I felt elated – and the curtain drew back on the stigma

by Erica

November 21, 2022

I got pregnant in 2003 after breakup sex with my ex-boyfriend.  A couple weeks afterwards, in addition to missing my typically regular period, my breasts felt sore. I had used some old but not expired birth control pills as Plan B the day after we’d had sex (after researching dosage online), but I must not have done it correctly. I took a pregnancy test at home, saw the positive result, and was on the phone with the Boston Planned Parenthood immediately. There was no question for me that I would not have a baby. It was only as I hung up the phone after confirming the appointment that I realized I needed to call my ex! His reaction was as I’d guessed; he immediately agreed that abortion was the best and only path for us.

My ex-boyfriend slept over on my couch to ensure we could make the 8 am appointment on time. I can’t recall which of us drove, but I’ll never forget the odd feeling of entering a garage with a roll down door that remains otherwise closed – operated by security staff who confirmed who you were in order to allow you to park.

At that point I was 3 weeks and 5 days pregnant (if memory serves). After viewing my ultrasound, the nurse told me that I could not have an abortion that day because the clump of cells was too small. Their doctor would not do an abortion on a clump that small for fear of not being able to see and remove all of the cells.

My new appointment was for exactly one week later. I felt burdened by a heavy cloud that whole week. I wore loose tops to work to hide my growing breasts.  I was distracted and worried, wishing for time to pass. The only silver lining was going out dancing for a friend’s birthday the day after my original Friday appointment; when I got the first appointment I wasn’t sure if pain would prevent me from dancing one day later.

Finally, the next Friday arrived. My ex slept on the couch again and we drove to Planned Parenthood. He brought a book to pass the time. He told me that during his cigarette break, he was grateful for the security guard stationed in front of the clinic, who intervened when protesters started harassing him and his blood started to boil.

The abortion occurred in a small room with the doctor and another woman who I think was a nurse. There were 2 rounds of treatment, each lasting about 10 seconds, and it was the most intense pain I’d ever felt. The nurse invited me to squeeze her hand if I needed to, which I did. The second time was easier than the first, perhaps because I knew what to expect.  Afterwards I was taken to a larger room to sit in one of many heated, slightly reclined chairs, and given a pain pill before being given a very thick maxi pad, and invited to get dressed and go home.

The immense 20 seconds of physical pain during the procedure was nothing compared to the elation and relief I felt when the abortion was done.

My ex and I drove to a shopping center near my apartment to pick up more maxi pads and rent a movie for the afternoon. I was positively giddy. I called my best friend to let her know it was done and I was fine. She seemed surprised by how happy I was. But the cloud was gone. My terrible mistake was corrected. I had control over my life again. I had known now for a few years that I did not want to be a parent. My nervous system and mental health could not manage the many layered demands of motherhood. I also felt that my best contributions to the world would be through my social justice career, not through raising another human. And I felt that there were already so many babies out there who needed homes. I didn’t need to make another one.

One thing that stood out to me most right after having the abortion was how simple it was. Both the actual procedure and the facts of the matter for me. There was a clump of unwanted cells growing in my body, that if allowed to continue, would cause great harm.  For me, having an abortion felt little different than if I’d needed to remove a growing clump of cancer cells, except for the security guards and politics. I felt remorse that stigma had kept me from telling my other close friends before having it done. Now that I had gone through it, I could see through the curtain of mystery and shame that had previously surrounded it.

My ex and I giggled a bit as we considered the maxi pad choices – I had not purchased any since my early teens. I was pleased to discover the modern choices were much slimmer than those from the late 80’s.  We choose an option with wings.

I don’t remember which movie we watched. I don’t recall much of anything after that, because my deepest emotions occurred when I was worried about the abortion being delayed and when I was elated that it had happened. I have never had one moment of regret, even slight. Sometimes I’ve had moments of curiosity…’wow, that child would be 8 or 12 or 19 now…’ and I marvel at the parallel universe that I’m so grateful I did not have to live in.

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