Amy's Story

As a writer and a mother, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to write. This is the story of my abortion.

At 24, I'm still a baby. I have a wonderful husband, a three year old son, a house, and an exciting career as a free lance writer, but considering the fact that I've only lived one third of my total time on this planet, I'm still a child. And I make mistakes.

It was Mardi Gras. My husband and I had gone out with friends for drinks. We came home a little drunk, a little stupid, and had sex. No big deal, right? We're married. This is what married couples do! There was just one problem....

Condoms break!

So there I was, 24 years old, my son playing in the living room with his Power Rangers and Monster Trucks, and I'm staring at this little pink plus sign on my pregnancy test.

"It can't be right," I thought. "Something went wrong."

So I took another one. And another one--each time, that damn plus sign staring blindly back at me.

At the Clinic, they asked me how I felt during the first moments when I knew I was pregnant. How can one answer that question with any degree of rational certainty? It's like asking what a piece of dead wood jammed beneath an atomic bomb must feel like? How does one answer that??

Confused---"How could this have happened?"

Angry---"God, why did I have to be so stupid!"

Frightened---"What am I going to do now?"

All of these emotions, and more, swirled chaotically in my brain. I cried for three hours straight. I felt sick. I wanted to die.

I don't want to bore anyone with the trivial aspects of my life or my situation. It was very simple really. For financial reasons, I knew that having another child was simply not possible. But I still couldn't see myself walking into that clinic and doing what I meant to do.

Can anyone understand this?

Sometimes, I feel like I'm talking to myself. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm speaking out through a black void, waiting, hoping that someone is actually listening to me, but there's nothing there, really. Just dead open space. I really hope this isn't true.

I called the clinic on Monday morning. The woman on the other line was very polite. She asked me several questions; when was my last period? where did you hear about our clinic? how old are you? Things like this. I gave her all the information and she gave me my appointment date. It was 3 days away. Perfect! My husband was going to be out of town! He'd never know a thing!

Now, please understand that I love my husband very much. Unfortunately, he never would have agreed to this. Before we were married, he always told me that abortion was not an option.

"If you get pregnant," he said, "please don't have an abortion. Have the child! I'll take it and go away with it. But please don't do this."

This, above all else, caused me a great deal of pain. I never wanted to do this. I certainly never wanted to do it alone. I thought about going into the clinic without him and my heart just shriveled up. I knew that if he ever found out, my marriage would be over. But I also knew that if I told him I was going to go through with the abortion, his heart would be forever broken. So I lied. And I hated myself for it.

Later that same afternoon, the nurse called back to tell me we would have to reschedule my appointment. It seemed that I was only 5 weeks pregnant, not nearly far enough along to have the procedure done. I would have to wait until the following week.

"Couldn't we do it on Saturday?" I asked her.

"No," she said, "if we do it too soon, and we are unable to get a sample, then we might have to do it all over again."

Sample.....what a numbing word that was.

I told the nurse fine, and we set the appointment up for the following week. My sister's friend would drive me.

For a week, I tried to find every shred of information on abortions that I could. I studied the procedures. I read the letters posted here. I asked friends (quite casually, of course) if they knew anything about it.

And still, I did not feel prepared enough.

The day slowly approached. I tried to keep myself busy with writing and reading, playing with my son, and working on some papers I needed to finish up. I tried not to think about the "thing" growing inside me.

I labeled it "thing" because I could not allow myself to think of it as a real live infant. And I can't tell you how many times I started to cry when this thought.."thing"..entered my mind because I felt so guilty. I felt as if my womb had been invaded by this little horrible creature, but it wasn't like that! I did this to myself! The "thing" inside me was completely innocent!

So I closed the doors on that. I closed my mind to things like that. I studied, I tried to prepare myself mentally, I read "Rachel's, Don't be Afraid," letter again and again until every word was firmly rooted into the fleshy recesses of my mind.

