What It’s Really Like To Have An Abortion

No amount of sex education prepares you for that trapped feeling. That constant cloud of concern over your head as you get further and further away from when your period should have come.  You can deny it for a while—“Maybe it’s just late, I’ve always been irregular, it’ll come soon.” And then when it doesn’t, you panic.

You buy a pregnancy test. You buy two, just to be certain, because zany feel-good comedies tell you those things fail all the time. You smile sheepishly at the drugstore clerk who double-bags your purchase, telling you “That’s the best I can do.” You try not to feel the sting of her pity. You’ve been there before.  Every month since you started having sex you have rejoiced the monthly inconvenience of your period and watched TV shows about teenagers getting pregnant, thinking to yourself “at least it’s not me.” It’s you now.

Taking the test is like preparing for a funeral. Everyone always tells you that sex changes things, that it’s the death of your innocence and you can never take it back. Sitting there staring at that pee-soaked stick, you know they were lying to you. This is the loss of that innocence. You feel damaged, dirty, nauseated. Nothing will ever be the same after those lines appear. Two, of course, and not one.

The first test, of course, turns out ambiguous. Is that a second line? Is it just the shadow of one? You aren’t quite sure. You down a bottle of Coke, you watch a movie that ends far too quickly, you take the second test. It is not ambiguous. That second line is staring you down, decisive and willfully triumphant.

The walls of the already-tiny college apartment start to close in. You feel like you are being squeezed into the space between those two lines. How ironic, that those two lines represent the two solid options you have before you. Option A and Option B. For a moment, you have to chuckle masochistically at how perfectly fitting those letters are.

The person sitting beside you—your significant other—is already crying. They are religious. They think this is a baby. You are exhausted before the conversation you must have even starts.

The next morning you make the call you know you have to make. You cry a lot.  You don’t go to class for three days and you stare blankly at The Food Network and sleep. You empty your bank account. You wake up in the middle of the night the night before and find your significant other in the next room, lying on the floor, talking to his mother on the phone, trying to find solace in her promise that they aren’t going to Hell. You wish someone were there to make you that promise.

You sit at seven thirty the next morning in a waiting room that makes no attempt to be cheerful or reassuring. You are numb and exhausted because you cannot sleep enough right now. Everything feels white.

Your significant other will turn to you, while you are sick and shaking and scared as hell in that waiting room, and they will say to you, “Let’s just keep it.” And you feel the most mournful weight you have ever felt because you have to look at them and tell them that you can’t, you just can’t.

No one tells you how it feels. How the waiting feels, like endless time. No one tells you that you will lie there, totally open, totally lost, and that it will hurt. It will hurt like you are having your intestines sucked out with a garden hose and you will cry, at first in pain, and then in relief. You will erase all of those thoughts you had for the past week. All of the fear, and the thoughts of an alternate path that no longer sits, unmoving, in front of you. You no longer have to worry about screwing up a whole bunch of people’s lives, especially that of some innocent being that came about in the most unintentional and resented way possible. You will cry, momentarily, for that second option. And then you will cry because everything can go back to normal.

Nothing goes back to normal. Your significant other will grow distant afterward, they won’t touch you. You will wonder, and you will be relieved, and you will not regret.  And you wonder if you should. You regret not regretting, because you should, shouldn’t you? TC mark

image – Ernest Andrade

More From Thought Catalog

  • Jess

    I don’t even know what to say about this.

  • Fitting

  • Sstramag

    This. All of this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68101821 Dana Leader

    So this is brilliant except that your SO on the floor isn’t a “they”, it’s a “he”. If you’re the one with the test and drinking the soda, the other person is a boy. Just saying. The “They” threw me out of the story, which sucks because otherwise it was well written.

    • Jess

      no i like the they because the story isn’t theirs, it’s hers. this is how she is feeling, the story isn’t really about him at all.

      • http://twitter.com/leslieps918 Leslie Palma-Simonce

        How could it possibly not be his story, as well as hers? It was his baby too. She might not regret the abortion, but he does.

      • Jess

        I just mean that this post is her sharing her side. Yes the abortion was his story too but this story being told is only hers.

      • spinflux

        He didn’t have the abortion so he has no abortion to regret. And it isn’t a baby, it’s a zygote, or fetus, until it passes naturally through the birth canal, after which it becomes an infant.

        Just saying.

      • RH

        I don’t disagree, but wonder if you have any biological or existential argument for asserting that ‘passing through the birth canal’ elevates the status of a fetus to something ‘more human.’ I have never heard a compelling argument. We seem to consider pre-term babies delivered via cesarean section to be human.

