This story has been waiting to come out for years. Sure, I have told friends and close acquaintances when the timing was right. My parents know. They helped me that day. It means the world they both supported me. I was even interviewed about what happened for an article about Planned Parenthood and told the entire story to a total stranger in a coffee shop in Harvard Square, crying the whole time, but surprisingly, strong. I was so proud that day and thought that moment would propel me forward into being some kind of advocate. That was a year ago. So, for all of the women who I know have been where I have been, this is for you. Finally.
I had an abortion. To anyone who did not know this already, surprise! It can really happen to anyone you know. My emotions on this fact of my life are not very steady. Some days, I want to be stoic and yell from the roof top “IT WAS MY CHOICE! FUCK OFF!” to every pro-lifer. But where would that get us? Most days, the thought stings at my heart. I don’t bring it up because I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or worse, feel uncomfortable with my story. But, where does that get us? If we can’t talk about the shit experiences we have, what’s the point?
Many times I feel lost with my own thoughts on this. I can’t explain the feelings I have when other women tell their stories. I don’t feel alone. That’s a feeling, right? Overwhelmed. Happy. I feel fortunate that women are braver than I and can speak out about their experience. Inspired. Rarely do I ever see a story like mine though. My story is simple. I got pregnant unexpectedly, when I was young and alone, and I made a choice. I didn’t hesitate. I know there are others just like me. Maybe you are one of them. But I have not met you. If this helps to connect us. I want to hug you. Cry with you. Because I know you. I am you.
This will be long. it already is, so bear with me. I want to tell my story from the start.
I was 21 when I needed a fucking break from relationships. Thinking back on it, I knew where I was heading and I wasn’t ready. My high school boyfriend had moved to North Carolina when I was 19 and I had taken it hard. That’s as much into that as I really want to get. It was hard. After he left, I realized I had transferred colleges to be closer to him and spent almost no time making friends. Don’t do this.
After he left, I luckily found some solace in some friends who worked in the IT department of my school. I hung out in their office most days because that’s where the computer lab was and I spent most of my free time doing homework. Again, don’t be 19 at college and only do homework. It was from these friends that I was pushed into the next phase of my life. I am so thankful for this shift. My friends introduced me to ultimate Frisbee. The amazing group who met and played together, helped me get out of my shell. Big thanks for that.
This is where I met Joe. We were young, we were assholes, and we fell in love very fast. And like I said, I wasn’t ready. Looking back it seems fucking stupid. Dwelling doesn’t fix things though. Don’t forget that. Always move forward. Joe and I had this instant connection. I wish I could tell you more about those days for us, but this is not the time for it. I was the happiest I had ever been but still felt torn. I couldn’t let go of what I thought had been my forever love. I self sabotaged by taking trips to North Carolina to visit my ex, by talking about my ex to Joe, all the while feeling so confused about what I wanted and what I was doing. Don’t care this much about relationships before you are 21. This is what I learned.
Fast forward through a few years and I am 21. It’s a few months away from summer and I was miserable. Typically, I would be planning a trip to NC. But at this point I knew that was over. Again, typical ‘I’m lost’ story. So I applied to work at an all girls summer camp. This would turn out to be the best time of my life.
Turns out, when you think you are going to work as a lifeguard at an all girls summer camp, there will always an all boys summer camp located conveniently across the lake somewhere. Wish I was joking. When I arrived to start my lifeguard training, 2 weeks before camp officially started, I met Jack. We had a true friendship. We first spoke at a late night indoor soccer game where I literally gave him my heart. This was a tiny piece of confetti, shaped like a heart, that I had found on the ground. I guess I was experimenting with being flirty or whatever, but when I saw it I walked over to him and gave it to him. Months later he would write me a letter saying that the moment I gave him my heart was the moment I had his. Seriously. It was the most romance I had in my life in a long time.
The details of that summer are too much to write here. Maybe I can write a book one day. But Jack and I had a ton in common and to this day I look back so fondly on what we had. I always knew it would end and to be honest, I loved that. He was from England. Which matters for two reasons. His accent made me melt and I knew that eventually he would go back home and I would move on with my life. Perfect rebound material. We hiked, we laughed, we went out with friends, we sang, we snuck out at night. All in Pittsfield, MA. A place of dreams. The girls I met that summer were my sisters and I felt lucky to be there and to have made such a connection.
