“You will feel something, but there will not be much pain since the procedure will be carried out under local anaesthetic and you will be offered pain-control medication, which will greatly contribute to your overall comfort.” I felt something; I felt many things in the moments leading up to, during, and after the procedure.
It was a Friday when I asked my partner to purchase the test. I had a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was late. I got the test and quickly glanced at the instructions. I knew what to do from a previous “scare”; however, this time was more than a scare. I was quite certain of the results but kept a glimmer of doubt—or hope—at the back of my mind.
The answer caused a raw sensory response. I have always been an overthinker, but in that moment, which felt isolated from the rest of my life, I stopped thinking. I could just feel my heartbeat. A physiological response without an attributed emotion. Like a wave dragging me under water but allowing me to breathe. My partner had to leave for work half an hour after we got the confirmed results.
Unable to think clearly, I opened my laptop and googled away frantically. At this point, I was no longer in a state of emotional void. The “what ifs” sped through my mind in a roundabout with their exit unknown. I thought about the day before, when my mother shared some big news. She was embarking on a path to recovery set to start the following Monday. She needed my support though daily calls and messages of strength. I thought about my academic career, counting the months on the calendar. I played out the scenes of my possible choices to decide which exit to take.
Within two hours, I called to schedule an appointment. Looking back, the clinic I chose was probably not the closest to home, but seemed to have the most comforting words online. A whole two weeks of contemplation, studying, and working to endure before the appointment. Life was to be “as usual” with some added flu-like symptoms and anxious thoughts.
Those two weeks felt like prison. I was isolated within shame, grief, and anger acting as walls, bars, and barbed wire. My mother called me every day for support on her journey. When I received the greeting question: “how are you?”, my answers were simple. I would brush off the stressed and shaky undertone in my voice as a symptom of the university student exam flu. I was sleepless like most students during the dead of winter. However, unlike most exhausted students not much studying was being done.
The day came. I felt many things, none of which resembled the overall comfort mentioned on the website. I felt pain both physically and emotionally regardless of the drugs they gave me. My fear of needles and blood certainly did not help. I felt fragmented, as if my parts were no longer connected into one unified individual. As I would put the puzzle together, I knew the pieces would fit differently.
My memories of the day itself are recalled as a blur with small spots of clarity. I clearly remember the sterile setting with forced hints of hominess as I walked in. The next clear spot is a feeling rather than an image. I remember lying on the hospital bed, slightly propped up, with the drugs coursing through my veins. The face of my partner looking at me comes to me as an uncanny feeling rather than something visually recognizable. Seconds later, I remember the distinct pain of the nurse pushing on my lower abdomen. From that moment, I remember three flashes: getting dressed, puking in a clear plastic bag, and being in the car on the way home.
After the procedure my only support came from my partner who shared the same secret, yet lacked the same shame. When we checked in with each other, I noticed we shared many feelings of sadness and anxiety. But no matter how much checking in we did, loneliness gloomed over me. My guilt and shame held me back from sharing my grief with other women in my life. I resorted to writing letters to my partner attempting to express indescribable feelings and searching online platforms for support through the stories shared by brave women. Regardless of my efforts, I felt alone.
As I write this nearly eight months later, I still feel something. The first three months were the toughest, with recurring flashes of emotional pain as I began to put the new puzzle pieces of myself together. Due to the time of year, I depended on my usual reaction to adversity and pushed my thoughts and feelings aside to finish my semester. However, I made sure there was a continued conversation with my partner about how we felt; which helped me work through my thoughts and feelings at a later time.
I have selectively shared my story since then, every time releasing slightly more guilt. I feel less; but I still feel something, which becomes harder to name as the more powerful feelings of guilt and shame slowly recede. Coming to terms with the exit I chose to take is a process I predict will be a long one; but no matter how much time passes, the phrase “I had an abortion” will always bring me discomfort.