In the fall of 1996, I had an abortion. It changed my life forever in ways that can only be described as positive.

I was 26 years old, a couple years out of college and busy putting my Women’s Studies degree to work as an active member of what was then called the riot grrl movement and working as the clinical research coordinator for Planned Parenthood.

Fittingly, my position at the clinic was conducive to actually determining that I was pregnant. My period was one day late and my boyfriend had expressed anxiety about it on the phone that day. This struck me as rather silly—one day isn’t much—but since I had a entire box of new pregnancy test supplies right there in my office, I decided to go take a test and put his mind at ease. After all, it was his birthday and I wanted us to enjoy our evening unencumbered by such worries.

I went to the office bathroom and took a test. It was positive. To be sure, I took another one—and then another one. And then another one. I fanned all the little strips out in my hands, staring at the telling blue lines and wondering if I was experiencing sudden bout of color blindness.

Six tests later, I figured I probably needed to accept the fact that my boyfriend was much more intuitive that I had previously realized. I cancelled our birthday celebration plans and went home alone. I just sat in my bedroom, listening to Rid of Me by PJ Harvey, fighting the urge to drink an entire bottle of red wine by myself and immerse myself in the delusion that this couldn’t be happening to me. Avoiding that temptation wasn’t easy, so I just kept hitting repeat on my CD player.

It took me 24 hours to make my decision. I was deeply in love with my boyfriend and knew that I wanted children eventually. Unfortunately, he was a very bad candidate for fatherhood, primarily because he was already co-parenting a three year-old with an ex-girlfriend. He was a sexy, smart punk rock boy who relished life and opened my mind to many things, but he was as unreliable as they come.

I went down to Denny-Blaine Park, a beautiful space next to Kurt Cobain’s former house and the place I always went to when I need to reflect. I cried my eyes out and then got in my car, returning to work to discuss my decision with Planned Parenthood’s medical director. She was a fiercely funny, intelligent and compassionate woman. I couldn’t have been in better hands.

Sadly, despite the fact that I was confident I was making the right choice and that my procedure would be performed by a fearless, feminist woman whom I trusted and admired, I was terrified.

For years I had viewed abortion as an absolute right—an important choice that must remain available to every woman. But I had also subconsciously absorbed the idea that it was invariably a difficult, painful choice, that the procedure itself might be traumatic and that I might eventually feel wistful about my choice.

During the days that lead up to my appointment, I read everything I could my hands on at the clinic. I was reading nursing manuals, research papers and generally just trying to find something that would tell me my fears were unfounded. I couldn’t find anything to reassure me—a fact that disturbs me to this day. Sure, I found plenty of statistics about the safety of the procedure, but I also found a lot about possible risks and the potential need for counseling afterwards.

Where were the stories of women who had positive experiences with abortion? Was it inevitable that I my head and heart would be heavy with the weight of my choice for months or years afterwards?

My abortion took less than five minutes. It was virtually painless and the sense of relief and comfort I felt afterwards was immeasurable. But I was overwhelmed by two distinct feelings: one, that I felt proud that I had made the most responsible choice I could and two, that I was downright angry that I had spent so many hours being anxious, depressed and afraid.

If someone like myself—a committed feminist and reproductive health care professional who was raised in a pro-choice family—had to endure that much apprehension and fear at the age of 26, I could only imagine what a younger woman with less knowledge about abortion goes through—and how those fears would be compounded for someone without the support network I was so fortunate to have.

Since then, I’ve combated that reality the only way I know how: by telling my story without apology, without shame and without one ounce of regret.