I am going to take a big risk here with this post. I began writing it one month ago, editing and ensuring my story was told the best way possible. So here it goes…
On November 30, 2017 I had an abortion.
Big word there eh? A word that has so much power I’m sure some of you may even stop reading here or unfollow me because of my choice. A word that determines which political party one may vote for. A word that can tear families apart; ruin marriages. A word that has had and continues to have great impact in the legal system and courts all around the world. A word that helped developed the terms pro-choice and pro-life. A word with many meanings, emotions and opinions that go with it. It is a word that scares some and a word that makes others sad. It is a word we avoid. And I want to stop that.
The reason I am writing this, is to open up the conversation. To empower those – mothers and fathers – who have made this choice; to remove the stigma. To maybe possibly help someone make the best choice for them.
And that’s what abortion is. It’s the right choice for some people. It’s not for everyone. For me it was. And trust me, it wasn’t an easy choice – nor do they make it that easy for you. Mind you, in Canada it is MUCH easier to obtain a safe abortion than in other countries.
I want to tell you my story to rip the band-aid off; to expose a hot topic issue. So here is my story.
At the ripe age of 28, I was single by a mixture of choice, rejection and not having met the right person. I was working a part time job and a full time, temporary position at the time, with no benefits or maternity leave. I was living alone in a one-bedroom, dark and damp basement apartment. I was about $60,000 in debt from school. I was just covering my daily expenses and hardly making progress in paying off that debt or building up any savings.
For me a child is everything I have ever dreamt of. More than anything I want to be a mother. I want to give someone unconditional love, I want to show them the world; I want to foster kindness in them and experience the joy of them growing up. My friends are all having children, and my heart ached – still aches – for a little voice to say, “I love you mom”, for muddy footprints to clean off the floors, to rub their backs when they are ill.
So the day I found out I was pregnant I didn’t know what to do. The father is an amazing man, but we were not serious by my choice. I did not love him in a marrying kind of way. Within days of my conception – not actually knowing I was pregnant yet – I asked him if he ever saw himself having kids. His straight up answer was “I don’t know”.
For those of you who know me, I’m a pretty independent woman. The moment I suspected something was going on, I sneakily on my own purchased a pregnancy test before going out with the father as thank you for helping me with something. That night I snuck out of bed, while my friend slept in my bed, and peed on a stick. It was after midnight, and within seconds it turned positive.
I waited the full time the instructions said, thinking maybe it’ll change.
I was utterly shocked. I had a copper IUD in place for two years. What do I do next? Do I keep it? Do I put it up for adoption? Do I terminate the pregnancy? Do I tell him?
I walked back to bed. Eventually managed to fall asleep. I decided to go to the doctor before making any choices. Over the weekend, it became completely clear to me. I was ill earlier in the week; my breasts were tender (which is usually a PSM sign for me actually…). I went to the clinic and they took another test and the doctor himself dropped the word abortion when I told them I had an IUD. The only thing the doctor could do for me was to give me a referral for blood work and a list of abortion clinics in Ontario.
I told the father that night. We talked advantages and disadvantages. He was incredibly calm and supportive. I told him my gut instinct is abortion. Which wasn’t easy given both he and I were from families of teenage parents without the option of abortion in their day. We decided to give it time; we were in no rush to figure this out. The next day, we thought I was having a miscarriage and off to the hospital we went. There they confirmed the pregnancy but it was still intact, just heavy spotting. The doctor there talked about my options to me. In a hallway. Not in a private room, or an office, but in the hallway. He did try to find a quiet hallway with no one around, but his hushed voice and uncomfortable darting eyes said it all. We talked about abortion in an ER hallway. Think what you want about that…
The father and I took a week or two before we talked about it again. During that time I consulted Google for how the procedure is done to prepare myself. I talked to friends who either chose to have an abortion or chose not to have abortion. I quizzed them about what ultimately influenced their decision and how they were dealing with it since.
We chose abortion. We weren’t in a relationship. He not even sure he wanted children. We were both not financially comfortable to support a child. And I knew I couldn’t do it alone at this time in my life. I delayed making the appointment. I tempted myself by turning my period tracker app onto pregnancy mode and would see the size of the fetus, what was being developed inside me.
Maybe not surprisingly so, but the abortion clinics were mostly in Toronto. Luckily I live close, but I couldn’t imagine living more North and not having that option. Perhaps the hospitals do it up there. But it seemed strange to me. I chose one with little research done. Possibly poor choice on my part, but how do you choose a place where you’re going to have your baby terminated? Do you go by the colour of the wait room? Do you judge them by what doctors were there?
