This is about my third abortion. The only abortion I ever had to be awake for. Please read this if you are frightened.

I am the most irrationally anxious person I know. Sometimes I think there is no one like me on this earth because I overthink EVERYTHING. I have a fear of restriction in every way possible- even to the point where I panic when getting my hair washed at the salon because the thought of having to lean my head back for someone else to be all in it for more than ten seconds makes me feel a loss of control and panic. When my phone doesn’t connect to the internet, I panic. Heck, when my phone isn’t right next to me I panic. When I go to the dentist I panic the second my chair leans back. So when I found out I was pregnant and definitely had to get surgery? The panic set in.

I wasn’t new to getting abortions. My first one was at 20 weeks because I took a pregnancy test extremely late- I naturally had a little gut because I was sedentary so I wasn’t showing until 19 weeks. The second one I got was at 18 weeks, only 7 months after my first one. For both, I was put to sleep and still panicked as they were putting in my IV. When I found out I was pregnant for the 3rd time, almost a year after my second one, I knew it was below the 14 week mark. However, living in a new state where there weren’t many places near me to get an abortion done for this third one… I cried hard. My boyfriend and I didn’t have a car, barely any money left because we just paid rent, and only he had a job. I didn’t know what I would be able to do, but luckily my partner and I made a game plan. Although he wants to have children with me, he didn’t force me to do so when I wasn’t ready and supported my choices. I knew I did not want to have kids just yet, not while I was going through financial turmoil.

We saved up money so I could go get the procedure, and I thought it would only take a day because this time I was not more than 14 weeks in. However, at the place I went to get it done they told me it would take TWO appointments because of the state mandated 24 hour waiting period in between the consultation and the actual procedure, regardless of how far in I was. I thought to myself, “Dang. I have to think about how anxious I am about it for an extra day after all those tests, like before. But I’ll be okay, because the last couple times I was put to sleep I was perfectly fine afterwards.”

I went to my first appointment expecting what I went through during my other two abortions:

1. Go in there, get that ultrasound.

2. Bloodwork

3. Consultation on getting put to sleep and the risks (I didn’t even care about the risks I just wanted to be put to sleep so it could be over with)

4. Signing papers, deciding on financial assistance for the procedure

But when I got the consultation they told me I WAS NOT GETTING PUT TO SLEEP! The second they told me that they did not do any general anesthesia at that specific facility and would make me be CONSCIOUS DURING THE WHOLE THING, my heart sank to my toes! I got lightheaded! I thought that the clinic I was at offered unconscious sedation and they told me they did not offer that AT ALL! I thought to myself, if I can’t get through a painless 5 minute hair wash at the salon without panicking and feeling like I’m getting strapped down what makes me think I can be okay with THIS? I couldn’t even turn back because the nearest abortion facility that put people to sleep was 50+ miles away… and again- no car! My boyfriend and I used up so much of our budget on our Uber there and to get back home, there was no way we could do it all over again somewhere else 100+ miles away. The place I was at already was far from home. I had to stick with what I feared most- being awake during a procedure where I HAD to be leaned all the way back. Just laying there getting painfully suctioned up. They said I would be unaware of what was going on with the laughing gas, but I was scared of being unaware while conscious, too!

They sent me back to a room where I was alone for maybe ten minutes, and during that ten minutes I cried hard. A male doctor came in to give me the dilating medicine I had to take hours before the procedure, then written prescriptions for Valium (for anxiety) and Ultram (for the pain during procedure). I couldn’t help but to ask a barrage of questions, and he got frustrated with me. His frustration made me feel worse. The last question I asked was, “Does the Valium really work? Have people ever had panic attacks during the procedure even with all those drugs?” The answer was “Yes, some people do still panic. The laughing gas and Valium doesn’t work on everybody.” That made me feel even worse because I was hoping for a no. He said, agitatedly, “Okay, you seem like you can’t even get through this so I suggest you go to another facility (the one 50+ miles away) where they put you to sleep. We need to do what we have to do. You’re going to have to lie back.” I couldn’t go anywhere else to get this done. So, stammering over my words, I said “Okay sir, I am going to do this.” He gave me the drugs, wrote down the times I was supposed to take each one. One at 8am the day of the operation, the next one at 8:30. The next one at 10am, the last one at 10:30. My procedure time was 11am Wednesday- two days after meeting with him. After leaving, I went to the pharmacy nearby to get the Valium and Ultram but broke down in tears while waiting for my prescriptions.

