I was concerned that I might be pregnant when I was (I thought) six days late for my regular period. I had been on birth control since I was sixteen, but I had an insurance problem and missed two months, so my boyfriend of six years and I used condoms during that time. We were supposed to use a back-up method my first month on the pill again, but we went back to normal after a couple of weeks; I figured it would be fine since throughout our six years I hadn't had any scares and had missed/was late with pills a couple of times. We used to joke that one of us was probably sterile (ha-ha).
We were mad at each other about something at the time and I was stressed out with work, but I told him I was worried about how late I was since my period has always run like clockwork. He picked me up after my shift and had already bought a box of two first-response tests. I wasn't super nervous. I thought the tests would be a formality to reassure us both that everything was fine. I peed on the first test and put it on the bed and made myself a drink. I was not prepared for a 'yes'; it was unmistakable on the digital test. I started sobbing even before I even registered what was going on. My boyfriend held me and told me that everything was going to be okay. I still half didn't believe what was happening, and I took the other test; another 'yes'. After thinking about it for a while, it made sense that I was pregnant, but I was so oblivious to my symptoms because my self-care is so chaotic and inconsistent. I eat unhealthy food at weird intervals, smoke cigarettes, occasionally drink too much, and sleep inconsistently because of my hours. Then I remembered all the warning signs that should have been obvious to me. I had a really uncharacteristic incident with a coworker who I don't get along with where I broke down in tears in the middle of dinner service because he was "being a jerk"; I felt dizzy for no reason when I was fed, hydrated and well-rested; I almost had to get out of cars/elevators several times to throw up and was nauseous all the time; I was gassy in a way that seemed like the punchline to a joke; I was putting on weight in unusual places for my body; I was exhausted no matter how much I slept or how much coffee I drank; I was insatiably 'hangry' in a way that I had not been before.
We had talked about what we would do if this ever happened and I knew already that an abortion was right for me. I just finished college and work just enough to pay my bills. I work as a cook and am trying to move forward in an industry which expects long hours, hard physical labor, and almost cult-like personal commitment. The idea of physically completing a pregnancy was out of the question, and making a child and raising them in a healthy, safe, responsible way was impossible. I hope to have kids some day, and I want to be able to provide them the happiness, care, and opportunities they need to thrive. There is no possible way I could have done that at this juncture in my life.
My boyfriend and I woke up early the next day and we researched clinics before my shift started. I gave my information to two places to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. One called me back and said their earliest availability was in four weeks; I tentatively accepted knowing that four weeks from now was better than no appointment and hoped that I would hear back from the second clinic. The idea of being consciously pregnant for four weeks while being at work and trying to keep my cool around a bunch of hard-drinking 20-something bro-dude-cooks seemed nearly impossible. Thankfully the second clinic called back and gave me an appointment for early the next day.
I thought I was only a week or two pregnant since I was only one week late, so I planned on doing the medical procedure in two parts and being at home for what I thought would be like a really heavy period on my day off. There is a prominent culture of, "Unless you are vomiting blood and your eyes fall out of your head, you go to work," in kitchens, so I tried to avoid calling in sick. I told my boss in euphemism that I might feel sick at work tomorrow and why but that I would still come in, and he actually insisted (wisely) that I take at least two days off and was really understanding and discreet.
The next morning, I woke up and had cookies and milk for breakfast and wore my comfiest PJ's out of the house. I was incredibly nervous and wanted to comfort myself however I could. We got to the clinic twenty minutes early and filled out all the forms. I didn't really know what to expect since we were in a big city and I had never actually been inside an active clinic. I didn't know if my boyfriend would be allowed to stay with me the whole time or at all. There were volunteer escorts and they seemed prepared for protestors, but there were none (thank god) and we were able to come and go without being harassed. My boyfriend was allowed to sit with me in the waiting room and in discussions before the procedure, which calmed me down a lot.
