In the summer of 2020, I had an abortion.
I was in a long term, committed relationship that ended badly. Naturally the break up was complicated. It took nearly 6 months to finally end in mid 2021, but let me get back to the topic.
In 2020, we were madly in love. We had been dating for a year and a half. We had a rhythm and a routine. We dreamt together about many things, including starting a family. Mostly, he was on board, but being more than 15 years my senior, he had doubts about his age. Still though, he would bring up the idea of having children with me. He told me how great a mother I would be. I told him I’d never wanted to have kids, but that with him, I could imagine how wonderful it could be to start a family.
I know the exact night that he impregnated me. I cooked up portobello mushrooms and veggies on the grill, packed up my camper van, and met him after work. I was feeling sexy and confident and excited to see him, so I wore a floral sleeveless dress and brown booties. I did my hair and put makeup on. When he saw me, his face lit up. He showered me with compliments. We had a photo session together, a series of photos of us kissing and smiling into the camera, embracing each other with passion and joy. We made love.
I have not been on birth control since I was 18 years old. For a year or so in high school, I took the pill, but when I got to college I chose not to renew my prescription. This was predominantly because it made me depressed. I have struggled with depression most of my life, but with exercise, diet, and lifestyle choices, I had managed it with little interference in my daily life. On the pill, I spent days in bed, had little motivation to be social, and experienced a general and broad sort of listlessness that had never happened before. It also completely killed my sex drive. Not only was I uninterested in human interaction, I was also uninterested in human touch or intimacy. The rare times that I would become sexually aroused, my body would not respond appropriately to the arousal. I was without natural lubrication of any sorts, which anyone who’s had sex (or a massage for that matter) can tell you is uncomfortable in the least. More than once, I considered having the copper IUD implanted, but after hearing that it increases menstrual cramps (mine are bad enough to leave me bedridden some days) and about the horror stories of them breaking off inside people, I decided against it.
With my ex, I kept track of my biological menstrual clock. I counted days from the start of my period to the expected time of ovulation. I would tell him when we needed to be careful and he would oblige. We left a few days on either side to be extra careful as well.
The night I got pregnant was days earlier than I had expected to be ovulating, but when the morning sickness came and the piss-on-a-stick pregnancy test came up positive, I suspected it was that day. An appointment to Planned Parenthood a week or so later confirmed the pregnancy at five weeks. I counted back in my calendar. It had to be that night.
When I told my ex I was pregnant, both our first reactions were joyous. Truly, it felt like a miracle. I had never known that my body could do it. I had my doubts through my 20s about whether or not it could happen. (For the astro nerds out there, I have Mars in my 5th house in a day chart, which I thought could indicate to an inability to conceive). After the initial shock of finding out, it was time for a difficult conversation.
I knew in the back of my head that in the circumstance of absolute necessity, I would terminate a pregnancy. It became clear, in conversations with my ex, that he wasn’t ready to take the next steps to start a family together. He wasn’t ready to live together. He wasn’t ready to be honest with his family about his relationship with me. I never wanted to be a single parent. I am a child of divorce, and I’ve always said that if I raise one myself that it will be with a lifelong committed partner. My ex’s refusal to be that person to me and to our unborn child made the decision clear to me.
At five weeks, the zygote (that is the technical term for a fertilized egg implanted in the uterine wall) is only half a centimeter in diameter. For reference, that is half the size of a staple. It is one fifth the length of the top knuckle of your thumb. It is about the length of a short grain of rice. It is not an embryo until week six and not yet a fetus until week ten.
Planned Parenthood made my abortion as easy as they could. They performed an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. They asked if I wanted to see it with the cold metal probe inside my vagina. They moved the head of the probe around, my feet up in stirrups, until they found the spot where it was implanted. My curiosity won out and I looked at a tiny spot on the gray ultrasound screen.
Because of the circumstances, for having no committed support in raising it, I felt sound in my decision, albeit sorrowful for the missed opportunity. I paid $540 out of pocket for the abortion pills. My private, company-sponsored health insurance didn’t cover abortions. I was consulted about other options. A nurse outlined the risks to having a medication abortion. I was again asked my consent by the doctor who gave me the mifepristone, which blocked my body’s natural pregnancy hormone, progesterone. It made my uterus inhabitable for the zygote. She sent me home with a second pill, mifepristone, to take within 48 hours, when I was ready to induce cramping and eviscerate my uterus.
I didn’t tell a single person, besides my ex, when I did it. I didn’t tell my mom. I didn’t tell my best friend. I didn’t tell any of my roommates. For some reason, I felt it was something that should stay with me. Maybe I felt shame. Maybe I felt that I would need to explain myself to someone. Maybe I didn’t have the energy to tell anyone, so deep in the process itself. I do know that the decision was not taken lightly. I know that it became a wedge in my romantic relationship. And I also know I did the right thing.
It was the worst pain I’ve experience in my entire life. For six hours, I ran in and out of the bathroom, intense contractions of my uterus pushing out blood and curling my stomach. I vomited up everything I’d eaten for the day first, and bile over and over again once my stomach was empty. It was a gross scene, switching back and forth between my ass on the toilet and my face heaving into it. I broke into cold sweats intermittently for hours, bundling myself under layers of blankets between sessions in the bathroom. It was early morning before the drugs wore off and I passed out in exhaustion, curled in sweat soaked sheets.
Nearly two years later, I could not imagine having completed that pregnancy. I am grateful every day that I had access and resources to terminate it. I feel sorrow and rage for all the people who are now being denied the right to make a choice that directly affects their bodies and their wellbeing, about a choice that affects what could be a future life, about a choice that affects whole communities, about a choice that affects our entire society.
My life would look radically different had I not had the choice to terminate my pregnancy. I would still be entangled in a toxic relationship, forever tied to the man who didn’t chose me or the possibility of a child between us. I would likely be financially dependent of the state or on my family to raise a child alone. If I wasn’t getting assistance, I’d be struggling to make ends meet. It is not to say that single parents can’t do it or not that they don’t do it well, but that wasn’t my desire. It wasn’t my choice. I have not even begun to touch the months being pregnant, but from the intense morning sickness I had the week before termination, I can only imagine the struggles would have intensified.
Pregnant people everywhere should have the right to make the decision to keep or to terminate their pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances. Because the pregnant person is alive, because they are in a body that is capable of creating new life, they should have the right to decide if, when, and how they will bring new life into this world.
Fuck the conservative appointed members of SCOTUS who have chosen their own ideologies over the humans right of people in the United States. This will not be the end of the battle for abortion rights.