Sep 022010

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My back story: I’m a thirty-something professional woman with a younger live-in boyfriend who is still in school for his B.A. We have been together for over three years now, and had lately gotten careless about protection. I was actually charting my menstrual cycles using the calendar and vaginal mucous observations, and we had unprotected sex during those times in my cycle when I was sure that ovulation had come and gone. This worked well for over a year. But then I got careless about the charting. And then one night last month, after we had had sex, I noticed in the bathroom that I had the clear, stretchy vaginal mucous – ovulatory mucous! I remember thinking, “Uh oh.” But the possibility of pregnancy didn’t seem real enough to scare me, so I just let it slip to the back of my mind.
Then my period was late. I went out and bought two pregnancy tests. I took one that night. Nothing – negative. I tried another one a few days later, in the evening. Also negative. I had read the warning about how the pregnancy hormone was more concentrated in first morning urine, so I bought yet a third test and used it on my first urine of the day. Also negative. Well, I thought, three negative tests mean that I can’t possibly be pregnant. So two weeks went by, and still no period. Then I tried another test. Positive! And two more. They came up positive too. I guess I didn’t have enough pregnancy hormone (HCG) to show up in the first tests.

So I told my SO, and we talked about what to do. He thought he might want to have children someday, but felt very strongly about waiting until he had graduated and found a job, and until we were legally married (and marriage also has to wait until he graduates). I strongly considered giving up the child up for adoption, but after reading some online stories from mothers who gave up children and later wished they hadn’t, I changed my mind. One woman who had already given up a child for adoption swore that if she ever had another unplanned pregnancy, she would either abort or keep the child, but she could not survive putting up another child for adoption. For some women, having an abortion is definitely a much less traumatic experience than giving up a baby they gave birth to. Since I didn’t want to force a pregnancy on my SO, and I didn’t know if I could emotionally handle giving up a child in adoption, we decided on an abortion.

In researching chemical abortion, I found out that my insurance carrier would pay for a surgical abortion, but not a chemical abortion. The latter was very expensive – over $450 compared to the $70 I’d have to pay for a surgical abortion. But I chose the chemical abortion because I had concerns about the pain involved in a surgical abortion and I was concerned about the possible long-term effects of invasive surgery. I have read that having surgical abortions can make you more prone to having premature births later on. Granted, that’s after having *several* of them, but I still didn’t want to take any chances. And the idea of having my cervix dilated and instruments stuck into my uterus just seemed incredibly disturbing.

Fortunately, there is a clinic that uses Mifeprex nearby to our home. SO and I went there together on a Thursday morning. I was worried about protesters, but there weren’t any. We went in, I filled out paperwork, and I paid with my credit card. They made me take another urine pregnancy test, then took some blood for the Rh test. The doctor then came in to give me a sonogram. The amniotic sac showed clearly on the ultrasound – a little black oval in the middle of my uterus, about the size of a pine nut. The doctor told me that the embryo was only a few millimeters long, so it wasn’t large enough to show up on the ultrasound yet. The tiny size of the pregnancy confirmed that I was only three to four weeks pregnant, so the doctor was confident that my chances of aborting successfully with Mifeprex/Misoprostol were very high — around 99%.

My state’s law mandates a 24-hr waiting period, but the clinic kind of winked at it. They give you the abortion meds to leave with that day, but give you a dosage schedule as though you weren’t going to start taking them until the next day. The doctor gave me a packet with one Mifeprex, and another packet with two Misoprostol, then explained the protocol to me. She told me to take the Mifeprex (RU-486) the next morning, then wait three days, then take the two Misoprostol to expel the pregnancy. It was important that I only take Tylenol for pain, since aspirin or Ibuprofen could worsen bleeding. If I experienced extraordinary pain or bleeding, I was to call the clinic’s emergency line. She said something interesting too: I asked her about going to the emergency room if I were bleeding too much or in too much pain, and she said, “No, they won’t know how to take care of you there.”

