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How I felt at the time…

Well, it really hurt and I was terribly afraid. It felt like a huge violation and I felt somehow degraded and angry. Immediately after, it was a huge relief and all the angst that I had felt began to quickly dissipate.

How I feel now…

Now I feel like I am very lucky to have had the ability to go to a clean safe clinic not too far from home. There is this film, “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days” and I cried. I couldn’t believe that it was so easy for me to have this procedure when women were suffering immensely to get the same procedure but with much higher risks. I am so thankful that I was able to have one and to be in a country where it is legal. If I hadn’t been allowed safe access, I too would have become desperate. Now that I am older, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t realize how fortunate I am to have been given that feeling of relief.

My story…

Inevitably in life, we all make mistakes. Keys left inside a locked car, harsh words spoken in anger, and getting pregnant at 17. When I look back at my life and sum up all that could be construed as a mistake, my abortion does not fall among those. On the contrary, it was one of the best decisions I made but, at the time, it didn’t feel that way…

My mother was very strict about my social life and upbringing. Therefore, I was not allowed to date until I was 18. So, a few weeks shy of my 18th birthday I met someone at a party. We went on a few secret dates that my mother didn’t know about. He was my first boyfriend. All of my friends had had boyfriends and sex by the time they were 16 and I was repeatedly left out of the group when the topic turned to either, since I had no stories to contribute. When I finally lost my virginity, I didn’t even know it was happening. We were kissing and then suddenly he made the decision to go one step further. My lack of experience prevented me from stopping him or even asking him if he’d bothered to put on a condom. He hadn’t. He was 7 years older than me and I foolishly trusted him to be responsible, a quality I should have ruled out when he took my virginity without even asking. Within one week of losing my virginity, the strange bubbly nauseous feeling that indicates the early stages of pregnancy had me confused as to what I was feeling. Teen magazines and gossip had me convinced that you couldn’t get pregnant the first time you had sex. Not only was that information so completely wrong, it left me thinking I just had an upset stomach, for surely I couldn’t have gotten pregnant after just one time.

When the morning sickness started, I finally drove myself to the doctor. Pee in a cup and we’ll call you in 48 hours. Awaiting my acceptance letter to college was nowhere near as excruciating as those 48 hours. Finally the phone rang and the results were in. What the nurse had to say I was already painfully aware of. I was 17 and pregnant.

The woman on the phone tried to comfort me as she was forced to listen to my hushed sobs. She scheduled an appointment for me and suggested that I come in to speak with a nurse and a support group. I declined the support group and chose instead to cry in my room alone and struggle to hide my daily vomiting spouts from my family in the other rooms.

A few days later, I drove myself to the doctor. It was shocking for me to learn that, since I was not yet 18 and still a minor, I would need my parents consent for the abortion if the insurance was to pay for it. That was not an option. My mother would feel betrayed if she found out that not only did I have boyfriend but had lost my virginity both of which I had chosen not to share with her. More concerned about my self-image than my own wellbeing and trust in my mother and my sister, I drove to Planned Parenthood on my own. The cost of the abortion, since I had opted for secrecy over an insurance benefit, would take me several weeks worth of allowance to collect. As I would later find out, it would take exactly 11 weeks to save up the money. In addition, I would need someone to drive me home after the procedure. There was only one person I could ask and this one person who would hear my secret. My boyfriend.

I went over to his house a mess. Nervous and exhausted from days of crying and morning sickness, I decided to just spit it out once I got to his place. At first he cried and then he grew silent. Looking back at the situation now, nine years later, I realize that this man wanted to marry me. A child between us would have been the best way to rob me of my youth and trap me into a life that I not only did not want but that would be a daily reminder of my loss of freedom. He wanted to keep the baby. I was so terribly foolish. He was 25 and I was 17! Being 26 now, I have to wonder if he deliberately tried to get me pregnant so that he could “keep” me. After all, every guy that I have slept with since him has asked about and ensured protection before sex.

