I am with all of you, near in far, in this eternal sisterhood.

by Tess

April 13, 2022

I found out I was pregnant when I went to the doctor to see why I was having some strange, but mild abdominal cramping. There was no morning sickness, no breast tenderness, no hormonal mood swings. I had been on the same pill for 5+ years where I lost my period entirely, and I completely trusted myself taking it responsibly and it had never betrayed me. I was even told I might have difficulty getting pregnant because of an unofficial, but fairly certain diagnosis of endometriosis at 24.

But there I was, telling my doctor about the cramps, as she looked at me with eyes that made me feel seen, but more-so, suddenly exposed, as she gently asked me if she could take a urine sample.

She came back four minutes later, shut the door, and kindly put her hand on my knee. “I’m guessing this comes as a surprise, but you are pregnant.”

The next 10 days felt like a combination of a complete black out, yet seeing and feeling the whole experience so sharply, but from outside my own body. I was present, but I almost felt like this was someone else’s story, like watching a scary movie but having the privilege of knowing you’ll wake up and say “That could never happen to me.”

Part of the shock, and devastation, was finding out I was 15 weeks and 6 days. I could not believe this. My stomach looked a bit bloated, but I had always heard about a woman’s intuition: she should “feel” her pregnancy, her connection to this baby. That I obviously did not.

So because of my length, I was not only not a candidate for a medical abortion, but had to have a two day D&E procedure the following week, where they dilate you first, and then perform a surgical abortion in the next 24 hours.

I have always been pro-choice, a strong believer that life does not start until after a baby is born, and a fetus is more of a science experiment than a baby or human until it breathes its first breath out of the womb.

But there I was, for 10 days as I waited for my first day of the procedure, looking at myself in the mirror, wondering how I could feel so guilty, so ashamed, of knowing I was holding something inside of me so powerful, yet on the outside, felt so powerless. The disconnection from myself felt foreign and terrifying.

I think I learned a message in contradiction, and the strength you can find in two conflicting feelings and to take out the shame in not knowing where you might land. I held space for grief, mourning a future I would never know, and also held space in prioritizing myself, making a decision that was 100% first for me, then me and my partner, and at last, the fetus that would not have been appreciated in the way I knew it would deserve.

If I were to give advice to women struggling with this feeling of guilt, which I was surprised at the waves of it, from someone who does not want children in the next five years, would to be to think of the decision as one, not you against this fetus, not you against the world, not you against the stigma, but a unified decision and standing in solidarity with your gut, your vision for your life, and your dreams. If you do not want to be pregnant, you do not have to be pregnant.

I did have a hard time finding stories about a D&E post 12 weeks, because it is rarer, and all I was seeing is there were more risks which did make my anxiety spiral through the roof. I would like to detail what it was like for me, more practically, in case anyone is in my situation and needs to feel the comradery.

On day one you go to the clinic for a procedure where they put laminaria sticks into your cervix to widen it to 3-4 cm, so there is less risk for tearing during the abortion. This process takes about 5 minutes, but I will be honest, felt like 5 hours. The pain and cramping is not pleasant- I’d say a solid 7/10 in terms of pain.

For the rest of the day, the sticks absorb your body’s moisture and slowly widen to prepare you. It feels like you are having the worst menstrual cramps of your life, but advil and a hot water bottle alleviated some of the pain, and I would suggest to ask your doctor for something stronger if it is suitable with your medical and personal history: I took valium to relax and get a good nights sleep, as I watched Sex and the City, ate ice cream, and my boyfriend, brother, mom, and friends all took care of me, checked in on me. I felt very supported, even through the pain and anxiety of knowing what was to come the next day. I also had to fast for 8 hours because of the general anesthesia, so I stopped eating or drinking at 9pm.

I was able to sleep, but woke up at 5am the next day in a daze. I got to the clinic with my mom, waited about 45 minutes and they called me in. They made me undress, sit in the pre-op room and put two pills in my cheeks that dissolved to continue to widen your cervix. I had slight cramps and my stomach bloated suddenly which did make me upset, but I tried to stay calm. This was the hardest and scariest part of the entire experience. There was a lot of emotion, fear, and even anger that I heard from other patients, as we waited, in a solidarity that I have never experienced, but feeling the power of women around me.

Three hours later, it was time. I headed back to the surgery room, laid down, as I was administered and IV that quickly put me to sleep. I think I was in there for about 60 seconds, as they told me what to expect, that I would not feel a thing, and that I was safe. I saw the surgeon for a minute, he asked me if I had any questions, I said no, and they said I’d be out within 5 seconds. Modern medicine is crazy and thank goodness we have it.

All I remember is when it was over, asking if I had drooled, and thinking I woke up 5 minutes later, when apparently I had slept for 90 minutes in recovery. The body takes care of you to heal. Trust that it is on your side.

When I came to, I was surrounded by nurses saying I had done great, it went okay, and needed to wait a bit more to finish my IV fluids and check my bleeding. I went home 30 minutes later, saw my mom out in the lobby who held me, saying how brave I was, my boyfriend in the car who kissed me and said how proud he was of me, and we were home to my brother who ordered me my favorite Greek soup. More ice cream, more sex and the city, and more cuddles.

As I write this today, I do feel this grief along with pride. I feel hopeful along with a certain numbness. And that is okay. It’s important to remember your hormones are completely shook after this, but at the end of the day, it is a necessary, important, and amazing medical procedure all women should have the right to, without explaining any reason to anyone but yourself. Remember: solidarity with YOU.

I am so thankful to live in California, have the right to choose, the gentleness of the nurses, the dedication of the doctors, and the love from my friends, family, and partner.

Be kind to yourself. Take each day at a time. And remember, there is nothing more tough than being a woman.

I am with all of you, near in far, in this eternal sisterhood.

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