Beth’s Story

I got pregnant in December of my freshman year at Georgetown University. My boyfriend from home had just visited me at Thanksgiving, and after he was gone I had my period. I felt that I no longer loved him and slept with a upperclassman on our first date. I remember thinking I was pregnant soon afterward because I knew it was the middle of my cycle.

After a week or two, I got a pregnancy test and left it in my room while we all went down to breakfast in the dorm. My roommate made an excuse to leave early and then looked at the test and told everyone the results before I had a chance to look at it.

I went home for Christmas break and slept with my boyfriend. Then I told him I was pregnant, so of course he thought it was his. He was worried about my having an abortion because he had heard stories of couples breaking up as a result.

While I was at home, I called my sister in California and told her I was pregnant, which was a big mistake. She is an evangelical Christian and started pressuring me to have the baby and give it up for adoption. Instead of trying to help me figure out which decision I wanted to make, she threatened to tell our mother about my pregnancy.

I went back to DC and procrastinated, until a friend of mine told me that I needed to make a decision. At that point I scheduled an abortion at a clinic in DC. I went there with her and the man who had got me pregnant. The clinic was in a business district; I don’t recall any protestors. It was 1981, so maybe the protest movement hadn’t gotten going at that point. The abortion cost $175. I still have the receipt.

I remember some brief counseling before the abortion, a woman asking me if I was certain I wanted to have one. I said yes. Then I was in a room with a travel poster on the ceiling. It hurt to have my cervix dilated, and when the vacuum suction started, my uterus started to contract. It was a really weird feeling. I don’t remember the doctor talking much or showing much feeling. After it was all done they had a bag, like the ones people use to bring home goldfish, but this bag was filled with blood.

I waited in a recovery room for a while, and then went out and woke up my friends. We went out for lunch at a diner and sat at the counter. When I was pregnant, I didn’t have morning sickness, but food lost its taste. That BLT was the best, tastiest sandwich I have ever had.

When I got home from the abortion, my sister called, still trying to convince me not to have an abortion. When I told her I had had one that morning, she told me that she thought it was murder but she didn’t condemn me. I don’t remember what I said in return, but I still resent her treatment of me. For a so-called Christian, she didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “compassion.” She never wanted to help me make the decision that was right for me; she just wanted to get on her high horse and save a baby. The welfare of her sister was of less importance to her.

That night I told my boyfriend at home that the baby wasn’t his. Of course, he had trouble believing me at that point. It would have been a lot better for both of us if I had never told him I was pregnant or had told him the truth. It seems I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I had gotten pregnant by someone else and I couldn’t keep silent either. It was very messed up—this is the part of the whole situation that I regret. I think the lie I told him was the worst thing I ever did.

I didn’t get on the pill until two months later, and it took forever for the bleeding to finally stop. I also had to eat yogurt so that I wouldn’t get a yeast infection.

I told my mother about the abortion and was surprised by her reaction. She told me that she wouldn’t have told me what to do. I interpreted that as her saying that I was an adult and had the right to make my own decisions in the matter. In that moment I forgave whatever grudges I had against her. Keep in mind that my mother was a devout Catholic with six children. At the end of her life, when she was homebound, she had the priest visit every week to give her communion. Her reaction really was extraordinary.

She said she told my father, but he never said anything about it to me.

I think the emotional problems I had after the abortion had to do with the circumstances surrounding my pregnancy rather than the abortion itself: getting pregnant from a one-night stand, having the father sleep with one of my friends a week after the abortion (and then getting an apartment with her the next semester), getting hassled by my sister, waiting for my father’s silence to end (it never did; who knows? Maybe my mother told me that so I wouldn’t talk to him about it), lying to my boyfriend and then trying to salvage our relationship afterward.

About a year after my abortion, I had some short-term counseling. I got out a lot of anger at my sister and my old roommate. I think the pregnancy forced me to realize that I didn’t really want to have the suburban middle-class life with children. I was horrified at being pregnant and just wanted to get this “invader” out of me. I couldn’t bear the thought of carrying the baby to term and either missing a semester of school or being 9 months pregnant the first month of my sophomore year.

I feel sorry for that 18-year-old girl when I read this story. I wish she had had someone to talk to who was concerned with her welfare, someone who could have explained her options without forcing any of them on her. I feel that she was caught between her own mistakes and the beliefs of the people surrounding her.

The situation surrounding my abortion was a mess. I know other women who had abortions, but their situations seem simple by comparison. The abortion itself, I don’t regret. I don’t feel the need to mourn it; I’m glad no child of mine will ever show up on my doorstep and say, “Hi, I just wanted to meet my birth mother!” I think I would have noticed by now, in my forties, if I’d ever really wanted to be a mother.