The nurse who did my ultrasound and urinalysis was extremely nice and very straightforward/no-BS. She asked me about myself and told me that whatever I decided to do, that it would be OK and respected, but she would be honest about the pros/cons of each different procedure. She told me that the ultrasound indicated that I was actually closer to 9 weeks pregnant (not 1-2) and that my last 'period' was probably implantation bleeding or some other spotting. She told me that I was still eligible for a medication abortion, but it would be a lot more painful, drawn-out, and potentially traumatic since I was further along than I thought. Because I had eaten that morning, I couldn't receive general anesthetic for the surgical procedure but could do it with local injections. She recommended that I reschedule and go under for the surgical procedure to avoid feeling any discomfort, but that if I felt that I wanted to and could tolerate the pain of the procedure while awake that they would do it. I decided to get the surgical procedure that day and just suck it up; I didn't want to be pregnant anymore, at all, and I would just be brave and put up with the surgery.
I told my boyfriend and he was worried but relieved. He couldn't go with me into the surgical holding area, so he stayed in the waiting room while I changed into a gown/booties and waited with four or five other women for my turn. I had to keep my phone and clothes in a locker while I waited, so I don't know how long I was there, but it felt like three or four hours. I was really nervous, so I read two and a half huge fashion magazines (normally boring to me, but very interesting at this moment) to distract myself. I finally went into a room with the same nurse who did my ultrasound. She reassured me again and gave me the injections, letting me know when we were halfway and almost done. It was no more painful than a PAP-smear and for a hopeful second I thought she had actually completed the procedure, but it was just the anesthesia. I went back and waited for what felt like 20-30 minutes more for my surgery, and I worried that the injections might be wearing off. I was really anxious about the pain.
The surgeon and the nurse were also very sweet, and they asked me about my work and school and tried to keep me focused on small talk while they got ready for the suction. She told me that I could expect very strong cramping and pressure for 2-3 minutes and then cramping for fifteen minutes after that, and she did not sugarcoat that it would really suck for a little bit. I told them I understood and they started. She and the nurse kept talking to me throughout and I tried to talk through the pain, but after about a minute it was too much I couldn't keep talking and the nurse held my hand and helped me focus on my breathing instead. I kept trying to continue the conversation as much as I could bit by bit because I wanted to focus on anything else but how much it hurt. It was at least over quickly, and they brought me into the recovery room where I sat down for my vitals. I was still cramping a lot (but definitely not as intensely as during the suction) and was kind-of shaken up by the pain. I tried joking a little with the nurse but I started passing out in the chair and told her I was losing my vision. She gave me some smelling salts which worked shockingly quickly and my vision came back. She told me that for some people passing out is a normal reaction to intense pain. She gave me some ibuprofen and an ice pack and let me lie down until I felt better. After a few minutes the cramps died down and I stopped feeling so clammy and I ate some crackers and talked to the other women in the recovery room until I was released. It felt good talking to other women who were there for various reasons and who had just completed the same procedure that I had. When I was released, my boyfriend was outside waiting for me in his car. He stepped out to buy flowers and an Elmo cake, and he came out and gave me an enormous hug. I started crying again, but this time because I was relieved. I felt like I was myself again, like I had my body back and my life back again. I was glad I had the procedure right then and there and that I didn't have to go on being pregnant and feeling out of control of what was happening to my body and my emotions. I didn't want to wait even one more day for the general anesthetic. I took 2-3 minutes of the worst pain I've ever felt in exchange for peace of mind and agency over my life and certainty that I wouldn't ruin someone else's, and I'd do it again if I had to.
I feel so grateful and lucky that I was so supported throughout the process of my abortion, and that I don't feel embarrassed or ashamed. I have told most of my friends, all of whom have been understanding and supportive. I feel lucky that I was able to do this safely with medical professionals and that I was able to afford it. I am lucky that I am at a point in my life where I could end my pregnancy without having to discuss it with my family and deal with their unpredictable reactions or judgment. I am lucky that I can continue with my life and my career without worrying about whether or not I am messing up somebody's childhood. I understand that as far as this experience goes, it could have been so much worse, and I feel such a sense of gratitude and joy that it went the way it did.