The Timeline Of What It's Really Like To Go Through An Abortion
With election season taking place, Pope Francis’ unprecedented statement on forgiveness and undercover videos of Planned Parenthood going viral, the debate on abortion is once again at center stage.
Regardless of whether you identify as pro-choice or pro-life, or as liberal or conservative, there will always be a group of us girls who went through an abortion blind, confused and unsure.
We were the ones who were never 100 percent certain with our decision.
We still feel the weight of it after months (or even years) of it happening.
We are the ones who carry that unspoken sadness around. We are hoping for a time to come when we can finally say we are at peace with our decision.
With stigma and controversy still surrounding this issue, our experiences are rarely ever shared.
This is what it’s like for the girls who were never sure:
You lose your sense of self.
I can easily describe myself as a progressive.
Although I never thought I’d be able to go through an abortion myself, I supported the women who did, and believed in their right to choose.
I never gave it much thought, until that moment I saw those two lines on a stick.
I was in and out of an “almost relationship” with a guy named Mark*. Once I told him the news, he reacted the way I expected him to: by going MIA.
I remember feeling incredibly lost and alone, and hating myself for even thinking of the alternative.
But when you’re in the midst of it all, everything you thought about the issue and the politics surrounding it, means nothing.
For those of us who were never sure, we lose that sense of self.
We begin to question everything from our belief system, to who we are as people. Every negative feeling you can ever experience consumes you all at once.
If you’re one of the more unlucky ones (like me), and have to go through it alone, without a partner or supportive boyfriend, you begin to carry the weight of it all.
The weight of the responsibility, the hurt and the grief, which should be split between two people, falls solely on your shoulders.
It breaks you into a million pieces.
The “in-between” period:
Whether or not you’ve booked the appointment, there’s that waiting period in-between that no one ever talks about.
It’s those days or weeks in between the moment you find out and the moment you walk into the clinic.
It’s that period when you know what’s going to happen, but you continue to question yourself anyway.
You try and do your normal day-to-day tasks, like going to work or class, seeing family and friends and living life normally.
Except this time, it’ll take you an hour to get out of your car because it will be the only place you find solace. You constantly question whether you’re doing the right thing.
It’s the waiting game no one ever wants to play.
Walking into my first appointment, I was certain I was going to go through with the procedure.
That certainty changed the moment the nurse gave me my due date. That was the moment it began to feel real.
That was the moment I felt a connection to what was growing inside of me. For some reason, something was telling me it was a girl.
She would have been born on December 31, New Year’s Eve.
I remember sitting in my car, outside the clinic, for what felt like an eternity. “Brown Eyes” by Rachael Yamagata began to play on the radio.
I closed my eyes, put my hand on my stomach and really felt her. It instantly became our song, and the name I would give her every time I spoke to her: Brown Eyes.
From that day forward, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about what it would be like to hold her, sing her lullabies and read her bedtime stories.
But then, just like that, all those dreams began to feel like fantasies.
I remember calling Mark after the appointment, and telling him I was going through with the procedure.
His sigh of relief broke my heart. I desperately wanted him to tell me not to do it.
But that never came.
Reality would also set in every time I walked into my low-paying job, feeling sick, knowing I couldn’t see a doctor because I was uninsured.
The fear of raising a child in poverty is what cluttered my head any time I was close to changing my mind.
For those of us who went through it without ever being certain, it wasn’t ever a question of whether or not we loved our unborn child.
If you could, you would have given him or her the world, but love was all you had.
In a world like this, love would have never been enough.
With someone in my position, someone who played the “what if” game every single night, the in-between period becomes a certain hell, and stays with you long after the moment passes.
The morning of:
I remember that weekend clearly.
I spoke with Mark the night before the appointment, and he told me he was leaving town. Already feeling agony and defeat, his words killed any spirit I had left.
I woke up the next morning, hoping to get a call telling me he had changed his mind and was going to stay. It never came.
Instead, I got a text from him, telling me to be strong. That was it.
I got out of bed, sat on the bathroom floor and wept.
I wept for this baby, I wept for what I was about to do and I wept because my world was crashing.
I knew that after that day, my life would never be the same.
For those of us who were never certain, that morning could be described as robotic.
Once you step into the car and drive to the clinic, you numb yourself. You try not to feel anything.
But then, you close your eyes, let the tears flow and think of the 10-year-old version of yourself.
Because in all honesty, that was the last time you felt innocent. You feel powerless and scared, like a child wanting to be hugged and rocked to sleep.
The time spent in the waiting room lasts an eternity, and your throat tightens every time a nurse with a clipboard opens the door and calls out a name.
But you go on.
You do what they tell you to do. You close your eyes, lie on the cold examining bed and pretend you’re not you.
Then, just like that, it’s over. But of course, it never is.
You learn to live without a voice.
The days and weeks following that morning can only be described as life moving in slow motion.
You know you’re alive, but you can’t help but feel dead.
You are like a shadow of your former self, aimlessly walking around while the world passes you by.
Whether you’ve told several people or none at all, your voice becomes smaller. You don’t know where your place is.
You feel like you have no right to grieve because you’re the one who made this decision. You have no right to mourn, because you made a choice.
But for some reason, you do.
You miss someone you never got the chance to meet.
You try to repress the memories, only for everything to resurface at the most inconvenient times.
You relive that weekend, holding on to the options you gave up and the fantasies that will never happen.
You ask yourself why you didn’t fight harder, and why you didn’t ask for help.
You try to find someone, anyone, who can understand the grief you’re feeling. You want to tell people what you’ve been through.
You want reassurance that things will be okay, but fear of disappointment and judgment holds you back.
Everything you come across online has some agenda, promoting the pro-life or pro-choice stance.
Everything is politicized, and that’s the last thing you want or need.
You feel like a statistic.
You read about women who went through the procedure, and are relieved and content with their decision.
You read about women who wholeheartedly regret what they did, and discourage abortion.
But what if you can’t relate to either?
You deal with the aftermath.
As the days go by, you learn to live with your new reality. For most women who have gone through this, that sense of acceptance finally comes, allowing them to move forward.
But for a few, it’s a long and winding road, with no end in sight.
Although it’s been a few months since that weekend, the pain still feels as fresh as ever. It hits the most when friends announce their pregnancies, bringing me back to those nights of crying in my car, wanting time to stand still.
I even fool myself into believing once the due date arrives, I’ll be able to fully move on. Deep down inside, I know that will never be the case.
Although things have gotten slightly better with the help of therapy and writing, I still have days and nights where I think about her.
I’ll hear the song “Fog (Again)” by Radiohead, close my eyes and feel her, even though I know she’s no longer there.
Thom Yorke sings, “There’s a little child, running round this house, and he never leaves. He will never leave. Some things will never wash away.”
For the girls who were never certain, that child will always be there.
But one day, we’ll be at peace with it. We’ll learn how to move on without forgetting.
That’s what I hope for, anyway.
*Names have been changed for privacy purposes.