I was 26 years old, living in New York City, newly engaged to a truly wonderful and supportive person, attending an Ivy League University, and about to embark on a world tour with my band, Au Revoir Simone.
I had no “reason” to have an abortion, right?
Well, the simple truth is that I wasn’t ready to choose motherhood.
Furthermore, it wasn’t a difficult decision.
So then I must be a callous, selfish, person, right?
Well, I certainly felt that way, and it was a really isolating and lonely feeling. I now realize it doesn't' need to be.
Here is how I got pregnant: I had been taking anti-malarial drugs during a trip to Peru, and they interfered with the efficacy of my birth control pills. My doctor never informed me that this could happen. But it did. My period was two weeks late, so I took a test, and was shocked to see the result. I cried. I panicked. My immediate thought was, “I need to get this out of me.”
At first, I did what most women do when they want an abortion: I googled “abortion” to find out more information. My searches yielded nothing but evangelical websites spouting vitriolic messages either urging me to “return to the path of righteousness” or equating me to “a coldblooded killer.” After being shamed and made to feel like a monster, all I wanted to do was keep my situation to myself. But I couldn’t. I had no choice but to tell my inner circle and hope that they didn’t judge me as harshly as the internet.
The first person I told was my fiancé, who was willing to support me no matter what, no questions asked. The second person I told was my mom, which was really scary. I was raised Catholic. Really Catholic—I had two priests in my family. I was afraid that my mom would judge me, or try to convince me to keep it. She did no such thing. She told me that she loved me and supported my decision, and would be with me during my abortion. Lastly, I told only a few of my closest girlfriends, mainly because I didn’t want them to be in the dark if I died in the process of having one.
I procured my abortion pill from Planned Parenthood. They made me feel like a human being. They didn’t ask me pushy questions about my life or force me to look at a sonogram to try and change my mind. They gave me the pill and the instructions, and told me to call if there were any complications.
My mom drove up from New Jersey the same day. To this day, I still don’t know if she identifies as pro-or anti-choice. I still don’t know if she morally approved of my decision—but the critical thing is that it didn’t matter. Her love for me was more important than her political and/or religious ideology. And when I think back to how she dutifully she cared for me that day, it brings tears to my eyes. I only can only imagine how afraid she was for me.
So I inserted the pill, and then my mom and I waited. And waited. And waited.
There was some minor bleeding, but not as much as I expected. I figured the lack of heavy bleeding was due to my only being a month pregnant. I went on with my life thinking that the pill had worked.
But again, I was too afraid to talk to anyone about my bloating and cramps because then I’d have to admit to having had an abortion. I told my friends I was too sick to go out, while I lay in bed at home, wondering what was wrong with me.
Eventually I called a gynecologist, who did a sonogram, and found that I had an incomplete abortion. She performed a vacuum aspiration, which was the most physically painful procedure of my life. I learned later that my doctor was supposed to give me anesthesia. Well, she didn’t—at least, not enough of it. I know of a few women who have had them post-miscarriages, and their experiences were completely different than mine.
After the vacuum aspiration, my body slowly returned to normal. I started going to an acupuncturist who specialized in women’s reproductive heath, which proved to be tremendously helpful and effective (I can give you her number). I also went off the pill, and decided to take charge of my fertility by learning about my how my basal temperature relates to ovulation. I’ve used fertility awareness since 2006, and haven’t become pregnant since (I can also tell you more about that if you want.)
My abortion story isn’t nearly as horrible as others out there, I’m sure of that. I feel lucky to have gone through it in a city where access to abortion is largely safe and convenient. I feel lucky to have had the unconditional support of those with whom I chose to share my experience. But when I look back at that time—nearly a decade ago—I still remember the loneliness and the shame more than anything. I told myself that “good girls” like me, from “good” religious families don’t get abortions because I bought into the stigma that by having one I was suddenly “bad.”
But there is no good or bad.
There are just lots of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of stories, and all kinds of reasons.
I stand with them.