Sep 062010

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My first abortion was in February 2004. I was twenty-six years old and I had gotten pregnant in December of the previous year.

I thought I couldn’t get pregnant because I had donated eggs and the doctor said, “Oh, you have de polycystic ovaries. Very hard to get pregnant. No worries! When de time comes, you get de hormones and all will be well.” So I thought I could have sex and not have to worry about birth control. Right.

My first inkling that something was not quite right was my period was late. I’d had a pretty virulent strain of influenza over the holidays and I’d lost a lot of weight, but my stomach hadn’t gone down in size. I was supposed to donate eggs again that January, and my period had not yet arrived, so I went out and got a pregnancy test from the drug store and took it. Three minutes my foot! The strip turned pink in less than three seconds. I cried so hard I made myself sick that night.

I told the father the next morning. I also told him the decision to have the baby was his – I could go either way; however, if he wanted to have the baby, he’d better be ready to be part of its life. After many back-and-forth conversations that week, alternating between “I’m excited to be a father!” and “You tricked me!” I told him that he’d better choose and soon. He told me I that if I had the baby, he’d want to see it, but wouldn’t want to pay any sort of child support. I knew I could take him to court and get him to pay, but I did not want him in my life anymore so I said we were getting a termination.

I got a referral from my gynecologist, made an appointment with a clinic and the ex was kind enough to drive me down and drive me home. I had to get a surgical abortion because I was too far along to have a medical one and it would have cost more.

I was very thankful that I did not have to navigate any protesters. When it was my turn to go into the room, I stripped off my lower clothing and lay back on some sort of reclining chair. The doctor was a jovial type, kind of jaunty in his handling of the tools. But the nurse was this dumpy little woman with a sour expression on her face that made me very uncomfortable.

Doctor Jaunty gave me a few shots of novocaine to the cervix and began dilating me with the rods. At one point, the doctor asked for the “9” (he’d just used the “8”) and Nurse Ratched said, “All we’ve got is the 10.” That was unpleasant. Then Doctor Jaunty hooked up the vacuum and flipped the switch. That was unbelievably awful – like my uterus was being sucked out of my body. The worst part was that I was moaning and whimpering like an animal in pain, but Nurse Ratched just looked at me like I deserved every bit of it.

When it was over, they left me on the table, still bleeding, the contents of my uterus on display for me to view at my leisure in a little plastic container attached to the medieval torture device. Five minutes later, Nurse Ratched came in and started cleaning up. I asked if I might have a sanitary napkin, and something to clean myself up with. She looked at me as if I’d asked her to go unclog a toilet with her bare hands. She tossed the requested materials at me and left. Awful, horrid little woman!

My ex took me home and left me to watch daytime television with a bag of potato chips and a box of ice cream sandwiches. I never saw him again. I am not sorry I had that abortion. I was ecstatic I’d gotten that man’s DNA out of my body.

Fast forward two years. I just started a new job and I was in the relationship I always dreamed of. Two months in, during rigorous use of birth control pills, I found out I was pregnant.

I knew this was not the right time to have a baby. I was tired all the time, crying at the least provocation, listless and generally depressed. I hadn’t done laundry and even doing the smallest of chores was difficult. In short, the pregnancy had hijacked my body and made me clinically depressed for its duration. I told my boyfriend, and we agreed that it would be best to terminate. I chose to try the herbal method first, with a medical abortion as a back-up.

The herbal method may or may not have worked. I took the vitamin C faithfully for five days, adding dong quai and then black cohosh. No spotting on Day 6. On Day 7, I took the mifeprostone and went home with a prescription for Zofran (to keep the nausea at bay), Tylenol #3 with codeine (for the pain), a bottle of antibiotics (in case of infection) and 4 misoprostil pills which I was to take buccally (placing them between my cheeks and my gums on my lower jaw).

On Day 8, I started bleeding. We’re talking bright red and liquid at 6:00 P.M. – 15 hours before I’m supposed to start the misoprostil. The nurse on call said it was perfectly normal, so I went along, business as usual.

The next morning, I sent my sweetie out for the day because if I was going to be in “manageable pain”, I did not want him to have to see it. He wigs out when I stub my toe, so I did not want him stressing. He was a phone call away if I needed him, but I wanted him to be away because this was something I wanted to handle on my own without anyone hovering over me and freaking out.

Saturday was intense. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I was not taking any chances. I took two Tylenol #3 half an hour before misoprostil, so I was feeling like a chipmunk on morphine when I finally put the pills in my cheeks (“meee I waaant a huuu-laaa-huuup…”). I had stocked up on a heating pad, menstrual pads, macaroni ‘n cheese and the aforementioned ice cream bars, so I was set.

The Zofran worked as well as it could, but I did vomit, once, at around 4:00 P.M. After that, I felt immediately better. I ate and ate and ate the whole rest of the day. Sunday came and I was up and about. I did laundry, cleaned and ate some more.

Throughout the weekend, there was no real pain. Let me repeat, there was no real pain. There were certain sensations which were very uncomfortable, but I took my prescriptions faithfully and breathed deeply to calm myself. Things escalated about 5 hours after I took the misoprostil, but breathing exercises and the heating pad made everything bearable. I could only tell the difference between “T#3” and “no T#3” because when I was medicated, I could not feel anything going on in my gut, as if there was a blank hollow there. When it wore off, I could feel my uterus gently contracting.

I bled steadily during the weekend, the viscosity increasing as each day passed. Monday I came back to work with a vengeance, cleaning my desk and increasing my output. I was fine for the next two weeks of bleeding, and I passed the yolk sac on Day 15 along with some supersize clots. Day 20 they examined me and determined that I had more clots to work free, but I was no longer pregnant and was now fit as a fiddle.

Relief, utter and absolute relief, washed over me. The only thing I feared was that the abrupt mood swings had harmed my relationship with the man I loved. Only time will tell.

On the way out of the clinic I ran into my first protester, a woman past her childbearing years, telling me that a nice girl like me shouldn’t be getting birth control from a place where they commit murder. She was holding a huge sign with a picture of a stillborn fetus on it. How considerate of her to make it an audio-visual presentation.

I looked her straight in the eye and exercised my First Amendment Rights: “Your body, your choice. My body, my choice.” I got in the car and left.

I have never regretted my choice, and I am profoundly thankful to have the option to terminate safely and privately. I give thanks daily to the inventors of mifeprostone and misoprostil. And I pray that people who want to take away our power to choose will someday understand that their point of view is just that, a point of view and in no way reality.

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