Sometime in late December: you and your boyfriend of almost a year are about to have sex. You realize you missed your pill yesterday — but don’t worry about it, because you didn’t have sex yesterday. Take two pills, swear it’s gonna be fine even though he hesitates, have sex. Let him cum inside you because that’s normal for you guys. (You don’t find out until weeks later that you’re apparently more fertile after one missed pill than if you weren’t on the pill at all. Use backup birth control for at least a week after a missed pill, for real.)
Wednesday, January 8: It’s time for you to get your period. You’re on a detox diet where you’re not drinking for 6 weeks (until your 23rd Birthday) and you have been drinking a ton of green smoothies. Digestion is working OVERTIME. Notice some blood when you wipe after a serious business bowel movement. Assume it’s your period and put in a tampon. Later on in the day go to change it and notice there’s no blood on it. Also notice you haven’t had any cramps, which are normally brutal, and your breasts feel… different. Bigger isn’t the right word — maybe fuller? You almost text your friends about it, but you freak out that you might be pregnant for no good reason so frequently they’re probably sick of it, so you don’t. Still no sign. Tell yourself if you don’t get your period tomorrow you’ll buy a test.
Thursday, January 9, 5:30p.m.: Nothing. You sneak a package of pregnancy tests from the nurses’ office at work. You don’t have anything to stash it in so you go into the bathroom that is right off the office. Take a test. Notice very quickly that it’s positive. Freak out a little. Take a picture of it and send it to your four closest friends along with the caption “I’m pregnant. I’m not fucking around.” Freak out a little, but don’t lose it. Cryptically text your older sister, “Call me.”
Thursday, January 9, 6:00p.m.: Take a call from your sister out in the car. Break down and cry. She’s calming and talks to you about her friend who this happened to last year and sends you her number in case you want to reach out. Recompose yourself enough to finish your shift. Receive comfort from all friends, hear that it may be a false positive due to birth control still being in your system.
Thursday, January 9, 9:00p.m.: Go over to your boyfriend’s as you all had planned. Two of his friends are over watching the most ridiculous movie, literally of all time. Seriously. It’s called “Hard Ticket to Hawaii.” Google it. Go upstairs and take the other test. It’s also positive. Compose yourself. Go downstairs and watch the movie with your boyfriend and his friends. Laugh. Act normal. Your friend says “How are you not freakin?” Respond, “If I act like it’s a big deal, it’ll feel like it’s a big, shitty deal. I can take care of it.”
Thursday, January 9, 10:00p.m.: Pray for his friends to please not make small talk after the movie ends. They’re out within a couple minutes. He jokes with you, “Wanna get freaky?” Respond, “Uhh — I need to talk to you.” He immediately asks, “Are you pregnant?” Start tearing up and tell him “I took two tests. They’re both positive.” Go into his room. Try to stay calm but you can’t help but cry. Mention that it’s a very solvable problem and you’re both going to be okay. He seems very worried. When you ask what he’s thinking he says, “I don’t want a baby.” Remind him you’re not having a baby. Tell him your plan is to go to a clinic tomorrow and talk to your Mom while your Dad plays golf on Saturday. You mention if it’s anything expensive they’ll help. He says he doesn’t want them to pay for it. He says he doesn’t want them to know. Understand why. Tell him you’re worried it will affect your relationship and have him tell you it won’t. Promise him over and over it will be okay and will be taken care of within a matter of days. Turn something mindless on TV and fall asleep in each other’s arms.
Friday, January 10, 5:00a.m.: Wake up. Remind yourself it’s not a dream. You know you’re not sleeping anymore. Check your phone for facts. Planned Parenthood says the medication costs $300-800. You have less than $300 in your bank account. Notice they take Blue Cross Blue Shield, which you think you have. Hope to yourself that you can get in touch with your Ob/Gyn first because you’re more comfortable there and Planned Parenthood is not in a good part of town. Your boyfriend wakes up and comforts you as you cry a little more and he promises everything will be okay. Feel relieved that sleeping on it has given him time to be more of a rock than he was the night before. Tell him your new plan. Go back to sleep for about 30 minutes before your alarm goes off.. You sit up and he wakes up too. He tells you, “I love you more and more everyday. This time next week this will all be behind us.” Feel so incredibly touched by those statements that you tear up again, but hold it together.
Friday January 10, 7:20a.m.: Call your insurance company. Be surprised they answer early. Ask about abortion services quietly so your male roommate doesn’t hear you, and cry a little again when you say it out loud. They tell you your plan only covers abortion in cases of rape, incest, or endangering the life of “the mother.” Fuck. Call your parents’ insurance company. They answer too. They tell you your plan covers it except for $150 if it’s an in-network provider. Feel relieved. Call Ob/Gyn as you’re leaving for work. Ask about abortion services. They don’t do abortions. Call insurance back. Ask for a list of providers, they just give you a list of Ob/Gyn’s that you have to remember in your head because you’re driving. Google each one and go down the list as you’re sitting in the drive-thru at Starbucks. None of them provide abortions. Feel defeated and accept that you’ll go to Planned Parenthood as soon as you can. Your boyfriend agrees to meet you at your apartment later so you can ride together and he doesn’t have to take a car with his company logo on it to Planned Parenthood.
