We can change the world.

by Jenny

October 24, 2017

Content Warning: sexual assault

I had been living and teaching English in Ourense, Spain for eight months when I met him. It was a brisk May night, I was out at the bars with my friends and there he was. He was about my height and had that modern douche haircut, you know the one, shaved on the sides and a top man bun, and naturally a beard to go with it, and I was surprisingly into him. I invited him home and he was sweet to me. I felt safe when I was with him and it was new and exciting, so I texted him and we hung out again. There was an attraction and comfort between us, but also a noticeable language barrier. We ate breakfast together, we both seemed to like each other, it seemed like it could go somewhere, but as we live in the age of modern dating, he ghosted, he never texted me again. A few weeks went by and I felt foolish for missing him and thinking it could have been something, when I noticed my period was late and my boobs were sore. One afternoon I bought a pregnancy test on my way home from class, it was positive. I wasn’t positive it was positive so I bought another and it was positive.

I immediately made an appointment at the gynecologist, the same one I had been to after I had been sexually assaulted four months prior. As the days passed before my appointment, I shut down. I went to school and my private lessons and then I went home and smoked weed and sat by myself. I told only my closest friends what was going on, and one of my best girl friends went with me to my gynecologist appointment. I told the doctor I had taken two pregnancy tests that came out positive so I wanted to be sure and discuss my options. When I saw this doctor before she was kind and patient with me as I described every detail of my sexual assault in broken Spanish. This time she was unfriendly and impatient. She preformed an ultrasound without speaking to me, then she handed me the printed out picture of the fertilized egg. My heart dropped.  There I was 23 years old and barely done working through the emotional turmoil of my sexual assault, and now knocked up by a guy that no longer spoke to me. She assumed I wanted an abortion and she was correct. I didn’t consider any other option because nothing else would have been right for me. She told me I would have to go to a clinic in the nearest city an hour away because there are none in Ourense. She told me I needed to get my insurance company’s permission to have an abortion or I would have to pay myself and that it was expensive, but she refused to even give me a rough estimate of the price. I could already feel her judgment when she asked me if she could speak frankly, when I hesitantly nodded my head yes, she said, “have you learned nothing from what happened in January?” I was speechless. I couldn’t believe she had actually brought my sexual assault into this discussion after I trusted her. I left the office in tears.

The next day I went to my insurance office and asked if they covered abortions, the woman behind the desk made a whispered phone call to ask her boss, she hung up the phone and informed me that they do not. So I Googled abortion clinics in Vigo, and the first number I called the woman on the phone was very kind as she took my information. She told me to come in that afternoon and to bring the payment of 530 euros, as an English teacher I only made 700 euros a month so the cost put a large dent in my bank account. My male friend drove me an hour to the clinic and my female friend came with me for support. In the car I was silent as my friends tried to make awkward conversation. We arrived at the clinic that was situated next to a veterinarian office. It was painted a very unsettling shade of neon green with the prices of the different procedures listed like a menu on the wall. As we waited my friends and I made uncomfortable and off color jokes, some that went too far and others that actually provided some comic relief. All the ladies working there were kind and comforting. I told them my story and they did another ultra sound, and they found that I was early enough along to get the medicinal abortion. So first they took my payment and then they gave me the first pill that would stop the growth and sent me home with the other pills that would start the contracting.

Meanwhile my friend arrived from the United States to visit me, it was a trip we had planned for months and I had told her about all that was happening, but still it was hard to have her around during a time when I felt so much shame and sadness. The day after her arrival I took the other pills, which you must insert vaginally, to start the contracting. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced. I was vomiting and feverish and having horrible cramps for 6 hours. As I sat slumped naked on the toilet I called my friend into the bathroom because I thought I might have to go to the hospital, fortunately the worst passed and I was able to sleep. The physical pain of my abortion only heightened the emotional pain.

The next day my friend and I were set to continue her trip and fly to Budapest together. It was a crazy overwhelming time for me to embark on a European adventure, but I had already put too much money and planning into it to not go. I felt maybe I could distract myself from my reality, but there we were in beautiful Budapest and my mind fixated on the blood possibly leaking out of my pad, or that the pills somehow hadn’t worked and I would have to go through it all again. As we were sight seeing I felt something come out of me, so we rushed to find a bathroom and I realized I had passed the largest blood clot I had ever seen, which is normal with abortions but scared the shit out of me at the time. Most of my friends who knew the situation sent me texts checking in on me, but I found a lot of my friends didn’t know how to talk to me even if they were trying to be supportive. My friend that drove me to my abortion made the joke that I had now aborted in two countries, I didn’t find it funny. One night in Budapest we had been out for drinks with some people from the hostel, I knew drinking wasn’t helping my mental health and it was hard for me being around people who didn’t know what I was going through. I ended the night crying alone while I ate a kebab in my hostel kitchen.

We ended my friend’s European tour in Amsterdam. Having been to Amsterdam twice before I was excited to spend my time in the Coffee Shops easing my sorrows. She was surprised by how much weed I wanted to smoke, but it was the only thing that had brought me comfort in days. Overall it was an unpleasant trip, I’m sure it wasn’t what was best for me at the time, but it’s what I did. When I got back to my green little corner of Spain I had my follow up appointment at the clinic. This time I went alone, and the women were just as kind as before. Everything had worked and they printed an ultrasound that showed only my empty uterus. After my appointment I went to the beach in Vigo by myself and sat on the sand and swam in the ocean. I had already stopped bleeding so I no longer had to wear the pads and I was allowed to go swimming again, I finally had my body back and was so relieved for it all to be physically over.

I told friends that I trusted and they were incredibly supportive, but I still felt very alone in the situation and that I had this big secret I was afraid to tell. It wasn’t until I talked to other women that had an abortion that I could finally find validation in all of my emotions. I reached out on Facebook to a friend of a friend that also had an abortion, and she reassured me that I was making the right decision for myself and told me that I was not alone and I was now part of a secret society of women. Most importantly, she reassured me that it would get better and I would be a more empowered woman because of it. I don’t regret my abortion. It was a horribly difficult decision to have to make, but I never doubted that it was the right decision. I have now started sharing my story with more and more people, and the responses have been nothing but positive and supportive. I’ve had women share their abortion stories with me and I always feel an immediate connection and admiration for every woman that opens up about their experience. Unplanned pregnancy is sad and scary and can make you feel so alone, but my abortion and sharing my story have given me back a sense of control over my body and made me feel so much wiser and more empowered than ever before.

We are many, we are strong, and when we share our stories we can change the world.

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