Susan’s Story

My story is a classic broken condom incident. It was 2000 (I think) and I was a few months out of college, and had just started my first job. To save up money, I moved back into my parents’ house which was/is in an affluent suburb of New York City and commuted into Manhattan. “Mark” and I were close in high school but had not seen each other in years. We bumped into each other in one of the area bars one night. I suppose magic was in the air because ended up drinking way too much and spending the night together. The condom broke, but we didn’t notice until afterwards. I was about 21, so I figured I was invincible, and thought nothing of it.

About a month later, I noticed it had been a really long time since my last period. Denial ensued. I thought my period must have been thrown off from this sudden weight gain I’d been experiencing! I asked my mother if she’d ever experienced cramps and increased discharge while waiting for a period. Once she stopped the dramatics she insisted I head to the pharmacy and pick up a pregnancy test that very minute, before my father got home. I figured it would calm her down, so I humored her. She waited outside the bathroom as I took the test. The directions said I was supposed to wait a few minutes for results. But, it was almost instantaneous. My heart sank and my stomach turned as I watched that wretched blue line creep across the “indicator window.” My mother heard my breakdown and rushed in while I was bawling on the toilet with my pants around my ankles. She saw the test and looked like she was about to faint. It was a real Hallmark moment.

There was no question about what I was going to do. There was no way I was going to become some single mother statistic. There was no way I was going to go through a delivery. There was no way I was going to put my career on hold (the boss doesn’t exactly look favorably upon someone who’s taking maternity leave within their first year with the company). The decision was a no-brainer. But, misery loves company, and I wasn’t going to carry the whole emotional burden on my own. I found Mark’s number and called him. He reacted as I’d hoped and offered to help me with the cost. He showed up the next day with cash-in-hand. But, I realized I was kind of angry that he wasn’t pregnant too! I was retaining the Hudson River and was oddly growing a mustache. He just had to lay out $200. It seemed so unfair! To this day, the inequity still bothers me.

My appointment was made and I couldn’t have been more relieved. My mother went with me. The place was very institutional looking…like a museum. I couldn’t wait to get it done. I just wanted it out. But, to my horror I was told it was too early to terminate the pregnancy. The cluster of cells (yes, I said it) was too small to ensure a successful procedure. I would have to wait two weeks. I broke down in tears right there in front of the doctor. I wanted to curl up into a ball and die. I had to walk around for two weeks, look people in the eye, and act like nothing was wrong, business as usual … just “knowing.” I felt like I had a nasty, filthy parasite. I never got gushy maternal feelings that anti-choicers seem to shove down people’s throats. No, I felt gross. Those were the longest two weeks of my life.

Finally the day arrived. I was at 6 weeks. I’d found another doctor who performs abortions on the weekend, so I wouldn’t have to take another day off from work. It was a rainy Saturday. My mother went with me again. We told my dad we were going shoe shopping. This doctor’s office was locked up like a fort, but was still more welcoming than the other place. We were buzzed in, and I was shocked to see the staff sitting behind an inch of Plexiglas. I was slipped a clipboard by a friendly, weathered-looking receptionist and was asked to fill out the first two pages and read the pamphlets. I looked around to see who else was filling out clipboards and discovered I was going through this with six other women; some older and some younger. One of the women didn’t look much older than 17. She was there with a guy I assumed was her boyfriend. He was more scared than she was. We were given a lot of information on everything from the procedure, to the doctor himself.

He’d started his OB/GYN residence in the 70s in a Chicago ER. Apparently he performed a lot of emergency procedures on women coming in bleeding half to death from botched abortions and made it his mission to provide safe, sanitary care to any woman who needed it. He, my readers, is a saint.

While one of the nurses was taking my weight, temperature, blood type etc. she noticed that I was tense. I told her I wasn’t the world’s best patient and am a big baby when it comes to needles and such. She laughed and admitted she’s no better to put me at ease. Then, I got “dressed” for the operation and was led into a lounge area where all seven of us women sat and made nervous jokes about our snazzy paper ensembles. I was so happy that I wasn’t waiting alone; the anticipation would have been unbearable.

One by one we were called by first name. I was somewhere in the middle of the order. We were all pretty shocked at how quickly we were each called. I guess I always pictured a lengthy, complicated procedure, but each one only took about 10 minutes.

When it was finally my turn, the doctor gave me a step-by-step explanation of what was going to take place. He was roughly 60 years old, rotund, and very soft-spoken. I could tell he was a gentle man and was relieved that I was in his private office rather than some clinic. He was accompanied by two nurses and an anesthesiologist. He did a basic examination while the anesthetic was being fed through an IV. A young nurse stood over me and asked me about my line of business. I got about four words out, tasted sweetness on my breath, and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room wearing a maxi pad…and not even a good one. It was one of those thick school nurse WWII surplus maxi pads.

As I was coming out of my drowsiness I noticed that the first woman to go was sitting up, drinking a cup of coffee, and talking to one of the nurses. I looked around. All six of the others were there. Some of them were still asleep. The woman who went in right before me was right there in the next bed. We were all ok. We were all safe. Emotions (and hormones, no doubt) took over and tears filled my eyes. One of the nurses came running over to comfort me, thinking I was remorseful. I told her I was just relieved that this was over and that these were tears of joy. She just smiled, squeezed my arm, and offered me coffee, juice, a lollypop. I had a cup of coffee and pocketed a lollypop. Once I was able to walk I had a consultation with the receptionist who turned out to be the doctor’s wife. She told me what I could expect over the next week and gave some kind of medication to take for the next two days to close my cervix or something along those lines. I then made an appointment for my follow up.

As I was leaving, still wiped from the whole ordeal, some old guy had found a nice spot out on the sidewalk with an umbrella, a bible, and a sign, mumbling something about Jesus (too bad I’m Jewish and don’t care). Now, I’m all for free speech but if my people stood outside and protested some pork farms, the cops would be there in a nanosecond. Yet these crazies are given carte blanche to harass women, who might just be going in to their OB/GYN for a Pap smear! I secretly wished my mother would mow him down with the car on the way out of the parking lot.

The following week wasn’t really that bad. To be honest, it wasn’t any different from having a period, except that I couldn’t use a tampon. I’d forgotten how much I hate maxis. The bleeding stopped within a few days, and I had my follow up exam the next weekend. The weather was pleasant, so Jesus guy had company. I held my head high and was buzzed in before I even rang the bell. Everything was fine with my exam, my pregnancy test came up negative, cervix was closed, etc. The doctor’s wife asked me what form of birth control I planned to use in the future and had me sign some form.

Since then, I’ve built a successful business and bought my first apartment, becoming the youngest shareholder in my building and the first woman in my family to own her own home on her own. I have already profited $250k on my purchase. I have a promising future. I’m putting myself through Law School. I donate to Planned Parenthood, even though I’ve never used one.
I saw Mark about two years ago for the first time since while out with some old friends. We just kind of nodded at each other as if we were part of some secret society. He looked terrible. He turned out to be one of those guys with the pick-up truck and beer belly. I have NEVER regretted my decision for a moment. I am NOT sorry. Best decision ever.