One year later

by Hannah

May 6, 2020

Content Warning: suicidal thoughts

One year ago today (April 30th) I had an abortion. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life, but it was also one of the best and most selfless decisions I’ve ever made. I do not regret it.

When I found out I was pregnant last year I was almost done with my first semester back in school, I had no job, I had no vehicle, I was living with my mom and sisters again, and had been dating my boyfriend Walter for just 4 months. I was terrified and heartbroken but I knew immediately after taking the test that there was no way I could bring a life into this world at that time. I have always wanted a family and I still do. I absolutely love children and have worked as a nanny for years. I have a very keen idea of what it takes to raise and provide for a child and I had none of it. Continuing with the pregnancy would have meant bring a baby into a life of struggle and suffering. I had $500 to my name at that point. Not only could I not afford prenatal care, doctors appointments, or the cost of giving birth I also could afford diapers, a crib, or any of the various things needed for a baby. We had 6 people living in a 3 bedroom house at that point. There wasn’t even room for a crib if we could get one. Having a baby, even though I wanted to, would have been selfish.

Aside from that, Walter and I barely knew each other. I cared about him deeply of course and our relationship had been great up until then, but my last relationship was great for 5 years until it wasn’t. 4 months was nothing in the grand scheme of knowing a person. How could I have a child with someone who I didn’t even know would stick around? I watched my mom bring my youngest sister into this world alone and while of course we all love Mel and are glad she’s here my mom suffered deeply emotionally and financially for her choice. In the end it was her choice. My mom was the first person I called after taking the test and I’m eternally grateful that she was there for me during all of this. Walter also stepped up in ways I never expected and treated me with so much kindness and love the entire process. We are stronger and closer now because of it.

Believe it or I did not want to have an abortion. I wish I could have had my life together and had anything at all to offer a child. But I didn’t. I cried everyday and I wanted to die. I’ve experienced suicidal thoughts many times before, but I have never wanted to die more than when I was pregnant. I lost over 10 lbs in a week I was so sick everyday from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. I spent hours on on end hovering over the toilet dry heaving because there was nothing left in me to throw up. I lived on crackers and ice chips just trying to keep it together and get through class each day until my appointments. Houston, Texas is the 4th most populated city in the country but there are only 2 clinics here that can offer abortion, both were an hour away from me. Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be able to get me in for 2 weeks, the Houston Women’s clinic could see me in one week.

So one week later on Saturday Walter and I went together for our first appointment. When we arrived there were protesters. They called me a murderer, and said manipulative things like “mommy don’t kill me” or “your baby loves you.” Partners are not allowed to go back with you in order for the clinic to make sure you are not being forced into anything, so Walter stayed in the waiting room while I went back alone. I had to be shown the ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat and be given medically inaccurate information but the staff at the Houston Women’s clinic were so kind and helpful the entire time. I was measured as 6 weeks and 1 day, meaning that if Texas had been successful in passing their “heartbeat bill” like they have tried to several times I would not have even been able to have an abortion. I spoke to a counselor who explained the two options offered, medical (the abortion pills which essentially make you have a miscarriage at home) or surgical (suction aspiration abortion done in clinic) with or without sedation. I chose to have a surgical with sedation because it is slightly more effective and has a faster recovery time. Texas doesn’t let medical insurance cover abortion so I paid $50 for the ultrasound and we left. In Texas there is a mandatory waiting period of 24 hours meaning that even though I knew I needed an abortion I was forced to stay pregnant and be sick longer than necessary so the state could effectively punish me.

The appointment for my abortion was scheduled for the following Tuesday since I didn’t have class that day. I scheduled it for the earliest time they had available hoping to miss the protesters but they were there of course. It cost $500 which had to be paid upfront, and Walter and I split it. I’m not sure I would have been able to afford it if we hadn’t, which definitely helped reassure me that I couldn’t afford a child. Partners are not allowed to go in with you for the procedure either. I begged them to let Walter come with me. I even brought proof of my anxiety disorder but they couldn’t let him. I went back alone, again. There was a lot of waiting, a lot of crying. There were a lot of other women waiting too. Some tried to chat to pass the time but most of us sat quietly staring into space, none of us were happy to be there. After awhile I was given a bunch of pills to take (1 for anxiety, one for pain, antibiotics, and some pills to start softening my cervix) and then I waited for “my turn”. About 20 minutes after taking the pills I started having extremely painful cramps which I wasn’t prepared for. I started having a full blown panic attack at that point. The nurses and techs noticed my distress and took me back immediately for my termination. Once in the room I remember one nurse holding my hand and whipping my tears with tissue while another inserted my IV sedation. I am so grateful for their kindness and support.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room covered with a warm blanket while another nurse took my blood pressure. She told me that my procedure lasted approximately 5 minutes and that I had slept off the sedation for about an hour. They walked me out the backdoor (to avoid protesters) where Walter was waiting in the car. We went home and I slept the rest of the day. I went to class the next day because I had a presentation to give and because of the stigma around abortion there is no sympathy to be found. The following weekend I took my Girl Scout troop camping while still bleeding and cramping because if I didn’t go they couldn’t go and I had made a commitment to them. I cried in the latrines and powered through it so the girls wouldn’t see me upset. The following months were very hard emotionally. I cannot put into words how much during that time I wanted to reach out to anyone and everyone around me and say “I just had an abortion, I’m struggling and really need support.” But I couldn’t because society made me believe that I should be ashamed. That having an abortion is something you SHOULD NEVER talk about. That I should carry guilt with me for the rest of my life. That I wasn’t allowed to feel sad or grieve because it was my choice to abort.

However, I cannot stress enough that it wasn’t the abortion that made me feel guilty or ashamed. It was my family members posting things on Facebook calling me a murderer without knowing they’re speaking to me. It was knowing that if they found out they would think differently of me or disown me completely. It was knowing that there are people in my family that think I should spend the rest of my life in prison or be put to death because I’ve had an abortion. It was knowing that everything I am and have ever done for all of them is completely meaningless and overlooked because having an abortion automatically makes me a terrible person in their eyes. It was the complete isolation of the whole experience.  My abortion did not traumatize me like I was told it would, the stigma of abortion did. I have never once felt regret about my choice. There was never another option, there was never a way that I could have had a baby. I wanted a baby. I wish I had never needed an abortion, but I did. And I’m so grateful I was able to access it.

After my abortion I went through my finals week on autopilot and finished the semester with straight A’s. I was able to maintain my 4.0 for the following 2 semesters and even made the Presidents list last semester. I now get to apply to the medical program I’ve been working my ass off to qualify for and I’m more excited than ever for my future. If I had continued with the pregnancy my due date would have been Dec. 17th. My physics final was Dec. 15th, if I hadn’t already dropped out of school or given birth early there is absolutely no way I could have taken that exam 10 months pregnant. Not to mention we are in the middle of a world wide pandemic and I’m currently watching the family that I nanny for (who are millionaires btw) struggle to find formula, diapers, and wipes all while being terrified for the their baby’s life. I know I made the best choice given my circumstances.

I shouldn’t have justify this to anyone. None of you should need to hear my sob story to know that I’m a human being and that MY LIFE matters. The only thing that should matter is that I needed an abortion so I got one. Unfortunately that is not the society we live in yet, but I know that silence only enforces the stigma. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion is normal. I will not be made to feel ashamed any longer. One day, when I am ready and can give a child everything they deserve I will have a baby. It will be on my terms and it will all be because I was able to access abortion when I needed it.

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