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This isn’t a good time.

by Jacqueline

April 12, 2017

1 out of 3 women have an abortion in their lifetime.

This is my story.

I found out I was pregnant on March 15th, and I confirmed it with a second pregnancy test on that same day, about 20 minutes before I had to leave for my first shift at a new job. I used to have sex a few times a day when we lived with each other. Now that we are long distance, and see each other maybe once a month, this is when I get pregnant? I called him and my best friend that day. My partner and I were both busy during the day and sat with the information until we could talk for a longer time at night. I don’t remember what I was feeling. I just remember having a panic attack. The previous week I had taken a pregnancy test and it came back negative. This normally would have calmed me, but I felt cramping and tension where my ovaries are. I had lower back pain and discharge. My breasts hurt. And I got to a point where I almost knew it wasn’t my usual pregnancy paranoia.

For the next few days I told some of the people who I knew would be the most helpful for me emotionally and who lived in the area in case I needed anything. I made my calls to Planned Parenthood and sorted out an appointment time and a financial evaluation to determine the cost of my procedure. Everyone I interacted with was calm and helpful.

My partner and I had already known we would have an abortion. We’d had this conversation previously about what we would do.  Adoption actually never crossed my mind until a few days later. I know if I had a baby I would want to keep it. I would never want to bring life into this world and then abandon it. For the first day or two, all I thought about was the pain I would have to go through and how stressed I was. I knew I was only about 4 weeks along and was glad it wasn’t a worse situation. I wasn’t pregnant, I told myself I had an infection, or a parasite, or a bundle of cells that needed to be removed.

I didn’t really leave room to think about the fact that this was a potential baby. But slowly the thoughts entered my mind and manifested into a fantasy where I could drop everything I am doing with my life and just enjoy being a mom and having a family. This is what I want eventually anyway, right? I think the most difficult part to process was that there was something inside me that was the potential to be the baby with the man that I do want babies with. If this was a random stranger, or some casual hookup, or really anyone else – I don’t think I would have had any second thoughts about it.

The hardest it hit me was when I was on the subway going to work one day. It seemed like there were more babies out than ever before. One mom and daughter were standing in front of me and I admired them being silly with each other. I watched the mother ask her daughter to turn around so she could fix the little girl’s hair. While I admired her patience and gentle touch, I recognized that this woman had the same hands as my mother. I stared at her thick nails, wide knuckles, and the cracked skin in every fold, and I pictured how that is what my hands would look like one day. And I remembered every detail of being mothered by these hands and felt how much I wanted to give back in that way.

I kept being afraid I would have a “Juno” moment. You know that scene where she is leaving the abortion clinic? A protester yells out to her that her baby has fingernails. And for whatever reason, this silly piece of knowledge is what gets to her. I was afraid of this because when it comes down to it I still wish I had my baby, and that it wouldn’t cost me any money or sacrifice. And I would just get a small beautiful creature that I created and get to love eternally. I don’t know what that kind of love feels like. It’s why we are here, isn’t it?

The world gave me a couple of these moments. The day I found out, I had one of my first shifts at a Yoga studio. Part of training is taking yoga classes so that all the employees can have a thorough understanding of how to explain the different types of classes and sell them to clients. So, on that Wednesday, I took a class that was Yoga for Women. And the focus, of course, was on strengthening our reproductive areas. Why? Because the woman’s body is the most powerful being on the planet – it creates life! I spent the class with my hand bringing energy into my uterus. Bending my lower back to stretch and open the womb. We chanted mantras about how strong we all were, and how powerful it was for us to be able to create more beings.

The next was the day before my appointment. Group presentations were on maternal and child health. For an hour and a half I listened to discussions about healthy pregnancies and policies that can be put in place to make parenting easier. And how anyone should have the right to be a mother. I sat in the class and tried to tune it all out while I wrote a letter to my baby apologizing for not being ready for them.

And finally, the third, is why I’m falling behind in my quantitative research methods class. Because my project is a research proposal about comparing the stress and mental health of women in countries with restrictive policies on abortion to those living in states without them. A large facet of this was fueled by my work for Planned Parenthood at my previous job, as well as the anger I have during this election period. But now when I look at my project all I want to do is write about how I am so grateful that I live in New York rather than a place where an abortion would be inaccessible or dangerous.

