Two Very Different Faces of Abortion

8/15/2018

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I’ve had two abortions; although the circumstances leading up to each were different, the reason was the same: I wasn’t ready to be a parent. I’m still not ready, and I don’t know if I will ever be ready. That is not to say that I dislike children, or that I see anything wrong with those who choose to become parents. It has simply never been a goal of mine, and I have always been open and honest about that fact.

I also don’t regret my decisions or the reasons I had for making those decisions. I know I made the right choice. I recognize that many of the choices I made may come across as selfish, and, well, they were. Every decision I’ve made for myself has had my best interest in mind. Sometimes, in order to take care of myself, I need to be selfish.

When I came out as bi, it was for me.

When I accepted that I was poly, it was for me.

When I decided to remove certain people from my life, it was for me.

I am very vocally pro-having-the-ability-to-make-choices-about-my-own-body, and allowing others to have that same freedom. Bodily autonomy has been something I was very often denied throughout my life, and it started at home–as it often does–when I was a child, and it then continued into my adult life. Whether it be in relation to what I can wear, who I’m allowed to love, or even something as silly as my hair color, I am in charge of my body. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions about my uterus.

The first abortion procedure I had was when I was seventeen.

How did this happen? Why was I so careless? How can we make this my fault? I’m not going to act like I was an overly responsible teenager because I wasn’t. I was taught something similar to abstinence-only Sex Ed. We learned about condoms, but still never had a meaningful education about sex. I lost my virginity when I was fifteen. I had started taking birth control when I was fourteen because I have what I now know is endometriosis, which caused debilitating menstrual pains and other symptoms like nausea, weight inconsistency, depression, irregular periods, and other issues. The symptoms all contributed to me not realizing I was pregnant after I was raped when I was sixteen.

I didn’t know I was pregnant until I’d had a OB/GYN appointment for regular testing. I was eighteen weeks along, and I’d had no idea. I hadn’t slept with my partner since I’d been raped. I’d done everything I could to forget that it happened, but any time anyone would touch me I could feel his hands on my skin. The same skin I’d scrubbed raw as I cried and bled.

I want you to understand how I agonized over this. I faced rejection from those I was closest to when I finally made my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I was asked, by a few people who had been in my life for years, why I couldn’t have just slept with girls instead, since I “like them, too.” I’d even been asked why I hadn’t asked my rapist to put on a condom. I was made to feel so much guilt and shame for what had happened.

The decision to terminate really did come down to the fact that I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could take care of another living thing when I couldn’t even care for myself, and, honestly, I couldn’t carry my rapist’s baby for nine months even if at the end of that I was able to hand it off to someone else. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to risk that theoretical child finding me eighteen years later, and asking me how I could give them away. I wouldn’t be able to answer with the truth because I couldn’t say, “I decided to give you away because you are a constant, living reminder of one of the worst things to ever happen to me, and looking at you would haunt me.”

After I came to terms with my choice it wasn’t easy finding a clinic in Oregon that could help me, even with the information Planned Parenthood provided. Many of them only took patients who were 8-10 weeks, and all of the ones in my area (Southern Oregon) were unable to help me. Still, I was grateful that some of them were kind to me and sympathetic, because I was not getting that kind of understanding from others in my life.

Eventually I found a clinic in Eugene that did late term abortions. My first interaction with the doctor at this clinic was at the check up where he insinuated that I was overweight (I was pregnant) and unintelligent for getting myself into this situation while he stuck a giant needle into my abdomen to inject a saline solution into my womb. I was staying in a strange town, in a run-down motel, in pain from the forced dilation with Laminaria while the fetus was dying inside of me. Between the pain, anxiety, and isolation it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but that was only made worse by the way the doctor treated me.

Nothing can prepare a person for an “Awake” procedure which is exactly what it sounds like: the patient is kept awake during the entire operation, and nothing can prepare a person for being held down while you scream and cry while the doctor tears and twists and rips things out of you. Whatever punishment I thought I deserved…I got it. When the procedure was finished, and I was bleeding so much I was pale and woozy, the doctor asked if I had “learned to be more careful.” I looked up at him with such hatred and said, “I was raped.” I spent three weeks after that bleeding almost every time I stood up (to the degree that I wore adult diapers), unable to eat, having nightmares, and afraid of intimacy.

This experience was so traumatizing that when I had a positive pregnancy test at age 20 I felt sick and had a panic attack. I still wasn’t ready to be a parent, and I didn’t even want children. I’d been taking my birth control religiously, and getting tested for both pregnancy and STIs. I’d been using condoms with new partners, and still this had happened. When I found out I was just past the cutoff to be able to take the pill to terminate all I could think was I didn’t want to go back to that place that I still had nightmares about.

I started to cry because I was so angry with myself for letting this happen, even though I’d done so much to avoid it.

That’s when the nurse at Planned Parenthood told me about LoveJoy in Portland, and assured me the experience there would be drastically different than the one I’d had previously. Even with her assurances, l  was sick to my stomach when I went in; nervous and afraid of the shaming that I’d dealt with before. I asked if it was possible to not be awake for the procedure, and the woman I was discussing it with looked at me with shock and sympathy when I’d told her what I had been through and why I was so anxious. She asked me when this was and where the clinic had been, and then informed me that clinic had since been shut down.

I went in, they put me under, and I woke up to the nurse asking me if I was alright. I went home, I slept, and I was sore for a couple days. I wish I had found LoveJoy before, and I wish everyone had this experience. Sadly, I know that many of us have had experiences like my first one. I know that there are people who believe that terminating a pregnancy should be traumatizing to prevent future abortions, or simply because they get a twisted kick out of seeing those in need suffer. I know that there are people, everywhere, trying to make abortion impossible to access because they think it will keep them from happening.

It won’t. It’s sobering to think that what I experienced with that first clinic is an improvement, even a luxury, compared to the many places women bleed out attempting to perform their own abortions. There are many places where women who have no access to safe procedures are dying or suffering with long term health consequences. I lived the difference between kindness and cruelty in this situation, and I still count myself lucky that I got to walk out of that first clinic alive.

I can also tell you the importance of advocating for yourself, doing your research, learning about your options, and finding the best solution for you. If that solution is abortion, please know that I, and many others, are here supporting you and advocating for you because you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Natasha McCracken
Natasha is bi, polyamorous, a proud feminist, and an animal lover. New to the writing business, and eager to have her voice heard. She is a member of amBi in Southern Oregon, and spends her time attending events, creating art, and taking care of her rescue animals with her partner.