Gayle’s Story

I am 32 and have had two abortions about which I am not at all sorry.

My first abortion was when I had just turned 18, after my first year of college. That was a very difficult year for me emotionally, as I had yet to really “find myself”, and my stores of self-confidence and self-respect were at an all-time low. When I went off to college, I had never had intercourse, but all that changed as I simultaneously discovered the “joys” of excessive alcohol and recreational drug use. At first, I had a boyfriend, a very nice, gentle guy with whom I am still very glad I had sex for the first time. But he was a senior and uninterested, as it turned out, in being “tied down” to a relationship. He broke up with me, and I set out to find a new boyfriend… but went about it in the typically wrong way. I failed to realize that boys who were more than willing to sleep with me were not necessarily interested in being my boyfriend, and it took me a long time rife with dangerously poor judgment to understand that sex does not equal love.

By the end of the school year, I was pretty messed up and full of what I now realize was self-loathing. I slept with many guys, still hopeful that one of them would turn out to be long-term boyfriend material. Towards the end of classes, for reasons I can’t recall, I decided to go off the Pill, and I stupidly believed that I would not be fertile again for at least a few weeks. During those few weeks, I was at a party one night, very drunk, and was approached by a guy I knew who was a senior, and extremely handsome, charismatic, and popular. He had a live-in girlfriend with whom I was also friendly. At the party, I was going to the bathroom, and this guy followed me in. He told me that he thought I was really special, and beautiful, and had wanted to be with me for a long time, but couldn’t because of his girlfriend. He started kissing me and said all the right things to my sad, drunken ears, and managed to convince me to go off and sleep with him – it would be “our secret”. I barely remember the coerced, alcohol-clouded intimacy that followed (totally unprotected), but I will never forget what happened next, which was that he confessed what he’d done to his girlfriend, who forgave him, but proceeded to make my life a living hell. I ended the school year with virtually no friends. I hated myself.

That summer, I was a camp counselor, and about halfway through the camp term, I finally confided in my co-counselor that I hadn’t had my period all summer, and I needed to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I knew I could neither contact the father nor expect any support from him whatsoever, and I couldn’t do anything about it until camp was over for the summer, so I lived with the secret until I got home and was able to make an appointment for an abortion. I told my family I was going to have lunch with a friend from high school, and instead, drove by myself to the clinic. I spent nearly half of what I made that summer on the procedure, and thankfully the environment was a sensitive, supportive one. I later found out that the clinic was notorious for having aggressive anti-Choice protesters outside, but there had been none present on the day I went. The procedure went quickly and was only moderately painful, but nothing could eclipse the supreme relief I felt when it was over. I was determined that nothing like that would happen to me again.

Best laid plans… after I graduated from college, at 21, I moved out west and fell into an affair with a much older co-worker. I didn’t see it as a particularly serious relationship; it was mainly “for fun”, and sex with this very experienced man was incredible. I was on the Pill once again, but my lover was sterile (he’d had mumps as an adolescent), and eventually, being rather poor, I decided to economize by going off the Pill. Later, I skipped a period or two (probably convinced myself it was side effects of ceasing oral contraception), but I was so nauseated and exhausted all the time, the awful truth began to dawn on me. In utter disbelief, I discovered that I was once again pregnant. My partner’s first reaction was that I must have been unfaithful, but to his credit, he soon realized that I had not been, and clearly he was not as sterile as he’d always thought. He made it clear that he had no interest in marrying me or in being a father, but knew that the choice was ultimately mine. I knew that I didn’t want a baby, with or without his support, but the decision was slightly more difficult to make given the circumstances – he’d been apparently sterile for 25-odd years of sexual activity, and somehow we’d managed to conceive. That sort of created and aura of… destiny. This fetus was a bit more real to me as a potential person. Despite this, however, I made what I knew was the right choice.

My partner went with me to the clinic, which was an outstanding feminist facility, and I proceeded to have a two-day surgical abortion, starting with laminaria insertion and returning the next day for the aspiration. Everyone I encountered was amazing, including the doctor, whom I’ll never forget for the prominent “Republicans for Choice” button he wore on his white coat. The whole experience, though more painful than the first time (longer gestation), was as relaxing and comfortable as it could be, and I left there feeling well taken care of and again, totally relieved. We went home and my lover spent the rest of the day outside working on his motorcycle while a close girlfriend stayed inside with me, having brought videos and junk food. She took care of me all weekend. Things were never the same with the man after that (he also confessed that he’d had herpes all along and hadn’t told me!! – dodged that particular bullet, thank goodness!), and I soon moved back East.

I have never regretted either of these decisions, and I know in my heart that I did the right thing for myself and for these potential children for whom I could not then have been a good mother (and for whom there would have been no father). I went on to receive a graduate degree in reproductive health, and remain a steadfast advocate and activist for choice. I’ve found that many family planning advocates view abortion as family planning “failure”, but I have come to view abortion is a valid contraceptive choice, whether you make that choice once, twice, or twenty times. Unlike some, I am not determined to remain childless, and in fact, hope to become pregnant soon. I look forward to motherhood, now that I have matured and dealt with my personal demons, now that I feel secure and firmly rooted in a life that I love, now that I am married to an amazing man (who read about this site in The Nation and sent me the link) with whom I cannot wait to share the experience of parenthood. Thank you for this powerful site and the opportunity to share my stories.