“Towards the end of my senior year of high school, I had a casual encounter with a guy that was a little older than me. One thing led to the another and we ended up having sex. In the past, I have always tried my best to be safe and careful. I was on the pill throughout my sophomore and junior year (but had to go off it due to hormonal imbalances) and would never have sex without a condom. But this time, I wasn’t being careful.
Nearly five weeks after, I began to take notice that I hadn’t gotten my period in so long that I couldn’t even remember the last time I did. It wasn’t unusual for me to have fluctuating cycles so I figured it would be fine. I waited it out a few days and noticed a mild case of spotting and slight odor sensitivity which alarmed me as it either meant I was about to get my period or something else was going on as the blood did not look like regular period blood. I then took a home pregnancy test and that’s when found out I was pregnant, two purple lines across the stick.
I immediately had a breakdown and had no idea what to do. I cried and paced around my room for two days. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think. Coming from a strong Catholic upbringing, abortions were very taboo and often preached at church as a sin which went against all religious morals. Although I do have a pro-choice stance, I never thought of it as a decision I would ever have to make. No woman ever does and no woman ever wants to.
A few days after I found out I was pregnant and began to settle down, I told the guy I had conceived with. I told him that I was weighing out my options and I wasn’t closed to the idea of having an abortion. He immediately pushed for that decision and told me that I would have to get it done. He said I had no other choice to make as having a child now would ruin both of our futures.
At this particular point, I agreed with him and thought the same as I was just about to graduate high school and have very big plans for my future. I’m only 18 and he is 22 so clearly the fact that we are very young and had no means or preparation for taking care of a child, the practical challenges really served a big part and possibly the only reason for me to get the abortion done. Even when leaning towards getting the abortion, I knew something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t 100% okay and comfortable with it. I thought if I had more time to think it through, maybe I would’ve been okay with it but I didn’t and couldn’t get past all the turmoil I was feeling.
I turned to a few close friends and family, including my mom, for guidance and support. My mom was very disappointed to say the least, as any parent would be, and she yelled at me for hours. She eventually came around and helped me. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and discussions. The final decision made was to get the abortion done, even though I wasn’t completely okay with it, I just had to.
Having very limited knowledge on what exactly happens at an abortion appointment and I don’t know anyone personally who has ever had an abortion, I was going in blind and terrified. I went into my two appointments alone and cried pretty much the entire time through. During the first appointment, they tested my blood along with a bunch of other test procedures and consultations. When it was time for the abortion during the second appointment, choosing the surgical procedure, I changed into a hospital gown and was given a combination of pills to prepare me for the procedure.
They made me stay in a private waiting room with two other girls who were also there to get their abortions done. These girls were the sweetest and the three of us got to talk and reassure each other that it was going to be okay. The nurse called my name, brought me into another room and made me lay down. At this point, I felt the medication kicking in and was slightly lightheaded.
The clinician then explained to me what was going to happen before we started. Basically, how the in-clinic abortion works is by sticking a thin tube-like instrument up your Cervix and then it sucks out the premature baby in clusters. The procedure itself went by really quick, around 5 to 10 minutes, and then I rested and bled out for about an hour.
I went back home after that and rested for the next couple of days. Physically, I recovered pretty quickly and was able to return to everyday routines around a week after. But the real price to pay for my decision was the emotional turmoil that followed. The consequences of our choices never quite hit us the way you’d think they would. Especially in the case of choosing to terminate a pregnancy.
Denial first and foremost, before even getting an abortion, I had to find out and deal with the fact that I was pregnant. An unwanted and unplanned teen pregnancy. The ultimate shame and biggest mistake brought upon teenage girls like myself. After I saw those two lines on the home pregnancy test, I took two more just to be sure. I remember just balling my eyes out after each test read positive. At 18 and a few weeks away from graduating high school, I was nowhere near ready to be a mother. Although the guy I had conceived with was a good guy, there was no way a co-parenting situation was going to work out between us. I had a breakdown and was in flat out shock that I was pregnant, not because I didn’t know what I did wrong - I had unprotected sex - but because I just never thought my carelessness would catch up to me and I thought how bad could it be? I’ve been careful before. I just wanted to believe that my pregnancy wasn’t real.
This kind of attitude I had towards the pregnancy carried out into getting the abortion. I just tried my best to act like nothing had happened and not acknowledge all the emotions I bottled up. The most I would do was try to talk about it without acknowledging the weight and seriousness of what I had gone through. I just thought, women have abortions all the time, why should I stress about it? And it worked out at the beginning. But what I didn’t realize was that I was bottling so many emotions in so deep and they eventually overflowed and caught up to me. This is when I started getting the worst flashbacks. Almost as if because I had been ignoring the situation entirely that I had to be reminded of what happened by living through it over and over again.
Grief having a pro-choice view on abortions, I understood that the embryo I was carrying was not a full grown baby. However when finding out I was pregnant, there’s no way to stop the constant what ifs and maternal instincts from taking over. I knew deep inside that in world where I had better circumstances, I wanted to keep the child. At one point, I even thought of names and how I was going to raise him/her. You can even say I was slightly excited to be a mother for a minute. I’ve always looked forward to becoming a mother in the future. I knew being a single mom was going to be tough but at the end of the day, the child was going to be a blessing.
