Jen's Story

I started having sex two months ago and almost a month ago, I had my abortion.

I got pregnant the very first time. I knew it, right from the start, but I pretended I was just having some wicked-bad PMS until I was over a week late. It seemed too ludicrously unlucky!

Although I've always been completely pro-choice, I never thought that I could do it. I really love kids and want one someday. But the reality of my situation wasn't the idyllic maternal scene I'd always imagined: I can barely support myself, and although my ex-lover and I care about one another, we weren't anywhere near a position to commit more than the present to one another, much less to start a family.

I was so scared to tell him, mostly because he'd once spoken vehemently about never wanting his child aborted (he was pro-choice politically, but not personally), and I had to come to grips with the possibility that he'd want me to have the baby. Luckily, reality hit him just as it had me.

Then I had to wait ten days to go to the clinic because the fetus was still too little. Those days were incredible; all I remember is that my hand was always on my belly. I'd been feeling nauseous and tender and hadn't had much of an appetite for a few weeks, but then I started getting morning,noon&night sickness and lots of cramps. Sometimes they felt as if, by sheer will, I was going to miscarry.

The abortion was such a calm, hazy relief. There was only one protester outside with her microphone and soft voice talking about bloody babies' bodies. It seemed like every single doctor and nurse in the clinic had to poke or prod me in some way, but I was so dazed and they were so genuinely nice that I hardly noticed. Once I got to the examining room, the nurse told me that my body showed signs that it had been trying to miscarry, after all. At the time, I felt reassured that I was doing the right thing, but now I worry that I may miscarry later, when I'm trying to become a mother.

My mind's been going in such crazy circles for the past six weeks! at first, I was very pragmatic and basically numb to everything but the physical symptoms. Afterwards, I took a few days off from work and suddenly started bawling my eyes out. I'd been so worried about having any feelings for or about the fetus, but the day after my abortion it all hit me. It wasn't purely negative, though. I felt my baby had come into existence for a reason, then served its purpose and left. That sounds so self-serving to my ears. But being pregnant was like removing all my skin and blinders about my life. Suddenly I found such clear insight about what I'm doing, who I am, and why I've been pretending everything else.

It was painful to look at but filled me with a sense of obligation to live up to my own ideals.... it was such a strange gift. I was completely alone and I couldn't eat or sleep or talk about it, but I was also sometimes filled with hope.

My lover and I had been pretty much freaking each other out all summer, so although he tried to be supportive and paid his half and all that, I couldn't really turn to him with all of this. And while I was recuperating, he started seeing someone. Even though we hadn't committed anything to one another, and I saw how it was a very natural way for him to escape from all the evil reality we were being thrown around in, losing him in that way helped shock me out of the facade I was trying to pull over myself.

Going back to work and back to normal life had seemed impossible without forgetting everything I'd realized after the abortion, but seeing our relationship end made me face up to my own responsibility for my life.

A few days ago I picked up and moved across the country. Part of me thinks I'm just running away but the bigger part hopes I will find whatever perspective I need here. I still think I made the right choice although I also want to go back home. Right now I'm just trying to be honest and true to everything and everyone. I guess we'll see.

Just about each feeling I had and have had about this can be paired with an opposite feeling I've also experienced here: both guilt and pride at my decision to choose my own path; both terror and awe at my body's ability to create life; and sorrow but also joy from the baby itself.

So the biggest thing I think this shows is that no one can ever get into another's skull and understand their life enough to make (or even fully understand) their decisions for them, and how individual and private this choice should be. I kept wishing I could've just gone into my hometown doctor's office instead of driving all morning to a sterile and stigmatized clinic. I really hope that someday our society will stop seeing women's bodies as either dirty little secrets or forums for public debate. I wish all of the best for all the girls and women out there: these painful events in life can open your eyes if you let them.

November 1999

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