This is something I wrote while I was on my way home from my financial evaluation appointment at Planned Parenthood, 3 days before my medication abortion:

It’s going to be fully covered. They have you apply for Medicaid for a single procedure if you already have insurance but need this to be confidential. That’s a cool loophole they’ve figured out.

Sometimes I want to kill myself. And sometimes I want to keep it. And usually I’m fine. We will be back to normal a week from now. Normal is relative but that’s ok.

Only one woman was at the center today with a sign that said Pray to End Abortion. Someone else was handing out pamphlets of the same theme.

I was mostly bothered by the sticker on the entrance to the subway. It said defund planned parenthood, and it had baby hand prints made out of blood. I know there aren’t hands inside of me, and I also know it’s not really a baby yet. But it still disturbed me.

The most useful thing so far has been remembering that pregnancy is a choice, and I didn’t chose this and it isn’t my time yet. And that this doesn’t stop what my life is about.

I can’t take my antidepressants right now because it’ll interact with the medication I take for this. I know I’ll manage but that doesn’t help. I’m trying to remember to eat and be hydrated. Sometimes I’m too nauseous. Sometimes I don’t want to eat because I’ll be feeding the baby. And I’d rather stick with the narrative that it isn’t viable anyway and I shouldn’t help it be alive. But I also felt bad having a glass of wine over the weekend because I don’t want to hurt them.

I don’t want to wait three more days because it’s growing and a part of me loves it.

Somehow I feel like I would have preferred to have some people opposed to my decision, because maybe if I was actively fighting for my right to chose then the fact that I’m making the right choice would resonate with me in a stronger way.

 

I went to my abortion appointment at Planned Parenthood on Thursday March 23rd. I had the earliest slot because I had heard that at this time in the day, you would have to wait less. My boyfriend and I went into the waiting room and I was given a large packet of information. Every client had their own red folder filled with paperwork, but mine was the thickest. I felt like it meant I was the only one there for an abortion. I waited a bunch and went back to see a nurse.  Can my partner come with me? No. Ok.

Then she gave me an ultrasound on my stomach. The nurse said she couldn’t see anything inside me. An internal sonogram was then done. I asked if it would feel like a pap smear. She kind of laughed, said no, and told me to breathe in while she inserted a camera into me. No pain, just discomfort. Then she said she could see something. At four weeks, your baby is the size of a poppyseed.

 

Earlier in the appointment when I was filling out paperwork, I had skipped the page that asked if I wanted to see the image from the ultrasound. Although I wanted to out of curiosity, I was afraid of feelings. But when she finished confirming the size and growth of my pregnancy and turned away from the computer, I sat up to look. To my relief it was nothing more than a dot. Definitely visible, but there was no shape to it. It certainly didn’t look like a life to me. Interestingly enough, it was in my left side where I had been feeling more pain. The human body really is fascinating.

 

I went back to the waiting room to sit with my boyfriend and finish some paperwork. We started to read parts of the packet together, and there were some I had to skip over. They were things I already knew about the procedure but didn’t want to face at the moment.

A social worker came into the waiting room and called my name. Again, my partner wasn’t welcome. She talked me through my medical history. Financial status. The pending medicaid I had waiting to cover this procedure. While we talked she looked at the computer. I was caught off guard when she turned to me and asked, “why are you doing this?”.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t meant to be discouraging. She has to ask because it is on the questionnaire. It just struck me as a vastly different tone than the rest of the basic intake questions. I don’t live in a state where I have to think about my decision for 24 hours before I can do it. This isn’t a place where I am forced to watch videos about developing fetuses or adoption. There weren’t even protestors outside of the clinic that day. I’m grateful for how seamless my experience was in many ways. This moment just shook me up. It took me out of my trance of letting this be a simple medical procedure. And for just a minute, I wondered if I had a valid answer.

 

“This isn’t a good time”

 

When it comes down to it, that’s what the reason is. Not a good time for me, or for him. This potential life wouldn’t be the best it could be. I think about the shots of hard liquor I’d taken while pregnant. All the blunts I’d smoked. The lack of healthy meals and exercise I had during this time. I know this isn’t the prenatal body I want. And I know I want to have better mental health when I bring a life into this world.

