Sep 062010

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It’s been almost eleven years now. I was twenty-one. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years previously, when it had gotten so severe that I’d had to drop out of college. I was finally on medications that mostly worked. I was starting to pull my life back together. I’d been suicidal, unable to work, barely able to feed and bathe myself for weeks on end, and now I was finally getting better. I had a sweet boyfriend, whom even my parents liked.

We got sloppy with the condoms, and I got pregnant.

At the time, every available medication for bipolar was teratogenic. The stuff I was on caused spina bifida, and by the time I knew I was pregnant, the damage had probably already been done. Even if it hadn’t, no doctor would have let me stay on the meds while pregnant, and I simply could not go off them again. There was no option other than abortion.

I could’ve told my parents. They’re both pro-choice, and my mother had had an abortion in college herself. But they would have wanted to come up and take care of me, and I needed to do this alone.

The women’s clinic in my town only offered abortions once a month. By the time I’d found out I was pregnant, gotten together the money, and actually managed to get there, I was very near the end of the first trimester. A second trimester procedure cost more, so just in case, I borrowed some extra from a friend. I turned out not to need it, I was just under the wire.

My boyfriend and (male) best friend went down with me, but by the time we got to the door, they were both more scared than I was. I forbade them to come in; they could only make me feel worse.

Unlike some people, I didn’t chat much with the other women. I’d had morning sickness very badly for weeks, and wasn’t really in the mood to socialize. They took us into a separate room in groups to tell us what would happen, do a blood test, and give us ibuprofen. As soon as my group was all seated, someone came in to give us the little talk. I knew her a bit, from my time at the women’s center on campus before I dropped out. Nice woman. She took one look at us and said, “What are y’all looking so scared for?” We all had a good giggle, then. She assured us, in between all the informational bits that we’d be fine, we could go to the mall that afternoon, if we wanted.

There wasn’t an anesthesiologist. I couldn’t have afforded it anyway. All there was was the ibuprofen. It wasn’t too bad, though, not much more uncomfortable than a thorough gyno exam, although it went on longer. Afterwards, I threw up, but that was just from the ibuprofen on an empty stomach — that morning sickness again.

I felt so relieved, so light afterwards. The only sad moment I ever had about it was a few weeks later, when I went to visit my folks, and my mother showed me some toys she’d picked up for my future children. I wasn’t sorry, but it was a bit of bad timing. She couldn’t have known, though.

I didn’t talk about it often for years, but lately, I’ve told the story more and more often. I’m more involved politically than I used to be, and now, every time abortion is debated around me, I tell my story again. I tell my story because so many women can’t.

It’s been almost eleven years now, and I have never once been sorry.

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