Please note: Strong trigger warning for the topic of abortion.
The first thing I had to do was pee in a cup. Obviously, That way they know you’re pregnant. I’m like, that plus sign on those three tests showed up immediately, so there is no way this is a mistake, but do what you’ve gotta do. What I didn’t know is that a few days later, when you’re bleeding profusely, they’ll make you pee in a cup again to make sure you’re no longer pregnant, so just be mentally prepared for that. I wasn’t, and it seems like that little bit of trauma could have easily been avoided.
I go into the exam room where one person comes in to make sure that I’m of sound mind, and that I wasn’t raped or coerced into getting an abortion. It makes me grateful we have these services, but also makes me feel stupid. Like no, I don’t have any tragic story or hardship. Just the bad luck of my first unplanned pregnancy at age 33. I have a wonderful husband, and a stable home life; we have good jobs and health insurance (not like it matters much in this case), and I’m just an idiot. That’s all there is to it. Just to be clear, every single person who talked to me, checked on me, did my bloodwork, ultrasound, exams – everyone – was amazing and never for one second made me feel like anyone but a real person going through some tough shit. That idiot stuff, was all me.
They took my blood and did a finger prick. I honestly don’t remember everything they were checking for, but I do remember one of the things was iron because they told me I had “extremely healthy levels of iron in my blood” and I made myself tell a vegan joke about not withering away and dying from iron deficiency like everyone said I would. Gotta keep the mood light.
I’m sure they asked me about 1,000 other health related questions before the doctor came in to perform my exam and ultrasound. The ultrasound was mildly uncomfortable as the doctor searched around for the cluster of cells to show me on the screen – if you’re a woman you are fairly used to being poked and prodded in a fairly intrusive way so honestly it was not that big of a deal. What I found odd was the next part. She asks me if I wanted to know if it’s twins, and I’m so caught off guard I’m like, okay, sure? So then she locates it and tells me that since I’m only five weeks along it’s impossible to tell. Furthermore, I’m so barely pregnant that they wouldn’t even perform an abortion procedure for at least another couple of weeks because a lot of people so frequently miscarry this early on. Essentially my options are to stay pregnant and see what happens, schedule my procedure for the future if I still need it, or do a “medication abortion” where I essentially just take the abortion pills now. I opted for the latter, not wanting to drag this out longer than necessary.
At this point the doctor explains everything is immense detail. I was probably there for at least three hours that first day. She makes sure that I fully understand what I’m doing, makes sure that I am safe and supported in whatever environment I’m going home to, and then she goes over the actual process.
So, this is where things, in my opinion, could have gone better. Up until now I’ve felt like a real person with needs. Not a number in the system, or a disgrace to society. So tell it to me straight. But no one did.
I’d take the first pill there in the office, they’d observe me for a little while to make sure I was okay. Then I would go home and within the next (I think?) 72 hours I would take the other pills they gave me, as well as some extra strength Ibuprofen and some Zofran, for nausea. I’d need to have that day off from work, but would be able to go in the next day. I’d feel tired, and I’d bleed for a while. The pills themselves are essentially sloughing off the inside layer of my uterus, causing it to expel the pregnancy, but the process would only take a few hours and it would be comparable to a “heavy period with bad menstrual cramps.” The only thing I’d need to do as a precaution was keep a thermometer on my nightstand to routinely take my temperature. If I ended up with a high fever I was supposed to go to the the Emergency Room.
I popped the pill at the doctor’s office, felt fine, got my prescriptions and checked out. They were able to bill my bloodwork, prescriptions, and exam under different codes so I only had to pay my copay for those. That was generous of them. I planned to stay home by myself all day that Saturday to get this over with. My husband would be at work all day, but they told me I’d be fine so I felt completely confident.
I’d stocked pads of various absorbencies (since you can’t use tampons) in my bathroom (which was only a few feet down the hall from my bedroom), had my Ibuprofen, Zofran, a heating pad, water, Raspberry Leaf tea, my journal, headphones, cell phone, and a thermometer on my nightstand, and Friends cued up on TV. I ate some food and decided to journal and meditate before I took the other pills.
