Elizabeth’s Story

I am a thirty-three year old mother; I have a thirteen-year-old and a two-year-old. Both were unplanned; there were several abortions between the two babies (with the same partner). That sounds awful to a lot of people. I remember once reading, when I was very young, that Marilyn Monroe had something like thirteen abortions; another time I read Yoko Ono had many abortions, and I was shocked. How could anyone have more than one? I thought. I guess I am hoist with my own petard on that one. But I have learned to have compassion, since I would hate anyone to judge me based on my gynecological history.

Today I had my (count on fingers) sixth abortion. This time I was really surprised I was pregnant as I was telling myself we were being careful. However, I did notice at the time that I had fertile signs and thought in the back of my head that maybe we shouldn’t have sex at all, even with a condom.

I was not as sick as I have been in the past, and since my daughter started her period a few months ago, I thought I might simply be late due to her cycle throwing me off, as it has done this fall. Finally I had to accept I did indeed feel queasy and was going to bed at nine pm instead of one am. I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood. In my new state they require a doctor’s test or their own, so a whole week had to be taken up with the test itself and then waiting for the first available appointment. That would be my only complaint; once I knew I was truly pregnant, I would have liked to have had the abortion that very evening. Instead I had to spend a week feeling nauseous and exhausted, trying to pretend I was fine around children and husband. Initially I thought I would try not to tell my husband; I didn’t want him getting depressed; I found though that I needed the support and also had no convincing reason why I needed to go to Planned Parenthood two weeks in a row.

Fortunately I could tell him with total honesty that, unlike past pregnancies, I felt no conflict whatsoever; I do not want more children, and so the wait was the hardest part. I adore my children but know I do not want, nor could I handle, any more. If anything I feel guilty now about “forcing” my husband to have the children we do; if abortion were not legal or accessible to me I would go mad. Yet women do have the ability to force men into parenthood against their will; our reproductive process is inherently inequitable.

I thought that I would try the medical abortion this time. Although my last abortion was a positive experience, others have not been so, and it is not a pleasant procedure. That week of waiting, though, led me to reconsider. My nausea grew worse, and I couldn’t bear it anymore, nor the knowledge that the medications themselves might make me very nauseous. It is also almost Christmas and I have been growing depressed about my lack of energy and ability to be present for my children and myself, having this pregnancy and its symptoms. Medical abortion has a failure rate of eight percent, and I didn’t want to face a continued pregnancy and surgical abortion two weeks from now, effectively also ruining my holiday.

Fortunately I was able to change my mind. The staff were the best I have encountered yet, even though I had a three-hour-wait! The nurse who cared for me was cheerful, funny, warm and seemed willing to match moods with a patient; if I had been very emotional or needed a lot of support I got the sense she would have met me at that point immediately. I confessed my nervousness about being awake for the surgery. She assured me that this doctor was very gentle, and that in her private opinion medical abortion was more uncomfortable and less reliable. The doctor was also warm and kind.

I was amazed at how little pain I experienced. Other abortions have been painful. The doctor today was so gentle and explained everything he did as he did it. It was not comfortable, but I can’t say it was painful. I did not even notice the novocaine injections, which are usually a little painful. It was also astonishingly fast. He said I did not need to have the machine aspiration, that he could use the manual device. He gave me updates: “We’ll be done in fifteen seconds.” I felt better immediately. It is always amazing to me that the symptoms of pregnancy caused by the embryo’s production of hcg, like nausea and breast tenderness, disappear literally as soon as it is removed. The methergine pill made me sick; I vomited on the way home, but a mother who gets carsick has lots of ziploc bags in her purse, so even that was not a problem.

My week of knowing-I-was-pregnant-for-sure was so awful I don’t know how I could possibly have coped had abortion not been an option. I only hope it becomes more accessible; that a woman can go from a positive pregnancy test to an immediate termination. Some of us really don’t need a waiting period to be sure; we know before we even miss a period what we would choose.