 

The social worker turned to the computer and typed what I said. This isn’t a good time.

 

I was then sent to a new waiting room where I watched talk shows with some other women. I thought about getting my boyfriend, but I didn’t know what the next step was and I assumed he would, again, not be welcome. The host of the show was talking about how they were going on vacation and being away from their kids for the first time in over 10 years. It reminded me of the commitment that I don’t want to start to have at only 22 years old.

What felt like an hour or so passed by before I was called into a room. I sat down with a nurse who took my packet of signed papers and walked me through the procedure. She insisted I get on birth control. Not wanting to waste more money from Planned Parenthood’s funding, I told her I would go to my regular doctor and get a prescription in the future. However, she told me this would be free and she really recommended that I begin it on the Sunday following my abortion.

 

You know what else made this situation ironic? I stopped my birth control because I was barely having sex in this long distance relationship. We went from around twice a day or more, to seeing each other once every month. I would even plan to visit him during times of my cycle when pregnancy was least likely. The main reason I stopped taking the pills, however, was to help with my depression. Ironically enough, this abortion experience is making me feel more depressed than I have in years.

 

Once she had some oral contraceptives for me, we discussed the rest of the procedure. She asked me two different times if I was sure about my decision, and if anyone else was making me do this. It wasn’t pushy. It’s just her job. She also told me that there is a chance you can die from these pills – my biggest fear – but that this is also a warning given with Tylenol, and that I was going to be fine.

 

She asked me if I liked ginger ale. I nodded. She handed me a pill, the cup of ginger ale, and told me take my time. This was the pill that would stop my baby from growing anymore. If I changed my mind after taking this, there would be severe birth defects – if it even continued to be viable. Essentially, this was the moment where there was no turning back.

 

Robotically, I swallowed the pill and held back my tears. I don’t remember what happened after that. The process was started, I couldn’t change anything. And I had officially made the choice that I wanted for myself, but would have never wanted to make.

 

I don’t remember the rest of the day. I know I went to work and had a normal time. Nothing is expected to happen after the first pill. Around 10:30 the following morning, I took one Tylenol with codeine, and the anti-nausea pill. I showered and ate some cereal so I could have something in my stomach. Then, at 11, I took the 4 misoprostol pills. Two sit on each side of your mouth and dissolve for 30 minutes. Most stories I read about women’s experiences said that they felt cramping start from 1-3 hours after taking it. For me, it happened instantly. The pills were in my mouth at 11, and by 11:20 I was dizzy and asking him if I could swallow. I knew I had to finish the 30 minutes, but I was getting nauseous and uncomfortable and I was afraid I would throw up the pills and ruin the process. The doctor has told me it’s ok if I throw up right away, but not until I got everything down. I was hot and starting to cramp and feeling like I didn’t belong in my body. We shut off the show we were watching because it was annoying me and everything was too loud. Then I was leaning back and ready to lay down. I just wanted to get in a ball and go to sleep. I was tired enough and hoped the painkillers could do the trick. I probably swallowed everything at 11:29. And then I passed out.

I’m told I was conscious the whole time, but I know I lost consciousness even if it was for a few seconds. I opened my eyes and saw my boyfriend, and I didn’t know where I was or why he was here, he doesn’t live with me so something seemed wrong and the world was spinning. And I didn’t feel alive. I convinced myself I was dying, and eventually remembered what was happening. Before I recognized my room I thought I might be in the hospital and my family might be there. Everything felt terrible and imaginary.

I got very hot very quickly and the cramping was intense. It was at a point where I didn’t want to move, or even talk, because it could risk being more painful. But staying still was also painful. My clothes had to come off because I was melting and worried I would pass out again from heat. Soon enough I needed to go into the bathroom because I either had to throw up or have diarrhea or both. My body wanted everything out now. The pain was increasing. There was also Ibuprofen, and I took that as well, and ended up staying consistently with two or three of the Tylenols in my system at once.

When I finally got to the bathroom I sat on the toilet and also had a garbage to throw up into if needed, and now instead of being overheated I started shivering. Everything hurt and was uncomfortable. I made my boyfriend stay with me while I went to the bathroom because I was scared I was going to pass out. We went back to the bed eventually and the cramps were pretty much gone. They took a break and I could talk and relax.