However, the situation, challenges and hardships I would have to face were just too much to handle and I was under no conditions to raise a child. When the decision came down to getting the abortion done, I hadn’t quite let go of the maternal attachment and all the optimism I had for raising my baby. It was going to be my child and I was going to be more than willing to protect it with my life. With the practical challenges in the way, I was not ready to be mother and I could not provide the best life for my baby.
Going through with the abortion was tough and thinking about my decision after was even tougher. I couldn't help but feel like I had lost something or someone so dear to me. It was this thing or life inside of me that solely relied on me to take care of it and I failed to do so. I struggled with validating my feelings of grief because, in reality, I chose the outcome. Instead placing the blame on myself for my mistakes and my choices. I still have reoccurring thoughts of how I could’ve chosen differently. But I’m slowly starting to go through the process of mourning the loss of my baby and asking for his/her forgiveness.
I got a tattoo of a baby angel to remind me of what I’ve lost and gone through but to also to reassure me that even though I chose not to have the child, that my baby will always be with me, watching over me and hopefully, will forgive me. Forgiveness as the idea of forgiveness often is associated with relief, the path to truly being able to forgive and be forgiven is far from smooth sailing. Being completely honest, I haven’t quite reached the point wherein I can say that I've found peace through all this. However, what I’ve learned so far is that the journey to recovering from this emotionally has a lot to do with acceptance, growth and rebuilding myself.
Accepting that I was careless and how I let the heat of the moment slip was the first step. I can never change that but what I can change is how I will handle and prioritize my reproductive health in the future. When it comes to accepting my pregnancy and, ultimately, my decision to not have the child, the process of healing had a lot to do with coming to terms with the situation but what it came down to was finding the will to forgive myself and not fall into a path of bringing myself down and devaluing my worth as woman and as a person.
Realizing that the effect this had on my mental health was that I began to see myself only in the light of my mistakes. In order to forgive myself, it is going to take a lot of reflecting and reassurance that I am not my mistakes. Although our choices collectively make us who we are, I can’t define who I am based upon the shame, guilt and turmoil I have single-handedly place upon myself. Support this is a point I can’t stress enough. It is super important to have a loving support system when going through tough times. For some people, they think of an abortion as one of the best decisions they’ve made in their lives and have no trouble with it afterwards. As this clearly wasn’t the case for me, I needed the help of people close to me.
However, I wasn't so keen on reaching out to loved ones as I felt the weight and burden of my situation that I didn't want to pass on to others. It also didn't help that the fear of being judge or shamed was something always running at the back of my mind. Ultimately, I knew this wasn’t something I could go through alone as the guilt and internal conflict had just been eating me up. I started by reaching out to support groups online wherein I was able to join forums with other women who shared their own abortion experiences and how they got through it. I was able to receive really helpful advice and relieve myself of the shame surrounding what I had gone through. I will probably never meet these women in person but I have no idea what I would’ve done if I never reached out to them. When I became comfortable with talking about it, I started reaching out to a few close friends and family.
These were probably the first few moments wherein I felt that things were going to be truly and deeply okay. I am so blessed to have the close friends and family I have and they reinforce the love needed to get through this. And a big thank you to all the women out there online who have helped me, been there for me and talked me through the healing process. We may not know each other personally, but some of them have become some of the most important people in my life. Life after an abortion Everyone tells you that part of being an adult is making very tough decisions in life, but I never quite understood the magnitude of what that meant until I was faced with the consequences of by far one of the toughest personal experiences I’ve had to go through.
At the age of eighteen, I wasn’t ready to face any of this. At any age really, no woman is ever ready to face any of this. Getting an abortion is not something that is typically called a life changing experience but not only is it the toughest and scariest to go through, it did mark a very significant point in my life. It’s easy to think of it as just a decision I had to make for my future based on my present circumstances but it’s hard to ignore the realities of how this impacted everything I see and do from here on out.
Will I be able to be intimate again without the mind crippling anxiety and flashbacks? How will this affect me in the future when I’m ready to have children? I still struggle with a lot of unanswered questions. Yes, I will heal. Yes, I will cry about it again. Yes, I will learn. I will never stop going over this time in my life again and again and again. And I will never be able to say that I am truly ‘okay’. But I hope I am wrong about the latter. Through this and the time and space I am giving myself to find peace, I know deep in my heart that I’m doing my best to get through this.
Even after everything that has happened, I still have a very pro-choice stance on reproductive rights. Although this was and is a very conflicted experience for me and I will never not have reoccurring feelings of regret, I understand that every woman’s experiences and circumstances vary on different terms and there is no one-situation-fits-all when going through with an abortion. Every woman’s story is different and each woman should still have the right to choose what happens to her body and her life and be respected through the process. And I hope to one day draw enough strength from my own experience to help other women go through what I am going through. And a reminder to all the women out there, you have the right to choose, express and do what you feel is right for you.” —Gabrielle