And then the day came. I told my husband that I was going to work as if it were any other day. I dropped my son off at daycare. Then I met up with my sister's friend in a parking lot near my mother's home. We had to be secretive about it because I didn't want to leave my car in the driveway outside my home. If my husband were to come home, he would wonder why the car was there.

The Clinic was about an hour away from where I live, but it seemed like such a long drive. The girl who took me was very sweet, but younger than I am and very giddy, talking constantly about her boyfriend and how much fun they had going clubbing the other night, and how much she liked my shoes. I just kept staring out the window, thinking to myself, "I'm going to kill my baby, and all she cares about are these fucking shoes."

"I need my sister."

"I wish I were five years old again."

"I want to die."

The Clinic was very small but very clean. I had somehow expected pro-life protesters to be standing out on the sidewalk, screaming things like "murderer" and "sinner" but there was nothing like this. It seemed quiet and peaceful, aside from that large green sign on the front gate which read, "Guard Dog on Watch!"

Inside, I walked to the front desk and the woman pointed for me to come around through a small door on the right. Once through the door, the woman asked me my name and then handed me a clipboard with some questions to fill out.

The questions were pretty basic really; name, address, phone number, age, previous pregnancies, medical history--things like this. I answered them all quickly, returned the clipboard to the woman at the front desk, and waited for them to call my name.


"Yes!" I replied, clambering slowly past a row of narrowed knees down the slim isle. Near the door, a young child was rolling around on the ground, and I tried my best not to step on him.

Irony, you know?

Once behind the door, the nurse apologized for the child. "We tell everyone not to bring children, but some women have no choice."  " choice..."   I nodded numbly as she escorted me down another hallway.

"How are you going to pay for this, dear?" she asked.

I reached down into my purse, pulled out the shiny new visa card, and slid it into her hand. The nurse told me to take a seat in yet another smothering hallway while she wrote out the receipt for me.

I took a seat next to a young Hispanic girl with a very pretty face and long, shiny curls down her back. Her eyes were light green and filled with fear. She didn't look a day over 15.

A moment later, the nurse returned with my receipt and credit card. Another nurse, coming up slowly behind the first, told me to go into the room ahead for the sonogram.

Nodding once more, I stepped into the darkened room and instinctively pulled my jeans down over my hips before sliding up onto the examination table. "Ah, you've been through this before," the nurse said.

"No,...well, yes...with my son." My mouth felt sticky and swollen shut.

"How old is he?" she asked while squirting the warm jelly across the width of my lower abdomen. I felt the cold metal of the ultrasound pad as it slid over my belly. I stared at the ceiling and tried to ignore it.

"He's three," I told her, smiling softly at the thought of my son. The   nurse smiled too, though her eyes never moved, glued firmly to the small television-like screen off to my right.

"Well," she started, tilting the screen slightly towards me, "this should make you feel much better." I immediately panicked. What was she doing? I didn't want to see it! I couldn't look at it!

But I was looking at it. Right at it! It glowed there, as green as radioactive goo, the vision of my womb. She pointed out a fluid filled sac, which looked much like a tiny bloated black balloon with nothing in it really, and she told me that the timing was perfect. This was going to be easy.

After cleaning up, I stepped back out into the hallway to wait for my counselor. I took a seat next to another young girl, though much older than the first, but with the same frightened look in her face.

"What did they do to you?" she asked, motioning to the room I had just come from.

"A sonogram," I told her. "They just put some jelly on you and move this thing over your stomach. It doesn't hurt at all."

She nodded in a large way suddenly as if she understood.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Eighteen. What about you?"

I told her that I was only twenty-four, but that I felt so much older because of all the young girls in the clinic. She told me that she liked my shoes. I smiled.

"Are you here for a termination?" I nodded. "Me too," she replied.

I remembered suddenly that I had seen this girl come into the lobby with a young man."Was that your husband?" I asked her. "Or your boyfriend?" "Oh, that's my boyfriend," she told me. "He's been so great about this. See, I have a 5 month old baby girl at home. That's why I'm here. He's trying to be supportive, you know? But he doesn't really understand this. I can't even tell my mother. I feel like I'm all alone here."