On Tuesday, the next day, I cried a lot, too. I wasn’t scared of what happened after the procedure, I wasn’t scared of losing the child. I was scared of the procedure itself. I didn’t care about the pain aspect of it until I spent all day going down a rabbit hole of abortion stories- some good and some bad. But after reading the bad ones about people going through pain and anxiety, the good stories did not help calm my nerves. I asked anonymous strangers how they felt and they said “everyone’s experience is different” which did not help. It made me think over and over again- what if mine is BAD? All the stories about people getting paranoid and feeling worse after the laughing gas got to my head. The ones about the pressure, needles, and vacuum being painful got to my head. I read so many stories that there were no more online for me to read. I texted friends asking them if Valium and laughing gas made them feel okay during procedures like wisdom teeth removal. They said it felt great, and my nerves were still not calmed. I spent the rest of my evening meditating to try practicing how to calm my mind and it did not work. I kept thinking about how I would be awake and feeling helpless like a turtle on its back. Even though my boyfriend was extremely supportive I still felt alone because I was in my own head and I didn’t know anyone with a fear like mine. I went to sleep at 8pm that day, woke up at 1am, fell asleep again and woke up at 3am. I couldn’t go back to sleep and stayed awake until it was time to take my meds at 8am the day of the procedure. I purchased two fidget toys to bring in the operating room. I brought my dog’s squeaky toy with me to calm me down. I even printed small pictures to look at during the operation because I thought I would be bugging out.

I arrived at 11am having taken all my meds except the Valium and Ultram, which I was required to take under supervision at the facility. The wait was the worst part, but while waiting I didn’t know that. I was sweating, foot tapping, feeling nauseated because I was psyching myself out about everything. My mind was scaring me and I was letting it. I was not only panicking about the pain and leaning back this time- I was scared about a mask being put over my nose during the procedure, too, because it was another form of restriction in my head. I was called in to the recovery room to take my Valium and Ultram, then the nurse told me that she’d send me out into the waiting room again before calling me back into the recovery room to wait for 20 minutes to be called in for the surgery. I waited an hour and thirty minutes in the waiting room, then got called in to wait those 20 minutes. I asked the lady in the room if the nurse would be able to lean the chair up for me so that my head could be elevated and she said “Yes, but only 15 degrees. It’s going to be elevated more than you think so you won’t be lying completely flat!” 15 degrees did not feel like enough for me especially considering my legs would be up, too. The moment that the wait became unbearable for me and I asked “when are they getting me?”, a nurse guided me into the operating room. I held my tears back and my stomach sank the second I looked at the operating table and how far it was leaned back. I felt it was going to be the longest, most unbearable 10 minutes of my life. I asked her to prop the chair up a bit because of my fear, and she did, but told me to scoot my butt all the way forward so my girly bits were hanging off of the table. My head was leaned back all the way- basically flat!  I felt like I was lied to! I thought to myself that there was no point of her raising the angle of the chair because my head was not even on the angle, it was on the flat part of the chair! I gripped my fidget toys like my life depended on them!

The nurse then told me to put my feet in the stirrups, and I began level 100 panicking because I was leaned all the way back feeling the overwhelming rush of helplessness. Other staff came in mid-panic and introduced themselves to me and I couldn’t even say “hello”. All I could muster was “Y’all I am PANICKING! I am FREAKING THE F*CK OUT! THE VALIUM AIN’T WORKING!” But the thing is, it was. Because if it wasn’t working I would’ve been zooming out of that chair. That’s how bad my anxiety is. They told me just breathe. I did start breathing, but I felt like they weren’t listening to me. But in reality, they knew I was going to be fine and I didn’t at the time until the gas mask was put on my face. I started feeling the high and asked “is the laughing gas on?” The staff smiled and said yes. I started to feel… good. I was in an uncomfortable position that I was anxious about before, but I did not care. I wasn’t the slightest bit uncomfortable anymore after about 30 seconds. The nurse was holding my hands and telling me to breathe whenever something painful was about to happen but I felt nothing but period-cramp type of pain thanks to the Ultram. To put it into perspective even more- before the worst pain happened (and the worst pain was only a 6/10)- everything was a 2/10. I had regular period cramps that felt worse. I started joking about cheeseburgers and the nurses even joked around with me. They told me they wish most of their patients were as calm and good as me, which was so ironic to me because I thought I was going to be the worst, most panicky type. I didn’t even need my fidget toys, or my calm-down pictures.

When it was all done, I said “Really? Wowwwwieee!” And although before this whole thing I had a fear of remembering everything that was going on, I was so blissfully high that I didn’t care about what I saw and felt the entire time. I didn’t care about the needle, the suction, the sounds, or the situation as a whole. I did not care about the uncomfortable lying back position! I was just completely happy. Although I was cramping I could walk fine, so the nurse guided me to the recovery room and in less than 15 minutes I was out of there. I even walked to the store with my boyfriend right after so that he could buy me my favorite juice before our Uber came. Again, I was 14 weeks in. That’s pretty far-ish so I expected it to be more painful than it really was. Had the best cat nap of my life… and was back home watching movies with him like nothing happened.

All in all, if you’re feeling fear about the procedure itself and the pain levels, it’s okay. Stay in the present. You’ll be okay. I was anxious about the pain, the positioning I’d be in, the effects the drugs would have on me, the gas mask being put on my face, and much more- but I turned out to be way more than fine! I feel no guilt, it was the right decision for me and the fear I had was literally gone while the surgery was happening right in front of my eyes. Thank you, modern medicine!