Friday, January 10, 9:15a.m.: You’re a little late to a work training but it’s okay. They talk about why your clients might lash out at staff, mentioning they’re looking for “a solid object to hold onto as they’re falling,” metaphorically. They go around the room and ask everyone, who’s your solid object? Mention that you are very lucky. You got some bad news yesterday and within 30 minutes you had talked to your sister and your four best friends, mention also that your parents, boyfriend, and coworkers can be supportive too, and that you feel surrounded by love. It’s the truth. Your coworker asks on a break, “So what happened yesterday?” Say you might talk about it eventually, but not right now. You don’t know anyone’s feelings on abortion, but you know she’s pretty religious. Begin to feel like it might be okay, but play it safe anyway. Feel comforted that she asked.
Friday, January 10, 11:45a.m.: Notice that your sister has emailed you the link to a clinic in your city that “looks legit.” Run outside and call them. Find out they take your insurance and they can schedule you for Monday! Text your boyfriend that you have good news.
Friday, January 10, 1:00p.m.: Training is over and you run out the door. Call the clinic. Schedule for Monday, tell them you’re only a couple of days late. They tell you they need you to be far enough along that you can tell you have a uterine pregnancy via ultrasound. See if you can’t hurry that along. Tell them you’re on your way to a “crisis pregnancy center” (which you know has a very religious, pro-life stance, but offers free tests and ultrasounds) and you’ll try to get the ultrasound taken care of ASAP. Get there and notice it’s less religious looking than you were expecting. Fill out the forms. They tell you that you won’t be able to have an ultrasound today, just a test. That’s okay, you guess. On one of the forms you have to circle a face that corresponds to how you feel about the idea of being pregnant. Anywhere from smiling and laughing (“So happy!”) to frowning and crying (“Devastated”). Circle both “Disappointed” and “Devastated” to indicate somewhere in the middle. That sounds accurate.
Friday, January 10, 1:20p.m.: They take you back for the test. Pee in a cup and ask how long it will take. They say you’ll probably be there 15 minutes. Follow a blonde woman with glasses into an office with big comfy couches for counseling. Tell her all past events. Tell her everyone is supportive and she says “Supportive of…?” Be up front even though you think this place is supposed to try to talk you out of abortion. “I’m getting an abortion. If I’m pregnant I’m getting an abortion. I don’t know if I want kids EVER. I can’t even afford a puppy right now.” Describe it as “A shitty situation, but there’s a solution to it. I would prefer not to be here, but I can take care of it.” You cry just barely. But really — you sound like you have your shit together. She even seems kind of impressed. The worst part — and this isn’t saying much because it’s not that bad — is her telling you, “You don’t want kids now, and every 20-something goes through that phase. But you might someday, and there’s a chance an abortion could make you sterile.” Say you’re open to the idea of having kids more so than you were in the past, but worst-case scenario, you can adopt. You can handle the idea of therapy, of emotional side-effects, of sterilizations and adoption, but you cannot handle a baby. Period. State, “But, I don’t anticipate those complications.” She says, “Well, nobody expects complications,” and you get kinda pissed, but not really. She’s right. [***HOWEVER, AS A SIDE NOTE: THERE IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO CONCLUDE THAT ANYONE BECOMES STERILE FROM AN ABORTION. I’M SERIOUS.] The nurse comes in and tells you you’re pregnant. You handle it well. It’s not like you didn’t know. She tells you the earliest you can come in is January 29 for an ultrasound. Fuck. Whatever, that’s your day off, still well in the window for medication abortion if that’s your choice. It’s free. Schedule the ultrasound, reschedule the abortion for your next day off — February 3. Fuck that seems like a long time. Ugh. Hear that the clinic contacted your insurance and it’s only going to cost $50.00. Tell your boyfriend everything. Feel frustrated it can’t be sooner but feel really very okay. Plan to see three different movies this weekend. Wish you were drinking right now. Think about looking up recipes for weird teas that might induce a miscarriage/abortion, but feel uncomfortable with that given that you have a humane way of taking care of it already scheduled so you don’t — but still really hope for a natural miscarriage. Please oh please. Tell your friends you’re allowed to make all the jokes, but they’re not. Take a bath. Be okay.