I felt my heart break open up to this girl. I wanted suddenly to tell her everything about me; about my son, about my dreams of going back to school, about my husband--everything. I wanted to tell her that I had felt all alone too, and that up until that point--listening to her talk and looking into her red-rimmed eyes--I had thought that no one truly understood. But she did! And she had saved me somehow.

Looking back, I know that I should have said these things to her. I should have told her that in that moment, she became my friend for life. I should have asked for her telephone number or for her address so that I could have let her know what a comfort she was to me that day. But all I could do was wave good-bye and wish her good luck as the counselor came to guide me down another hall. We gave each other a knowing smile, ...but it wasn't nearly enough.

(Perhaps this is my way of making up for that?)

The counselor who spoke with me was a kind woman. In fact, the entire nursing staff was very nice and made me feel extremely comfortable. She explained the procedure more thoroughly and told me that I would feel some discomfort and pressure during it. She also gave me several packages of birth control pills to take home with me, as well as a bottle of Methergine (to contract the uterus), a bottle of Ibuprofen (for possible pain), and a bottle of Doxycycline (to prevent possible infection). She explained how these drugs should be used, and asked if I had any further questions.

She then took my blood pressure and pricked my finger to check for Rh factor.

We laughed together as I told her how much I had always hated to have my finger pricked. I would always much rather have them take it from my arm, and she fully agreed.

Afterwards, I was led down another hallway into a small white room where a clear plastic cup of pills was handed to me. Two of the pills, the nurse pointed out, were Valium to help me relax. The pink pill was the Methergine to contract my uterus. Another pill was for nausea. Again, we laughed as I told her I felt like a drug addict now.

She then led me back to the lobby and told me to wait until I was called. I would be dizzy when she called me, she said, so I should be careful walking back.

I sat for thirty minutes or so, watching the other women around me, dozing in their seats and looking completely drowsy. At first, I was almost sure that the nurse had not given me enough medication. But after a few more moments, I suddenly felt the room become smaller as if it were contracting in on itself, my eyes began to droop, and I knew that the medicine was working.

Another thirty minutes passed and the nurse called for me. I managed to make it past the other women and down another long and narrow corridor to a bathroom where she told me to empty my bladder, but to "keep my eyes open."

I did this quickly and returned to the hallway. To the left, I saw a room full of large metal machines. I knew that these were for sterilization, and for a moment, I felt a huge surge of relief. "Thank God they clean the instruments."

Another nurse called my name and I followed her voice down the hallway, still feeling as if I were in a dream. Her voice sounded somewhat like my mother's and she called me "honey" which seemed very soothing at the moment. I was told to get undressed from the waist down and to lay on the table with the sheet laid across my thighs to cover me up. I remember asking the nurse if I could keep my socks on because my feet get cold when I'm nervous, and she smiled softly at me, telling me that this would be fine.

As I stretched out on the table, the nurse helped my legs up into the stirrups and she asked if I would like additional IV sedation. "Does it cost more?" I asked her. "No," she said, smiling once more and patting my arm before moving to the table to get the equipment."Yes then, please," I told her, "because I don't feel quite sleepy enough."

She placed the needle in my arm, and although I usually wince at such an intrusion, I barely moved. "It will sting a bit as the medicine starts to go through," she said. I nodded dreamily, though I felt no stinging sensations at all. Maybe it's not working right, I thought. Perhaps I should say something. But I heard the door shut behind me, and I knew that she was gone.

I'm not sure how long I waited there. Several times, I heard the door open and shut. I heard several people say, "OOPS, I'm sorry," but I never opened my eyes.

Then the doctor came in. I knew it almost immediately. Doctors simply have that presence you can feel. It's almost like being alone in a quiet room, but you know for certain that someone is standing in the doorway behind you. I opened my eyes slightly and saw that he had gray hair. This is all I remember of him.