I made my appointment. I wrote down the address because you can’t find it online and they won’t email you it. It is such a sensitive issue the name of the building was even ambiguously titled “Women’s Clinic” and we had to be buzzed into the suite. I’m not sure that made me feel safe or protected. I think it made me feel alienated, not welcoming or warm.
While there, I was asked several times whether I was being coerced into this decision, how confident I was that this was the choice for me, how easy was the choice to make. I filled out an 8 page questionnaire mostly with more of those type of questions. I was also asked several times what kind of birth control I would be taking to prevent another unwanted pregnancy. Every nurse and doctor I spoke to during this time was shocked to find out I had conceived with an IUD in place. However, it seems it may not have been in the best position in my uterus for maximum effect. I remember an x-ray or ultrasound tech once well before the pregnancy telling me that my IUD was rather low and that could impact its effectiveness. I told my doctor, he didn’t say anything in response.
I was given several painkillers orally before going in and planned for them to replace my IUD again while I was there. Since the pregnancy was so early, that was not a problem for them to do. I was walked to a tiny change room – had to bring my own nighty (I brought a sundress – which I got rid of soon after) to act as a gown, clean socks and clean underwear. I also packed heavy pads for after (thank you Google for that tip). I was brought to a second waiting room where no one was allowed to come with me (the father took me, he was incredible during this whole process, I was – and still am – extremely lucky to have him as support. He also encouraged me to tell our story). I remember making a comment about how busy the clinic seemed to one of the nurses, she said that today was actually slow. To this day I think about the large number of women that clinic sees alone. The women I saw there were of all ages from about 16 to 40s, of all ethnicities and with a variety of support people (their boyfriends/husbands, mothers, friends).
While I was in the second waiting room, the clinic kindly had blankets for us to use if we were cold. You know, being only in a nighty and a fresh pair of socks (yup underwear was not allowed; assumingly to make a quicker procedure) it was kind of cold. In the actual procedure room, the equipment seemed old, and the room itself felt like a walk-in clinic exam room. It did not seem like a sterile procedure room. The exam table had rips and looking back, now I wonder if that’s the state of all abortion clinics due to low funding; or was it just this one?
I will save you from the specific details of how the procedure is done, but I will make notes about how the doctor treated me. She called me momma on several occasions in our 10 minutes together. When the nurse suggested I get more pain meds due to my recreational marijuana use, she said no that I will be fine, they talked about a recent terrorist attack, there were people who came in and out of the room while my legs were up, vagina exposed in the stir ups. She removed my existing IUD held it up and showed me. She asked if I was sad because I was crying in pain. Once the procedure was complete she said “don’t worry the pregnancy is gone” and attempted to comfort me by tapping my knee. And I thought about how my early stages of my baby would be taken to medical waste. That image still haunts me sometimes.
After the worst pain of my life, I was quickly rushed to the “rest” area where I was given a regular ice pack to hold to my abdomen. Either the pain meds finally kicked in or the ice pack actually worked but I started to feel less pain, but I was tired. I sat with a line of other women in worn out lazy boy chairs. Hooked up to IVs, given a post-care sheet to read, forced to drink water and eat cookies. Once about 20 minutes passed I was in the clear of fainting so they sent me home.
Getting dressed in the small change room with not even a door, but only a curtain hiding my body, I read a note in a frame on the wall about how happy this person was with the support and kindness she received there. I did not agree with her comments, I felt like I was on some production line, just another abortion to go through. Not a woman who made a tough choice to not be a mother. Not someone who could go into a massive depression over terminating her child. I was given little to no support referrals, only to come back in a month. But since I lived so far (only an hour away), I could go to my own doctor and he could to the post exam (which my doctor never did, he only sent me to an ultrasound tech to ensure there was no pregnancy remaining and the new IUD was in place). I would have advocated for more support if I needed it, or so I think I would have.
I did go through moments of sadness, and depression. But I continued on. My friends, the father included, were my biggest supports. They still are.
My story isn’t pleasant, but likely not the worst.
If I didn’t have the right to choose, I could have potentially gone down a road of depression, neglect on the child’s part, stress for both us parents to try to provide. It’s not that it couldn’t have been done, but I had the choice to avoid that. There are people who were in similar positions as I am and they choose to keep their child. All the power to them for making that choice.
That’s what is important. WE HAD THE CHOICE. The choice over our own bodies and own futures. For those who are victims of rape, don’t want children, not in the right place in life, too old or too young or medically would be at risk; abortion could be the right answer for them. But it is solely up to the individuals involved. It should always be available. What you deem is right or wrong for you is what matters the most and you should have access to either road you choose.
Politics aside; the stigma needs to be removed. We need to have more open discussions. We need more people having dialogue about their experiences. We need to pull off the Band-Aid. It’s the same philosophy with any hot topic; race, sexism, mental health. We need to talk about it.
So let’s talk.