When I was a junior in college, I got pregnant.
I remember thinking that it had been a long time since I had my last period—about six weeks. I was having consensual sex with someone regularly, and I knew that I wasn’t always using the proper form of birth control with him—getting pregnant was definitely a possibility. But I was young and felt infallible. That would never happen to me.
I ordered a pregnancy test on Amazon, afraid of bumping into a friend or acquaintance at the local Rite-Aid. When it came in the mail, I brought it from the mail center in the basement of our student center into a private bathroom. I peed on the stick and placed it flat on the sink, waiting impatiently as the digital timer blinked on and off. I remember the total silence in the hollow, sterile room and it being a long moment before it flashed: Pregnant, 6+ weeks.
I held the test in my shaking hand and looked at it for a while before wrapping the pregnancy test stick in paper towel and shoving it into the trash receptacle. I flung my backpack around my shoulders and went upstairs into the overwhelming student center. It still didn’t quite feel real.
Do I have to tell my partner? I wondered. We were seeing each other casually, and things had pretty much petered off between us. He was a senior, and was leaving to live abroad next year. I was not ready to be a mother. I knew what I was going to do, and I chose not to tell him.
I called a local OB/GYN in my college town and scheduled a time to come in to have an abortion. My friend was visiting from Chicago, and I told her what was happening, and if she would drive me to my appointment. She, with love, said, “Of course.” Having her there to talk through my feelings before, during, and after the procedure was incredibly helpful, and I will always feel grateful to her for being there for me and supporting me.
The office was lined with posters of babies, and filled with mothers-to-be and their partners. I held hands with my friend, feeling more sure than ever that I was not ready to have a child.
I went into the doctor’s office, where I peed in a cup. She confirmed that I was about two months pregnant, but said that the fetus seemed to be very early-stage development, and that I could take the abortion pill. She told me everything that I needed to know about when and how to take the pill, what to expect, and the follow-up for the procedure. The price point for the abortion pill was extremely costly at $1,000. Planned Parenthood is a better option economically, but it is still very expensive. If you are having hetero-penetrative sex, I would highly recommend that you (and your sex partner(s)!) figure out a birth control method plan—it is much more affordable, and a great conversation to have.
I took the pill at the office, and went back to my dorm room, where I had what felt like an intense period—strong cramps, and a lot of bleeding. I had to use pads, because you are advised not to insert tampons, use sex toys, have sexual intercourse, or penetrate your vagina until your cervix has fully healed, which is usually 2-3 weeks (it is also important to note that you can get pregnant very soon after getting an abortion!)
I personally did not have a very emotional reaction to getting an abortion—if anything, I felt guilty for not having a strong reaction. But the truth was, I predominantly felt relieved. I did not want to be pregnant, and that was okay. (It would also be okay if I did want to have the baby and parent the child, or if I wanted to go the adoption route.)
I had to do a follow-up pregnancy test four weeks after the abortion pill, because sometimes you can bleed without the fetus actually aborting. It came back negative, and I soon called my OB/GYN to get a birth control prescription to ensure that I would not get pregnant again.
Abortion can be a highly stigmatized act in our society—its perception is often wrapped up in the politics of women’s sexual autonomy, slut-shaming, and misogyny. But a person is not defined by their abortion. Ideally, yes, I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant when I didn’t want to be. But my decision to get an abortion does not reflect on my personhood. I was me before, during, and after my (terminated) pregnancy.
Of course, each person is going to have a different experience with and reaction to pregnancy and abortion. The circumstances surrounding pregnancy are always different, and sometimes extremely difficult.
Political and cultural views may also affect how you perceive your abortion. If you get an abortion and have a strong emotional response, there are many different resources to turn to, such as the Exhale talkline or Planned Parenthood’s website. The most important thing to keep in mind: You are not alone. Reach out to people who care about and accept and love you. Sometimes those people are your friends. Sometimes they are your family. Sometimes, they are the people on an after-abortion support talk line. No matter what, there are people who care so much about you. Do not forget that!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.