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While inhaling the cigarette, the first thing I can clearly remember thinking was "this kid is going to be hideously deformed." Matt and I had just come back from a weekend vacation. One filled with drinking, smoking weed and snorting coke. And it wasnt just that one weekend that I had been partying. Its a pretty normal thing for me.
He showed up at about 9:20, at which point he took one look at me and immediately knew something was really really wrong. I told him to sit down. Then I looked into his eyes and quietly whispered, "I'm pregnant". Much to my surprise, he didn't scream, he didn't cry, he wasn't angry, and he didn't force any of his opinions on me. He just nodded his head and said "Well, that's something you don't hear every day."
Later that afternoon, he took me to his family doctor. As soon as i told the doctor that I was pregnant, he gave me a very disapproving look and asked how old i was and why i hadn't been using any birth control. I told him "I'm 21, and I have been using birth control but it failed." He softened a little bit after that. I don't really look my age, it's been the case my whole life. On my 20th birthday, I was able to pass for 15 without any questions, so I guess now I look like I'm 16, maybe 17. He must have assumed that i was just some irresponsible teenager who slept with her irresponsible teenaged boyfriend. The truth of the matter was that both Matt and I are 21, we're very much in love and have plans to move in together in the near future, and eventually get married and start a family. The last step of our plan was just trying to happen first.
The doctor asked me if I had decided what I was going to do. Immediately I informed him that I was going to have an abortion because I absolutely cannot have a child (or even bear one to term) at this time in my life, for various reasons, and asked him if he could refer me to a clinic. He nodded, then went and got me a slip of paper with an address and a phone number. I thanked him and left. Matt drove me to the address on the paper, which was about a 45 minute drive, all the way on the other side of the city. It was a quiet ride, but not quiet in a bad sense. People always assume that when you say it was a quiet ride, that you mean that it was quiet because you didn't have anything to say to each other. With me and him, a lot of the time we don't need to talk. We already know what the other is thinking and feeling.
The clinic was not at all as I expected. The security and secretiveness of the place was very "James Bond" like, as a friend of mine put it. It was not a free standing clinic, but was a part of a much larger medical centre, with everything from x-rays, to blood work, to "men's health" to dentistry, to family practice. But no mention of the abortion clinic. I was slightly discouraged. I thought maybe they had moved, and the doctor who referred me had given me outdated information. We decided to go inside anyway. We found the directory, and looked for suite 501. Much to our dismay, it wasn't listed on the board. There were listings for every other number you could think of, but no 501. Discouraged, I wanted to leave, but Matt said for us to go upstairs and check. So we did. Sure enough, there was a suite 501 on the fifth floor, but it didn't look anything like the other suites. This one had no identification on it. While the other ones said "503: Dr So-and-so, DDS" this one just said "501" plain and simple.
That was on a Wednesday, and it took me until the following Monday to get up the courage to call. This wasn't because I was hesitant to have an abortion, or because I needed more time to make up my mind. I knew from the moment I first started having sex 6 and a half years ago that if I ever got pregnant at a time in my life when I couldn't support a child, I would have an abortion. What took me so long was that I have this fear of calling places to make appointments, or ask questions, regardless of what it is for. A few months prior, I had won some money at an online casino, and was sent something through the mail, which was some address verification thing, and it said that I had to call a 1-800 number to confirm my address before the money would be sent to me. It took me a week and a half just to call them, and that was for free money!
My hands were shaky when I called the place. I used my cell phone so they wouldn't have any idea what my home phone number was (as i had decided not to tell my parents about the situation). Much to my dismay, the line was busy on my first attempt. I nearly screamed out loud. It had taken me 5 days just to work up the nerve to call, and when I did, the line was busy! How frusterating. I took a deep breath, lit myself a ciggarette, and called again. This time it rang. A woman answered the phone, asking if she could help me. I told her I wanted to "make an appointment". "For termination?" She asked. I smiled. I liked the way she didn't use the word abortion. It's not that I wanted to shield myself from the fact that I would be killing my own child, but abortion is just such an ugly name, much in the same way that spermicidal lubricant is an ugly name. I told her that yes, I wanted a "termination". She asked how many weeks pregnant I was. I told her that my last regular period had been on the 28th of February.