His wanting to keep the baby made it difficult for me. Feelings of guilt over “murdering” my fetus and being selfish were lingering over me as a result of his “friendly” input and opinion. I knew that I was too young and this baby would change my life in ways that I wasn’t ready for yet. I had no problem sharing this sentiment and told him that if my father found out, as he surely would if I had to ask my family to take me to my abortion, that he would be held responsible. Threats of statutory rape finally made him agree to keep this a secret and to drive me to my appointment.

By now the first week was over but since I was a freshman in college during this time, I was in the middle of midterms. Surprisingly, the situation didn’t hurt my grades. In fact, being able to study and sit in class was one of the few times that I was able to stop crying and feeling angry. It was lucky that my morning sickness only lasted till about noon and most of my classes were later in the day. I remember sitting in class and looking around at all of the people around me and wondering to myself, if abortions were illegal, would I be forced to leave this forever? How many girls in this room wouldn’t be here if they had to be at home raising kids? Almost instantly, I realized that I had a responsibility to my future children to be in a situation where I could provide for them a promising future the way my mother had done for me. If I had a child at 17 with a man who was still in college himself without any money to pay for me or for the baby, then I would be doing that child an injustice. My mother had waited many years after marriage before she had kids. She did this to ensure that she could provide for my sister and me. In addition, thousands of women for thousands of years had been forced into marriages and a life of child rearing with little promise of more. Women had fought a long battle to sit in a classroom like the one that I was in to become stronger, educated, and free to choose when and when not to have kids. There was no question in my mind that I would have the abortion and feel no guilt about taking advantage of the choice – a privilege that generations of suffering had now afforded me.

The 11 weeks passed. I went to Planned Parenthood with my boyfriend. Having been sexually non-active the majority of my life, I had never been to the gynecologist. The first step of an abortion is an examination, legs spread, to take a look at the fetus’ development and determine how far along you are. I was 12 weeks by then. When I was sent into the female only waiting room after this quick exam, I folded. Never before had I been examined like that and I felt so violated. I kept thinking to myself “I’m a smart girl, I don’t belong here.” There were women of all different ages, some younger than me. I felt so overwhelmed with what was happing and with the help of all the hormones I started crying uncontrollably in front of everyone. As I sat there, pitifully crying in a room full of people and unable to stop, I couldn’t stop thinking that they all knew why I was there. I felt somehow degraded, less of a person because I had made a mistake. I was in college and on my way to a successful future, I was always an A student and prided myself on not making mistakes. Yet here I was, in a room with people who had also made the same mistake. I felt I didn’t belong but knew through and through that we had all made the same mistakes and all belonged in that room. Then I felt someone touch my hand. I looked up and the woman sitting next to me had taken my hand and was asking if I was all right. She looked at me and smiled and when I had nothing in return to say, she just held my hand. Without saying anything else, I knew that she knew how I felt and she didn’t seem to think less of me. It’s amazing, looking back at it now, how compassionate strangers can be. I can still remember her face.

The procedure was painless and when I left I was groggy but glad that it was all behind me. The naive girl who met a guy at a party is still a part of who I am but this experience made me feel fearless, wiser, harder, and determined. Knowing that my life would have been completely altered if abortions were illegal makes me thankful for everyday that I can still be young, carefree, and a little bit selfish. Being able to look forward to a future family is rarity I am thankful to have. Getting pregnant was a terrible mistake, but having an abortion was a blessing that I will always be thankful for. I encourage every young girl to wait to start a family. Having been so close to young motherhood, I realize the desire to have a child. However, knowing that there is a better life ahead and still so much youth to live has instilled in me a greater desire to have accomplishments of my own before having children.

Years later I told my mom about the abortion I had when younger. She wasn’t angry, she just said that I should have told her because it never would have changed the way she looked at me. I realize it was foolish of me to think that she wouldn’t support me. Then my sister and my mother looked at me and said they couldn’t believe how much strength it would have taken to go through all of it alone. Although I agree that most of it was alone, when I sat in the waiting room as the woman next to me held my hand as I cried, I stopped feeling alone.

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