During the rest of the process I would continue to go from feeling everything all at once, to feeling no pain or discomfort at all. I got up again soon after to throw up. Then there was nothing in my stomach and eating was the last thing in my mind. Cramps continued until around 5pm, and they were pretty consistently painful following that first nice break I had. I threw up 2 more times during this, once was in a bag because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom or even think about moving at the moment. I was throwing up only water, and the second time was water and then dry heaving. I couldn’t be touched when I was in pain. Sometimes I needed to take my sweatpants off or hold them above my skin because the waistband and even the fabric of my underwear was just too much to handle.  It was all worse at the beginning, but I slowly was able to talk while in pain, or move around and lay down in new positions. I spend some of the time standing or sitting when that gave me temporary relief. But I was so tired and standing did not last me very long. AllI I wanted to do was sleep, and I dozed off each time the cramps subsided. But I would quickly wake up again. Usually it was pain, but sometimes it was because I was sleeping lightly enough that my anxiety would seep through and remind me that I was in the middle of an abortion and this was, in fact, real life. Looking back, I think that was the worst part. Each time I had a bit of relief and got a chance to rest, I would wake up back in reality after having entered a sleep that left me blissfully unaware of what I was doing.

At one point I had an out of body experience. I half woke up and couldn’t remember my name. I was looking at him laying down next to me, and I remembered his name first. Our arms were touching and I couldn’t discern which one was mine, or if I was a being or an object. It wasn’t until I saw myself from an outside perspective that I understood I was myself.

The bleeding started around 1. I was nervous beforehand because I just wanted to know that all this pain was worth it. I could look down and see my stomach convulsing while I cramped. Some people said this would be like period cramps. I don’t think so.

Blood was light a first. I passed a relatively large clot around 2pm.

I was in the bathroom and took down my pants. There was a lot of blood that had not been absorbed into my pad and started rolling and was going to hit the floor. I caught it in my bare hand, and held it there while I recognized that these were the cells of a potential life. This could have been a fetus. This mass – it was not even the size of half my palm – this was my baby. It would have been.

Too numb to cry, and unable to process all of this, I just stood there and stared at it. I dropped it in the toilet and watched it fall down. It’s like when your goldfish dies as a kid and your parents have you flush him down the toilet. But it was nothing like that at all.

I just stared at my bloody hand. The red on my fingers reminded me of the sticker I saw that first day at the clinic. For a moment, I felt like a murderer. And I wondered why I had the ability to control this moment.

 

My memory doesn’t exist again until I was feeling better.

 

I know that I did the right thing. I know this isn’t the time for me. When I am ready to be a mom, I want it to be something I decide to do. My dark thoughts bring me back to a place where I used to raise money for Planned Parenthood and listen to strangers berate me for supporting something as disgusting as abortion. They would tell me I like to kill babies, yell at me, and call me a murdered. At the time, I was standing up for women as a general. I was standing up for a right to health care. But now I sometimes I remember the faces of these people who would get in my personal space and scream. Part of me feels like if I had to defend abortion I couldn’t hold it together. This wasn’t easy. I’ve been hard enough on myself. There isn’t any punishment needed from the outside world. I feel frustrated, now more than ever, about the people who talk about abortions like women are excited to get them.

 

It feels empowering to fight for women’s rights. But needing to make this reproductive choice… this has been the farthest thing from empowering. Yes, I made a choice. But it almost feels like one that was dictated by the world and my social circumstances, rather than by myself.

On one of the days before my abortion, I was feeling remorseful and wishing I could keep a baby. A friend asked me if I needed more time to decide. Her question keeps resonating with me, and I think it’s because if I took any longer to process this, my hormones would have taken over. And I would have felt even more connected to my baby. I would have stopped thinking about it as a blob of cells.

 

Overall, I feel relief. I don’t want to be pregnant and I don’t want to put my life on hold forever. I am just getting used to the practice of putting myself first and feeling independent in this world. I know all this logically, but it will take me a long while to get over this. I love being 22 and selfish and having nothing to worry about other than myself. But having had the beginning of a life inside of me, especially by the man I want to marry, has really given me more feelings than I would have ever expected. I can’t go through this again because I know next time I would want to keep it even more.



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