My peace didn't last very long. I decided to go online and read about the abortion I was scheduled to have in a week's time. Don't get me wrong, it's not as though I was ignorant to the subject. I'd actually done a fair amount of reading on the subject from both the pro-life and pro-choice stances, as I felt that it was important for me, as a sexually active woman, to know everything there was to know about the alternatives. The reason I did reading was because I wanted to read about other women's tales of abortion, as I didn't personally know of anyone who'd had it done, other than Matt's sister who had an abortion 2 years ago, but she was never around, so I couldn't talk to her. Unfortunately, the first site I picked was www.abortiontv.com, not knowing it was a hyper-religious pro-life site. Every single one of the stories were terrifying, written by girls who claimed the process was extremely painful and that they regretted it for the rest of their lives.
Meanwhile, while my mind was going back and forth over and over again about being afraid and not being afraid, I was sick. Horribly, horribly sick. My morning sickness had started the day before I found out I was pregnant. Actually, thats not true. April 1st was a Tuesday, so the previous Monday, March 24th, I was out with my buddies, driving around in Matt's car smoking a joint. All of a sudden, I got this massive onset of nausea. It was so bad I had to make Matt pull over so I could throw up. As I'm in some parking lot, puking my guts out, I'm thinking "What the hell is this??? I felt fine ten minutes ago, and I haven't eaten anything out of the ordinary, nor have I been drinking ... What's going on???" After that I went home, and went to bed. The next morning I still felt kind of nauseated, but well within acceptable ranges. I figured it was one of those really quick acting bugs. But later, when I stopped to think about it, i think that was implantation. That was exactly two weeks before the nice woman.
So here I am, 26 hours until I am scheduled to have my abortion. And how do i feel? I know it sounds so heartless but I can't wait until this thing is out of me. It's making me sick, making me want to sleep all the time, giving me aches, pains and cramps. And mood swings, never forget about the wicked mood swings. It really feels like this life is draining me for all I'm worth just so it can survive. Its kind of sad though, this is making me so sick and so wanting for it to be over that I'm actually second guessing my want for children later in life. Apparantly the sickness gets worse before it gets better, and I can't imagine feeling any worse than I've felt for the last two weeks. I'm not sad that I'm not going to be a mother. I have no sappy feelings of "I want my baby" because I don't. I really and truly want this embryo out of me, as I never wanted it there in the first place, and I especially don't want it now that it's making me sick as hell. Pro-lifers constantly spit out the same arguments over and over.
April 14, 2003, the big day...
Matt took the day off work so he could take me to the clinic, and my girlfriend from school, Stacey, came with us. As I was informed that i couldn't have anyone in the clinic with me, Stacey was coming along to keep Matt company, and also to double as protection for Matt should the unthikable happen. The unthinkable. I thought about it, I even wrote goodbye letters to my parents and to Matt. I wanted to write ones for all my friends, but I couldn't find the strength to write them as the two I had already written were very upsetting and difficult emotionally to write. I'm glad they will never have to be read. So Stacey came with us, and it was a nice warm spring morning, and a nice drive, except for the fact that we got lost. This is actually quite funny because we were just there a few weeks prior, and found it the first time with no difficulty.
Once we got there, I decided to go into the clinic immediately before I lost my nerve. Matt offered to walk me up to the clinic, but I declined, thinking that it would be easier to just say our goodbyes in the car, rather than drag it all the way to the clinic door. He obliged, and we said our I love you's and I left. I walked into the building, and went up to the notorious security clad door on the fifth floor, and buzzed the intercom. "Hello?" came the voice I had heard just a few weeks earlier. "I'm here for my 11:30 appointment please". She quickly confirmed my name and buzzed me in. The waiting room was small, and i was dissapointed to find that there were men in there waiting for their wives/girlfriends. How come they were allowed in, and I was told I wasn't allowed to have anyone? I quickly shrugged it off, and went on with the mountain of paper work they gave me. Dozens of questions asking things like: are you sure you want to do this? have you ever been pregnant, and if so how many times?
