Lily’s Story

In February 2003, I took the train to visit grad school and spend a week with a good friend, “Helen”. I’d been moving around a lot since finishing college- had lived in the last place for only four months doing a short-term job, and during this trip I wasn’t living anywhere- I was on my way to visit my sister, and then back home to my parents’ house. I was really broke, excited about starting graduate school but also worried about how to live until September. Between September and January I’d been dating this guy, but it was never serious and we weren’t talking anymore.

Well even before I left I’d noticed that my breasts were getting bigger, but the same thing had happened to my sisters in their early twenties, so I just laughed it off. But when I got to Helen’s house, the very first morning we were joking around about how I had to buy all new bras, and I said I wonder if I’m pregnant? She had a pregnancy test lying around- if she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have found out for a good while longer. I knew that I had taken some risks-using condoms sometimes, other times trusting in the calendar-we’d both been tested for diseases, I didn’t have health insurance for birth control, etc. I don’t do that anymore, even though I’d like to!

Helen had never had an abortion and didn’t know what to say. I called my sister and made an appointment at the clinic in her city. I emailed the father and told him I’d need him to help pay for it-that was hard because I didn’t have any relationship with him anymore, not even as friends, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t talked to him since. I spent the week meeting with professors and hanging out with my friend’s roommates. I was trying to hide my nervousness, to think about the future, and all the time falling for one of those roommates, “Ted”. Ted and Helen took me to the Greyhound station on a Friday afternoon; I got off the bus at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning-my sister met me and took me straight to the clinic. We had to hide my bags because they couldn’t do abortions on out-of-state women. My sister couldn’t go in with me. I waited in a paper gown and paper slippers in a cramped room with ten other women who all stared at the television and didn’t look at each other. The show was about my hometown, I remember. During the procedure the nurse held my hand limply, and I wished my sister were there, but the doctor-a young man- was very kind. It was painful, and I did see the blood in the machine, and when it was done I burst out crying-but not for guilt. All the tension and fear I had had just suddenly broke. And when I got to the recovery area, so dizzy I couldn’t see, all the women were laughing and talking to each other, comforting the girls who vomited from the anesthetic-the women who’d had abortions before told us what to expect. I kept crying with relief and eating my cookies and Tang.

I had more pain-on another Greyhound ride a week later, I woke up cramping so hard I couldn’t think and spent the next two hours writhing and groaning (luckily I had two seats to myself and could roll around freely). But the life I’ve had since was worth every minute on that bus.

I’m in my second year of grad school, doing well and enjoying all the time I have to read; and Ted and I are coming up on our second anniversary. It is the most wonderful relationship I’ve ever had. I didn’t tell him about the abortion for a long time because I thought that if he found out it would ruin his trust in me and his memories of our meeting. I finally decided I had to tell him and when I did, he just said he couldn’t believe I thought that he’d be mad-that he felt so glad I was willing to tell him something so private. I want to thank that doctor and every doctor who performs abortions for making it possible for women like me to decide their own fates.