Mariana's Story*

I'm 21 years old, a college graduate, married about a year, no children. I live in Dallas, Texas.

Yesterday, I had my first abortion.

Before my abortion, I read all the stories on this website, which really made me feel better. I am going to talk about my experience in a great deal of detail, partly for myself, and partly for people reading my story. I need to talk about this, to write it down. It's long and has the kind of details I desperately wanted to read about before I went in for my abortion.

My husband and I had used natural family planning (the Billings method where you chart your mucus -- not the rhythm method) for about two years and everything was fine. Last month, I noticed I had very little mucus, which was unusual for me, but I trusted the method. When my period was a couple of days late, I didn't worry much. After all, my breasts were tender and I felt a little bloated - normal PMS type feelings. When my period was a few more days late, I did a pregnancy test just to reassure myself. That little pink line was the scariest thing I've ever seen! I immediately called a family planning clinic and went over there quickly to have the test repeated.

When the nurse called my name, she took me into an exam room and closed the door. Her hand was full of little pamphlets. At that point, I knew something was definitely up. She told me that my test was positive.

I called my husband at work and asked him to come home right away. He's a teacher and can't just leave in the middle of class, so he was pressing me to find out what was wrong. I just said, "You know that my period's been a little late...." and that was all I had to say.

That afternoon, we laid on our bed and called Planned Parenthood for an appointment. I made it for three days away. My husband insisted on going with me.

The morning of the appointment, we dressed quietly and drove to the clinic. We got there so early that the armed guard at the door couldn't let us in, so we had to stand around in the parking lot trying to make small talk. When the appropriate time finally arrived, we went back inside and were admitted. I filled out all the paperwork and waited....did the urine test and called back for the sonogram. The lady doing the sonogram was nice, but couldn't find anything on the screen. She called in another technician, who found a large ovarian cyst and a tiny, eensy-weensy pregnancy. They called in the (male) doctor, who walked in while I was in the stirrups, put his hand in my vagina, pressed on the cyst from the outside, and told me to get dressed. He told me that I was too early for an abortion and that I should get pelvic rest. "PELVIC REST!" he screamed. I was terribly upset! I mean, he walked in while I was already in stirrups, plunged his hand inside of me, and then gave me a lecture about not having sex with my "boyfriend". I informed him that I was married and he just snorted.

Okay, that sealed it. I went to the waiting room, grabbed my husband, we went outside and I sobbed. I explained what had happened, called my regular doctor from my cell phone and stormed down to her office.

Let me preface this by saying I didn't want to tell my regular doctor. She works for a religious hospital and honestly, I just wanted a minimum of people to find out about my abortion.

Well, telling my doctor was the best thing. She took my husband and me into her office and hugged me while I cried. She got an abortion referral from one of her nurses and referred me to an OB/GYN for my cyst.

When I called the clinic, I knew everything was going to be different. The lady on the line was so nice -- she asked, "Could you please hold so I can take care of this other call and then I can devote all my attention to you?" She listened patiently, I explained the situation, and we made an appointment for about ten days later. I could have made it earlier, but I wanted to make sure that I was "pregnant enough" and I wouldn't have to try for a third nerve-racking time.

The day of my appointment:

We arrived at the Fairmount Center at 1:15 to find two Catholic women protesters outside. We took a shortcut across the grass so we wouldn't have to face them. The clinic was in a converted house in a beautiful neighborhood with many shade trees. There were four or five people outside smoking and inside there were four or five more people. I gave my name and was taken back for my sonogram almost immediately. The nurse measured my pregnancy and my ovarian cyst again and sent me back to the waiting room. There was a young, twenty-ish couple and a young girl with her mother and her baby. Seeing that little baby girl made me think two things: 1. Wow, what an awesome responsibility, I can't imagine taking care of her, and 2. How wonderful that there's a baby here, it makes this seem less shameful and more a normal part of women's lives.

Okay, so the worst part was the wait. We waited two and a half hours to meet with Sue, my counselor. My husband went with me -- we went up this spiral staircase to the top floor of the house, where there were three armchairs with a soft light. In this soothing atmosphere, we went over my paperwork, asked lots of questions, and got to know the lady that would hold my hand during the abortion. I asked to have a minimum of drugs -- I had only a half dose of Fentanyl (a muscle relaxant) and the paracervical block. I wanted to remember the experience.

After the counseling, things went really quickly. Sue took us back downstairs, took my payment, deposited my husband in the waiting room, and took me to have the lab work.

In the hall, I passed a young woman who had been in the waiting room with us earlier. She had a full dose of all drugs and her eyes were half closed and I heard the nurse tell her husband she was very sleepy. I definitely didn't want to feel like that.

After a quick fingerstick, temperature check, and blood pressure check, she walked me to the procedure room. I met with the doctor for a quick minute and was left to undress. Honestly, it was really nice to meet the doctor with all my clothes on (unlike my previous experience).

I undressed from the waist down and got on the table. There was the typical paper drape, but there was also a warm fuzzy blanket over that. Speakers positioned above the table played string quartet music (thankfully not the Kenny G that played in the waiting room). This was the only time I was alone during the entire day. I laid back on the table and closed my eyes for a minute. I said a prayer for myself, for my never-to-be-born child, and for my husband, who was alone in the waiting room.

