G | Middle Tennessee

I’ve always wanted a family. Having children is my dream in life, and it’ll be my greatest accomplishment to be a mother. But when I found out I was pregnant, the only feeling I had was terror.

I’ve been on birth control since I was 17. I was always kind of bad about taking it – I would miss a day or two. Recently, I was on vacation in Amsterdam and forgot to bring an extra pack of birth control pills. I ended up missing it for two weeks.

I had sex with my boyfriend when I got back. It’s crazy, I thought, “I’ve been taking the pill since I was 17, it must be engrained in my system. Nothing can happen.” But, no – I conceived.

The timing was awful because my mom came to visit for her birthday. I’m an only child and close with my parents. I’ve always thought that in my life, my biggest accomplishment aside from having a career – and even more important than that – will be to have a family. I want to get married, have three kids and a white picket fence. It’s a dream of mine and very important to me.

When my mom arrived, I was two weeks past my missed period. Since I always messed up taking pills, I wasn’t worried. Then, I felt a gut instinct. I was starting to feel crampy and tired. It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t want to say anything around my mom to freak her out. I had to hang out with her for three days and act like nothing was wrong.

The day she left, she went to the airport in the morning, and I went to work and told my coworker I thought I was pregnant. I’d had scares before, but something in me felt different. My plan was to leave work that night, buy a test and take it at my boyfriend’s house. I’d clued him in the whole time, from my first suspicion on. He was pretty insistent on me being with him to take the test. But my lunch break rolled around, and I couldn’t wait anymore. I couldn’t sit at my desk not knowing. It was tearing at me.

My coworker walked with me to Walgreens, we bought a test and I took it in the bathroom at work. There are nearly 400 people in my office and it’s a quiet environment – typing, phone calls and customer service. I went into the private bathroom. The first line showed up, which means “not pregnant,” and I thought, “great!” I waited for a few seconds, the second line appeared, and I thought, “oh, shit.” I can laugh about it now, but in that moment the lights got bright, I was hyperventilating and my heart was racing. Something I thought I would never see was, all of a sudden, right in front of me.

On the way back to my desk, my coworker made eye contact across the room. My face told her the results. I had to leave the office immediately. I didn’t tell anyone other than her, saying to tell my boss there was an emergency. There was no way I could sit at my desk and do my job knowing I was pregnant. It just seemed like my world was crazy. I didn’t know what to think, I was in a state of shock for the first couple of hours. I drove straight to my boyfriend’s house, and the drive there is still a blur.

The first person I called was my gynecologist. I have two, one from back home and one here in town. One didn’t answer, and I spoke to a nurse at the other office. She suggested I go to [a local health center]. At my boyfriend’s house, I cried, called [the health center] and made my appointment.

I had previously booked a trip to go home for two weeks, and planned to leave four days after I found out I was pregnant. I was about to be in between jobs, and wanted to spend time home over Mother’s Day weekend. I knew I was going to have to be around my whole family and not say anything. I scheduled my consultation appointment for the day my flight landed back in Nashville. It sucked knowing that I could have done it a few days after finding out, but instead, I’d need to wait two weeks and just sit with it.

I didn’t want to tell my family because I don’t know what they would have said. I still don’t really know. Part of me wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to convince me to not have an abortion, and I just didn’t really need anybody doing that. It was heartbreaking because, like I said, it’s my dream to have kids and be a mom one day. That’s something I want so badly. While home, I was three to four weeks pregnant and I started cramping horribly. That surprised me – I wasn’t aware that one of the first symptoms would be cramps, but that was one of the most significant I had. It would stop me dead in my tracks and force me to lean over. I started getting tired, too, and taking long naps in the middle of the day. My parents were commenting on that. One day I had heartburn, and mentioned it to my parents. My dad said, “oh, you’re not pregnant, are you?” He was joking, but it was rough.

At the same time, it was surprisingly easy not to say anything because I was so certain I didn’t want to go through with the pregnancy. I had friends back home who knew what was going on, and it was good to vent about it. Not having to stay bottled up the whole time was really helpful.

Two weeks later, I went to the consultation appointment. The second I met with [the health center], they totally exceeded my expectations. I know you can go there to get STD testing and birth control, but I had just never done it. The first person I spoke to just made me feel so comfortable and in good care. I never felt rushed. They were sympathetic, empathetic, all of it. It was really cool. It felt like everyone working the desk and the nurses were people I could be friends with. I felt really comfortable with them.

The same week I got back to Nashville after two weeks at home, I had a separate health issue. Eight months ago, I found a lump in one of my breasts. The doctor told me it was fibroadenoma. When I returned for an ultrasound months later, it had grown pretty significantly. That very well may have been because of my pregnancy hormones. My doctor knew I was pregnant, but my parents only knew about the lump. I couldn’t tell them it grew because I was pregnant, so they were worried. I had it biopsied. It’s called PASH (pseudoangiomatous stromal hyperplasia). It’s a solid mass, not a cyst, but it is fairly uncommon.

