Submitted by Audrey
I am in my early thirties and have had an IUD for 6 years. Although I had been very careful with my long term boyfriend as to not increase risk of pregnancy on top of Paragaurd, I still got pregnant. This was a shock to me on many levels – practically, since I had one of the most effective forms of birth control, and biologically, since I have a condition that can lead to fertility issues and missed periods. I assumed these should have lessened my chances even more. Given that, it took me a couple days to register that I was part of that a small statistic that still gets pregnant, despite the near 100 percent prevention rating of my birth control I am now a face for that very small probability.
What surprised me the most initially, despite being part of that small statistic, was that I still was able to rationally decide that an abortion was still the right decision for me – and had the incredible support to execute on it. I still am early in my career and will be returning to school; I may want children later in life and may even adopt when I’m ready to provide for others. I had always feared that, if I was pregnant, I’d have so much guilt that I’d decide to keep it despite not being rationally ready. I also feared that Id face stigma and pressures from institutions to keep it. I recognize that any decision a woman makes is the right one for them if they truly believe in it (ie – not being subjected to external pressures), including keeping the pregnancy. However, getting an abortion was the right decision for me, and I have both my supportive boyfriend and the incredible staff of Planned Parenthood to thank for their support to maintain that decision.
I had two visits at Planned Parenthood in the span of one week. This is because I had initially thought I’d only need the pre-10 week abortion pill. However, an ultrasound in the first appointment confirmed that the fetus was too on the cusp at 10 weeks. They determined a surgical abortion was the best option. A women in the same week as me had recently tried the pill, and it did not work. Given the science and my trust in the staff, I agreed to get a surgical abortion for an appointment one week later (the earliest one they had).
I returned to Planned Parenthood with my boyfriend the following Friday, and was greeted with a kind reception staff. They took thoughtful
measures ahead of time, like calling from unknown numbers or sending text reminders of a “meeting” to occur on my scheduled date. It helped me feel in control. Soon after, a nurse greeted me and brought me into her office to discuss my decision, the surgical process, ensure my heart was healthy enough for the IV, and go over other birth control options (I decided on the arm implant, which I would get after the surgery). I especially appreciated that they first met with me without my boyfriend – while he was and always has been supportive, there is always the risk that other women can’t say the same. It’s important to ensure everyone feels safe, and I was touched they built that into their process.
Next, I went into an examination room and met with the nurse. She told me the pros and cons of the IV, which I ultimately decided upon, and inserted the needle after providing me with additional meds. I took off my pants and underwear, and sat (covered with a paper cloth and heating pad) on a table. They allowed my boyfriend to sit next to me (facing me) so he could hold my hand. That made me love him even more, and helped calm me through these unknowns.
When the doctor arrived, she walked me through her procedure and maintained a kind, thoughtful rhetoric which dymistified all the horrible warnings I read about online. Everyone who worked on my procedure (one specialist, two nurses, and the doctor), where wonderful women who made me feel so comfortable that they even would laugh at my jokes (I often use humor to cope with the anxiety of a situation). I was able to rationalize the situation and not lay guilt of myself as a result. The whole experience made me so proud of the medical and community support we have (and can hopefully keep in this political climate) for women.
The procedure was overall short (10 mins) and relatively painless, save for a 3 min timeframe when the surgical instrument was working inside of my cervix. On a pain scale, that was a 7 or 8 for me, but it was short and I was able to cope with the IV and localized numbing. Otherwise, I largely had cramping after the procedure itself for about 30 mins (4-5 on a 1-10 pain scale). The doctor took every measure to help me be comfortable – localized numbing, the IV, kind staff who held my hand, and even allowing my boyfriend to play my favorite TV show (Veep) on his phone for me during the procedure (otherwise, they play music). Afterwards, she spent less than 5 minutes inserting my new BC into my arm and confirming I was no longer pregnant.
After they monitored me for 40-45 mins in an evaluation room (with snacks!), I was deemed ready to be discharged. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple, supportive, professional everything was. The procedures also turned out to be a lot less expensive, thanks to my insurance (however, as I mentioned, there are payment plans and subsidized costs for those without insurance or are low income). I left PP and largely passed out at home – the IV is very powerful and made me tired (side note – they will require that someone escort you home if you get one). But I was thankful for the forced recovery time. The next morning, I started feeling like myself again. The morning sickness, bloating, headaches, and cravings were all gone. It was redeeming and I felt happy with my decision.
Planned Parenthood was always an organization I supported (financially), but I had never actually used it before this experience. I gained so much more admiration for the organization and staff for their holistic support of a variety of medical issues & their commitment to supporting everyone despite their financial bracket and background. An abortion is not always simple experience – even when you rationally know it’s the right decision to make for yourself, the stigma, external pressures, political and religious climate, and the emotional process of understanding the procedure can be complicated. I have so much admiration for the comprehensive support of Planned Parenthood, of everyday allies for women who go through this, and for organizations like Exhale who seek to unify and support. I had such a positive experience through this all that I will continue to support these groups and find other ways to be an ally for those in need.
I wanted to share my story as an effort to further show you are not alone (if you think you are) and that abortion does not have to be complicated, painful, or scary. Planned Parenthood and everyday allies will provide you with the correct information, support, and empowerment you deserve. Everything will be ok.
Audrey, thanks so much for sharing your story. It completely resonated with me and has helped me feel supported in the past couple of days. I’m going through a very similar experience; in my early 30s, in a committed relationship, just at the onset of making strides in my career, have had the Paragard IUD for several years, and recently found out that I am pregnant. I’m in that small statistic that we never really thought could be us, but on top of that, I have ovarian cysts and endometriomas that have been followed by reputable doctors saying that it likely may be difficult to conceive in the future. Yet, here I am. I now believe in the impossible.
Since the moment I took the at-home pregnancy test, my gut reaction has been “no,” followed by crying and ups and downs — the complete opposite of how I feel I should approach motherhood. My decision to terminate the pregnancy (which I’m scheduled to do in a couple days) has at times felt selfish to me; that the timing is just bad and while I’m in a better paying job than before, my partner and I haven’t saved the amount I would like to feel comfortable and ready to raise a child – there are still things we’d like to fulfill in our lives before bringing a child in. I wanted the moment of seeing a positive on a pregnancy test to be a happy moment, not one filled with an immediate “no,” fear and sadness.
I also feel a lot of guilt for not wanting to keep it from being raised in a family with a Catholic background. A lot of my reasons for keeping it only seem to be because of stigmas and institutions, not excitement about the prospect of becoming a mom, which doesn’t seem fair to me or to this potential child.
At the heart of it, thank you for sharing and helping me understand that this decision is okay and that someone out there completely understands.