When the summer came to an end I was bummed. Jack and I had become closer than I had anticipated and I was actually dreading him leaving. When September rolled around and I had to go back to college, he came with me so that I could travel with him to Logan Airport to see him off. We had one more night together after he helped me move in where we drank a little to much and smoked a blunt behind my dorm. He puked. And we were sad. One of my very best friends met us at the airport because I was unsure how I would feel after he left. Emily, thank you for being there.
I cried the whole train ride home after leaving the airport. But I was also relieved. I had been a serial monogamous girl up until that moment and I was ready to get to know myself. About 2 or 3 weeks went by and I went on a trip as a teachers aid to the Cape (or somewhere, I can’t really remember now) to help teach a freshman biology class about field work. That was a fun weekend and I wasn’t sad anymore. Jack had already written me a letter and I was feeling great. My period hadn’t come in what seemed like a concerning amount of time so I mentioned this to my room mate, Leigh. She promised she’d go to CVS with me and take a pregnancy test when we got home and I tried not to worry about it the rest of the weekend. Thank goodness for Leigh.
When we got back to campus, we went to CVS. I was pregnant. So pregnant in fact that the wait time to see the results of the test were.. seconds. Before I could event put my pants back on I knew. And I knew right away what I was going to do. I think this is sometimes the hard part for me. I didn’t grapple with my decision but it destroyed me. That’s what I wish people understood. Having the baby, with the father living across the ocean, with us never being too serious was so out of the question. At the time I had made less than $2,000 over the summer at camp and I was working a work study job 20 hours a week in the admission office. What kind of life could I give my baby? What kind of life would I be giving myself?
I set up a Skype call to break the news to Jack. I was so scared and awkward and I told him my decision. To this day I don’t know how he feels about it. He had a girl back home who found out about me and that changed our friendship. She was mean to me and I was never sure if she was honest or not. According to her, they never broke up. That made me think differently of him but I don’t think I’ll ever know the truth. He supported my decision and even sent me money. But besides a check-in to make sure I was ok afterwards, we never talked about it again. We never talked again.
The day of the abortion, I was scared. My mom went with me and I remember one lonely protester was there. That made my stomach drop but I never waivered on my decision. I wanted my life. I wanted to get to know me. I never gave up on myself. I went to Planned Parenthood and was well taken care of by everyone who interacted with me. You get counseling. They give you an ultra sound and show you the life growing inside of you. A nurse held my hand while I quietly cried.
I was fairly depressed (ok very depressed) around this time and can’t really remember how far along I was. It was early. There were no features. That did not stop me from mourning. I know some may say “You didn’t have to do it!”. I did. I had to. Either way, it’s too late now. I am 26 and have never once regretted my decision.
Before the procedure I had a few moments to myself. On the ceiling there was a picture of the beach and I laughed through my tears about how stupid that seemed. Were they trying to brighten the mood of this room? I spoke out loud to the life growing in me. I told them I was sorry. I cried. I told them I would never forget them and that I would do whatever it took to make sure that one day, I helped another life find a family. I told them they were loved. I told them that I wish I would be able to provide a life for them so we could meet. I was devastated. When I think about it now I still cry. When I think about it now, I am so glad I had this moment to mourn. To say goodbye.
This will bother some of you. I am sorry for that. If you knew how lonely, poor, scared, and depressed I felt, maybe you would feel sorry for me and not about the life that never had to suffer. Who never had to grow up fatherless. Who never knew what it was like to come into the world with an unprepared mother who didn’t even know who she was. I decided that my life mattered and I had a fire inside of me to make something of my life. This would not define me.
There is so much more I could say. But this is really the jist of it all. I wanted to share my fairly typical story because I know there are other women out there just like me. You are not alone. I wanted to share my story because I am worthy of having a life I chose. I wanted to share my story because I was fortunate enough to have this option. I wanted to share my story because it is not just my story and some of us are too scared to share ours.