More alert now, because I realized what was going to happen, I opened my eyes and watched the nurse for a minute. I felt the doctor moving between my thighs. He placed the speculum into my vagina and pulled the flaps of skin apart. I had been through this many times before, so it was nothing new or surprising or painful. Then I felt the needle. "Oh," I moaned, jumping just a bit from the shock of it.  "No, no.." the nurse crooned, coming close suddenly and whispering that it was only for a minute, that the doctor was numbing my cervix. "I'm OK," I heard myself saying. "I just wasn't expecting it, that's all."

Then I heard the machine. My God, why didn't anyone tell me that the machine would sound like that? It was a horrible sound; subtle, but terrible somehow, whirring in a rhythmic way, buzzing in a low, grave tone. I heard the doctor's voice then, saying something about breaking into the sac, and then I felt it. Pain. Burning, stinging, awful, intense pain. "It's just pressure," the nurse reassured me. "Here, squeeze my hand."

But no, this wasn't pressure, damnit! This was pain! It hurt like HELL!! I thought back to all the letters I had read. I heard Rachel's words in the back of my mind.."Uncomfortable, yes, but nothing to write home about."

But my God, this was awful! I felt as if this machine were sucking out my entire uterus. I thrashed my head from side to side slowly, moaning, gritting my teeth, trying to remember that it was only supposed to last for a few minutes. "I never knew..." I moaned. "Oh, and oh, and oh..."  I shut out the slurping noises of blood and tissue spreading out through the tube.

Then I began to lie to myself. "This isn't bad," I told the nurse. "This isn't bad at all. I had a miscarriage at four months. I gave birth to a 6 pound baby boy. No, this isn't so terrible." I never kicked or pushed away at him. I never fought. I only wanted it to be over with quickly. And then it was. As quickly as it had begun, it was also over. The tube was pulled out of me, along with the speculum. I could feel that I was wet down between my legs, but the pain was still there, as if the machine was still doing it..again and again and again.

"Is it over?" I asked the nurse. My eyes were still closed, but I knew the doctor had already left, having said something else to the nurse that I never heard. "Yes," she told me, "Now, I need you to sit up." Still drowsy, I let her pull me up, but I immediately drew my legs up into my chest and started to cry.

"Are you OK, sweetie?" she asked, her voice sounding genuinely concerned, her hands working hard to straighten my legs out again across the table.

I saw myself suddenly, sitting there on that cold bed, my legs drawn into my chest like a fetus might do, and I felt the blood running out of me. I saw myself at age 12 when I first got my period, smaller then, chubby and innocent. I saw myself at 19 when my son had been born, and again, when I was 20 and I lost my second baby after 4 months. And I saw myself in a long line, a parade, a multitude of women who had been along this same road. And I was one of them, yes, but I could see my face so distinctively that I knew I was an individual.

I wasn't some number on a chart on a Congressman's desk. I wasn't a statistic in the local newspaper. I was a woman! And I wasn't alone! I knew that the young girl was waiting outside for me in the recovery room. And there were more before her and beyond her. I wasn't proud. But I felt stronger somehow.

In the recovery room, I was given crackers and soda. I watched the other girls, sleeping soundly in the large leather recliners. The girl I had met in the hallway stood up once and knocked over her drink. A nurse asked her if she would like a shot to help wake her up. I watched her nod and sit back down.

After a little while, I was told to go and check my bleeding. I told them that it was nothing more than a light period and they sent me home. Once in my bed, I slept for the rest of the day.

I've never regretted my decision to have an abortion.

My mother always said that we, as women, are forced to make the toughest decisions. And we are! But I'm thankful every day that we have the freedom to make those decisions! And I hope that for every day that I live my life, I will have the strength to stand up for that right.

To echo someone else's thoughts: The most important freedom we have is choice!

(Personal note to Rachel: Please don't take offense to my story. I know that all women handle this differently, and some women are more or less likely to feel physical pain from this procedure. I have wanted to tell you that your letter was instrumental in comforting me throughout the entire ordeal! I thank you so much for telling your story. I thank you ALL!)

18 March 1999

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"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." - Helen Keller