Note: Since I am largely co-mingling my own story within the greater story of reproductive rights, I’m using feminine words to refer to people with uteruses. However, I know that not only women can get pregnant. For more on this, check out “4 Ways to Be Gender Inclusive When Discussing Abortion.”
It was Christmastime.
Dan and I were still newlyweds, giddy about love and marriage and a home together and our first married Christmas.
My best friend’s wedding was just a few weeks away. Two beautiful dresses, both altered to fit me perfectly, hung in my closet, with sparkly new shoes to match. I eagerly anticipated it all: reuniting with the other bridesmaids, giggling during the wedding rehearsal, drinking bubbly for days, crying during the ceremony, kissing my husband at midnight.
It should have been a magical, carefree month of good friends, good wine, and good snuggles by the fireplace.
But it wasn’t.
Because my grandmother was dead, my mother had cancer, and my husband was unemployed.
Because I started the holiday season throwing up.
Our trip to visit my parents for Thanksgiving ended up lasting longer than anticipated because I spent three days throwing up. Three days in pain so severe I cried.
One trip to the gastroenterologist later, I discovered I only weighed 98 pounds.
I spent December attempting to minimize my stress. I ate as much fat-laden food as possible.
And then I was late.
Am I pregnant?
Dan and I didn’t have coitus until our wedding day. I started on the Patch, an alternative to the Pill, roughly 6-8 weeks before our wedding.
My periods had never been the most consistent, but on the Patch, they finally became almost perfectly consistent. At the time, I changed my Patch every Sunday. Usually I did this in the morning, but sometimes I changed it at night. Similar to the Pill, I followed a schedule of three weeks on, one week off. During the off week, my period came.
My period almost always started on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
On that dark December Thursday, I still had no period.
After momentary panic and hasty prayers, I forced myself to calm down. I mentally outlined a plan.
First, I would wait another 24 hours for my period to arrive. If it didn’t?
Only then would I tell Dan. There was no need to worry him immediately.
Then I would buy a few pregnancy tests.* If they were all negative, I would wait longer for my period to come. (And if it never came, I would take more pregnancy tests).
But if any of them were positive?
I would call Planned Parenthood and schedule the earliest available appointment to:
- confirm I was pregnant
- abort the pregnancy
Am I doing the right thing?
I honestly did not feel at all conflicted about this plan of action. My body wasn’t even capable of keeping itself healthy. There was no way I could safely gestate a fetus.
That said, I did feel conflicted about whether or not I would tell anyone other than Dan.
As a pro-choice feminist, I want to end the stigma around abortion. As feminist college students, my friends and I celebrated the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with cookie cake and the documentary Speak Out: I Had an Abortion.
But as a Christian feminist, I feared the backlash. Most of my pro-choice friends wouldn’t choose abortion for themselves, even if they support the legality of it.
I was afraid that if I told anyone, I would lose friends forever and become the black sheep of my family.
I never had to make that choice, to declare my abortion publicly or to keep it private.
My period finally came Friday morning. My entire body relaxed, no longer in turmoil over a possible pregnancy.
But that day of fear, and quiet determination, never left me.
This is my abortion story
My almost-abortion continues to exist. I might no longer weigh only 98 pounds, but I am still incredibly sick. In medical terms?
My small intestine is fucked up.
As much as I dream of a healthy pregnancy one day, right now that is not medically possible.
Right now, my gastroenterologist has strongly advised me not to get pregnant.
I celebrate each monthly period just as much as I cry each time a character on Netflix celebrates her pregnancy.
And as much as I desperately want to be pregnant, if that were to happen before my next MRE, I would get an abortion. I am not willing to both worsen my own poor health and to put my fetus at increased risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.
I still hope never to be in the position of choosing an abortion. The Patch is highly effective contraception, but then again, 17% of abortions in 2008 were for people who were using hormonal contraception at the time.
But that hope doesn’t stem from a moral quandary.
For me, sharing this emergency plan publicly takes more courage and fills me with more dread than thinking about having an abortion itself.
I still fear losing friends from this blog post.
I still fear family members turning their backs on me.
But this is a conversation that we need to have.
Why I write
Let’s just say I find it more than a little condescending when anti-choicers tell me that pro-choicers just aren’t informed enough. Women who get abortions just don’t know any better. If we could just be forced to think more about this decision, we would all change our minds.
This is me hoping you’ll change your mind.
I was only 16 when I started researching pregnancy with Crohn’s. At 19, I first broached the topic with my gastroenterologist. I’ve now had 5 separate conversations with 4 separate medical professionals on having a healthy pregnancy with Crohn’s Disease.
How many years of your life have you spent digging through highly-technical medical research on pregnancy? Closely examining drug warnings on all of your prescriptions, past and present? Seeking out Internet forums to see what Crohn’s patients have said about their own pregnancies?
I am so honest about my struggles with Crohn’s Disease in order to increase visibility of invisible illnesses. Maybe I make vulnerability look easy, but it’s truly hard to write publicly about my vomit and diarrhea and severe pain.
I do this not for myself, but for all the other people living with chronic and/or invisible illnesses, people who might lack my platform.
For the same reason, I need to share why abortion access matters to me personally.
My story is just what could have been, what might never come to pass.
But my willingness to choose abortion is very much grounded in reality.
The personal is still political
Today is Inauguration Day. Today Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.
What will happen to reproductive rights under Trump’s administration? No one can say for sure (although some lawyers have discussed it).
I might not be joining a Women’s March this weekend, but this blog post is my small part to promote reproductive choice.
I stand with Planned Parenthood, with feminists, with anyone who recognizes the great need for bodily autonomy.
Where do you stand?
*I totally didn’t know then that it’s easy to get false negatives AND false positives so soon after a missed period. So this plan might not have worked properly anyway. Read more about pregnancy tests.