As SO and I left the building, I took the Mifeprex. The doctor warned me that it made most women nauseated. I guess I’m lucky then, since it didn’t do anything to me. I went to work and felt fine for the rest of the day. Some people spot or bleed after taking it, but I didn’t. During the three day waiting period, I wondered sometimes if I felt *too* good. Did it really work? Then three days later, on Saturday afternoon, I took the Misoprostol. And that’s when things started to get bloody. The description that follows is somewhat graphic and gory, but I think it’s pretty typical of what to expect with a chemical abortion, so that’s why I’m including it.

I was unprepared for how fast the Misoprostol would work. Ten minutes after I took it, I started to bleed. And then the cramps started. They were worse than usual menstrual cramps, and more widespread somehow. It felt like my whole lower body, including my bowel, was cramping up. I also became *very* anxious at this point, which probably made the pain seem worse than it really was. I started taking Tylenol for pain, and it worked for a while. But then the cramping pain came back worse than ever, and Tylenol after Tylenol didn’t make it go away. Of course, this just made me more anxious than ever. I remember lying on my stomach just moaning in pain and crying, just wishing I could somehow just go unconscious until it was all over. My poor SO, who was terribly frightened and worried at this point, called the clinic’s emergency line again and again and finally got hold of the OB-GYN on call. SO talked him into calling in a prescription for Tylenol 3 with Codeine to the nearest pharmacy. My SO peeled out in his car like a race driver to pick it up for me. Unfortunately, the pharmacy had just closed when my SO got there! So I had to call the doctor again, page him, wait for him to call back, and ask him to call in yet another prescription for Tylenol 3 to a 24-hour pharmacy. All I could do was lie in bed, grit my teeth against the pain, and wait for my SO to bring me the medicine.

While I was waiting for SO to return, I passed a blood clot that was approximately the size of a walnut. I am pretty sure that this clot contained almost all of the pregnancy tissue. Perhaps I was hurting so much because it took a lot of intense cramping for my uterus to expel it. I passed one more clot, about the size of a large marble, shortly afterwards. I was a little disturbed by this, but I also knew it was a sign that the abortion meds were working. SO *finally* arrived home with the Tylenol 3, and it made all the difference in the world! Finally, my cramping pain went away, and I was able to relax and sleep.

The first day was definitely the worst. From then on, there were no more terribly painful cramps. And no more substantial clots or pieces of tissue, thankfully. Just blood. It continued pretty much as a normal period. The bleeding was heavy for the first three days or so after Saturday, but gradually subsided over the next seven or eight days. Today, ten days after I first took the Mifeprex, I am *finally* no longer bleeding. This morning I took another pregnancy test. Negative. What a relief! It was an ordeal, and SO and I both sometimes wonder about the baby that could have been. But overall, I feel that we made the right decision, and I have no deep regrets or guilt. And I’m happy to say that my SO was supportive and helpful through the whole thing, and was a good nurse to me when I was going through the worst of it. I think that the experience actually brought us closer together.

If there’s anything I’d like to pass on to others who might be considering a chemical abortion, it’s this — make sure your doctor gives you adequate pain relief! Some clinic doctors automatically prescribe Percoset for a woman having a chemical abortion, and I really, really, *really* wish my Dr. had done that too. A strong pain reliever would have made the first few hours soooo much easier to get through. Also, take some pain reliever about a half an hour before you take the Misoprostol, so that you already have it in your system before the cramping and bleeding start. A chemical abortion is pretty much an induced miscarriage, so you can expect the messiness of a typical miscarriage. You must be prepared to deal with all of the expelled tissue as well as several days of heavy bleeding. Occasionally, some women even see the tiny expelled embryo (I did not). A surgical abortion would definitely be easier and “cleaner” in this respect. But even after having gone through some pain, I am still glad I chose this method over a surgical abortion, because the idea of invasive surgery scared me a lot more than taking the pills did.

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