This is a guest post contributed by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. Names have been changed to protect identities. I'm honored to share this story and provide a platform for brave people to speak out about their struggles with chronic illness, disability rights and healthcare in America. If you'd like to share your story, please contact me here.
Two pink lines. All I had ever wanted was to be a wife and a stay-at-home mom, and there I was staring at two pink lines. I immediately started screaming and sobbing uncontrollably while my fiance, Randy, rubbed my back in the tiny bathroom of our tiny mobile home. We hadn't been together long enough to have a child together. This was no environment to raise a child in. After years of teenage promiscuity with no pregnancies, I was convinced I wasn't able to have children. But here I was, staring at two pink lines encased in cheap plastic.
I grew up in a stable, loving home with a father who worked full-time and a mother who stayed home with three children. My parents were (and still are) very much in love. I have two siblings who are also stable and successful. We were raised with Christian morals and taught to always do our best personally, academically and professionally. While these doctrines seemingly came easy to my siblings, I struggled. Mental illness has been a battle for me as long as I can remember, and with it came looking for love and acceptance wherever I could get my hands on it.
When I first met Randy, I wasn't completely infatuated like I had been with men previously. He grew on me slowly and then suddenly, like how weeds overtake a lawn after a summer storm. We quickly moved in together, and I felt like the relationship was going well. Shortly after that, the shift happened. He was angry and bitter more frequently. He would engage in shouting matches with me, eventually backing me against walls while he screamed at me so closely that I could feel the heat of his breath on my face. Along with the yelling came the taunts of, "You're crazy. No one wants to be with a crazy person. You better stay with me because I'm the only one who would ever love you." And so I stayed.
A few months later, as we were standing in the tiny bathroom watching the test reveal its answer, Randy had the biggest smile. He was thrilled that he was going to be a father. I told him that I wasn't sure we could raise a child together, and once again, he assured me that I was crazy. A doctor's visit confirmed the pregnancy, and I began taking prenatal vitamins. Randy's mother took me wedding dress shopping. She bragged to the store attendants about how she was going to be a grandmother and told them that we were moving the wedding date up sooner to not have a baby out of wedlock. I sat in the dressing room and silently sobbed.
A week later, I called my mom to tell her I had decided to have an abortion.
It was very secretive; my parents didn't want me to be exposed to cruel judgements because of my decision. My mom and I drove to a different state to have it done and even paid in cash so it wouldn't be recorded with my insurance company. The office was plain with a stained carpet, and a comedy movie played on the television in the waiting room. The staff called my name and walked me to the back, alone.
After I had done research on different abortion options, I had decided to take the medication option rather than have the surgical procedure because it seemed less invasive and traumatic. The nurse performed an ultrasound and pronounced that I was seven weeks along in the pregnancy. She asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound. I declined. She then informed me that I would take the medication in the office, then I would need to return in three weeks to "make sure it worked." I broke into a sweat. Three weeks is a long time to not know if something this major "worked." I decided then to have the surgical procedure. I did not want to subject myself to three weeks of paranoia wondering if I'd had a successful abortion.
I somewhat remember him talking me through the procedure and letting me know when something would be physically uncomfortable. Mostly, I remember the suction sound of the machine. The sound of that machine wouldn't allow me to use my vacuum cleaner at home for over a month without enduring a full-blown panic attack.
Once I was home, my mental illness hit an all-time low. I felt completely isolated and alone. I was told to not think about my experience - that if I didn't think about it or talk about it, what happened would go away. It didn't go away. On top of this, the abuse at home got worse. Randy was a law enforcement officer and would use his tools as "toys." One of his favorite games was to pull out his taser, point the aiming laser at some part of my body and watch me panic. Randy would frequently bring up the abortion during arguments as a way to further tear me down mentally and emotionally. One spring Sunday after church, I told him I was upset because a baby was crying during the service. He replied, "You're just upset because they have a baby and you killed ours."
After more than a year of abuse, I finally found my strength and left Randy. I made a great friend who treated me with so much kindness that it left me confused as to why I was going to marry someone who treated me so poorly. Since leaving Randy, I have gone to abortion recovery retreats and years of therapy to try to find peace. Recovery is an ongoing process, and while I will always mourn the loss of my child, I remain steadfast in that I made the best decision I could have with what information I had at that time. I am still struggling with my decision; my due date is a hard day every year, and Mother's Day can be downright excruciating. However, I know that had I not terminated this pregnancy, it would have been detrimental to that child to grow up and see parents in a toxic and abusive relationship. It would have been detrimental to my mental health.
Having an abortion isn't as simple as walking into McDonald's and ordering a number nine, and is rarely used as a form of birth control like so many people, including legislators, would like you to think. There are so many factors that go into making the decision to terminate a pregnancy - it is truly a monumental decision that affects the woman making the decision before, during and after the procedure. Maybe if more women were met with compassion rather than hatred over this topic, we could better support each other, tell our stories and open peoples' eyes to see that we are not monsters for choosing to have an abortion. Maybe we could find more common ground in our legislatures to see that not everything is as cut and dry as they make it appear to be. Maybe, just maybe, we could offer others, and ourselves, a chance to heal.