A nurse came in to give me the drugs. We talked again about me only wanting a minimum of medication, so she gave me a dose of Ativan to keep my blood pressure up and a half dose of Fentanyl. I immediately felt thirsty from the Ativan and light-headed from the Fentanyl. She dimmed the lights and then talked with me until Sue came back in. Sue arranged the doctor's instruments, then helped me put my calves into the holders (not stirrups this time). She then raised the table so that my rear was higher than my head. (This is, undoubtedly, one of the least graceful positions I've ever been in!)

When the doctor came in, she talked to me for a moment while she washed her hands and gloved. She and Sue and I were joking about the positioning of the table and the doctor started telling me about the electric table at her OB/GYNs office when she had her Pap the day before. Again, this made me feel normal and wonderfully connected to these other women.

The doctor then inserted the speculum and then sprayed my vagina with disinfectant -- it was very cold. Sue moved to hold my hand and the doctor gave me the paracervical block. This was the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. It didn't prick like when you get a shot in the arm, but it was a dull ache that made me very aware of the precise location of my cervix (a very peculiar feeling). The doctor started the suction machine, which gave me some cramping, but nothing worse than a menstrual cramp. She turned it off, then started it again. At this point, Sue told me "One minute to go." There was a clock placed right in my field of vision, so I could see the clock ticking down the seconds. I could also see the blood and tissue going into the collection jar.

The doctor turned off the suction machine and then pressed gauze against my cervix -- again, a pretty weird and uncomfortable feeling. She used the gauze twice and then said that I was finished. Dr. Smith helped me get my legs down and Sue lowered the table so I was flat again. Sue took the collection jar, put the entire jar into a box and removed it from the room. I laid still for a minute and the drug-nurse came back in to remove the catheter from my arm (she had left it in place so that I could have more drugs if I wanted). Someone set a Kotex, a wet-wipe, a small gauze towel, my pants and underpants on a tray near me, and then Sue closed a curtain so I could get dressed. I really appreciated that she stayed in the room. I felt a little woozy -- by this time, it was 5:00pm and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day. Sue walked me down a small hall to the recovery room. There was a nurse, a thirty-ish woman, and a woman in her early twenties. I grabbed some cookies and laid back on a heating pad. The three of us conversed quietly. I was really glad to see the young woman in there. She was my age and looked similar to me. She joked with me about going straight for cookies and we talked about what we were going to have for dinner.

I had been there a few minutes when my husband appeared, looking white like a ghost. He sat down next to me and gave me a tight hug. I think the worst part was being separated from each other -- this was OUR decision, but the procedure was being done completely to ME. After a few minutes, the nurse had me go into a small restroom to check the bleeding on my Kotex. There was nothing on the Kotex and only a few smudges when I wiped. I reported to the nurse, she gave me antibiotics and a take-home survey and we were on our way. I didn't feel groggy, just a little nauseated and sleepy-tired and hungry.

My husband held my arm tightly and I wondered if HE was okay to drive home. He took me home, tucked me into bed, and ran out to get takeout Italian, a heating pad, and a thermometer.

I woke up this morning, have only a little discomfort, only a slight amount of bleeding, and emotionally I feel fine. I am so glad that I was referred to the Fairmount Center and I am so thankful to the wonderful women that work there. They helped me through a difficult decision and put me in control of everything that happened. Today I feel so empowered and blessed that I was able to make the decision not to bring a child into the world. Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

A few other things:

  • Buy your heating pad, thermometer, and sanitary pads in advance. I wanted the heating pad so badly when I got home, but I didn't want my husband to leave my side.
  • Take socks -- my bare feet were so cold during the procedure!
  • Make a morning appointment if possible -- I felt the worst because I hadn't eaten all day.

I did a lot of reading before I went. Here were some of the most helpful:

  • Laura Kaplan's Jane: The Underground Feminist Abortion Service.
  • Candace De Puy and Dana Dovitch: The Healing Choice - Your Guide to Emotional Recovery After An Abortion ( I read this one before my abortion and highlighted sections to read if I felt upset afterwards. It gave me lots to think about before I went in and the quotes were so inspiring -- this book really helped me to know I was making the right choice.)
  • The Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers' book A New View of A Woman's Body (The information was clear and concise, and the pictures were enlightening).
  • Daniel A Dombrowski and Robert Deltete's A Brief, Liberal Catholic Defense of Abortion (I am Catholic and this book really helped me understand the views of the church and how they've changed).
17 May 2001

more stories -- share your story

Birth Control Comparison - alll methods Abortion Info from Feminist Women's Health CenterShare your story
Poetry and Prose - by women about their reproductive lives Teens HealthResources for Women of Color
Feminist Abortion Clinics Real Life Abortion Stories from teens Questions and Answers


". . . the inner voice; the human compulsion when deeply distressed to seek healing counsel within ourselves, and the capacity within ourselves both to create this counsel and to receive it."
— You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981) by Alice Walker

* name changed