work on the weekend. The procedure would be on a Friday, and I had a big meeting the following Monday, but I took another deep breath and reminded myself that I would be prepared for it anyway.


Juxtaposed against my wait for the removal of my unwanted uterine growth, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination. Perhaps it was the hormones of pregnancy, perhaps it was an inevitable reaction for such a historic moment: I sat there watching her Brooklyn speech and bawled.


Finally! A presidential candidate who not only has a uterus and has suffered through the exhaustion and pain of the first trimester, but who as Senator introduced eight pieces of legislation aimed at expanding women’s access to reproductive health.


A presidential candidate who as Secretary of State prioritized women’s lives and promised to overturn the Hyde Amendment if elected President.


A presidential candidate who knows that although abortion isn’t easy, it sometimes is the most obvious decision a woman could make.


A presidential candidate who is truly pro-life: she wants women to live, thrive and seize every opportunity, and she wants children to be born into great health on a path for success.


Of course, Hillary didn’t win the electoral college and she didn’t become our President. Thank goodness I had my abortion on a day when I was still hopeful that she would win. It was a really hard day. If I had been living in a state or country with medieval laws, forced to order the mifepristone and misoprostol from another place and take it without really knowing what I was getting into— I can only shudder to think of it.


People don’t really talk about it, and going in to the whole thing I thought the abortion wouldn’t be any harder than menstruating. Not true.


The mifepristone is easy. It stops the pregnancy. I took it at the clinic and took the misoprostol the next day after breakfast. I read on Planned Parenthood’s website that misoprostol “causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage.” What no one tells you is that the pain of an early miscarriage is similar to going through labor contractions. My mother had a first trimester miscarriage a year after I was born and she said it was as painful as giving birth to me.


Well, I’m cautious with what I discuss with my mother so I only knew that after I came through the other side. The uterine contractions were among the most painful physical experiences I’ve ever had— and unfortunately unlike the other top 3 most-painful life experiences where I was recovering from major surgery in a hospital and given morphine via IV, I was instead home, puking up the anti-nausea and pain meds into the toilet. My spouse put on a good face, carrying me from the toilet to our bed, or just bracing me as I sat on the toilet, shaking, moaning, raining sweat with each contraction. The truth is, if the nurse had not explained that I was in for two hours of hell, my spouse told me he would have taken me to the emergency room for pain meds.


But the nurse was right. It was two of the hardest hours of my life but then it was done. I felt as exhausted, sweaty and dehydrated as if I had run a Death Valley marathon. I spent a few hours sitting on the sofa drinking gatorade until the evening finally came and I felt strong enough to get Chipotle take-out— my ultimate comfort food.


It was a day I hope to never repeat again and a day I wouldn’t wish on any woman. That said, if I accidentally get pregnant again, it’ll still be an obvious choice what to do.

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