Susan’s Story

This happened in 1977. My thoughts and feelings have been the same since the moment I found I was pregnant. I am glad to be able to share them.

I had a severe seizure disorder and was suffering from depression. At the time, diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy and depression did not include therapy for the problems anti-seizure medications combined with tranquilizers can create. I had had a blood-clot in my lung in 1970, at the age of 19, and so responsible doctors advised against birth control pills. I had an IUD. It failed, and my husband impregnated me.

When I learned I was carrying an embryo, two things happened. One, I made a choice instantly to terminate, that is to say, to undergo a medical procedure which would evacuate my womb. I wasn’t exploiting the power of euphamism. I knew the cellular mass and DNA could become a fetus, but at that time it wasn’t. I made my decision instantly because I knew myself and my circumstances.

The second occurance was spontaneous. I had not pre-concieved a relationship with an embryo. I can’t explain it, only share it. The bottom line in this website is a collection of realities. One could call this part of my abortion “spiritual”.

I loved being pregnant. I loved every minute of it. I felt no remorse, regret, guilt, or embarassment about ending it. Whether or not I alone created it, I did have a relationship with the embryo inside me. We seemed to have known and loved each other for centuries. It was wordless, gossamer, discreet.

Very very little in my mind has been completely unchanging, but my solidarity with my decision to have an abortion and, as it seems, that brief little life’s blessing on my choice, have never changed. I am not sorry. When I was 23 years old, I got pregnant. I was in a long-term, stable relationship and working on graduate school, raising my partner’s 10 year old daughter and interning at the local mental health clinic in preparation for becoming a psychologist.

The funny thing is, I knew I was pregnant from the moment it happened. I’m a pretty hard-headed type, not at all mystical, but there was an intuition, one so strong that I went into the bathroom and took four days’ worth of my next month’s birth control pills. I did the same thing the next day and the next, but for me, the morning after concept did not work. Who knows why?

Two weeks later, I was certain I was pregnant and certain I was not ready to be a mommy to an infant… as it was, I was questioning my sanity about parenting an emotionally damaged fifth grader. My stepdaughter is and was the light of my life, but her life had been no bed of roses. Her natal mother had been emotionally abusive and neglectful of her for most of her first six years, and she was needy and prickly. A baby brother or sister would not have drawn her closer into the family circle; a baby would have alienated my darling stepdaughter.

Not that I’ve ever been thrilled with the idea of infants to begin with. I’m the eldest of eight. I’ve already seen all the ear infections, stomach bugs, chest colds, sinus infections and antibiotic induced cases of diarrhea that I ever want to see up close and personal. I have no romantic notions about babies. They may be pretty at times, but the rest of the time, they’re wet at both ends, noisy, require a string of pack animals to get from one end of the living room to the other, and single-handedly support the plastics industry. The end of oil will come about from the toy industry that suckers parents into buying, not from SUVs and cars.

My first reaction on seeing that second blue line was “get it out of me.” I had a revulsion to the idea of something growing in me. Maybe I’d seen “Alien” once too many times growing up, but the idea of anything growing inside of me fills me with utter horror. I don’t understand how my mother and my stepmother could have gone through it so many times.

And I knew that my body was in agreement with my mind on this one. I was sick every day, all day. I had headaches of a sort I hope I never have again. For seven of my nine week experiment with pregnancy, I supported the Saltine Cracker Makers of America. There were days when keeping water down was a struggle. I lost weight, far more than was good for me. In retrospect, I’m surprised that I didn’t end up having a miscarriage. The stress my body had to be under was incredible.

I had my abortion at 9 weeks at the local Planned Parenthood. They were very kind and very helpful. My only complaints with the system of abortion providing in America is that it still has some of the hallmarks of the bad old days. My clinic still expected cash up front – no checks, no credit cards; we don’t provide adequate pain management and there’s no good reason that we should have to wait for 6 hours for the procedure. The reason these bother me are because they change the dynamic of the event from legitimate health care procedure to covert activity. Mind you, I’m not asking for day-spa treatment; just the same standards I get at the dentist. When we ask for cash, we’re equating abortion with other illicit services like buying drugs or sex. There are Ecstasy dealers that take credit cards via Paypal; the least the abortion providers of America can do is take a credit card. When we fail to provide adequate pain management, we’re telling women that they should suffer for what they’re doing, and that’s not okay. These days, I demand that my dentist use adequate Novacaine and I know now that I should have done the same with the gynecologist who performed my abortion. And I still see no point in expecting a client to be at the clinic at 9 A.M. when the procedure is scheduled for 4 P.M. I don’t know if the clinic was hoping that we in the waiting room would bond and share our stories and sing Kum Bah Yah, but if they were, they’re sadly delusional. Many of those particulars – the waiting room time, the lack of pain medication, the cash in advance requirements – reminded me of stories my great-great grandmother told of the abortion industry in Chicago in the 30’s and 40’s. It made something that should have been no more shameful than a dentist appointment into “Adventures in the Land of the Scarlet Letter.”

I was annoyed about that, and annoyed with myself because I refused to feel shame for something that everything around me was telling me to be ashamed of. I feel that I did nothing wrong – and I am not sorry or mournful or at all ashamed that I had an abortion. I did the right thing in choosing my stepdaughter’s and my health over that of an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy. I am still not pleased with the clinic that performed my abortion for not recognizing that the way they’ve always done it causes as many problems for their clients as the protesters outside.

But I’m not sorry and I’m not ashamed. It’s been five years, and every day I’m glad that I don’t have the results of that unfortunate conception. That potential child would have been terribly unhappy with me as a mother.