Okay, so this is the part where I have to interrupt myself to explain something unexplainable. During the whole five-ish weeks I was pregnant, I felt amazing. Better than I’d felt in a long time. The hormones are really something. I felt relaxed, happy, content, and just connected to myself in a way that I’m not sure I’d felt before or have since. I felt a real closeness to something deeper within myself, and so I really struggled to let that go. I felt a deep, longing pain when I thought about letting that go. I tried to rationalize the pain with explanations of finality. If my husband and I didn’t have this baby, we wouldn’t have another. This was our chance and if we didn’t take it, we’d be making our real choice to be childless. Was this the universe giving us an opportunity? Maybe I was in pain, mourning this other alternate life.
Now that it’s been two years and my brain isn’t being invaded by foreign chemicals, I can honestly say that I was being forced to dig deeper within myself than I ever had in the past. I had to come face to face with my biggest fear to decide what life I truly wanted, and that shit is hard. I had to let that part of myself finally die so that other things could grow.
Friday night I sat on the floor of the shower and just sobbed. I said goodbye, and I let whatever that was that I felt, that energy, that presence that space, go.
Saturday was the big day. Before I got on with it I thought that it would benefit me to journal. So here it is, transcribed:
-Took Zofran and Ibuprofen at 9:30am.
-Next time to take:
-Took Misoprostol (orally in cheeks) 10am.
I am grateful for:
-My husband who loves me, even though he has a hard time expressing it.
-My best friends and sister who show me more support than I’ll ever (hopefully) need.
-My comfortable home. I’m in bed now in such a perfect environment for me to feel peaceful.
-My clients who will understand if I need to move any appointments.
-For a fridge full of food and yummy snacks my husband brought me.
-For good meditations to listen to, books to read, and Friends to watch.
-My therapist who I will start seeing again next week.
-My best friend’s YouTube channel, so I can watch her when I miss her (like now).
-For the money to do this.
-I’m healthy and my body will recover quickly.
-My iron is excellent, despite my veganism!
-The Planned Parenthood here is excellent and everyone was so helpful and supportive.
-I know how to take care of myself. Even a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been capable of knowing how to support myself through this.
-I’m processing my emotions.
-I’m realizing that I was sad because this is very final. This is the only time I’ll know what it feels like to be pregnant. That’s a bit sad. But I’m processing.
-The dogs are here with me, but I get to be alone.
-I feel prepared.
-I have several people on call and I know I’ll be okay, even though I’m afraid.
This is the first time that I’ve read through that journal entry since that day. I didn’t want to face it until now because now I know the truth. It’s been almost two years since I’ve published a blog, largely because of the toll this took on me, and the time that I’ve given myself to process it. I was right to be scared. And not because I made the wrong choice, or anything horrible happened. But because it was scary, and I came out the other side completely different.
I’d say that it took less than five minutes for the pills in both of my cheeks to dissolve. I had headphones in and was listening to a meditation when I noticed my ears were ringing, and my hearing seemed to begin fading in and out. I took off my headphones, thinking they were the problem but they weren’t. I remember thinking that was strange, and laid down, feeling suddenly light headed. I had everything I needed right there within arms reach – my phone, the remote, the thermometer, and water. But it became very apparent very quickly that it wouldn’t matter.
The pain was insane. I think most of us can relate to the period cramp from hell scenario. The kind that debilitate you, make you crawl into a ball, cry, vomit – sure you could use some Advil and a heating pad, but how do you do that when you literally cannot move? This was worse than that. Worse than any pain I’d ever experienced, period-related or otherwise. When I got my boob job I was prescribed enough Norco for a small army and I think I may have taken a few days worth for a pain level seven on the worst day. This was easily a ten and I was supposed to get through it on extra strength ibuprofen. How are fake boobs more legitimate than this?
