On November 30, 2017, I had an abortion.
What a word. A word that determines how you think of me, even though you’ve never met me. A word that determines which political party or church you associate with. It is a word that historically has had and continues to have great meanings, emotions and opinions that go with it.
I live in Central Ontario, Canada, a land where abortion is associated with “freedom” and this is my story.
At the ripe age of 28, I was single by a mixture of experiences. I was working a full time, temporary position plus part time with no benefits or maternity leave. I was living alone in a one-bedroom basement apartment. I was about $60,000 in debt from school and $0 in savings.
More than anything I want to be a mother. I want to give someone unconditional love, I want to show them the world. I want to foster kindness in them and hear them call me “mom”.
So the day I found out I was pregnant I didn’t know what to do. The moment I suspected something was going on, I purchased a pregnancy test by myself before having dinner with the father. The father is an incredible man, but we were not in a serious relationship. Later on I snuck out of bed while he slept and I peed on a stick. Within seconds it turned positive. I waited, thinking maybe it’ll change.
I was utterly shocked. I had a copper IUD. What do I do? I decided to go to the doctor before making any choices. Over the weekend, I put things together and realized I had experienced pregnancy symptoms. At the walk-in clinic I took another urine test and the doctor himself dropped the word abortion. The only thing the doctor could do for me was to give me a referral for blood work and a list of abortion clinics, not the hospital.
I told the father that night . We talked advantages and disadvantages. He was incredibly calm and supportive. I told him my gut instinct is abortion. We decided to give it time. The next day, we thought I was having a miscarriage and off to the hospital we went. There they confirmed the pregnancy but it was still intact, just heavy spotting. The doctor there talked about my options to me. Not in a private room, or an office, but in the hallway. He did try to find a quiet hallway with no one around, but his hushed voice and uncomfortable darting eyes said it all.
The doctor at the ER informed me of the risks associated with my pregnancy, not just because of how early I was (5-6 weeks with no fetal pole present) but also because of my IUD. If I chose to keep the baby, he advised removing the IUD, but that increased my chance for a miscarriage and infection. If I kept the IUD the risks increased as well.
We took more time to process. During which I consulted Google. I researched how the procedure is done. I talked to friends who either chose to have or not to have an abortion. I quizzed them about what ultimately influenced their decision and how they were dealing with it since.
We chose abortion for many reasons. We weren’t in a relationship, he wasn’t sure about having children, and both of us were not financially comfortable to support a child. I knew I couldn’t do it alone at this time in my life. I delayed calling any abortion clinics and tempted myself by turning my period tracker app onto pregnancy mode; showing me the size of the fetus.
The abortion clinics were mostly in Toronto. I chose one with having done very little research. Possibly a poor choice on my part, but how do you choose a place where you’re going to have your baby terminated? Do you go by the colour of the waiting room? Do you judge them by which doctors were employed there?
I made my appointment. I was told there was a $60 administration fee to be paid upon arrival. I wrote down the address because you can’t access it online and they won’t email it to you. It was such sensitive information; even the name of the clinic was even ambiguously titled. We were buzzed in. I’m not sure if it made me feel safe. I think it made me feel alienated, not welcomed like I was being hidden from the rest of the world.
While there, I was asked several times if I was being coerced into this decision, how confident I was that this was the choice for me and how easy was the choice to make. I filled out an 8-page questionnaire, mostly with more of these kinds of questions. They inquired what kind of birth control I would be taking to prevent another unwanted pregnancy. Every nurse and doctor I spoke to during this time was shocked to find out I had conceived with an IUD in place. However, it seems it may not have been in the best position in my uterus for maximum effect.
I was given several painkillers orally before going in and planned for them to replace my IUD. I had to bring my own nighty to act as a gown (which I got rid of soon after), clean socks and underwear. I also packed heavy pads for after (thanks Google). I remember making a comment about how busy the clinic seemed to one of the nurses, she said that today was actually slow. To this day I think about the large number of women that clinic sees alone. The women I saw there were of all ages from about 16 to mid-40s, of all ethnicities and with a variety of support people (their boyfriends/husbands, mothers, friends).
While I was in the second waiting room, without my support person, the clinic kindly had blankets for us to use if we were cold. You know, being only in a nighty and socks, it was kind of cold. In the actual procedure room, the equipment seemed old, and the room itself felt like an out-dated, well used exam room. The exam table had rips. Reflecting back I wonder if that’s the state of all abortion clinics or was it just this one?
I will save you from the specific details of how the procedure is done. The behaviour of the doctor requires your attention. She called me momma on several occasions in our brief time together. They talked about a recent terrorist attack; there were people who came in and out of the room while my legs were up, vagina exposed in the stirrups. At some point the nurse gave me a raggedy old stuff animal to squeeze. I thought about how many other women held the same item. Upon removing my IUD she held it up and showed me. She asked if I was sad because I was crying in pain. Once the procedure was complete she said “don’t worry the pregnancy is gone” and attempted to comfort me by tapping my knee.
After the worst pain of my life, I was rushed to the “rest” area where I was given an ice pack to hold to my abdomen. Either the pain meds finally kicked in or the ice pack actually worked but I started to feel less pain. Now I was mostly tired. I sat with other women in more worn out furniture. Hooked up to IVs, given a post-care sheet to read, forced to drink water and eat cookies. Once I was in the clear of fainting, they sent me home.
Getting dressed in the change room with only a curtain hiding my body, I read a framed note on the wall. I did not agree with the sincere gratitude for the clinic. I felt as though I was on some production line, just another abortion to go through.