End the Silence and Erase the Stigma

by J

October 9, 2020

This summer I went on an incredible 3.5 month backpacking trip. I had worked for a year to save up for it and I had the most amazing time. Towards the end of my trip I started feeling really exhausted and many days woke up feeling sick. After my trip, I flew home to the US. I arrived in the States and my period was late. I thought that with all the traveling, sometimes your body gets thrown off. So I waited. Now my period was almost 2 weeks late. “There’s no way I could be pregnant though… I have an IUD” I tried telling myself. I bought a pregnancy test to do at home, just to put my mind at ease and prove to myself that I’m freaking out for no reason and there’s really absolutely no way I could be pregnant. The test came out positive. I started crying. And crying. And crying. And googling “how reliable are these pee sticks even”?! I made an appointment for the gynecologist. I went in and they did an ultrasound. “You’re pregnant” The ultrasound technician, with a smile, said. I started crying. And crying. And crying. Wailing. HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING. I did everything you’re “supposed to do”. I am responsible!!! They told me IUD’s are 99.9% effective!!!! This MUST be a mistake!

My mom came in and with my doctor we decided what our next steps were. I am 22 years old, I still don’t have a college degree, I am in no way ready/able/willing to be a mother right now. I also had a vascular problem that could have gotten much worse if I was to get pregnant. The decision itself was actually quite easy. There was absolutely no question whether I was going to have an abortion or not.

My gynecologist put me back up on the chair and went to take the IUD out. She explained that it had moved to my cervix (which I had never felt) and when she tugged on the strings to remove it, the strings completely came off. Now, not only was I going to be having an abortion, I was also going to be getting the IUD surgically removed.

I remember being so incredibly angry that day. I felt cheated by my birth control. I felt lied to by all the people who made it seem like there was no way to get pregnant with an IUD. I was angry at myself for excusing myself from the small possibility that I could indeed get pregnant, even with an IUD. I truly truly did not think it was a possibility to get pregnant with an IUD in and I had had mine in for over 3 years at this point with no problems. I felt like I did all the responsible things and yet I got screwed over.

There was a week wait from the day I had the ultrasound, to when I could get an appointment for the abortion. The abortion clinic was packed the day I went. I was honestly shocked at how many other women there were experiencing what I was experiencing. My boyfriend came to be with me and was so compassionate and supportive, as were my parents and sister. I am so lucky to be in a family and be surrounded by people who support me and love me unconditionally.

The “conversation” about abortion comes up all the time and maybe I’m more aware of it because it is a topic that is very important to me but the shame and judgement that people attach to abortion is still so hurtful. People make so many hurtful and general statements and don’t realize that someone who actually had an abortion could be in the room. I truly believe that until YOU are in the situation, you can never really know what you will do.

Having an abortion has inspired me to get more involved in the fight for women’s rights and safe, accessible abortion. I have since started volunteering at an organization that helps educate about abortion and birth control and help women through the process.

Even with being part of this amazing organization and with a family and partner who support me, I have still felt scared to tell people about it. I personally do not think I know anyone else who has had an abortion, but according to the statistics that can’t be true. My dream is to be able to share my story and normalize abortion. It saddens me that women are silenced by society and do not feel comfortable talking about their experiences (myself included). This silence perpetuates false information about abortion, shame, judgement and makes people who have had abortions feel isolated and alone. People have abortions for so many different reasons and for many people it is not a “moral decision”, it just is a medical procedure that has to be done. I hope that in the future I will live in a world where the stigma and shame around abortions will be erased and all people will be TRUSTED to do what is best for THEIR bodies.

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