Pain management for non-cosmetic procedures that are uniquely experienced by women is appalling. At that time I didn’t know if I was lied to, if I was being a baby, or if I was legitimately dying. After talking this over with many women, it turns out this is just normal. We are told that we should feel a “mild amount of discomfort,” so we assume we’re broken or weak when we feel more, often times much more. And then we just bear the pain, the trauma, and it’s emotional toll (amongst many other tangible costs like missing work) and go on with our lives because we feel shame around discussing the nature of our procedure or pain in the first place. I also think that after enduring something terrible, the last thing we want to do is be judged or re-traumatized by talking about it. So the cycle continues: it’s acceptable to get real pain meds for a boob job, but not for an abortion. I’m not blaming us for our own pain, I’m just saying that I wish I would’ve known to demand something stronger to manage it. Or at the very least if they denied my request, to ask what type of interactions other pain meds would have with the abortion drugs so I could’ve put together my own cocktail.
While we work for systemic change, we continue suffering. Instead of acknowledging that the pain may be truly horrific in order to properly manage it, it was erased and shrunken down to minimize the severity. But why? The truth is that women are strong and we regularly endure pain. On some level I think we’re almost expected to, but I couldn’t help but also feel like a Nobody caught in the crossfire between two opposing narratives, both working to minimize the importance of my pain to advance their own agenda.
Of course, you’re suffering. Abortion is murder and you should suffer.
No, the pain won’t be that bad. This is routine and normal. Take some extra strength Ibuprofen and you’ll be set to go to work the very next day!
Neither was true, at least for me.
And all I could do was lay there, hoping to whatever entity exists out there in this fucked up universe that this would pass quickly. But it didn’t. I lost track of time. I couldn’t text or look at my phone at all at that point because the pain was too blinding. I couldn’t bring myself to reach for anything on my nightstand. I guess if I had a fever I’d just die. After what I’d estimated was an hour or so I thought I should try to get up to change my pad, assuming that all this pain would be producing some type of result. Somehow I got up and walked the few feet to the bathroom, and nothing – not a drop of blood. I remember thinking that I couldn’t even walk upright because the pain was so intense, so I hobbled, bent over at the waist like a Disney witch back to my room. The last thing I remember was climbing onto my bed, and then I assume I passed out. I don’t remember anything for the next few hours.
I woke up shaking uncontrollably, and that went on for what felt like forever. My whole body was seizing and I felt exhausted. I would go from laying in bed to laying on the bathroom floor, just waiting for the cramping to pass. The best way I can describe it is usually with regular period cramps you’ll get moments of intense pain, then a reprieve, then pain, then a break, etc. During a medication abortion it’s just full steam ahead cramping until the job is done. For me, it took about six or seven hours for the constant cramping to stop, and about twelve hours for the cramping to stop altogether. When my husband got home around four or five in the afternoon, I was still shaking and crying from the pain. Sometime in there I started bleeding, but strangely during this process, it wasn’t a lot. I didn’t really start bleeding profusely until that evening, and that went on after that for several days. Some people say they’re aware of the moment when they pass the pregnancy. I wasn’t.
And that was that. It was over and I was a mess.
It’s hard to describe the level of mental catastrophe that followed.
I had my follow up appointment a couple of days later – the aforementioned one where they made me pee in a cup again, despite the fact that I was wearing a diaper-sized pad and essentially passing what felt like gigantic clots of blood. I cried while in the bathroom trying to do that. Then I cried while the nurse was taking my blood. She asked me if I was afraid of needles and I had to explain that no, I’m not, I’d currently cry if the wind blew in what I perceived to be the wrong direction. She understood, which was nice. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget her, and how kind she was to me. They confirmed I was no longer pregnant and sent me on my way after going over the numerous options I had for birth control. They told me I’d be back to my normal self in a couple of weeks, and even though I felt like absolute garbage at that moment, I believed them.
