Savannah | East Tennessee
If I can tell my story, and if another woman can read my story, she’ll find out that even if you don’t have a great support system, there are other people out here who have been through it and we understand what she is going through.
I was a freshman in college, was 18, and had been casually seeing a guy. I went to a party with him, and we ended up having sex. He didn’t use a condom, and I wasn’t on birth control, and then, you know, a couple of weeks go by and my period was kind of late. I didn’t think much about it. It was exam week and so I thought it was probably just stress. No big deal. Then one of my suitemates asked me if my period had started. Our cycles had linked up, and she’d started hers so that’s why she asked. I told her no, I think I’m just stressed because of exams, and she said: what if you’re pregnant?
I didn’t want to talk to her about it and didn’t really want to think about it until after my exams were over, but all that day I just kept thinking and kept thinking: oh my gosh, what if that’swhy I’m late? What’s going on? And so that night around 11 or 11:30, my roommate and I went to a Wal-Mart far from campus, because I didn’t want anyone to see me, and I bought a pregnancy test. I didn’t want to take it right there in Wal-Mart but I didn’t want to take it in the dorms either, so I went into a McDonald’s bathroom and took the test around midnight.
So I’m in a McDonald’s bathroom, and I tell my roommate I’m pregnant, and we’re crying our eyes out. I didn’t know what to do. I called my best friend from home because she’d recently told me she’d had an abortion. She’d just wanted me to know: if anything like this happens to you, I’m here for you. I’m here to listen. So I call her and I’m crying and freaking out and she tells me it’s going to be okay. Whatever you want to do, it’s going to be okay, don’t worry.
After I got off the phone, my roommate and I went back to the dorms, but I didn’t want to go inside yet because I was still a wreck. Part of why I was nervous was because this was right before spring break and I was supposed to go to Florida with my friends. I asked my roommate to go get my friend from his room. I told him I was pregnant and he said, it’s going to be okay. We don’t have to go to Florida. We can just stay here. He was right, but I really didn’t know what to do because I would have to call my parents and tell them I was coming home instead of going on spring break. He kept telling me it was going to be okay, but all of this felt like the end of the world to me.
The next day I went to the student health center to find out for sure if I was pregnant. That was actually a horrible experience. There was a nurse who was basically trying to talk me out of having an abortion. I was pretty upfront with everybody. I was like, ‘I’m not having a baby, I’m not ready to have a baby.’ But this nurse comes in and holds my hand and she’s crying with me. I knew what I was going to do, have an abortion, but I didn’t know how to tell my parents I was pregnant. That’s what I was most upset about. She was saying, ‘you can do it, you can do this.’ I told her that I knew they would still love me and everything – I was talking about my parents — but she said, “no, you can have this baby.” And I was like: hold on. What?
“This is a completely different conversation,” I said. “I’m talking about how I need to go home and tell my parents that I need to make an appointment at Planned Parenthood, and you’re trying to tell me I need to have this baby? I am very clear on what all my options are and I don’t think you should really be talking to me about what my choice should be.” She said she felt bad and was not trying to make my choice for me or anything like that, but she just knew I was a strong woman. I said, “You’ve known me for all of 10 minutes and you have seen me looking like a wreck. I do not look strong. I do not look cute. I do not look like I’m ready to have a baby.”
Then she tried to be more comforting, but I could tell she had a different opinion from me, and it wasn’t comforting at all. I just really needed a minute by myself. Then the doctor came in and the doctor was really great. She gave me the contact information for every option in Knoxville, and I really appreciated that. She wrote notes for my professors to allow me to postpone my exams. Then I called my mom and told her I was coming home.
“Savannah, don’t you have an exam today?” my mom said. And I was like, “yeah, well, it got cancelled and I’m just going to come home so I can hang out with you guys before I go on spring break”, and she said, “Savannah what’s wrong?” I told her I wanted to talk to her about it when I got home, but she said, “no. You need to tell me now.” So I told her ‘well, mom, I’m pregnant.’
Her initial reaction was anger: what? And I was like, yeah, I know. And she asked: who? And I said nobody, Mom. It was really nobody. It was just a casual thing, and he quit talking to me pretty much right after it happened and all that nonsense. She asked me if she should tell my dad or did I want to tell him. Since I didn’t know how he would take it, I asked her to tell him. And then she wasn’t angry anymore. I kept saying I’m sorry and she tried to console me. Savannah, she said, you don’t have anything to be sorry about. This isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t change anything about you. It just means we are going to have to deal with this and your spring break is going to be a little bit different than you thought. I already had an appointment with the Planned Parenthood in Knoxville, so I told her that as well.
When I got home, my dad wasn’t back from work yet, although my mom had already told him I was pregnant. I was sitting in their bedroom on their bed when he got home, and my parents walked in and just hugged me and let me cry. They were really, really supportive. Then my dad told me that he was 16 when he got a girl pregnant and she basically told him that it was up to him whether she was going to have an abortion or not. He was like, ‘I’m not ready to be a dad but I’m not the one who’s going to have a baby. You are. I don’t think that’s a choice I can make for you.’ She had an abortion and so that’s something I’ve carried with me forever, the fact that my opinion might have been what made her make that choice. I never want you to feel that way, my dad said. If you want to have this baby then you can move home and we can make it work, but if you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. It’s completely up to you.
That’s not at all how I thought that conversation was going to go. It made me feel so much better. It made me have hope for the world.
The procedure itself was a medical abortion but this was before the 48-hour waiting period so I just had to go in once. And I was lucky because I could be at home in a comfortable space. It was really nice to be there with my mom and let my mom hold me when I was going through it. I know I’m really lucky to have had the support system that I had.
I didn’t want to tell my brother and sister, although my sister knows now. She was scrolling through Facebook one day and she read something about everybody loves somebody who’s had an abortion. She said, I don’t know if that’s true. I said, I think it is true, even if you don’t know it. She was saying that abortion is not something a lot of people have done, blah blahblah, and so I said, well, I had an abortion. You know that spring break that I came home instead of going to Florida? She said she thought something weird was going on but didn’t question me or Mom. She was upset that I felt I had to lie to her about it, but I told her it was more of me being in denial. And I just didn’t feel like it was anybody else’s business. Sometimes people are just not ready to talk about it yet. But she was happy that I told her.
I’ve told a couple of other people but mostly I’ve been quiet about it. It’s not something I regret or feel ashamed or embarrassed about; it’s more the stigma. It’s what people think about you after they find out. But nobody that I know looks at me any differently. That’s why I’m so intrigued by the Tennessee Stories Project because if I can tell my story, and if another woman can read my story, she’ll find out that even if you don’t have a great support system, there are other people out here who have been through it and we understand what she is going through. It may be the best thing ever for at least one person, so it’s worth it.
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