Emily | East Tennessee

It seemed like other people had so much more to say about it than I did. It made me start questioning myself. Not whether I was doing the right thing, but if I was doing it the “right” way.

I kind of already knew. I knew I needed to get a test to be sure, but I just felt like I knew what it was going to say. I took a pregnancy test before class and I was right, it was positive.

I was 20. It was in February, 2013. The biggest thing for me was that I never had any doubt. I’d always been pro-choice, so I didn’t have any moral doubts or anything like that about it. As soon as I knew that I was pregnant I knew there was only one option. I was very certain in that decision. Never doubted it then. Haven’t doubted it since.

I got home after class and called a health center immediately, but they didn’t take my insurance and it was going to be around $300. Then, I called another health center and they accepted my insurance, so I made an appointment. This was on a Monday and the appointment was for a Friday. And I was like, “Wait. I have to spend the next four days pregnant when I don’t want to be?” So, that was really the hardest thing, thinking about how I don’t want this to be happening inside of me, but couldn’t do anything about it for four days.

I think about my abortion a lot in terms of access and advocacy, but I don’t think about it in terms of something that defines me like I used to. There was a period of time where I would think about how old would the baby would be at this point and things like that. I haven’t had a thought like that in probably two years. It’s just become something that happened. That’s the most important part of why abortion needs to be accessible. This unplanned pregnancy was able to just be a part of my story and not define my story. I knew that it wasn’t the right time for me or the right situation for me. It allowed me to continue my life as usual. It allowed me to be where I am today and do the things I’ve done because I didn’t have to significantly alter the rest of my life. This is so important to me because pregnancy and parenting should be something we can choose.

I was a sophomore in college and I was dating my high school boyfriend, but we had gone on a break because I had met someone else ( my now boyfriend), and I had feelings for him and had no idea what I wanted to do. I got pregnant by my current boyfriend, but at the time I had no idea if it was going anywhere or what was going to happen with my ex. I was thinking if I did get back together with my ex that that seemed like a really shitty situation to bring a child into, when it’s someone else’s child. There was so much going on in my life at that point that I didn’t know who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be, or who I wanted to be with that the idea that I would bring a child into that was too much. I was afraid of the idea that I may end up with one person who is dealing with the psychological weight of raising someone else’s child, or my now boyfriend and I would end up trying to parent together and would have to face trying to build a relationship in the middle of this sudden huge life change, or that I may end up with no one and becoming a single parent at 20 without a college degree. I knew that that wasn’t right for me either. I knew immediately that it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I feel like my story is so important because it was so easy. I recognize that it’s not that way for all women and it should be that way for all women. I had insurance, I didn’t have to pay any money, I didn’t have anyone in my life who was trying to stop me from doing it, and the only person who was trying to shame me was my ex. When I told him he called me a whore, called me lots of various other things, and kept sending me pictures of fetuses. I was lucky in the sense that I was secure in myself so that I was just like, “Fuck off asshole. You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to talk to me.” The person who got me pregnant, who I’m still with today, was so supportive. He said he totally understood and he didn’t want a kid. He said, “I appreciate you telling me but you don’t have to. This is your decision to make.”

I had a friend who went with me to the clinic. I was really early along. So, in addition to having to wait 4-5 days after making the appointment the other biggest thing was that when I got to the clinic they were worried I was too early. That to me felt like such an injustice. I didn’t know that was a thing! I was like, “I have a pee stick. You guys can confirm I’m pregnant!”

I did the medication abortion, so it was over after a few days. I took the first pill in the doctor’s office and then the next at home. Within two weeks it was done. Then I finished that semester, then I finished college, and I went on vacations and to Europe, and I was able to really build a relationship with my boyfriend because we weren’t all of a sudden parents after only knowing each other for five months or whatever. The only weird thing about the medication abortion was that it felt like very almost illicit because I went back to class while I was still bleeding. So I would just be sitting there thinking things like, “I’m having an abortion right now and no one in this room knows.” I remember one time when I went to pee during class I looked down and was thinking, “Did it happen while I was taking notes? Is it going to happen during this next class?” It all just felt so normal when I’ve always been told it shouldn’t feel normal. I just wanted to ask people, “Can you believe what’s going on in my pants right now? Because I sure as hell can’t.”

What’s most remarkable to me about my story and what also shouldn’t be remarkable was that there were no obstacles. I lived a mile away from the clinic, I was able to take a day off of work, I had a friend who could drive me, it was before any type of mandated waiting period requiring two visits, and it was able to just be a closed chapter in my life. I don’t take that for granted at all. I hear so many stories about how it wasn’t like that for other women. I’ll always have a soft spot for where I went for my abortion and that’s still where I go for my healthcare because I love being able to go somewhere where I know everyone knows me and isn’t judging me and is totally open. I love the nurse practitioner there and how she wears a Roe button on her labcoat. So, it’s just great to be able to have that choice and live in a city where there are multiple abortion clinics.

I remember being in the clinic with other women who were there to get an abortion because there were clearly so many women who were struggling to be there. There were women there who had had abortions before and they were giving advice to the others on post-operation care and things like that. I was shocked because there were like 15 other women there that day. I was sitting there thinking that I thought I was going to be there by myself or by myself with just a teen mom or something like that. There were so many different women there from different walks of life and that was the first time that I heard that 1 in 3 women get an abortion. I just remember being shocked that this many women come here every week. Why is nobody talking about it? I grew up in Knoxville and as far as I knew it was a super pro-life town, which it is, but the fact that there were like 15 women there with me that day and the doctor saying it’s like this every week blew me away. It really made me realize the importance of finding community with each other. There’s that sense of shame that you’re going to be the only one there and everyone’s going to be looking at you weird. But that wasn’t what was there at all.

The other thing that most defined my experience was that I was living with 3 other girls at the time. They all knew and were super supportive. I kept expecting it to be a major life moment, this turning point, and this huge emotional decision and burden, but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel guilty or anything and I knew what I wanted to do right away. I remember joking about how 1 in 3 women will have an abortion and saying something to my roommates like “don’t worry guys I took one for the team and I’m the one” and no one thought it was funny. There was this expectation on me that I was supposed to be traumatized, but I was joking around. When I got the co-pay refund check (because it ended up not being necessary) I took it to the liquor store for a party we were having that night. I felt fine, confident, and strong about my decision. It felt as though other people expected me to be upset. It made me wonder if I was like a sociopath because I wasn’t feeling all these things people thought I should feel. I mean I did cry about it though. I cried a lot when I had to tell my ex that I was pregnant by someone else and I cried when I had to wait four days. I was crying because I didn’t want to be pregnant. It seemed like other people had so much more to say about it than I did. It made me start questioning myself. Not whether I was doing the right thing, but if I was doing it the “right” way.

I know that I’m still not ready to be a parent and I’m just glad that I don’t have a three year old right now. I’m just now getting started in my career and I want to go back to grad school and all these things that would be a lot harder, if not impossible, if I didn’t have this life that I do now. It’s all so important to me, but in the ways that society tells us it shouldn’t be. That’s why it’s so important for women to be able to make that choice. If I was ready in that moment then great, but it’s great that I was able to decide it wasn’t the right time. It was able to just define my past and not my future.

I still go back and forth about if I want to ever have a kid. I still don’t know if it’s right for me. I’m 24 now and so is my boyfriend and we both like a lot of things, like traveling and eating fancy meals, that aren’t super compatible with kids. It’s beautiful to be able to figure out myself before I have to figure out this life-altering decision.

The Tennessee Stories Project is sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. If you have a story to tell, see our Contact Us page.