The Emotional Journey Of Choosing To Go Through With An Abortion

by Chelsea Forbes-Terry

It’s not easy to start a story about your own abortion. I guess I'll start mine the way they all do: I was pregnant.

I took a total of four tests — all positive — and proceeded to freak out. My boyfriend and I had just made things “Facebook official,” which meant we’d been dating a few months, but were just now coming up for air, realizing we had to tell people about us.

Now, I was pregnant and I felt like every room was closing in on me. Then came the real question: What would I do?

The pressure to have the answer to that right away was strong. Every time I confided in a friend, I was met with an instant, “Well, what are you going to do?” While well-intentioned, this was hard to answer 48 hours in.

Early on I told everyone I wouldn’t make a choice right away; I wanted to give a decision this big a lot of reflection and thought.

The first (and smartest) thing I did once I found out I was pregnant was to think about each scenario instead of acting on impulse alone.

I grew up pro-choice in a pro-choice household, in a pro-choice town, in a pro-choice state. In high school, I knew girls who had abortions, and I always thought they were brave, if maybe a little stupid.

I had no problems with the science of it all and I didn’t believe you would go to hell for it, so I surprised myself when I told my mom, “I don’t know exactly… I just need some time to think about it.”

I was in shock, and worse, my instinct wasn’t to not keep it. I was 24; I had gone to college, was employed at a decent job, was in a committed relationship and didn’t scoff at the thought of tiny humans someday down the road. Sure, it wasn’t ideal, but what was?

I told everyone in my inner circle right away, figuring it was best to rip off the Band-Aid of shame and just go for it so someone could enlighten me on what I should do.

I was glad most people couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves. I always listened without saying much and then played devils advocate by arguing for the opposite of whichever stance a friend happened to take.

It helped me to flesh out my thoughts on both options and understand my motivations behind whichever option I leaned toward on a particular day. The biggest example of this came from each of my parents.

My mom stood in the “not keeping the baby” camp for multiple reasons, the strongest of which was she felt I was just not in love.

My father leaned heavily toward the “keep the baby” side, though he didn’t share with me exactly why, I assumed for religious reasons.

Both made good points, had valid concerns and in the end, said they supported me no matter what I decided.

In this situation, I was tremendously blessed. My family and friends were nothing but empathetic and supportive (even if lobbying strongly for one side or another), while my boyfriend was there, every step of the way.

He never once let me think I was in it alone and took a fair amount of responsibility sharing when it came to the shame and the guilt we felt about even being in this situation.

I had the ideal environment for making a decision like this, with all the right people saying all the right things, and even still, I grappled with what had to be done.

I won’t get into the details of exactly why I made the decision that I did, but I will share that I was conflicted up until the very end.

I know that sounds bad, but after going back and forth for weeks and talking it over with people who’s opinions mattered most to me, I knew I couldn’t just drag my pregnant feet forever.

As much as I wanted to stay in the limbo between a rock and a hard place, eventually I had to swing one way or the other. Once I got to that point, I decided.

I made an appointment within 24 hours, and most of my friends didn't find out what I decided until a few hours before the procedure.

I cried the whole morning of and the entire time in the waiting room. I remember subtly looking around the Planned Parenthood to see if any of the other girls looked as distraught.

After every round to the procedure (which, in Colorado, included an ultrasound, a blood test and a meeting with a nurse practitioner to discuss aftercare and birth control options), I came back looking more and more disheveled.

It felt the way it does when you wait to get on a roller coaster for hours, only to end up freaking out the closer you come to getting on the ride.

An important thing to note is that the choice to have an abortion is a choice, but even within that choice, there are many additional choices you must make.

What kind of abortion (pill or medical), what level of sedation you want (mild or medium) and how exactly you want them to do it (suction or tools).

It was overwhelming and surreal, all at the same time. I read through the many papers that outline each choice and then let my boyfriend read them and give me feedback. Once we completed all the pre-procedure steps, the time finally came.

I took the sedative they supplied and remember feeling sleepy right until I got into the room. The shortness of the procedure and the immediate physical and emotional pain I felt right after was intense.

The nurses had told me that many women feel relief right afterward, but all I felt was grief.

After spending 20 minutes in recovery, they let us go. My boyfriend and I rode in silence to pick up my medication and go home.

Nothing hit me until a full 36 hours later, when I woke up on a Sunday morning in pain and in tears. I didn’t feel relieved, I felt traumatized.

The first week was a slow process for me to emotionally feel okay. Friends of mine, who had made a similar choice in their lives, shared their first thoughts after going through it, which made things a bit easier to handle.

The friends who had been through it before became the lifelines I used in the hardest days. They reminded me that everything I felt was normal, encouraged me to reach out to people and urged me to do things that made me happy.

As I wound down a path toward depression, they pulled me up for long enough to get my feet underneath me, and I will forever be grateful for that.

As goes on, I find myself having good days and bad days in regard to my decision.

Sometimes, I think about last-minute getaways with my boyfriend, spending time with my best friends and traveling with my mom and remember that these things are possibilities because of the choice I made.

Yet, other days, my heart still breaks a little for what could have been, and I miss the benchmarks that would have been in my pregnancy. It comes and it goes because my emotions post-abortion are filled with areas of gray, mourning and growth.

It is a journey I have to make; it's one that many other women have made and are making right now. It’s different for everyone, but the similarities in the range of feelings that happen afterward are the same, and that somehow comforts me.

I know I made the right choice for me. Mentally, I know this, even on days when emotionally, it’s hard to accept. I’m embracing how differently I see things now, and how much an event like this forms you for the years ahead.

I welcome the struggles I know will come in my relationship as we both heal from this difficulty differently. For now, sharing my story, in hopes that it inspires someone else going through the same thing to be okay, helps me cope.