      • spinflux

        Right, I apologize. I read up the specific medical terms for the stages of pregnancy and birth.  To me it’s a baby, or infant, when the gestation period ends,  your body starts to go into labor. bringing forth a viable human. Methods of delivery vary so widely, I am not sure they are a factor in defining it medically. Btw, I only bothered looking it up because I’ve always been weirded out by the anti-choice folks’ use of the term “unborn child”. It sounds … too paranormal. There is no such thing as an “unborn” child. We have to be born before we can be a child. A person can’t skip that important step.  This is also why abortions are not “killing babies”. Else every time an abortion occurred, we’d have to file a report at the homicide department of the local police station. 

        Sorry for the novella of a reply that didn’t really say anything new.

      • spinflux

        Right, I apologize. I read up the specific medical terms for the stages of pregnancy and birth.  To me it’s a baby, or infant, when the gestation period ends,  your body starts to go into labor. bringing forth a viable human. Methods of delivery vary so widely, I am not sure they are a factor in defining it medically. Btw, I only bothered looking it up because I’ve always been weirded out by the anti-choice folks’ use of the term “unborn child”. It sounds … too paranormal. There is no such thing as an “unborn” child. We have to be born before we can be a child. A person can’t skip that important step.  This is also why abortions are not “killing babies”. Else every time an abortion occurred, we’d have to file a report at the homicide department of the local police station. 

        Sorry for the novella of a reply that didn’t really say anything new.

      • RH

        I feel like that’s a legitimate argument, thanks for the reply.

      • Anonymous

         “We have to be born before we can be a child.”

        That is patently false, and a simple DNA test would prove as much. Abortion isn’t “killing babies” because what we would commonly refer to as a “baby” is a human being in the infant stage of development. What abortion IS, however, is killing a living, gestating human being who is the biological child of the pregnant woman obtaining the abortion and her partner. Eventually, every time an abortion is carried out, hopefully one day due respect will be given to the very real life taken and a homicide report will need to be filed.

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • Anonymous

        1.) Not a “clump of cells”. We are talking about a new living human organism with organized structures, their own gender, and their own DNA, which brings me to point two, 2.) THEIR OWN DNA. Your arm is a structure of your body. The DNA in the cells shows that. A DNA test would also show the gestating human being (which is a factually accurate definition of us from conception onward, “a living organism of homo sapiens” is a human being) is their own new and living organism.

        If you want to compare your arm to a gestating human organism…then what body part of my mothers AM I, exactly? Please be specific.

      • Jazmine

        Depending on when the abortion is obtained, it IS a “clump of cells.” It is not a human organism. It is “a one-celled entity called a zygote” (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research). This zygote will be a cluster of cells resembling a raspberry (Mayo). This zygote then develops over time into a fetus. The debate on when a fetus is considered a “human being” is still going on, but personally, I think that during the first trimester (which is when most abortions take place) the woman’s rights as an already existing human being outweighs the “rights” of something that is still debatable on whether it is a human being or not. Now, looking away from the science of pregnancy and looking instead towards the history of abortion you will find that abortion rights in the past have been taken away not because it was ‘morally wrong” or “dangerous” or even “sinful in the eyes of religion.” No, it was taken away or otherwise restricted to control women. Women that were stuck at home taking care of the house and children could not go out and get such basic rights as the right to vote or to get a job outside the house. Abortions were restricted especially to make it difficult for midwives to practice their skills. They were the biggest competition for doctors (who were largely male). Making abortion illegal will not reduce the amount of abortions obtained. It has been shown by looking at abortion rates now and abortion rates in the past when it was illegal that rates now are actually less than they were then. Meaning that more abortions were performed when it was an illegal medical procedure compared to now when it is legal. Desperate women will go to great lengths to get an abortion which can lead to their own deaths or severe injury. There are several situations in which a woman would find herself pregnant and need an abortion, where options like adoption are not available. Take for instance my mother who got pregnant at 16. She grew up with highly abusive parents (alcoholics, mentally unstable, sexually and emotionally and physically abusive), so she could not talk to them about the problem. She could not support herself and neither would the father have been able to. What do you expect her to do? Keep the child while getting abused by her parents (beat daily), causing damage to the fetus as well as herself? Birth the child not being able to pay for the medical bills let alone be able to pay to keep the child safe and healthy as it grows up? Your solution would be adoption correct? If the child had survived the abuse during the pregnancy I’m sure my grandparents would have loved to help my mother set the baby up for adoption. Would you have suggested that my mother get out of the abusive situation? Do you know how hard that is? In the end, my mother’s decision to abort the pregnancy was for the best. She was able to get through high school long enough for her to be able to drop out, move away from her nasty home life, get a job, travel across the country, meet amazing people, and eventually have me. This is just one situation. There are many different reasons for women to get abortions and no one should judge their decision unless you are in their situation looking at it from their perspective.

