Ellie’s Story

To preface this story, you must know that I had been involved in a lengthy and exhausting divorce battle with my soon-to-be ex-husband. The marriage was disastrous. He was an abusive alcoholic who abused our oldest son and myself. I left him when I was five months pregnant with the next child. I could go into further detail; but this story isn’t about him or the marriage. Suffice it to say, I had been trying to divorce a very bad man who was using the two children that we shared biologically, who I had been with every day of their lives and he had barely ever seen due to his choices, to hurt me.

I can’t claim the glory of a single mother for too much of that time. I had met and fell in love with a man who has been my partner, my friend, and a respectable co-parent. He has helped me raise these children. In Florida of 2001, when a pregnancy test showed positive and I was in the dramatics of the divorce, the question surfaced: Abort? I chose to keep the child. We hid the pregnancy and the oldest child never told his biological father during the supervised visitation sessions, even though neither my partner nor I ever told him not to say anything. I did not want my son to “spill the beans” on something we needed to keep secret – lest my soon-to-be ex-husband use it against me in court – but I could never ask my children to keep secrets. We had this gorgeous girl in November 2001, and it was then that my son told his biological father about his beautiful baby sister.

The divorce waged on, coming to a head in February 2003. We were living in a different state, he had moved the divorce to a different county (getting a paternal-oriented judge in the process), and petitioned for sole custody. I flew back to Illinois for the hearing, packing tampons and a nuva-ring in anticipation of my period to begin any day. The hearing was a disaster. To avoid being forced to back to Illinois from our wonderful home in Florida, where the children were flourishing in a private Christian school and we had jobs that were an opportunity of a lifetime, I was coerced by my attorney into an agreed order that gave all holidays and 2/3rds of summer vacation to my ex-husband, while I would be paying 2/3rds of all travel expenses. Amongst many other unconscionable aspects, we couldn’t afford that! My attorney told me we could change it no problem. When I got back home, it was a different story. My attorney had lied to me just to make the deal. I told him that I still hadn’t gotten my period and that he’d better hope I skipped a period out of stress!

I took the pregnancy test and EPT returned the same result as exactly two years ago. Two lines. This time, it didn’t seem like I had many options to choose from. I had to abort. I couldn’t afford the current court order as it was, let alone adding another child to the mix. My job was demanding in hours and energy and I become impossibly lethargic and nauseous in the first trimester. I would not qualify for maternity leave, yet. I told my partner and he understood. He was depressed. This same person who told me, when I was seven months pregnant with our daughter, that this was the last child we would have (being the only other adult, besides myself, who contributes to the upbringing of these three children socially, financially, physically and emotionally, he doesn’t distinguish between our daughter and her two older brothers), now tells me he’s depressed that we’re terminating the pregnancy. I treated him flippantly, since we both knew it was neither the time nor place to discuss it, and this was what needed to be done.

What I haven’t included in my publicly announced reasons to abort is that I remember the silent panic attacks I had on the operating table during the c-section of my daughter. Despite it being my third c-section, I felt that I was losing my nerve. I remember the discomforts of pregnancy. I was not prepared or willing to put my body through another pregnancy. I am sure that my decision would have been the same, even without a vicious court order.

I called Planned Parenthood the following day. I listened to all the options available to me about abortion. The one in my area provided medication abortion. I opted for that. I made the appointment. When I got there, the waiting time was little. I read my materials and filled out a little paperwork. Everyone, and I mean everyone, at the clinic was terrific, friendly, open, efficient and informed. They did the ultrasound and located the fetus, determining how far along the pregnancy was. Gestational age 6 weeks. After that, they did my labs. I was tested for my RH Factor, and my blood type is A+, so no extra shot was needed. I was then asked to wait in the counseling room. I had a five minute wait there. Never being one to sit still, I took a moment to poke through all the literature available, put the pens back in the pencil holder, put the paperclips back on the magnet, and wrote down the address for the Director of Patient Services. The counselor joined me and went through a series of questions, listening patiently and connecting. I was very sure of my decision and the reasons for it. I was directed back to the exam room, where the nurse gave me her pager number, handed me a cup of water, and the pill that thins the uterus wall. I took the pill as easily as an aspirin and listened carefully to her instructions. She handed me the four inserts for the next day and a prescription for Tylenol #3.

“Take the pain killer fifteen minutes before you do the inserts.” She told me. Having gone through c-sections, where pain killers are needed for a few days after coming home, and having dental work done, where pain killers are definitely needed, I was already well versed in “having the pain killer in your system before the pain actually hits.” I was very grateful that she had said it, because it meant that other women, who may not know, were being told.

I filled my prescription, bought some Italian ice and three packages of maxi pads, and went home. I felt some cramps and a headache that night, but did not bleed. The next day, I took a Tylenol #3, put a comforter and pillow on the couch, put one of those super duper overnight with wings maxi pads in a pair of old panties, shaved my outer labia so I’d feel cleaner during the heavy bleeding, put a glass of water on the end table, and put in the inserts. I paged the nurse to let her know I’d put in the inserts and settled down on the couch for a day dedicated to movie channels and napping. After fifteen minutes, I started bleeding. It came as a gush; and every 30 minutes I visited the bathroom to change the maxi pad. I never soaked a pad a half hour, and only 1 of 4 “lemon-sized” clots exited on the pad instead of in the toilet. I continued to take a Tylenol #3 every 2 hours and, as a result, I did not experience cramping or nausea. I had made my partner clear his work schedule for that day and I felt as though I had conned him into waiting on me when I was perfectly okay to do it myself! I didn’t let him in on that secret. In fact, I felt a little adrift because he was working quite a bit on his computer and not doting on me. I said something to that affect and he abandoned his computer to bring me more water and warm nachos. Yes, forget the Italian ice, I wanted nachos!

The bleeding lessened by the evening and my partner went off to a night job that he had managed to arrange coming in later, but not get out of completely. By my lonesome, I began feeling a little depressed. I didn’t feel self-doubt. I didn’t feel guilt. I never questioned my decision. At that moment, I had a little depression pity party. I cried because odd things made me sad, like how Vivi beat her children in a drug-induced rage in “Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood” (Rebecca Wells). Stuff I would do for weeks in a post-partum depression. That lasted a few moments, maybe 20 minutes. I made more nachos, watched “Ocean’s Eleven,” and felt better.

The next day, I put in a new nuva ring. I bled for five more days, and still used those enormous maxis because I had bought so many of them. My partner’s depression carried on for a few more days until we talked about it, and he got to express his feelings and hear mine. Once he realized that we were of like minds on this, too, and just didn’t have the opportunity to discuss emotions at length before the abortion, he felt closure on the matter.

I sent the Director of Patient Services a letter, telling how sensitive, informative, and competent the entire staff was during this time. After a week, I returned to Planned Parenthood for my scheduled appointment to verify via ultrasound that the abortion was successful. The staff was just as courteous, caring and friendly, except that as I entered the waiting area, they were gushing over a copy of the letter that I had sent. “They blocked out the name but it’s not hard to guess who it is.” said one nurse. The ultrasound was a vaginal one this time. I’ve had that kind of ultrasound once before, when I was miscarrying a child in ’99. It was just as uncomfortable this time; but, not intolerable and I didn’t have to remove the nuva ring. The abortion was successful.