Mariah’s Story

It was the perfect time to have a baby. Or, so it would seem to the rest of the world looking in on my life. I’d been married for three years, my husband and I both had good, steady jobs, and we’re in our mid-twenties. Perfect time to have a baby? Many would say yes. Not us.

I discovered I was pregnant the day after Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller was assassinated. I sat and watched the TV reports that night, horrified by his murder. I have always been pro-choice (be it birth, adoption or abortion), but watching those images that night, I didn’t realize how personal the right to choose was about to become.

That Monday morning, I realized I was a day late. I’m never late. At the time, I had been and still was extremely busy, so I figured my body was just a little out of whack. I didn’t even think about pregnancy because I am a perfect pill user. And no, I’m not trying to make myself look good. I use an alarm that reminds me to take my pills every morning. I started doing this not because of my birth control, but because of other daily medications for ailments that, frankly, caused more concern than birth control and safe sex ever did. So, as I noted, with perfect pill use (99.9% effectiveness) I didn’t even think I could be pregnant. Lucky me, I won the 1 in 1000 lottery.

It wasn’t until I arrived at work that red flags started going up. I walked past a co-worker’s desk and the smell of their coffee made me gag. I love coffee. This was not normal. That was the first moment the question of pregnancy entered my mind. Then as I sat at my desk, I began to have cramps. I thought “Thank God. I’m getting my period.” When I went to the bathroom however, no such luck. I got panicky when I went to lunch with a friend and found that the thought, let alone smell and taste of food made me nauseous. To top it off, I had to make an emergency exit to the ladies room before lunch was even over. I kept thinking, “I’m not pregnant. I’m not pregnant.” Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels together wishing wistfully for home.

By the middle of the afternoon I was exhausted, and noticed that my breasts were aching. Still, I kept mentally repeating, “I’m not pregnant. I’m not pregnant.” Finally, I couldn’t focus on my work. I left early and drove straight to the pharmacy to pick up some pregnancy tests.

When I got home, my husband was sitting at his desk, and casually asked, “How was your day?” At this point I calmly said, “Oh, well…I think I might be pregnant.”

He sat very still for a moment. We’d discussed what we would do if I were to get pregnant before we were ready, but theory and reality are very different. After all, this was my husband. If I’m going to have children with anyone, it’s going to be him. This was (though still unconfirmed) our potential baby. He looked at me, at which point I began to cry. He held me, trying to remain hopeful and reminded me that I hadn’t taken the test yet. I didn’t have to take the test. I knew. I know my body, and it was screaming classic pregnancy symptoms.

The test, of course, was positive. Instantly there was a giant pink plus sign staring back at me. Oh God. I always supported the right to choose, but never though I would be in the position to make that choice. I did protect myself. I was safe. And yet, there I sat, pregnant against all odds.

We found a local abortion clinic and scheduled an abortion for that Friday. I elected for the medical abortion (RU486) since I wasn’t too far along, and preferred something non-invasive.

I arrived at the clinic Friday morning to a crowd of protesters (no doubt stirred up and rallying over their recent kill – don’t get me wrong, some of them were peaceful, which I respect). However, I had to be led into the clinic by US Federal Marshals. I had to be escorted into a clinic by armed Federal Marshals to undergo a completely legal procedure. Think about it. Inside, I filled out extensive paperwork and was given a number to protect my identity. I was never referred to by my name in the lobby – they called us all by number.

There were many women in the clinic that morning. The diversity in that waiting room truly astounded me. Teens, middle aged women, twenty and thirty-somethings, all of differing ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Some in business clothes, others with tattoos and piercings and some looked as though they had just walked out of the pages of an All-American J. Crew catalog.

The nurse motioned to me, “Number 286.” I nodded, and followed her through the locked door. Once inside, I was thoroughly counseled about my options. Abortion, adoption, keeping the baby. I told them I still wanted an abortion, and they sent me to an examination room. They did a blood test, a pelvic exam and a vaginal ultrasound. During the ultrasound, they swiveled the screen around and showed me the embryo. There it was, the little cluster of cells that was making me miserable and that I had done everything to avoid. The little cluster of cells that could potentially be my husband’s and my first child. I was a little in awe and mystified by the reality of the embryo I was looking at, but I was undeterred. I wanted my abortion.

They gave me the RU486 after I signed a form agreeing to a surgical abortion if the RU486 did not effectively end the pregnancy. The doctor watched as I swallowed the three Mifepristone (RU486) pills. I was given thorough instructions as to how much pain I would experience, what was normal vs. abnormal, and two prescriptions: misoprostol, which I was to take the next day to induce cramps, and Vicodin, for the pain.

Thank God for Vicodin! Now, to be fair, I have friends who had medical abortions with little discomfort. Not so for me. I am a woman who rarely has menstrual cramps, so perhaps that is why my abortion was so painful.

I took the misoprostol Saturday morning when I got up. After an hour I began to have strong cramps and couldn’t get comfortable. I felt like I was going to be sick – and later I was. I schlepped back and forth between the couch and the bathroom. Then the cramps got worse. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t lie down. I cramped from my lower back to the bottoms of my feet. I began shaking and sweating, I was in so much pain.

I crawled into the shower and crouched on the floor. I let the hot water wash over me, and it made things bearable. The white noise from the water helped, like it was drowning out the pain somehow. I felt as if my nerves were raw. I didn’t want to be touched. It took effort to speak (as my husband, who felt helpless at the time, can attest to). All I could do was close my eyes and ride the cramp out. Just breathe through it. I couldn’t wait the full amount of time prescribed between Vicodin.

I think I know the exact point when the embryo dislodged, because I became violently ill. And then, seconds later, to my great relief, I finally began to bleed. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my life.

The cramps kept coming. I felt a bizarre urge to push. Strange, since there was no real baby being birthed, but really, if you think about it, my body was essentially doing the same, just in miniature.

After a few more minutes of intense cramps, I saw it.

That’s right. I saw the embryo. A little clump of whitish-pink. I cupped it in my hand. I stared at that little cluster of ‘what might have been’ in wonder. In that moment, I loved it.

Then I let it go.

Over the next few hours, the cramps stopped. I started a heavy period.

Two weeks later, at my check up, the reassuring words “Your uterus looks completely normal” marked the end of my abortion experience.

While I personally had a rough experience with RU486, like I said, I know some women it has worked well for. If I had it to do over again (which I hope I never do) I would go the surgical route.

Although I chose to end my pregnancy with abortion, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t understand the potential life, or just how miraculous conception is. I do. I was awestruck. I will always know that my first child could have been born in January of 2010. But I chose to wait. To give my child the best start possible in this world, which at present, I am both unable and unwilling to provide.

I have absolutely no regret.