Once upon a time, I had an abortion.
It’s something I can say just as matter-of-factly as “I had eggs for breakfast” and “my degree is in African-American studies” (though I suppose the latter had a much greater impact on who I am as a person).
For years, I’d heard abortion is a gut-wrenching, complicated decision, something that haunts women for the duration of their lives and while I understand how and why that may be the case for some, my own experience was nothing like that.
How this came to pass is not difficult to understand. Last year, I made love with the man I was then seeing. We used protection. The protection failed. I took a morning after pill literally the next morning — I didn’t want to risk getting close to that 72-hour window that the pharmaceutical company touts.
So when I went to my OB-GYN two weeks later, I was pretty shocked to see that our passion resulted in a pregnancy that makes the word “unplanned” a gross understatement. The doctor seemed surprised as well, and when he asked me if I wanted to have another child, I immediately replied, “Not right now, so let’s talk abortion options” without missing a beat.
I don’t feel any need to substantiate my reasons for choosing not to carry the pregnancy to term, but I’ll offer them for the sake of telling a story that I hope young people and anti-choice folks will both understand. Really, there was only one: I didn’t want to be pregnant at that time, with that person, under those circumstances—it’s just that simple.
Here’s a little more info: I have a 4-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. She has a great dad and we do a good job sharing in the duties of parenting. However, in the off chance I decide to have another child, it would only be within the confines of a happy, long-term relationship with someone I would want to spend the rest of my life with. To wit: In one home, raising our kid as a unit.
This is why I am typically very responsible as it relates to birth control. My only regret in this situation is that moment of throwing caution to the wind, as I could have risked much more than an unwanted pregnancy.
My then-partner shared my feelings; we were very fond of each other, but certainly not ready to have a child together. The fact that we aren’t dating each other currently should be a good testament to that.
Still, he was completely respectful of my choice and made it clear that no matter what I decided to do, he would be totally supportive. He came to the facility with me, paid for the procedure and took me home after. Nothing changed for us as a couple and I firmly believe that things ended for us just as they would have otherwise.
Let’s get back to the procedure for a second. My only real fear was pain, or massive bleeding after. I chose to have a vacuum aspiration, which involves sucking the fetal tissue from the cervix. The nurse scheduling my appointment asked if I’d prefer local anesthesia or to go fully under: “You can feel everything if you aren’t awake, but it won’t hurt,” she explained. “Knock me out, please,” I murmured .
I found a nice, private facility in an office building. There were no protestors or picket signs outside and the doorman is probably the only person who could look at us and tell what we were going to do. We were fortunate to be able to spring for a private room; yes, the abortion clinic had “VIP service,” so we bypassed the waiting room and had our own space until it was time for the procedure. Everyone was nice. The place was very clean. We watched trashy daytime TV until it was time to go to the operating room, and again as I recovered.
Prior to the procedure, I’d had awful morning sickness—something I didn’t experience at all with my first pregnancy. I threw up, missed work and ate like mad; it felt like a sign that I was doing the right thing, because I don’t think I was capable of much more of that during that time, especially not with my busy-body daughter who jumped on my tummy and drank my ginger ale when I felt my worst. When I woke up after the abortion, I was surprisingly fine. Like, fine.
It was as if a magic wand had waved it all away. Had I not been afraid of bleeding (there is some spotting for two weeks afterward; mine was similar to a light period), I would have went shopping, or to work.
I kept bracing myself for heavy cramping, or more blood, or some sort of unforeseen emotional reaction to what had happened; they never came. Fourteen months later, I feel just as confident about my choice. I did what was best for me. I didn’t want a baby, I didn’t have a baby. Life went on.
Alas, as #ShoutYourAbortion began trending on Twitter this past week, I wanted to join in so badly. There should be no shame about this sort of thing. It was something I felt I needed, I had it and here we are. Alas, I don’t feel that my professional reputation could withstand any unneeded attention that may visit me if “I had an abortion” showed up when you Google my name, nor would I want to have an awkward conversation about it with my employer.
On some level, this feels like a #BlackGirlProblem; I firmly believe that members of our community are consistently more judgmental and conflicted by this sort of thing—anything that provides evidence of a woman being sexual outside of the context of marriage, really. You know how respectability politics work; we always have to be “good.” I personally don’t feel like I did anything bad, but I will not give anyone else the space to decide.
Since I can’t shout (I’m writing this anonymously), I’ll just whisper this to you: abortion doesn’t have to be a difficult, devastating event in a woman’s life. It’s entirely possible to make your choice and keep it moving; if that weren’t the case, do you know how many American women would have completely fallen to pieces by now? Some say 1 in 3.
I want all women to have the ability to choose for themselves what to do when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and the resources to make that choice.
You shouldn’t have to have extra money to go to a nice facility to have this procedure, and you shouldn’t have to struggle to feed a child that you wanted to have. Being able to have an abortion ensured I wouldn’t have any financial worries taking care of a kid I already have, and it also kept pregnancy from disrupting my work and graduate studies. No regrets, no worries and no shame. Maybe one day, I’ll even be able to shout about it