I went back to work four days later. I almost fainted several times that first day and had to cancel half of my clients to go home early. This would be a regular occurrence for several months following the abortion, and it would take me over an entire year to feel physically and mentally “normal” again. As a female adult, I had never been someone with cramps that lasted longer than a day, or were so severe that I couldn’t fight through the pain to at least get through work. But that changed. My periods were so debilitating that I developed horrific anxiety around that time of the month and dreaded what would happen. Would I have to call in sick? Would I be stranded at work in so much pain that I couldn’t drive home? Would I faint while out in public? Because my hormones had been so unbalanced I also gained close to twenty pounds and became extremely tired and lethargic, and I ultimately fell into the worst depression I’ve ever been in. I was frustrated at my body for taking so long to heal, I was tired of feeling generally terrible and mentally unlike myself, and I was angry that none of my symptoms were concerning or unusual to the doctors, the internet, or (unfortunately) the women who I chose to confide in who also experienced abortion. How can they tell you you’ll be fine to work the NEXT day, you’ll be symptom free in a couple of weeks, and in the same breathe explain that it’s not unusual for me to be experiencing these things months later? None of it makes sense. But I did find some consolation in the shared stories of the few other women I talked to who had similar experiences of pain, trauma, and depression. I wasn’t the only one suffering.
I would routinely drive to work in the morning and cry the entire way, not wanting to die, but simultaneously feeling like I didn’t want to be awake a second longer because I couldn’t bear to feel terrible anymore. I’m a well-resourced person – I was going to regular weekly therapy, I have plenty of people in my life that care about me, a loving husband and a safe home life. I’m also vegan, sober from alcohol, and fairly fit. All my needs were being met and I was still this miserable. I also feel that I need to reiterate that I was not feeling this way because of the choices I had made; I literally felt trapped inside a brain and a body that weren’t my own – I felt like I’d been highjacked. I cannot even imagine what would have happened to my life if I had children or unstable home life. I honestly don’t know if my husband understood the severity of the depression I was going through, but he did his best to be there for me, and I can honestly say that this experience brought us a lot closer together and probably pushed him to his emotional limits in his own way. I think it was good for us to sit with the finality of the situation and truly recognize it would just be us two from here on out.
This deep depression continued on for about a year. Meanwhile I was going through all the motions at work, and true to my nature, pouring myself into as much of it as possible to keep myself distracted from my unhappiness. I wasn’t writing anymore, or really doing much to better myself because I couldn’t muster the energy. I was reading a bunch of nonfiction, taking in an overload of information between that and social media, but I wasn’t letting anything out. And that just made me more depressed. Combine that level of dysfunction with the post-covid chaos of running a small service-based business through the ups and downs of the last few years and honestly it’s a shock to me that my business made it through at all. I chose to expand the business space in order to meet the insane amount of retail demand that came about when I launched an online store to carry us through the pandemic downturn and closures, which ultimately put more stress on me, making it even harder to process what I was going through. Most of the time I pretended to be thriving and excited about the business when I was anything but. I was exhausted, burned out, and resentful that I didn’t feel like I could slow down. But how do you keep a business open (that is already in a precarious position because of a global pandemic) when all you really want to do is crawl into a hole? So I just pushed forward not knowing what else to do.
And now we’re here. This 6,000 word essay is what I’ve been working on since July of 2021. I’ve started it and failed to make it past a page or two, over and over and over again. Until I didn’t.
It’s been brought to my attention that perhaps this blog ends abruptly. The reason is because the last year of my life has been consumed with true healing. I chose to use a variety of modalities to investigate myself on the deepest levels in order to rediscover my joy, and ultimately reset my path. Deep self-excavation is not a simple task, or a straightforward thing to explain. This journey needs its own moment, which it will get in the future.
Thank you so much for reading.
Editing Credit: Elaina Erola
2 thoughts on “Any Day Now Part 2”
It’s hard enough to accept our lived experiences to our own self. The bravery it took for you to pour your heart out for all to see is truly commendable. I hope you know you are so very loved. All of you. Every part.
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I do know, because I have people like you in my corner! 🖤 I think that as women, our health and complex relationships with our bodies and the universe are not discussed enough. So I’m just hoping to open up some of those conversations.