It’s Okay to Feel and It’s Okay to Not Feel

Note: The Exhale Pro-Voice After-Abortion Stories Hub includes people’s stories of their experiences and emotions, exactly as they have written them in. We do not edit these stories at all, and the content that follows this message is exactly as we received it. We know that people’s experiences are complex, and these stories reflect the many emotions they may be feeling after their abortions. From relief to grief, and everything in between, and all at the same time, we’re here for you.

Submitted by: Lydia

It was October 2015 when I found out that I was pregnant. My breasts had been ridiculously sore and after two weeks of intolerable discomfort and some pain, I went to my university health center to see what was wrong.

My first instinct was to think that I had breast cancer. I told the doctor my symptoms and she checked my breasts. She said that she didn’t feel anything wrong with them, so she had me do a urinary test. I was sitting in the hallway of the women’s clinic as I was waiting to be called back into her office for the results of the urine test. I heard the doctor call my name after about 15 minutes of waiting, and I walked back into her office. I sat in the chair by her desk as she looked at me.

“Have you considered the fact that your period is late might be the reason your breasts are in so much pain?” asked the doctor.

“No, I haven’t really thought about that since I’m terrible at remembering to track my period,” I answered.

“Well, from your test, it shows that you’re positive for pregnancy,” the doctor said.

I was shocked to hear those words because for one, I was on the depo shot, but I guess it had been a while since I had my last shot. And two, I could’ve sworn that I was infertile from literally just a gut feeling I had. My 20 year old brain was shook.

“Would you like some pamphlets and brochures to take a look at different options you have now?” asked the doctor.

“Um, I think I’ll just be fine with the phone number for Planned Parenthood if you have that so I can schedule an appointment for an abortion,” I replied.

“Are you sure? There’s plenty of options. Here, take these adoption brochures just in case,” she said as she handed me the brochures.

“Yeah, I’m pretty positive that I’m sure. Plus, if I were to actually give birth to this baby it would definitely not be healthy because of all the binge drinking I do on the weekends off of campus.”

The doctor then questioned me about my drinking habits on the weekends and the time frames I was consuming drinks just to confirm that indeed, yes, I as a sophomore in college was binge-drinking. After confirming what I knew, she handed me more pamphlets and brochures on drinking and alcohol as well as the number for someone to call and talk to. She asked if I wanted to schedule an appointment with them immediately after my current appointment, and I replied saying that I was fine and didn’t need it. I left with the phone number she gave me for Planned Parenthood.

I then checked myself out of the health center and went home. I decided to skip my favorite class as I sat on my front porch and called Planned Parenthood. I deliberately stood outside to call them because I didn’t want my evangelical roommate to hear my phone conversation and then try to talk me out of it.

On the phone, Planned Parenthood had a long queue, and I was 6th in line. Eventually someone came on for appointments and I told her that I wanted to schedule an appointment for an abortion. She asked me how far along I was, and from thinking back to my last period, I estimated about 6 to 8 weeks. She then asked me if I wanted the in-clinic abortion or the abortion pill. I didn’t know that there was more than one option and I asked her for more information including the prices for each. She explained each to me, and I told her that I wanted to go with the abortion pill, even though it was a bit more costly. She then went through demographic information with me to see if I would qualify for any cost deduction. I did qualify, and the price of my abortion would end up being $350 total. She told me to bring in $100 on the first day of my visit, and $250 on my second day.

After that conversation she told me that they only provide abortions on Thursdays at the Bloomington clinic, and so that meant that I would need to come in on a Tuesday for my first appointment according to Indiana’s 48 hour abortion TRAP law. The only opening she had was for four weeks ahead, which would be Thanksgiving break. I gladly accepted that date, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait any longer. After that I hung up and went to my room to nap.

Later that evening I sat on the couch watching The Daily Show, as my roommate, H walked into the house. I knew H wouldn’t be judgemental but instead she would be understanding. So I told her about my day, and she then told me not to mention anything to A or L (our other two roommates) because they would try to talk me out of it.

As H walked up to her room, I sat there on the couch wondering how I could get $350 in four weeks. I then looked at my phone and called P.

P was my sugar daddy, we would meet about once a month to hang out, talk, eat amazing food, and relax. One date with him earned me $300, which over the years I had spent on vacations, tattoos, and Indian food. P agreed to meet me the next Wednesday night at 8pm. I hung up with him and then decided to nap again.

I slept away the rest of the day and laid in bed wondering who got me pregnant. Doing the math in my head it came down to a couple of options. It was most likely that I would have been having sex with a person in August or September, and throughout those two months, I was having sex with my ex, J, my friend, A, and I think my other friend P from class, and maybe possibly even C at the very beginning of the semester. I wondered if I should tell them. I eventually decided that I didn’t want any drama in my life, so I decided not to text any of them but I think that years later I did tell them.