      • Ana

        You need to read up on human development.  A human fetus is only referred to as a “zygote” for a few days after conception.  The fetus rapidly forms into a “blastocyst”, then At 3 weeks past gestation, that “clump of cells” has a beating heart.  That fetus can no more be referred to as a “clump of cells” than you can. 

        Most women don’t even KNOW they’re pregnant until they’ve missed a period, normally 5-8 weeks.  I’m not aware of any “zygote” or “blastocyst” that has ever been aborted…it’s simply too early to even get a positive pregnancy test at that point.

        Fetuses are aborted my dear.  Not zygotes or blastocysts.  Humans that are well on their way to being fully formed and capable of life outside the womb. 
        Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm

      • Jazmine

        If you had actually read my comment rather than skimming over it, you would have seen that said “This zygote then develops over time into a fetus. The debate on when a fetus is considered a “human being” is still going on, but personally, I think that during the first trimester (which is when most abortions take place) the woman’s rights as an already existing human being outweighs the “rights” of something that is still debatable on whether it is a human being or not.” I obviously know that abortions are not obtained normally during the zygote period, but it is a fetus. Again, a woman’s pre-existing rights outweighs the “rights” of a non-existent developing fetus. It’s not a person anymore than a nut is a tree.

      • Ana

        And in response to what your mother should have done, I would have referred her to a safe house.  I doubt the abortionist reported the abuse even though he/she was a mandated reporter.  I would have made sure your mother was in a safe place, then reported her parents to Child Protective Services.  I would have supported your mother all throughout her pregnancy by locating the MANY resources that are out there for her.  Her abortionist just threw her back out on to the cold hard street to fend for herself.  Me and my kind would have NEVER done that.  We would have loved your mother and taken care of her, giving her a safe environment to have her child in whether she wanted to be a single parent or place the baby for adoption.  Either choice is a more loving choice than ending a life.

      • Jazmine

        And you have no idea what my mother went through. There are not always safe houses around for people being abused. There are not MANY resources. There are MANY resources in some places and for some situations and in others there is NOTHING to be done. My mother did the best she could do. If there was any other way, she would have done it. She’s not a stupid woman. She actually has a genius level IQ. She weighed the pros and cons of every decision she made when it came to how she was going to get out of her abusive home life. And I never said the the child was her abuser’s. She never told me who’s it was, but my mother was emotionally scarred and tended to sleep around rather a lot to numb the pain of her crappy life. You make it sound like the abortionist is some cold-hearted creature who is incapable of caring about the people he/she helps. I can guarantee that her abortionist did not know about the abuse because my mother told so few people so you cannot blame the person that performed the abortion on the fact that my mother wasn’t put in Child Protective Services (which btw, aren’t always better than the situation the child is originally in. A lot of the time it’s worse). My mother was not capable of being a mother at the time she had an abortion. And it wasn’t just because she was being abused. She was an alcoholic and a drug addict for years. She was not emotionally or mentally prepared for for the ordeal of birth and motherhood. No one should be forced to go through that. THAT is why abortions are such a fantastic gift to the human race. Abortions are around so that people, anyone, whether they are abused alcohols who get knocked up or businesswomen who just don’t ever want kids, don’t have to have them. She didn’t want to be a single parent. She didn’t want to give it up for adoption. She just didn’t want it. Period. And honestly, I’m very happy my mother had an abortion because if she hadn’t her life would not have turned out as well as it did, the child’s life would have been terrible, and I wouldn’t exist. So thank goodness that she got rid of that fetus when she did.

      • Anonymous

        1.) Not a “clump of cells”. We are talking about a new living human organism with organized structures, their own gender, and their own DNA, which brings me to point two, 2.) THEIR OWN DNA. Your arm is a structure of your body. The DNA in the cells shows that. A DNA test would also show the gestating human being (which is a factually accurate definition of us from conception onward, “a living organism of homo sapiens” is a human being) is their own new and living organism.

        If you want to compare your arm to a gestating human organism…then what body part of my mothers AM I, exactly? Please be specific.

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        A clump of cells is not a human being. It might be living, but it is not a person. My arm is living, doesn’t make it a human being. 

      • spinflux

        Right, I apologize. I read up the specific medical terms for the stages of pregnancy and birth.  To me it’s a baby, or infant, when the gestation period ends,  your body starts to go into labor. bringing forth a viable human. Methods of delivery vary so widely, I am not sure they are a factor in defining it medically. Btw, I only bothered looking it up because I’ve always been weirded out by the anti-choice folks’ use of the term “unborn child”. It sounds … too paranormal. There is no such thing as an “unborn” child. We have to be born before we can be a child. A person can’t skip that important step.  This is also why abortions are not “killing babies”. Else every time an abortion occurred, we’d have to file a report at the homicide department of the local police station. 

        Sorry for the novella of a reply that didn’t really say anything new.