My ultrasound showed that my pregnancy was a lot earlier along than I’d thought. I was told to calculate pregnancy from the time of your last period, but I was about four weeks earlier than expected. That was good, as I wanted to take the pills for my abortion, my first choice because it isn’t invasive, and I’d worried I wouldn’t be able to at this point. The technicians offered me a picture of my ultrasound, and I took it. I needed to hold it and look at it, say to myself, “this is what we’re dealing with.” I also wanted to show it to my boyfriend. He didn’t come in with me, so I just wanted – I don’t know, I don’t know why.

At my consultation appointment, the staff gave me a fact sheet with pros and cons about taking the pills versus going through the suction procedure. After reading the material and talking to them, I changed my mind. The pills can lead to pain for up to 24 hours, and I’d be home, bleeding profusely and going through cramps as my body expelled everything on its own. I also read online testimonies to inform my decision, and read that one woman saw the fetus – a little lump of tissue – come out of her body. I didn’t want to deal with any of that, so I decided to have the suction procedure.

While pregnant, I developed a weird little nickname for the fetus. I couldn’t help Googling, “what does your fetus look like now?” One week, it said the fetus was the size of a lentil bean. My boyfriend and I would call it Lentil. “Ugh, Lentil’s making me sick today.” Part of me felt like we shouldn’t call it a name, but that’s just one way to cope with a shitty situation.

I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive boyfriend throughout this process. Before I knew for sure, when I just had a feeling I was pregnant, he said he’d be 100 percent behind any route I wanted to take. He didn’t pressure me to make a decision based on what I thought he’d want – he totally put me behind the wheel. We’re young, 23, and it would just be unfair. Still, it was hard. We’re so in love. We’d be at a restaurant or at home, and he’d put his hand on my stomach, and I’d be like, “you can’t do that.”

I returned to [the health center] a week later with a friend. Again, every service exceeded expectations. I took an antibiotic and opted for an IV anesthetic over an oral one so I wouldn’t leave the office feeling groggy. The staff made me comfortable and walked me through everything so there would be no surprises, and introduced me to the doctor before the procedure got started. It only took about five minutes and I was awake for the whole thing, but I was in another world, not really aware enough to know what was going on. Afterward, the staff moved me into a room with a heating pad, water and a snack. Someone sat with me the entire time, asking how I was feeling. I wore a pad to monitor any bleeding. It just felt good to know that most of everything was out of me, so I wouldn’t have to deal with it later. When I left, I felt fine – the process was easier than I thought, I was not in pain at any point and I was supported emotionally throughout. I bled for a week and a day after the procedure, which was way longer than my normal period. I had to wear pads to monitor how much I was bleeding, and it was frustrating.

One thing on my mind leading up to the procedure was, although I have naturally big boobs, mine were so swollen. I was cramping, I was tired, I was bitchy, and it just dawned on me: I feel like I’m in a stranger’s body. This is not my body, this is not me. It became annoying. I was ready for it to be over, ready to reclaim ownership of my body. I wasn’t feeling good mentally or physically, and I felt ready to start hitting the gym again like I always had, and get back to normal.

The sense of relief I had after my abortion is one I can’t begin to describe. It was just really good to know that I could finally bury this hatchet. I had to sit with it for longer than necessary, just playing a waiting game. Now, it’s crazy to think this is a fact about my life. I don’t regret it – I knew I wasn’t going to regret it. Having an abortion was my plan from Day One. I thought about the other options, but not too much. It’s just crazy to think, if I’d decided to keep it, it would have been fine. The baby wouldn’t have grown up in poverty. My family would have taken care of us, and my boyfriend’s family would have been fine with it. But it just wasn’t right. None of it was right from the beginning.

Before the procedure, I met with a [health center] counselor and I told her I’ve always wanted a family. Having children is my dream in life, and it’ll be my greatest accomplishment to be a mother. But when I found out I was pregnant, the only feeling I had was terror. That’s the opposite of what I should feel. When circumstances are right, pregnancy would make me feel excited, overjoyed. I was the total opposite. There’s so much I still want to do with my life. I want to go to grad school, I’m still trying to figure out my career path. I want it to be perfect when I do have a family. I’m very fortunate that I live in a city and country where abortion is an option. It’s important to have that option, and to have supportive friends. Out of the friends I told, none cast any judgment on me; all said they would have done the same thing. I had an overwhelming number of text messages and phone calls from people checking in on the day of my procedure. It felt good.

As for my PASH diagnosis – I’m getting it removed next week. I feel super relieved now, but that one week I had the abortion on Monday, a biopsy on Wednesday, I still didn’t know if this thing was cancerous or not, and I had all of that weighing on my head. I’m really glad that’s over.

My abortion will stay with me forever. When I do have a family, one day, it will be weird to think of my children, and then one other in heaven or whatever greater power might exist. That’s a whole different conversation. When I was little, I would always ask my mom questions like that. “Did you ever lose any kids?” I wanted a sibling so bad, and always wanted to know if she’d had a miscarriage or anything else.

One day, after the storm has passed, I want to tell my parents about this. My mom and I are so close and I want to share this with her. I’d tell her before my dad, but maybe one day, he’ll know, too. I don’t know what good would come of it, but I feel like she should know. But I knew at the time that she would try to persuade me otherwise.

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