Most young women live in the moment and neglect to contemplate the consequences of their actions
My story is nothing new. It's happened to millions of girls just like me. I think it's probably par for the course for most young women- especially those of us in our early twenties- to be so preoccupied in living in the moment that we neglect to contemplate the consequences of our actions.
But after my recent experiences, I feel as if I've gained new insight into understanding their importance.
I want the millions of girls like me to know there's hope
And as I share my story I write not out of contrition or to appease a guilty conscious, but because I want the millions of girls like me to know there is hope. Things will be okay.
Almost two months ago, I had unprotected sex with a co-worker fourteen years my senior. It wasn't the first time- four months before I had been left by an ex boyfriend and had found a strange yet liberating solace in sleeping with someone utterly inappropriate.
We met for casual sex twice a month
We continued to secretly meet up for cocktails and casual sex about twice a month until recently. Because of the clandestine and casual nature of our liaisons, I felt no need to share with him anything that transpired after the last night we were involved.
We had met up at a local cafe, downed a couple of bourbons and walked back to his place for a nightcap. While unimportant to the overall story, I do remember that it was getting close to Christmas time and on this particular evening I had donned a Santa Hat. It stayed on while the clothes- and the condom- did not.
Hungover the next morning I remembered it had broken
While coitus interruptus is all fine and dandy, I do prefer the security of that little latex layer, and in the hungover blur of the next morning I briefly remembered that it had broken the night before.
Nevertheless, I told myself it would be fine. He had pulled out, and things like unwanted pregnancy didn't happen to girls like me.
I failed to notice the absence of my monthly friend
Cut forward a couple of weeks. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I realized that in the frenzy of work, Christmas, and moving apartments I had failed to notice the absence of my monthly friend.
I drove to my old apartment, half vacant and in desperate need of cleaning, and pulled out the pregnancy test that had been dwelling under my sink since a brief bout of paranoia following the break up with my ex boyfriend.
Life as I knew it had ceased
I expected it would appease the nagging voice in my head that told me something wasn't right. Instead, it told me that life as I knew it had ceased.
I spent the better part of that afternoon tethered to my phone trying to research my options. But from the moment I saw that test said positive, I knew there was only one thing I could do. Twenty-three years old, drowning in debt, with a full time job, no partner, and no chance of giving a child any sort of life worth living.
My conservative Christian parents would disown me
My conservative Christian parents would disown me if they knew that from that initial terrifying instant onward I understood the only option for me was an abortion.
However, through some strange and muddled logic I realized that my family was ultimately the reason I had to bear this burden. I had to spare them the public humiliation of having a daughter that managed to screw up so spectacularly.
As the sense of panic gradually subsided, I became wholly focused on forming my plan. Planned Parenthood was closed, so I couldn't make an appointment until Monday. But I couldn't sit idly by for two days just waiting- I had to do something, anything to regain a shred of control over the situation.
I researched natural abortion: vitamin C, dong quai, cinnamon
I researched natural ways to cause an abortion- vitamin C, dong quai tea, cinnamon, the works- then spent the rest of the afternoon tracking down pill capsules and tea bags at local pharmacies and grocery stores.
It wasn't a smart plan, but it was something I had to do in order to take matters into my own hands. The success rate for these supplements is somewhere under forty percent, and, unsurprisingly, they were ultimately unsuccessful for me.
I knew I'd be calling Planned Parenthood
I don't think I ever really believed they would work, but in order to keep myself from succumbing to the all-consuming terror of my situation I had to at least pretend. Still, I knew that Monday morning I'd be placing a call to Planned Parenthood.
I was somewhere around 6-weeks pregnant (based on LMI configurations), so I fell within the eligibility range for a medical abortion. The privacy of this method appealed to me.
Medical abortion afforded me the control to get through it
I had only shared my secret shame with one person- my roommate, a cherished friend who understood, despite my best efforts to conceal my terror with nonchalance and half-hearted jokes, how incredibly scared I was, and never for a moment judged my choice.
Furthermore, I opted for a medical abortion because at its core, it afforded me the control that I needed to get myself through this.
Monday morning I made the call to Planned Parenthood to schedule my appointment.
18 days of suffering had an extraordinarily positive impact
I booked the earliest available appointment, which, to my dismay and frustration, was two and a half weeks away.
Those were the most agonizing two weeks of my life. However, I've discovered upon reflection that those eighteen days of physical and psychological suffering actually had an extraordinary positive impact on my lifestyle choices.
Eighteen days of fatigue compounded by paranoia kept me from my usual habit of frequenting the local bars for a post-work drink. Weekend benders gave way to Friday and Saturday nights spent circled up with a book and a cup of tea. Cigarettes, once my most highly regarded stress-soothing vice, became repulsive to even smell, let alone taste.
Through persistent bouts of nausea I acquired a passion for organic raw fruits and veggies after discovering that they settled my stomach in a way that little else could. I saved money by staying in, eating light meals throughout the day.