      • Jazmine

        It’s not his story. He was not the one making the decision. He was not the one carrying the fetus. He was not the one in the clinic waiting for the abortion to happen. He was not the one that went through the abortion. It’s not his story. It is definitely, 100% the woman’s story.

      • http://twitter.com/leslieps918 Leslie Palma-Simonce

        How could it possibly not be his story, as well as hers? It was his baby too. She might not regret the abortion, but he does.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chptung Chris Tung

    Brilliant. And that final question is perfection.

  • jamie

    beautiful.

  • Kristina

    I love this. I really love this.

  • P.C.R

    wow…
    i had an abortion 5 years ago, i was 16. No one but close friends and my ex partner knows about it. the real secret of it all was that the baby was not his, we had broken up and during that break I had sexual intercourse with a guy i had real feelings for, but was too attached to the destructive, abusive relationship i had. For many reasons, one of the main one was fear, of telling my abusive ex it wasn’t even his, my parents, etc etc i had the abortion. It was the most painful 3 months of my life. I love kids, even then i did.  I would’ve been a young mother, but I am sure my family would’ve supported me. I was so alone, my friends were on vacation, all i had was the one that thought was the father, telling me what a horrible person i was for thinking about abortion. It was a hard, hard and painful decision, and very long process, court, lawyers, etc etc because it had to be done without my parents knowing. This kind of put my heart at ease. I never really spoke about it, and i tell everyone i had a miscarriage . I never thought anyone would understand that this is not an easy decision and that I do have a heart that at times grieves for my little baby. But I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. 

  • womp

    Thank you. 4 years later I still feel excruciatingly alone, but this takes away a little of that pain.

  • SOYUNPERDIDOR

    I was hoping this would be insightful and interesting but really couldn’t take it seriously after reading all those paragraphs that began with ‘you’ in each sentence and ended with ‘zzzzzzzzz wtf did ryan write this?’
    UGH

    • Strange Friend

      Notorious abuse of the second person going on on this site.

  • Jillypants

    thank you for sharing. i loved reading this. 

  • http://twitter.com/tashny Tashny Sukumaran

    your SO sounds. idk. not likable.  am probably projecting.

    • Minnie

      i disagree…while the SO doesn’t sound like the ideal partner, it’s a nervous time for them as well. and they feel helpless because at the end of the day they know it’s not their decision to make. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for being so brave.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for being so brave.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for being so brave.

  • ANONYMOUS

    I admire you for being brave enough to talk about something that was so emotional for you. I just want to say though, that I had an abortion this past April and it was not even close to this heart-wrenching. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the guy whose tiny zygote it was or that I am a cold-hearted girl, but it isn’t this upsetting for some girls. Just saying that for the future girl who thinks she’s going to have a nervous breakdown and never get over it. I am totally happy with my decision and have never regretted it.

    • your cousin

      Great point. It wasn’t that bad for us either. A little depressing, maybe, because why aren’t we at places in our lives where we could handle a baby? but not the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened. And I got a free IUD out of it.

      • buff

        a free iud? really? thats not even funny.

      • your cousin

        Yes, a free IUD.

  • ANONYMOUS

    I admire you for being brave enough to talk about something that was so emotional for you. I just want to say though, that I had an abortion this past April and it was not even close to this heart-wrenching. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the guy whose tiny zygote it was or that I am a cold-hearted girl, but it isn’t this upsetting for some girls. Just saying that for the future girl who thinks she’s going to have a nervous breakdown and never get over it. I am totally happy with my decision and have never regretted it.

  • Britt

    Time to find a more supportive partner. That guy sounds like a weener.
    Been through this situation myself – and if anything it made our relationship stronger.

    Also, it shouldn’t hurt that much. They drug you for a reason.

  • Britt

    Time to find a more supportive partner. That guy sounds like a weener.
    Been through this situation myself – and if anything it made our relationship stronger.

    Also, it shouldn’t hurt that much. They drug you for a reason.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Enjoyed the premise of this piece, though not the way it was delivered. Still, kudos for not caving on the “let’s keep it” front – if this happened, which it might not have.

  • Christinan06

    this is a very tough, taboo topic to discuss. especially with the audience that so often reads this website. but you handled the subject matter beautifully. i dont think its possible for anyone to comment negatively about your article, let alone this situation. its your own personal experience, no one elses. kudos for being so brave.

  • Christinan06

    this is a very tough, taboo topic to discuss. especially with the audience that so often reads this website. but you handled the subject matter beautifully. i dont think its possible for anyone to comment negatively about your article, let alone this situation. its your own personal experience, no one elses. kudos for being so brave.

  • http://twitter.com/OneWu2 Lina

    Amazing writing for such a complex topic

  • http://twitter.com/OneWu2 Lina

    Amazing writing for such a complex topic

  • http://twitter.com/OneWu2 Lina

    Amazing writing for such a complex topic

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