Later that evening I decided to go hang out with my best friend, Nick and his roommates, O and E. I bought some wine and brought it over to their house. Nick asked me what’s up and I told him the news. We drank wine and watched Netflix until his roommates came home. They were both concerned about my drinking when I told them, but I tried to reassure them that I was definitely having an abortion and that it’s okay then. They then left and I went back home after a little while longer hanging out with Nick.

Throughout the next few weeks a few things happened. The first was that every morning when I brushed my teeth, I puked. I couldn’t help it and it really made me regret brushing my teeth every morning. Even to this day, the smell of toothpaste now makes me a bit nauseous in the mornings.

Another thing that continued to happen was that I used ‘being pregnant’ as an excuse to eat whatever the fuck I wanted every time. I went to all-you-can-eat buffets, mostly alone, but sometimes with Nick. One day, at the Indian lunch buffet, Nick met me there and we were talking about life. Then out of nowhere he asked, “so are you going to name the baby?” I thought about it and didn’t see any reason why or why not to, because I knew that I would never be connected to it.

“Yes, Salem or Selma. They work in both English and Arabic as names,” I responded. We then continued lunch as I ate three full plates of Indian food.

My mom’s birthday and halloween soon came and passed. For my mom’s birthday, I went back home to visit her and the family. It was so hard not to tell anyone or talk about the abortion I was so excited to have. I thought of it as a rite of passage that I wasn’t able to share it with my family just yet. Then Halloween came around. At a party, I ran into J and almost told him about it, but then I decided it’s better not to say anything, so I decided to just sleep with him again as I sneaked out of his place early in the morning before I could have a coherent conversation with him. I distinctly remember though at my friend’s Halloween party, I dressed up as Che Guevara and a stranger said to me, “hey, I love your outfit.” And I replied, “thanks I’m pregnant,” using it as an excuse to get out of conversations. Or maybe I was just too awkward looking back now.

But finally the day came. It was a Tuesday morning on November 17th. I parked in the Planned Parenthood parking lot and walked inside for my appointment. There were a few other people there in the waiting room. At check-in, they had me write my appointment information down on a piece of paper. I think this was for confidentiality so people wouldn’t have to speak out loud. I wrote it down, they checked me in, and then had me sit down to fill out a handful of forms since it was my first visit there. I sat down and quickly went through the forms. I handed them back to the woman at the window and took a seat by a table that had colorful brochures on different resources that Planned Parenthood offered.

I sat there for about an hour or so until I finally heard my name called. I got up and went back with the woman. She took me to a room that had ultrasound equipment. She gave me instructions to undress from the waist down and then left the room. I did so and then sat on the patient chair as I waited for her to come back inside. Soon she came back in and explained what was going to happen. By law, she needed to see an ultrasound of the fetus, and because I was so far along, I was able to use the machine that went on top of the uterus/belly rather than the camera stick that would have gone up my vagina.

It was cold. I looked over at the screen as she was talking to me and saw the little fetus inside me. She captured a picture and printed it off. I asked her if she could print one off for me as well. I don’t know why I wanted one. Maybe I wanted to remind myself about this day and feel emotional about it later because I was always raised to believe that an abortion would be a sad and emotional moment in a woman’s life. I didn’t feel sadness, anger, or any emotion really at that moment. But I told myself that I would keep the ultrasound photo in case I did later and wanted to feel something. Exactly 5 years later I still have that picture and don’t know what to do with it.

She then handed me the photo and had me put on clothes again as she also gave me napkins to wipe off the jelly that she had put on me. She left the room again while I got dressed. When she came back in, she led me to another room to talk to me about my medical history.

Because I did have unprotected sex, she had me take an STI test. She then led me into a room with the doctor who read off a laminated package of papers that were required to be read as a part of another TRAP law in Indiana. As she read certain parts, she would stop to comment on how something was or was not scientifically proven or true. At the end of the packet, she asked me if I had any questions or concerns before I was able to leave.

I left Planned Parenthood and then drove back to Nick’s house to tell him about my experience. I showed them the ultrasound picture and E had asked me why I kept it. I told her I didn’t know, and I could see the look on her face thinking that I would later regret my abortion. But I never regretted it.

The next two days passed and finally Thursday afternoon came around and I went back to Planned Parenthood. The waiting period this time was not over an hour like it was on Tuesday. They called me back and had me sit in a room with four other folks. There was a Latina woman, a black woman, and another white college student in there with me. We didn’t speak to each other at all. They sat us in four recliners with pads taped down to them in case of bleeding I assumed. The chairs were heated to comfort us and they provided us with hot water bags to put on our stomachs. We sat there in a line facing a desk.

On the desk was a radio. A nurse came in to turn it on for us so it wasn’t completely silent in the room. The song “Hello” by Adele started playing on the radio and the nurse commented on how she loved that song. We sat there and listened to Adele’s voice until the doctor came in. She gave us the pills along with the instructions on exactly when and how to take them. After that, she took us each aside in her office to make sure we were still doing okay. After we confirmed that we were okay, she gave me two plastic cups. One had the first pill in it, and the other had water. The first pill did not abort the fetus, but it is needed to be able to take the second pill. I took the pill in front of her, and then with her happy attitude, she escorted me to check out back in the waiting room. She then handed me a paper bag that contained the pills, the instructions, and reading materials for questions we might have. I took the bag from her and then left.

