I found out that I was pregnant a week before I was to start my senior year of high school. I had supported some friends through abortions, and was very active in the political world of reproductive justice. I knew it was a choice I would not ever be able to make without breaking my own heart. The father threatened and insulted me until I agreed to get the abortion, still not believing Id ever actually go through with it. Once my parents found out I went completely numb. "I need to just get rid of the problem, I want my life back" I thought to myself. I cherished the three weeks that i knew I was pregnant, I felt like a woman, like I was all grown up now. The day I went to Planned Parenthood I still believed that i would not go through with the procedure. I was visibly shaking, with tears streaming down my face at every step, my new found womanhood had escaped me, and what remained was a terrified little girl, whose dreams of motherhood had been crushed. When I found out that I would not be sedated I freaked out, through my panic I asked the nurse if they would please put me to sleep, I had never had any kind of surgery, and a very low pain tolerance. The nurse was very rude and replied that I had asked for this abortion on this day, if I wanted another one I would have to wait. The thought of allowing the baby to continue to grow was unbearable. Next, they put the local anesthetic needle into my arm, but the doctor was late so I had to sit in the waiting room with the father, and my best friend, who was decked out in our high school's cheer leading uniform. Finally, the time had come, I walked back into the operating room. As I laid back on the chair, legs in stirrups, violently shaking, I asked if anyone could hold my hand, I was told that they "needed all their hands". At one of the points that I came to during the procedure I was bawling, and a woman was standing over me wiping my face and neck. I will never understand why she wouldn't just hold my hand. The only time I felt relief was while I was still drugged up in the car on the way home, I think i was just relieved to not be on that table anymore. The next 6 months were unbearable. Looking back I was obviously very depressed. I tried to do all the things I wouldn’t have been able to do had I stayed pregnant, like drink, party, apply to colleges, pierce my belly button, go out and “be a teenager”, and “enjoy senior year”, as much as I could. In between pretending to be happy, I was having panic attacks, crying uncontrollably, and unable to shake the overwhelming pain of knowing I had done something so irreversible. I reached out to my youth pastor and family friend, I was so ashamed and worried about her being disappointed in me that I actually had one of my other youth pastors tell her for me. She immediately called me from her vacation to tell me that she loved me unconditionally and that she could never judge me. Although we live an hour apart, with LA traffic, we met for coffee every week for a month, I shared my pain and sorrow with her, she validated and understood all my feelings, her drive to help me heal and get better is what inevitably sparked that same desire in myself. She even talked to my dad a little about what was going on for him. Together we went to a crisis pregnancy clinic that offered post abortion grief counseling. This counseling also helped me a lot, I was able to name my feelings and work through them. I had always considered myself staunchly pro-choice, I had supported some of my best friends through abortions, and was one of those people that went into facebook groups to debate the politics of abortion. I felt abandoned by my pro-choice peeps, I was told that any sadness I felt after an abortion was related to mental illness, my story didn’t help their cause. I also didn’t feel completely comfortable in my pro-life counseling through the crisis pregnancy center, I didn’t believe abortion was wrong, and I didn’t think Id made the wrong decision. I was dumb founded.
That’s when I realized I was looking at two political agendas for support and understanding, when abortion is actually a real, emotional, experience not a political one. I needed an unbiased shoulder to cry on, something that had never occurred to me. In today’s society the words “unbiased” and “abortion” are never used in the same sentence, and it had done me, personally, a great disservice. Abortion is not just a right that needs to be protected, it is not just an act of murder against helpless babies, it is an experience that directly, and indirectly affects us all. Since having this epiphany I have been volunteering as a post-abortion counselor for Exhale, on a non biased, non political, non religious talkline. It is a spiritual experience for me to validate and normalize people’s abortion experiences, to give them permission to feel their feelings and be okay with who and where they are, regardless of their political standing. I will also be going on a college campus tour this month to share my story with law students, medical students, religious groups, feminist groups, and anyone else who would like to listen. I believe there is power in story sharing and listening, that reaches far beyond the black and white battleground of politics. All women deserve to feel supported and empowered when going through an abortion experience.
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