Sep 052010

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I became sexually active in 1976 and used birth control every single time. A few years later, my husband and I decided to get pregnant and figured it would take a few months. I was pregnant less than four weeks later. That made me happy to have been so careful about birth control! We then had a baby who kept us very busy.

So, one June day in the early ’80s, my period was late.

In those days, I was regular. We were still careful about birth control, often using condoms in addition to contraceptive foam. I’d been on the pill initially, but it raised my blood pressure so I had to get off it.

A few days later, I took a home pregnancy test and learned I was pregnant.

To say I was deeply depressed was putting it mildly. We had been careful. I had been looking hard for a job. I was feeling overwhelmed by one child and wasn’t ready for a second. Money was tight, but we came up with the cash, and I took a bus to the women’s clinic for the all day appointment.

And those were the days that clinic picketing had started. There were only about 9 of them, and I bitterly resented having to run the gauntlet to get around them. But they did not stop me from having an abortion. Those people have made me furious about anyone who dared to call themselves “pro-life” (as a number of my relatives do).

Most of the women at the clinic were quite young. I was in my mid-20s, so I was an oldster. The staff was mostly nice, but the default assumption was that we knew nothing about birth control. This may have been true for many of the women there, but not for me. Still, I had to sit through a few hours of lectures.

I was one of the last procedures of the day, and the doctor was in a hurry. So on top of everything else, he didn’t let the painkillers work and started to dilate the cervix. It was extraordinarily painful, but very short. He touched my leg and said something like “You did good.” That was unnecessary. It would have been better if he’d bothered to wait the extra minute and let the painkillers kick in.

I was a little shaky for a few minutes in recovery. But, I recovered quickly and was starved (it was after 4 and I hadn’t eaten all day). When I left, the picketers were gone. I stopped at a nearby deli for a sandwich. And I took the bus home.

My body got back to normal quickly after the abortion.

A few months later, my period was late.

I couldn’t believe that this was happening all over again. Between getting over the abortion and having a toddler, we hadn’t been having sex very often. I threw away the contraceptive foam and made an appointment to get fitted for a diaphragm.

I counted the days before I could take a pregnancy test.

I was riding in the car when I had a strong uterine contraction. It wasn’t too painful, but it was almost like being in labor. When I got home, my period had started. Dodged that bullet – two birth control failures in a couple of months! Within a few weeks, I had a diaphragm and a few years later, my husband had a vasectomy.

I’m not sorry I had an abortion. I’m not ashamed either, but with my family as they are, I don’t tend to talk about this.

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