As I was walking out of the building, I saw protesters shouting at me to throw the pills away, and that I could still have the pill reversal. I ignored them as an older woman escorted me to my car. I told her thank you and that I really appreciated her service. By the time we got to my car, I asked her how she got involved with volunteering here, and that I would definitely be interested in doing it as well. She told me that she was the volunteer coordinator and that I should send her an email sometime. She handed me her card and we parted ways.

I then drove to the local Kroger to buy a bag of microwavable mashed potatoes that I was going to be making later that evening for a Friendsgiving we were having at Nick’s house. After arriving home, I put the bag that had the second pill and instructions in it next to my bed and started microwaving the mashed potatoes and getting dressed for the Friendsgiving. I decided to wear a black dress with a turtleneck collar. The sides of the dress were sheer, showing the tattoo I had on my side. I then went over to Nick’s house early because I hated being alone at any time. When I arrived, our friend T was already there drinking and talking with Nick. I joined them.

“Want some wine? I bought the expensive kind,” Nick said as he offered me a glass.

“Nah, I’m good. I don’t think that I’m allowed to drink with the pill I took earlier anyway,” I lied.

I wasn’t actually sure if I couldn’t drink, but just in case, I didn’t want to take any chances of this abortion not working. I did take a sip of wine. Yep. It definitely tasted more expensive than the $3 bottle we usually bought and drank together.

O finished up cooking her casserole in the kitchen and E came down from her bedroom to join us. After a bit of conversation and drinking, M, another friend, joined us. At that point we were just waiting for Nick’s sister, V, to come over so we could begin eating. V showed up late (which is always expected of her) and brought a date. We then started eating and I used my excuse of, “I’m pregnant” again to eat everything and help myself to seconds. And thirds. As we finished and talked a bit more, I excused myself and said goodnight to everyone. I told them that I should be heading home and rest up for my drive up to my parents’ house in the morning.

I retreated back to my house and realized all my roommates were gone. This was my chance to turn the temperature up to a comfortable 75 degrees so I could sleep in warmth, just the way I liked it.

I then grabbed the instructions and the pills and carefully put them in my mouth near the inside of my cheeks to dissolve them like the instructions said so. I then laid in bed and started to scroll through Netflix. I decided to watch Hotel Rwanda because I had never seen it before. I got up and laid a towel on my bed and put some pads and panty liners nearby. I thought that I was overpreparing for my experience, but it turned out that I was under preparing. After a few minutes or so, I ran to the bathroom and started simultaneously shitting myself uncontrollably in the toilet, while I puked in the bathtub across from the toilet. I looked down and saw that I ruined the little carpet that went around the toilet. I then wiped up, put in a pad, and curled myself around the toilet as I continued to vomit. I decided to take a bath, but because our bath was broken, the best I could do was lie in the tub and just have the shower water rain down on me as I laid there. And that’s exactly what I did.

After a while of lying in the tub and watching all the blood go from my vagina down the drain, I got up and dried off with a black towel. I then put a new pad on and threw out the ruined bathroom rug and towel. I curled up in bed and finished Hotel Rwanda on top of a heap of towels hoping to not get any stains on my bedding. I felt weak, but I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning and remembered what had happened. I quickly ran to the bathroom to change my pad again, but it was too late. The blood went all the way through and ruined my underwear, shorts, towels, and even left a small spot on the bed. I realized how hot it was, so I turned the temperature down a bit and then continued to take a shower and get ready to leave for Thanksgiving at my parents’ house.

As I went on the road, I stopped midway to change my pad again and take some medicine for the cramps I was having. I even brought my heating pad with me to put on my stomach as I drove. I arrived at my parents house after 3 and a half hours and then continued to nap.

Throughout the week I spent with them for Thanksgiving, no one knew what I had done the previous day/week. They all thought that I was just experiencing a bad period from the amount of Midol I continued to keep taking. Each day it got better, but it wasn’t until 3 weeks later, my 21st birthday, that the bleeding really stopped.

Over five years later, I’ve realized that I think abortion is definitely symbolic for some people. And I think that I definitely tried to make it symbolic. But in reality, for me, nothing symbolic came from it. A lot of people put meaning behind it, while others expect no meaning from it, and I think that’s why I’m writing this today. To clarify to people that abortion is different for each person, and it does not really mean anything to a lot of people who have one, including myself. I kept trying to find some emotion from it but couldn’t and I still can’t to this day. But overall, with or without emotions, I recognize that all feelings, emotions, and thoughts are valid when going through something that affects your life.

You deserve nonjudgmental
after-abortion support.

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One response to “It’s Okay to Feel and It’s Okay to Not Feel”

  1. H

    Wow thank you for sharing. I had an opposite experience feeling guilt, regret and shame but I enjoyed reading your story and I’m glad you were able to not feel what I am going through. It’s the worse pain

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