I had my first abortion precisely seven hours and fifty-one minutes ago.
I thought I would harbor some regrets, or be plagued with unfulfilled curiosity about the child that might have been. Maybe I will, five years from now, but I no longer expect to feel that way. I know the choice I made was the right one, possibly even the only one. It was, and still is, too soon for me to be a mother, for many reasons.
My boyfriend and I have been together for five years, and in spite of these events, we are as strong as ever. He was very supportive of my decision, even before I knew what that decision was. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I felt numb and detached; it wasn't until he stood up and put his arms around me that I cried. He was there for every moment of fear, often before I could admit to myself that I was afraid.
I can safely say that I would honestly and truly never have known I was pregnant until I missed my period. Even then, I thought there was a 95% chance that it was something else. We have always been very careful, and I can only imagine this one slipped through our defenses against significant odds. Even after I took several home pregnancy tests, and I knew there was virtually no doubt, I still did not feel pregnant in any way. At that time, my breasts had only the barest hint of soreness and swelling, and I felt very minor ghost cramps once a while that never lasted longer than two or three seconds. It scares me often to think of how long it could have gone on had I been on some kind of birth control medication that would have made me not have my regular period; if not for that, it probably would have been too late before I found out. More than anything, that made me realize how important it is to be using a birth control method that is more reliable than the pill. (I opted for the Depo Provera shot, on a friend's recommendation.)
The first clinic I visited estimated my pregnancy at just under eight weeks, based on the date of my last period. I had done a lot of research on my own by that point, and it was a huge relief to hear that I was probably not even that far along, because that meant I would be able to take the abortion pill and have a medical, induced miscarriage. It seemed far more natural to me than getting a surgery, as that would essentially be the same thing as deliberately injuring myself, albeit in a controlled environment.
The night after that first visit, the pregnant feeling hit me like a brick. I suspect this happened only because I was acutely aware of it by then. My abdomen felt bloated to twice its normal size and during the days that followed I had cravings for everything under the sun, from spaghettios to cherry pie, but I could stomach none of the foods I normally enjoyed.
My boyfriend and I had to drive an hour out of town the following day to go to a second clinic where I could get an ultrasound and seek termination services. According to the ultrasound, I was at nine and a half weeks. I could not use the pill.
They said that they only did the in-clinic procedure on Wednesdays, which it was, and asked me if I wanted to go through with it that day. I said yes. They came back later and said there were no times available, and I would have to set up another appointment for the following Wednesday. I had no choice but to remain pregnant for another week, and more than anything, that made me as angry as if they had deliberately tried to force me to stay pregnant in order to rethink the decision I was already committed to. I didn't want more time, I just wanted it to be over.
I know it was unreasonable, but I was terrified, and waiting made it worse. I went home with a full womb and a bitter heart. For three days I had nonsensical dreams where I would become so furious that I would wake up in a sweat, with my hands balled into fists. I hated feeling that way, but I couldn't help it. I could eat little besides bread and milk without becoming ill. In the course of the past week, I have lost approximately seven pounds. One pound per day. It was all I could do to shut off my brain. I knew what I needed to do and did only those things--eat, go to the restroom, shower, etc. The rest of the time I spent reading or sleeping, but it did not stop the fear growing in me. I was afraid it would be painful. I was afraid something would go wrong.
I woke up at 3 AM this morning, even though I didn't have to get ready until 7. We arrived at the clinic forty-five minutes early for my appointment. They called me on time for the pre-abortion counseling, took my blood pressure, and remarked that I must have been nervous. I asked how often there were complications after the surgery. The woman said kindly that she had been the abortion director for the clinic for eight years before becoming the counselor, and she could count on one hand the number of times someone had to come back on account of a botched abortion. She said it was far more common for women to come in for the surgery after the pill method had failed to end their pregnancy.
An hour later, I was sitting in a small room with five other young women, reading a book I brought and digesting the four pills I had been given for pain and nausea. The others were jittery and excitable. One of them threw up in the trash can by the door. One by one we were called out, until there was only the sick girl and me remaining. The room had started to fill up again by the time it was my turn.
The procedure took exactly five minutes, from the moment the doctor injected the sedative into the back of my hand to the moment the nurse said I could put my clothes back on. 10:17 to 10:22. I even had to ask, "Was that it?"
"That was it."
It felt just as they said it would--like a particularly bad, but bearable case of sudden cramps. When they walked me to the recovery room, I was asked how bad the lingering cramps were, on a scale of one to ten. I said one. Within ten minutes, that 'one' became a 'five', and then an 'eight'. Within twenty minutes, the sedative had completely worn off. They gave me the Depo shot I had asked for and gave me home care instructions, then directed me to the restroom to check the bleeding. I was surprised to find that it was quite light. Then they said I could leave. So, I left.
That hour ride in the car afterwards was worse than the entire three hours spent in the clinic, but I did not throw up. I came home and slept, woke up to take a pill, and went back to sleep. When I woke again, it was dark outside, and the cramps had subsided to a dull ache that hurt marginally more than the ache in my arm where I received the shot. The bleeding has almost stopped already--it didn't even soak one pad. After having eaten something and taken the antibiotics they gave me, I think I can safely say that I feel, not quite well yet, but better than I have in a long time.