Saturday, January 11: You’re driving home and driving past your parents’ house, trying to see if your dad is home or not. It was raining earlier so he didn’t play golf and he’s home. Decide to bite the bullet. You know your parents and you know they’ll be supportive and not judgmental of your boyfriend. They’re so happy to see you and that’s why you love them. Make some small talk and right as you’re about to tell them, a family friend walks in the door to pick up some tickets for a basketball game from your dad. He walks him back out to his car. Your mom turns to you and says “Well, have you talked to your sister recently? I hear she’s seen a new therapist.” Respond quickly and quietly while your dad is outside, “Yeah but we’ve kind of been focusing on me this week because I just found out that I’m pregnant.” Mom looks like she might cry and yells your name. Dad looks sad and gives you a big hug. He says he and Mom know plenty of people who have had to do this before, including some of each of their sisters. They say they’re here if you need anything and that you should plan to come over after the procedure and hang out with your mom and let her take care of you, definitively agree and say that was your plan all along. Feel much better. Say you don’t want your boyfriend to know that they know, but your dad says he doesn’t want anyone to feel like they have to lie to each other, and to tell him. So you agree to. They’re really good parents. They say they’re proud of you for handling it like an adult and “You’re making the right decision.” Again feel so lucky about all but one circumstance in your life.
January 12-27: Vary from totally normal to easily emotionally triggered to actually feeling so depressed. Most days it’s pretty normal. But it is a much more emotional time than normal. Do a lot of research and settle on the surgical option—it’s a lot quicker and less messy and reportedly less painful.
January 28: You get a voicemail saying that due to weather, the crisis pregnancy center is going to be closed the next day. Call the clinic and tell them and they say they’d do their own ultrasound anyway and to stay as far away from that place as possible because if they know you’re having an abortion you’re in for a serious guilt trip. You’ve also been worrying about whether you want your boyfriend actually in the room with you or not. If you had a choice of being in there or not, you wouldn’t be, so is it mean to make him? But you don’t have that option, so he shouldn’t either. You’re stuck in your head about “the implications” of each decision and don’t know what to do, but the clinic tells you he can’t come in to the surgery suite so that makes that a lot easier.
February 2: Take two baths and have lots of sex because you can’t do either for three weeks after tomorrow. You also can’t use tampons. You realize that your and your boyfriend’s anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and your birthday all fall during that time and burst into tears. He comforts you and gives reasons why any of those can be celebrated later, and says sex isn’t the important part anyway. He’s so sweet and understanding that you cry more. Fall asleep in his arms and feel safe.
February 3: Wake up and take another bath. Get lost trying to find the clinic but get there almost on time. You sit down and fill out paperwork. They call you back and you don’t realize you won’t be going back out to the waiting room so you don’t say “bye” or “I love you” or “Thanks” or anything to your boyfriend. They take your cell phone for privacy reasons and you wish you could’ve said something, but you’re okay.
You’re back and forth between a different waiting room and various other rooms. Pay for service, waiting room. Pee in a cup, waiting room. Counseling about various birth control options, waiting room. Transvaginal ultrasound, waiting room. Blood test, waiting room. Video of a woman describing the type of procedure you’ve selected (no propaganda or anything, just explanations), waiting room. More counseling asking what your reasons are for making this decision, waiting room. Taken over to a cold surgical area and told to change into a gown, new waiting room. There is one other girl in there and you’re watching a game show. Someone comes in and gives you something for bleeding and something for anxiety. You ask how she’s doing, she says as well as could be expected. You agree. She says it’s not that bad, it’s her second time. You’re called back before she is.
You have a nice doctor who says she’s had to have two abortions herself and she understands your position. There’s a nice assistant who’s there to hold your hand. Half a gynecologist’s job is being good at making distracting conversation, and she’s very good at that. You feel some discomfort and say “Ahh. This is very weird.” You talk about your job and your plans for the future. You’re talking so much and everything happens so fast that you don’t even notice the discomfort has turned into pain until she’s saying “This is the last part, I promise.” You start breathing really slow and heavily trying to stay calm and just say “Ok. Ok. Ok.” And then it’s over.
They take you into a room with recliners and heating pads and ask about your pain level. They give you another pill for bleeding (and if you’re a negative blood type like me, a quick, relatively painless injection in your arm). You seem to have diarrhea of the mouth and you don’t know why. You keep interrupting the nurses without even thinking about it to ask for water, something to eat, more water. The pain subsides very quickly and you’re out of there within 15 minutes. You can’t believe you didn’t even cry.
After that — everything’s different for each person, regarding the pain, the relief, the amount with which you bleed, all that. Everything’s different for each person for everything about this, I guess. The point of this isn’t to say “I had the smoothest abortion ever, isn’t that great for me?” I live in a red state. I’m aware of the intersectionality issues and I completely understand my privilege in not having to deal with those. I’m white, I’m not dealing with any kind of abuse, I’m over 18, I live in the same city as my clinic, I have income and I have insurance. Which is why I’ve decided to start putting myself out there and working to make sure it can be this easy for everyone. Starting with trying to contribute to any kind of peace of mind this process, or what women may be going through, or will have to go through at some point. It should be this easy for everyone. It’s hard enough by itself.