Submitted by: Alex
This retelling of my story is going to be longer than I want it to be. I will write it anyway.
The bottom line is, I was eighteen and alone when I got an abortion. I was partially on my own due to circumstance, but more importantly I sat in the Planned Parenthood alone by my own design. I’ve had it in my head for a long time that I can control how other people see me. Key characteristics of my “self façade” include: responsible, intelligent, and (ironically) authentic. Unfortunately, my personal definitions of these concepts are shallow. I have begun the work of deepening them.
My abortion and the story that surrounds it fester like a wound that I refuse to acknowledge to anyone else who could really help me heal. Historically I’ve thought that, maybe, if I don’t acknowledge it then it might just go away. I continue to hope that it might heal itself without my needing to confront its reality. I’m realizing now that it isn’t going to work that way.
The most important people that I have yet to tell are my parents. I have a few reasons in my head for not telling them. These reasons are becoming less convincing by the day, so I hesitate to elaborate on them. Mainly, I run the risk of destroying my perfectly crafted daughter-self. I can only hope that they will join me in expanding personal definitions of responsible, intelligent, and authentic to include my actions both then and now. As I know and must remind myself, though, they will respond in their own fashion and it is one thing that lies outside of my control.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
So, here’s the tale:
I had just graduated high school and was looking forward to starting at a college in Vermont in the fall. My then-boyfriend of three years and I had mutually decided to end our relationship before our lives took us far away from each other. It was an act of love, letting each other go. We remain good friends to this day because of it.
He was traveling with his family in a remote country for the whole summer, so when I noticed I missed my period and went to buy the pregnancy test I was alone and told no one. I did the test in a gas station bathroom. I remember crying there, but I do not remember seeing the result. My memories from that point on are fairly hazy, too. Sometimes I wish I could recall it all more clearly.
What I do remember follows.
I remember nights of sobbing and researching abortion options on the internet. I remember lying to my parents in order to use their cars to get to Planned Parenthood. I remember driving past pro-life picketers holding signs that showed terrible images of dead babies. I remember a kind security guard-type man. I remember paying in my own hard-earned cash and not using my insurance in case somehow that would notify my mom. I remember stirrups under my feet and a sucking sound. I remember the one time I was able to talk to my ex-boyfriend on the phone and how I didn’t feel like I could drop the news on him from thousands of miles away over the airwaves, so I didn’t. I remember going to work at the coffee shop later in the same day and pretending nothing had happened that morning. I remember telling my ex-boyfriend at the end of the summer when he got back, crying, and saying I didn’t want to talk about it. Neither of us brought it up for years.
Since then, it has been an agonizingly slow process of acknowledging what happened and what it meant. I see now how I disassociated then. I did it so I could keep going at the time, but it stopped serving me a long time ago. I’m waking up and have been for a while.
I learned to honor the experience by sharing it with a few of my friends over the years since. My current partner received my story gracefully and says he admires me more for it. I am warming up to the idea of loving a self that embraces the abortion part of my history. I have never talked to another woman who has had an abortion, but reading Kassi Underwood’s ‘May Cause Love’ brought me great comfort at two different times in my grieving process so far. I would like to think that recounting my personal experience could offer comfort to another woman who is or was alone like I was.
We don’t need to do it all on our own. We all could use a hand to hold or the understanding heart of another woman when going through something as traumatizing as abortion.
There are of course layers of grief and processing that followed my abortion story. I could probably fill a book with the details. For now, though, sharing this part of it all has made me feel a little bit braver and a little bit closer to the responsible, intelligent, and authentic woman that I hope to one day embody.