I live in North Carolina, and I had an abortion. National attention of North Carolina and it’s current stance on abortion has been heart-breaking at best. I wish that those in the senate of North Carolina could know what I know about abortion. But because they aren’t listening to me, I hope you will. And that you’ll share with someone who shares with someone who can help shine a light on what abortion is truly about for women.
The night my partner and I made the choice to end my pregnancy was one of the scariest, most freeing, hardest, heaviest nights of my life. This decision wasn’t one either of us came to easily or without a lot of thought. I weighed my belief and faith against the reality of life and the decision at hand. I researched abortion options and read countless stories. I made an intentional point to know everything I could. And then I made an appointment for two days later. I was left with a couple of days to think over what was happening, what we were doing, the choice we made.
Both of us have kids from previous relationships and we are committed and involved parents to our respective children. We are not married, do not live together, and had no plans to do so. We both work and make life work, but there’s not a cushion for either of us. We believed and trusted in a birth control that didn’t prevent pregnancy for us. At first we immediately accepted this as how it was going to be, a baby. Neither of us ever believed we should be able to tell anyone else what to do with their body, but we also didn’t believe that abortion was a choice for us. However, after a few weeks of taking a realistic look at our life we knew this would not be the right thing for our families. We already have children who rely on us for every need, we knew what another child would cost the children we had. There was also the very real and serious concern of my health, I don’t tolerate pregnancy well, the idea of hospitalization or an emergency situation that could cost me my life was a real risk we had to weigh. There was so much that went in to this decision, it would be impossible to lay every detail out here. But this choice was never one made lightly, or because there was just a baby that no one wanted. I cried myself to sleep the night before the appointment, I remember whispering to my partner between breaths that I hoped no one would be there picketing, I didn’t think my heart could handle it.
In the morning we arrived at the clinic to the shouts of an older man screaming at me “with the ponytail.” He called me a murderer, screamed that I was killing one of God’s children, yelling at me that there were other options. I barely made it inside the clinic before sobbing. Breaking the uncomfortable silence of a waiting room full of couples and women sitting alone, I could barely stop long enough to tell the receptionist my name, and I buried my face into my partner’s shirt crying. My faith was clashing with my choice, and it was a difficult place to be. I wish I could have defended myself, tell this man that if there was more money in my bank account, more time in my day, less risks to my health… I wouldn’t be there. I wanted him to see that this choice was breaking me. I desperately wished he could have seen that this wasn’t simply the choice between black and white options.
We sat down in a section of mostly single women, I don’t even know which of us spoke first. But we started discussing why we had chosen surgical over non-surgical abortions. My partner muttered something about how surreal it was under his breath. Never in either of our lives did we think we would be sitting here, doing this. These women, four of us, weren’t stupid or uneducated. Three of us had children. One by one many of us had our names called and we headed back. I was so nervous the paperwork and questions are all a blur. I was sent back to a room filled with chairs covered in paper towels, we all sat in hospital gowns nervously fidgeting or blankly staring at the tv playing old movies. We waited and waited, the doctor was late. More women walked in. We weren’t allowed cell phones, our partners weren’t allowed back with us. We were alone, none of us happy to be there. Someone spoke, breaking the silence, and the room let out a breath. We were alone, but we needed someone. And for as long as we were waiting, we had each other. There were over 20 of us in that room together.
We talked about how we ended up there, our kids, our boyfriends or husbands. We talked about our parents, our faith, our jobs. These women weren’t stupid, naive, selfish. Many of the women had children, more than one. They were working or staying home to raise their kids. Many of them had been actively preventing pregnancy. Their birth control failed, they forgot to take it on time, the condom broke. The room was mostly filled with women over the age of 25, I would guess. Some maybe as old as 50. There was one girl who was clearly a teenager, I remember her coming in with her mom while we were in the waiting area. I didn’t get the feeling any of us were selfish women, I don’t think any of us really thought we’d be there.
We waited for hours together, I don’t remember any of their names but I could probably pick them out of a crowd. On one of the hardest and heaviest days of my life, they were my support system. They helped me accept that my choice didn’t make me a bad person, a horrible mother, a terrible girlfriend. I wasn’t a bad person, I was weighing my options and making the best choice for this place in life for the people in my life.
The details of the actual abortion I am not prepared to talk about. I will say it was not a pleasant experience, and unlike many of the stories I read I didn’t feel like the nurses by my side were there “for” me or to help me through it. I felt utterly alone, wondering why my partner couldn’t be there holding my hand while I cried. Why should a woman be doing such an emotionally difficult and physically painful thing, such as an abortion, and be forced to be alone? I wanted to see my partner so badly, I wanted to have someone I knew with me. I wanted to hear the voice of someone, to tell me that it was ok. But I was alone with strangers, listening to them talk about traffic and details of what was happening. I felt exposed and violated, so uncomfortable that I cried and shook as I was walked in to the “recovery room.” I saw some of the women from the waiting room and we no longer spoke. No one looked at another, being left alone to deal with the actual abortion seemed to have closed us off in those moments. I signed a paper that I was leaving early against medical advice, I needed my partner and to have someone care.
No matter how horribly difficult the experience was, how it changed me or the negative emotions I have about myself in the wake of this; I can’t truthfully say I regret my choice. I made an educated, mature, responsible decision for my children and our future. I am human, and have moments of “what if.” But I look at my children and I know that if I was forced to carry a pregnancy to as long as it naturally would last they would have paid the price. Whether that is because they would have a mom on bedrest or in a hospital (or possibly lost their mother), or because there would be too many mouths to feed and not enough food to feed them or children in need of attention without the time in the day to give it to each of them.
I do not believe that any woman wants to go through this, or that this is a preferred method of avoiding having (more) children. I do not believe that women that have abortions are murderers, or that they hate God and are all going to hell. The idea that a state will tell a woman that she must carry a pregnancy as long as nature intends is punishing women for their ability to get pregnant no matter the situation. It’s presuming to think that all women that get pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy are irresponsible or selfish. It’s forcing them to put their body, their children, their lives through something life changing with no choice.
I wish I was never in the position to have to make a choice, but I am relieved that I was able to go to a clinic and receive safe and legal care while ending the pregnancy. I am forever thankful for the women who were my support on a day when no one else could be. And I am grateful for every person who stands up for women’s right to choose.