Not more than 10 minutes passed and I was called in. I sat down at a round table with a woman who looked like she was in her mid 40s, but she looked like a very hip older woman. She was very nice and down to earth, we even joked about some things. She double checked that having this abortion was my decision and that no one had forced me to do it. My only response to this was "Absolutely, without a doubt". She then gave me a cup with two pills in it. There was a big one which she told me was pain relief for the cramping i would have later, and there was a little one that was to be dissolved under my tongue, and was supposed to relax me. After we were done with the pills and the discussion, she took a sharp thing and poked my thumb with it in order to get a small sample of my blood for the Rh test. I was rH positive, so I would not need the special injection that women who are Rh- need. She lead me to a room where I could change, and told me to take off everything except my bra, my large tshirt, and my panties.
After maybe 20 minutes or so of waiting, I got called in. I took a deep breath and told myself to be brave. They removed my panties and did the ultrasound. "5 weeks, 6 days" the nurse announced, which was pretty much what I expected. I kinda thought to myself "gee if i was so good to know exactly when i got pregnant, way wasn't I good enough to not get pregnant in the first place?" The screen was just above my head, so I took the opportunity to look at it on the ultrasound. I kid you not, all it was was a little bumpy looking ball. No arms, no head, no legs. Definately no fully formed fetus to be pulled apart that the pro-lifers are always squawking about. At this point, I got the extra anesthetic that I requested, as well as a mask of nitrous oxide, and the procedure started. First the doctor put a speculum inside me and spread me all open. Uncomfortable, but not painful. Then they said the infamous "You're going to feel a pinch" which is when they inject the local anesthetic into my cervix. This hurt.
I was escorted into the recovery room, where i got to sit on comfy reclining chairs and eat cookies. They even had my favorite kind, the ones with creme and red jelly. There was a nurse in the recovery room who took the time with each of us to ask how we were feeling, talk about post-op care, new birth control methods, and all that stuff. After about 20 minutes of sitting, she deemed me well enough to leave. So I went back to the change room, put my normal clothes back on, picked up my papers, and left. The whole thing from start to finish took less than 2 hrs.
When I got outside the clinic, Matt and Stacey were waiting for me. I gave Matt a hug and we went back to the car. I sat, exhaled and felt as though a huge weight had been taken off my chest. It was finally over, and it was a lot easier than I had expected. The staff at the clinic were very nice, compassionate and helpful. I never once felt that I was treated as "cattle" or as just a way to make money. They were just genuinely good people there to help women through one of the toughest moments of their lives. The abortion itself, although not painless, was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. I'm very thankful of the staff at the clinic for everything they did for me. I will never forget how they helped make my abortion a lot easier on me.
So here we are, at the end of the story, if you're still with me. I have learned two things from my experience. First and most important, use proper birth control!!! The rhythm method alone is not enough. Sometime in the next 5 days, I will be starting the depo-provera shot, which has a pregnancy rate of 3 per 1000 women a year. I figure that's about as reliable as I can find. The second thing I've taken from this is that pro-lifers are not to be trusted. All of their sites center around the common theme that abortion is extremely painful, messy, emotionally distressing to the woman, and that clinic staff are mean, crude, uncaring, and treat you like a whore. They always portray clinics full of crying, screaming teenaged girls who are being forced against their will, and that's just not how it is. The only reason I can think of that they say these things is because when all else fails, lie. And they do. So take everything you read on a pro-life site with a grain of salt.
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Posted 21 June 2003.
Copyright 2003 by Pregnant Pause