Rae’s Story

Ever since I was old enough to know what pregnancy was, I have been pro-choice. My parents were big on discussing current events and social issues around the dinner table, and so, long before I actually got pregnant, I regarded abortion as a reasonable alternative to having a child or adoption.

When I was 16, I was in my senior year at high school, and working full-time at an Internet company (school from 8am-3pm, work from 4pm-12am). As you can imagine, this was profoundly stressful, so when I missed two periods in a row, I was not very surprised-I had missed periods before and not been pregnant. I also started to gain weight and have cramps, however, so the day of my 17th birthday I took a pregnancy test, and discovered I was pregnant. I was not all that surprised. My boyfriend and I had not been using birth control regularly, since I’m really bad about remembering to take pills consistently (I can’t even remember to take vitamins each morning). I was upset and disappointed in myself for having gotten pregnant, but I knew that I certainly wasn’t going to continue the pregnancy- as I mentioned above, I always knew where I stood on abortion, and that made my decision much easier. I told my boyfriend, and he was probably more upset than I was, but he definitely considered abortion to be the best option as well. Since I did not have a good relationship with my father at the time, I didn’t tell him, but I did tell my mother. My mother was wonderful and supportive through the whole thing- she had had an abortion too as a teenager, when she got pregnant and couldn’t support a child at the time. Years later, of course, she birthed and raised my sister and I, which disproves the notion that women who have abortions are bad mothers or hate children.

I went into Planned Parenthood a few days later, just to talk to a doctor and make an appointment for an abortion. They had me take a pregnancy test there just to be sure, and I believe that’s also when I had an ultrasound- I was about three months pregnant by then. I saw the ultrasound, but it didn’t really look like a baby, nor inspire any maternal feelings in me. I could even feel on my stomach where I was starting to show, but it didn’t feel like a life growing in me- it just felt like something was wrong with my stomach. The counselor at Planned Parenthood was very nice, and delineated the procedure and my options for abortion (I was a bit too far along- just into my second trimester- to use RU-486, so I would have to have a surgical procedure, which isn’t very surgical at all- there’s no cutting involved). They also offered pre-natal care, should I choose to keep the fetus (though I knew I didn’t want to). They made sure I had a support system, and that I wasn’t having to do this alone. They also let me know that I could apply for MediCal (medical assistance) to help pay for the abortion. I was actually covered under my father’s health insurance, but didn’t want the news to get back to him. I chose to pay for the abortion myself-which cost $700, all told-because I had a good job at the time, and felt that I should leave the financial assistance money for people who genuinely could not afford their own health care. I referred to the $700 as “my good deed for the year”. The state I lived in doesn’t require minors to get parental permission to have an abortion, and Planned Parenthood was perfectly discreet whenever they called me at my father’s house. Overall, I think PP is a wonderful organization that does very important work with the utmost sensitivity to their clients.

Now, this is the part that most people who haven’t been pregnant don’t understand. The reason I couldn’t just carry the child and put it up for adoption is because pregnancy is, at best, an impediment to normal life, and at worst, a serious disability. Even without complications, some pregnant women end up bedridden for most of their pregnancy. I was only three months along and already having a hard time of it- morning sickness every day at 7am, throwing up in the shower, having to eat every hour or two (which was almost impossible, since you can’t eat during class). I was always tired and cranky and upset, and I had no energy to do my homework. I am certain that if I hadn’t terminated the pregnancy, I would have had to drop out of high school and quit my job, and do nothing but stay at home, sick and pregnant, every day. My life would have been put on hold for almost a year while I recovered, and I couldn’t have graduated high school normally or continued working; my life would be thrown completely off track just by remaining pregnant.

I had two appointments. First a quick one for a blood test and laminaria, wherein they inserted some thin sponges into my cervix, which would expand when they got moist and dilate (that is, gently enlarge) the cervical passage. That was not comfortable- not painful, just weird. It was similar to a Pap smear in sensation. The next day was the actual procedure. I had my boyfriend and mother with me, though they both had to stay in the waiting room. I was given ibuprofen, I think some Valium to calm my nerves, and they put an IV in my arm. I was conscious the entire time, and not given any anesthetic as far as I recall, general or local. I did the pants-off, hospital-gown on, Maxi-pad-in-underwear thing that appears to be common to most abortions, and then was taken into the procedural room itself. The doctor was not all that friendly, but the nurses were immensely sweet-one of them was assisting the doctor, and the other was just there to hold my hand and pat my forehead. They put a tube in my vagina and through my cervix, attached it to a machine, and turned it on. It was like a big vacuum, as far as I can tell, and just suctioned out the fetal material. That hurt a bit at first- kind of like a really deep-tissue massage- but once I started breathing deep and calmed down, it was tolerable. I don’t remember how long it went on- not very long- and then everything was removed. I was sat up, put my underwear and the pad on, and was taken to the recovery room. Everyone in there was fairly quiet and mellow, and none of the girls seemed upset. They gave us juice and cookies, and after a few minutes they checked my vitals, had me check how much I was bleeding (about the same as a normal period), and then I got dressed and was taken out to my mother and boyfriend. The whole thing was remarkably un-traumatic.

We went out and had lunch, and then I went home and took a nap. When I woke up, I felt better than I had in months-all the hormones and energy-draining that the pregnancy was doing to me were gone, and I finally had my body back. It felt like I had lost 20 pounds (though I probably lost only a few ounces). I’ve been on Depo-Provera since then, which is much easier for me to remember to take than the Pill, and have had no pregnancy scares since. I don’t regret my decision at all, and don’t have any emotional issues about it; it was unfortunate that it happened, but I was prepared for it and made the right decision.