Pride and Shame

pride and shame plants

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.

The oddest part of an unplanned pregnancy is the disgust and shame I felt with my own body for betraying me. I’m young, active and very much not ready for motherhood (and may never be). The minute I saw those two lines I panicked, even though I live in a state where I have immediate and safe access to abortion care. I felt violated and invaded. Something was draining me of my resources and energy and I didn’t ask for it to be there.

The first thing I did was sit and text my roommate to come help me. She saw the two lines and immediately canceled her work day. The second thing I did was send a text to my boyfriend who was at work. As supportive as he is, the way a man experiences an unplanned pregnancy is nothing like the way a woman does. I needed female support. The process itself was easy, she and I called around to make appointments. But I wanted so badly to get this thing out of me (to me it was an alien that at infiltrated by body, infected me with choices I didn’t even want to have to make) that I settled for a safe online service which sent me pills in 48 hours.

I took the test on Monday, and aborted on Thursday. I’m someone who uses humor to lighten the mood, and so the whole time prior to taking the pills, I was joking with (arguably crass) humor poking fun at people who judge women for “murdering” their fetus. Being pro-choice, the fact that those voices would now be targeted at me, a very intelligent and compassionate person, made me irate. That part, I could rant about for hours. But I’m assuming most can relate to that.

While it helped during the process to joke about it, once the pills started working, it was no joke.

Here’s the thing about the pro-choice, pro-life argument: everyone is so caught up on winning the (very important human rights) argument that they don’t focus on the affect an abortion has on the pregnant person. Yes it is a medical procedure. Yes it safe. Yes it is a great choice for those who don’t want children. Yes it should be accesible to everyone. But it is not easy on your body, your emotional state, or your mind. And I think more resources need to be available for the aftercare of an abortion.

The pain of a medical abortion, while a completely safe procedure, was absolutely horrible. I went from cracking jokes, to looking up labor and delivery breathing and crying on my bed because I couldn’t get one moment of peace inside my own body. I was so scared that something was going wrong with the procedure. But guess what, I asked many questions and it was all “normal”. Normal levels of pain, I found out, were described to be double that of a bad period, and half as much as labor pains. That is what they don’t tell you. Probably because nobody is made aware until they’re in it.
I am not saying this to scare anyone. But I think it’s necessary to hear, because even my most knowledgeable friends who’ve worked for abortion rights, and know all the resources, the ones who supported me the most, they had no idea what the actual lived experience was like.

It was fast, only 6 hours. But the pain was traumatic for me. I will never regret the abortion itself. I only regret not choosing the in-clinic route. I should have been around doctors, in a safe controlled environment, with pain management.

In the aftermath, I felt relieved immediately after it was done. I slept for several days because of how exhausting the experience was. Solely physically, I was exhausted. My body went through half-labor. I had the best support team, but nobody truly knows what it’s like except for the one living it. Not even pregnant women who choose to go full term understand.

Jokes were made with good intentions, about how I “wouldn’t be a mother anymore, thank god”. It’s true, not a “mommy” anymore. And while I saw the humor, just as I had before, I couldn’t get myself to joke. It’s not funny once you’ve been in pain, cried alone on your bed, and passed the clotted tissue. Maybe in time I will be able to joke again, but that’s not what I need right now. It’s so hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it, so I chose to give a pity laugh and continue on my way.

I made a therapy appointment and realized I was feeling so much shame from getting pregnant to begin with I pride myself on being proactive, intelligent, protective of my body. Healthy choices, self care. All of that is on the top of my list in order to endure this society. And somehow I still made such a grave error. I put myself through all of that pain, I did this to MYSELF, from one tiny “mistake”. I didn’t tell the truth to my friends because I was so ashamed that I hadn’t used birth control. Even though I had an appointment to get birth control, I was prepping myself to be prepared, I still had sex without protection. Only me and my boyfriend know the truth. And I know it’s nobody’s business but my own. But it’s still hard to grapple with the shame. It feels like I failed myself: I know better. I knew this was a possibility. So how could I get so caught up in the moment? I’ve already been told I’m being hard on myself, but it’s not so easy to rid myself of the feeling.

Then there’s the weird mood swings. I feel no guilt from the abortion. But I feel guilt from not telling to whole truth to people who support me? They took days off, let me cry into their shoulders, delivered food. And they don’t know that it’s my fault. Not that they would judge me, but it’s still too scary to tell the truth. I feel tired, I feel scared to make another mistake. I feel scared to have sex again. The 4% chance that I might have to go through this again is too hard to shake. I feel relieved and happy to have such good friends. I sleep ten hours, work out, enjoy life, and then I sleep none. I don’t get out of bed. I feel like I love my boyfriend even more for the ways he’s showed up for me, and then suddenly I don’t want to be around him. How horrible, when he was there by my side the whole time? But how understandable, when he’s half the reason this happened to begin with? I blame him, but I also blame me? He’s already moved on from the experience, but I haven’t. I think you see what I’m getting at: there are so many conflicting thoughts, and my feelings are across the board.

I feel incredibly proud of myself for setting boundaries with who I confided in, who I trusted with this information. For sharing my experience with others so they know they’re not alone. I feel pride for accessing my resources, using them. Pride for taking care of myself afterwards, for resting. For taking sick days and validating that my experience was real, and still is real. For saying no and yes when I need to.

But today I woke up and felt alone. My boyfriend is here next to me, and I have an entire network of loving supportive people who would listen to me rant about it forever. Who, if I told the truth, would not judge me. But nobody, not a soul, can understand the complexity of this experience until they’ve gone through it. It has been nice reading stories, and at the same time makes me feel more alone.

I haven’t seen much about people feeling violated by their own body, betrayed by their own choices. By no means do I regret it, and I feel powerful having gone through it. Im grateful I now get to share this and hopefully help someone else. Abortion is more than worth it to be able to live my life without a child dependent upon me, one who I couldn’t ever love the way they deserve.

But for me, it will take me a while to recover from the whole thing. I have to forgive myself somehow, but that’s the part that is difficult while balancing the rest of your life at the same time. It’s not a one and done deal, for me. It will take time. And energy and thoughtfulness.

I am more pro choice than I’ve ever been, and yet see so many flaws and misinformation out there. I wish there was a way for me to fix the whole system.

I appreciate you for reading this, and I hope this resonates with some of you. You’re not alone, even though you may feel like it. No matter where you are, there is someone near you who went through it too. Maybe they’re not sharing for the same fears that you have, or different ones. But just know that I support you, no matter how you feel about your abortion. Even if you regret it, even if you never felt any of the things that I felt. Even if you which you had kept your pregnancy. Even if you have unprotected sex and have gotten 11 abortions. Even if abortions are your preferred method of birth control. I still support you. Id like to give you all a hug, if I could. Thanks for listening.

Submitted by: Mon

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