Mine is not a story of regret but of relief...

"There are so many stories of regret here. Mine is not a story of regret but of relief, and of gratitude. To this day, I am grateful that I had a choice. Don't get me wrong, it's not to say that I didn't struggle, that I didn't second guess, that I didn't agonize over the decision. This is my story...

I had been in an abusive and co-dependent 'relationship' for 5 years. It was on again off again, at the time I knew it was slowly killing my self esteem and seeping away every last ounce of my confidence, but I struggled to leave - first love and infatuation are sometimes too easily confused, and completely intoxicating. I left all my good sense behind. I compromised who I was.

At the end of April 2005 I was finishing university, I had an anxiety attack and found myself sobbing in the women's washroom paralyzed and unable to deliver the final presentation that was required for me to graduate. I skip the presentation. I fail the class. I don't graduate. I am pregnant. I am all alone. Although, my good friends quickly turn the car around on their weekend camping trip when I make the call. They bring m&m’s because, well, they don't know what else to do. Honestly, neither do I. M&M’s are, seemingly, the logical response.

I have a choice to make. I call the potential father to be. "We need talk" (because what else are you supposed to say in these situations). Ironically, he will later tell me he was in the middle of watching a 'teen mom' marathon. "So sorry to interrupt". He sees 3 pregnant women on the way over. He knows before I tell him. My mind was made up before he arrived. I will have an abortion. Why? I can't afford a child. I don't want a child at 22. I have plans to move across the country. I have dreams of a career with an international organization. Motherhood is not for me. At least not right now.

And, if I'm telling the complete truth... a seed of doubt was continuing to grow, I didn't want to be connected to this man for life in a 'parental' capacity. And maybe not even in any capacity at all. This was all in the back of my mind, as this man re-affirmed my decision: his response to my 'announcement'.... "I'm supposed to fly to Thailand for 10 weeks. Do you need me to stay for the appointment?" I say no. I should have said yes. But I felt I shouldn't have had to ask.

My appointment is in a month, and between now and then - he sees my pain, and my need for support. Whether it's a call when I'm crying on a corner in the middle of the night where he comes and sits with me in front of a gas station, but doesn't ask me if I need to go to his place a block away. When he meets me for breakfast and I faint. When all of my support system - good friends, and family, move across the country for work during the summer and I'm left with no one. When I move my apartment to live with strangers, and try to be subtle when I throw up every morning in the bathroom. Instead, he brings me along to help him plan for his trip, and buy supplies. He leaves, and he never speaks to me again. This is the first time that I truly understand how differently men and women experience life.

Eventually, I put in a call to the support system I can always count on - my mom. I have no intention to tell her. I don't want to disappoint, so I say - I need to come home for a while, I can't explain. It takes 3 days before I crack. "Mom, I'm getting an abortion" tears streaming down my face. Tears streaming down her face, she says "Can I tell you something, that you can't share with your stepfather, I had an abortion. In the first 3 months when I started dating your Dad." I'm grateful that I told her, that I will have an ally when I need to march into that clinic next week.

The day of my appointment my mom wakes me up early. She shows me an article in the paper 'National Anti-Abortion Day: 100,000's protesting on parliament hill". I am police escorted into the clinic. A picture of an aborted fetus is shoved in my face. I am crying. But I still know that I am making the right choice. I cry the entire time in the waiting room. You can know that you're making the right choice and still be sad. It is hard. It is ok. I cry even harder when I have to decide to check the box that indicates 'yes' or 'no': Do I want to find out if it's twins? I've always wanted twins. They give me drugs to calm me. It's all a blur. Except for the nurse squeezing my hand. I am so grateful for that stranger's reassuring grip. Two squeezes. It's over. Ushered into a recovery room. The tears I'm crying now, are tears of relief. Gratitude floods me. For the first time I look around - this clinic is clearly underfunded, I'm sure the doctors and nurses are paid very little. But they just gave me something priceless back - freedom, agency, choice, and control over my future. Thank You.

You'd think it's over. But there is one more instance worth mentioning... When I'm waiting to be picked up by my mother, I go to the Fast Food restaurant below the clinic. The protesters have dissipated, and I need something to eat. I still have a ball of cotton taped to the crook of my arm where they put in the IV. As I wait in line, I see three girls, about my age, whispering to one another. One girl approaches. She gestures to my arm. "You should take that off, people know about the clinic upstairs...." I'm sure she meant it with the best of intentions. I turned to her and say: "People should know about the clinic upstairs, and there is no shame in exercising choice". My own words catch me by surprise. I keep the bandage on." —anonymous

#gratitude #protesters #relief #unhealthyrelationship

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