And, while friends and family must have noticed my behavioral changes, those eighteen days spanned the height of flu season. Under the guise of being sick, I was able to withdraw into my weird secluded little world of words and sobriety and fruit without drawing suspicion- and I found a peace and calm.
Three dozen women from all walks of life
When the morning of my appointment finally came, I drove to the clinic and entered a waiting room that housed at least three dozen women from all walks of life- young, old, every race, size, and shape.
Some were tightly clutching the hands of their boyfriends, drawing on them for support; others sat stoically with the parent commissioned to drive them home post-painkillers; some even giggled with friends as they gossiped and passed the time staring at cellphones; and still some others were like me, fidgeting, alone, awaiting that apprehensive moment when my name was called.
All of us were there for the same reason.
I felt actual, legitimate concern
At last my name was called, and a kind-looking middle aged nurse pulled me into a small room. She explained to me what to expect from the procedure and read several questions from a form, but despite their scripted nature I felt the permeation of actual, legitimate concern.
Have you considered all your options? Is anyone forcing you to do this? Does the baby's father know? Are you receiving support for your decision from a loved one? Would you like to share what you've been going through physically or emotionally? Do you have any fears or concerns?
I enjoyed the opportunity to speak honestly
I answered her questions one by one and was surprised to find myself enjoying the opportunity to speak honestly about the anxiety that had plagued me from the moment I first found out I was pregnant.
How I was shamed by my condition and had borne it's burden alone, without the support of a partner or parents or anyone other than the one person listed as my emergency contact. How I had found strength in solitude and was at total peace with my decision.
After the interview, a second nurse ushered me into a sterile white room to take my vitals.
I sat patiently while she brought me crackers and water, followed by a tiny white paper cup containing two pills. She then handed me three bottles of pills to take the next day- one for cramping, one for pain and a third containing the four misoprostol tablets that would complete the abortion.
I left feeling relieved
I left the clinic feeling relieved; everything would soon be over.
Exactly twenty-four hours later, I began the second phase of my medication procedure. I sat in bed with the four tablets tucked into my cheeks, awaiting the stinging cramps and percolation of blood that meant the procedure had worked.
I underestimated the speed and severity of the misoprostol
I had underestimated the speed and severity with which the effects of the misoprostol would begin. Within twenty-five minutes, before I had even swallowed the vestiges of chalky pills stuck to my cheeks, I experienced an intense pressure in my lower abdomen. This was uncomfortable and had me running to the toilet, but the real pain had yet to come.
About fifteen minutes after I had swallowed the pills, the pressure intensified into gut-twisting contractions.
Tremors of pain exploded from deep within my lower abdomen
I crawled into the bathtub and curled into the foetal position, racked with tremors of pain that exploded outward from deep within my lower abdomen. Hot water brought little relief; within forty-five minutes it had turned cold, and agony was unending.
Unable to move beyond my cold white fibreglass cage, I laid in five inches of chilly water for close to two hours, clutching my belly and occasionally leaning over to retch into the nearby toilet whenever the misoprostol's heavy flirtation with my pain threshold became too great to bear.
Wave after wave of torture
I wiped my mouth and gritted my teeth, riding out wave after wave of torture until finally the pain began to wane into something akin to uncomfortable yet manageable menstrual pain. A quick wipe of my towel revealed a slow trickle of blood running down my thigh- the bleeding had begun.
I returned to my bed, dry swallowed two pain pills, and briefly passed out to the sound of draining water. I couldn't have been asleep for much longer than twenty minutes when I felt a something sticky slip between my legs.
No pain, no nausea- just release
Legs shaking, I stumbled onto the toilet just in time to see a dark mass of blood and tissue splash into the porcelain bowl followed by a stream of thick, viscous crimson. There was no pain, no nausea- just release.
It's been ten days since I visited Planned Parenthood and obtained medication to terminate my pregnancy.
This morning, I returned for a follow up appointment and was led to another white sterile room for an ultrasound. The doctor, a middle-aged African American woman with a kind smile, informed me that everything had been expelled; the mental anguish, the physical suffering, the pregnancy and its termination are finally all over.
My answer came immediately and honestly
After relaying the good news, my doctor asked me how I felt about the experience. My answer came immediately, honestly: I was profoundly relieved.
One day, I hope to bring a child into this world- a child conceived in love, a little piece of me mixed with someone I cherish, my partner for life. I want a child I can teach to read, tuck into bed at night, clean its bruises and wipe away its tears. I will love this child unconditionally, with every fibre of my being and every inch of my soul. But first, I have some work to do.
The core problem: me
My experience with pregnancy from its conception to its termination has taught me that in order to be fit enough to bring life into this world, I need to start with the core problem: me.
I started addressing my lifestyle issues while pregnant; now that the burden of anxiety has been lifted, I feel a second wave of momentum spurring me forward toward leading a happy, fulfilling life. A life worth one day sharing with a child.