Elizabeth’s Story

First of all, I’d like to thank you for having this site. I have sent many many people to view it (including a girl sitting next to me in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood!) and I think it’s a much-needed resource.

I had my abortion in May of 2007. I had been feeling ridiculously unwell for several weeks, with severe abdominal pain, and had been unable to sleep through the night. I was studying for medical school entrance exams, so I chalked it up to stress. Finally the fiancé made me go to student health because I was in such pain. I casually mentioned that my breasts had been painful as well, which I attributed to sleeping on my front for the first time since puberty because of the stomach pains. Reading that written seems laughable, but to be fair, I had had my period when expected two weeks before, and my doctor agreed with me that it was heartburn attributed to stress. He asked on the way out the door if there was any possible way I could be pregnant, and I said that my period had been normal, but it wasn’t “inconceivable” and we both giggled a little. He came back in ten minutes later, put his hand on my arm and said “I know this will come as a shock to you as it did to me, but I made them repeat the test twice and you are pregnant.” And because I had had what was now classified as spotting rather than a period, and because of the pain I was in, I got sent to the ER with a possible diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy.

On a side note, I would like to point out that I plan to enter OB/GYN as my field of practice, and I knew you could have a “period” and be pregnant. I knew that abdominal pain + painful breasts in a sexually active child-bearing-age woman = pregnancy. And yet my atypical presentation made me not see what was right in front of me. So I was sitting alone in the waiting room of the ER late on a Friday afternoon, crying, blindsided not only by the pregnancy, but by the fact that my life might be in danger, and alternately kicking myself for being so stupid. On the other hand my sweet student health doc consoled me with a study that of women who present to the ER with stomach pain, and who claim that there is no possible way that they are pregnant, 50% end up being with jellybean on the way.

The ER wait and experience deserves a whole page or two on its own, but I won’t waste too much time on it for here. The horrible intake doctor took one look at me, said “I don’t think you’re ectopic” and kept me waiting for 8 hours for the sonogram machine to free up. The technician said “there it is, do you want to see it?” To which I said of course, but where is it (since that was the whole point of this endless wait) and she looked surprised and said “right where it should be, in your uterus.” So the fiancé and I got to see the yolk sac on the screen and finally got to go home.

We had a brief discussion, but we were both in agreement that neither of us was in a position to have a child at that time. What I found really interesting was the fact that I had way less emotional response and way more physical response than I would have expected. I had been saying for years that it would be a really hard decision to make in my old age (I was 27 at the time) because realistically I could be a mother and support a child, blah blah blah, but when it came down to it it was practically a non-decision. I had my MCATs in less than a month, neither of us had jobs and neither of us literally had time to deal with a child.

More practically, it was a horrible pregnancy in terms of what it did to me. They diagnosed bilateral ovarian cysts in the ER, and my doctor ended up saying I should use Zantac because of my stomach irritation. Essentially I was in pain 24/7 and not able to sleep, as well as starting to have swollen breasts and the beginnings of morning sickness. I was spending most afternoons sleeping, and the others weeping from pain and malaise. And the ER physicians had the gall to say we can’t give you anything more for the pain than Tylenol because you’re pregnant (way to go Catholic hospitals)! Between the time I found out I was pregnant and the abortion I lost five pounds.

The procedure itself was fine, and I was grateful that I had the half-day it took, and that I live in a city where I could literally take public transportation to get my abortion. We had to wade through the protestors, which I thought was kind of funny, and the fiancé took great pleasure in being a body block between them and me. We had a counseling session together, and then I had to go in to the procedure room by myself. It was really weird actually going through the procedure: it wasn’t painful, but it felt like I was being vacuumed from the inside. I had a nice chat with the assistant who held my hand about applying to med school. They had given me a Valium which I’d never had before, and to which I attribute my puking an hour later into the rose bushes in front of our house. And then I slept for three hours.

And now I’m here to say, over a year later, that it was not even momentous enough to be called the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a big decision, and I made the right choice, but it’s not something I think about all that often. I occasionally think about what life would be like with a child now, but never with regret or wistfully. I’m not sorry.