Choosing to share this story in such a public way is akin to, well, I can’t make a comparison. Given the current political climate surrounding reproductive rights, it seems more important than ever that I am open and share my experience in a more public way. At the same time, it is a deeply personal and sensitive subject, that in sharing carries a myriad of potential repercussions. What will my friends think? Extended family? Co-workers? Future employers? I will admit, it is the latter option that carries the most weight with me. Everyone is becoming more open with their lives online, and why shouldn’t I, if it helps demystify and destigmatize something so divisive? This is an issue I feel personally connected to and passionate about. If someone refuses to respect that, is that really the energy I want in my life?
I have never once regretted my decision to have an abortion. Yes, I have considered what might be different in my life if I hadn’t, but never with any desire for a different outcome. It is also a decision I have never been ashamed of- while I have worried about what others might think, it has never been something that made me feel less than in any way. Nor should there be anything to be ashamed of, and no one I’ve shared this story with has run away or disowned me, as I feared.
I think it is essential that I own this part of me so that I can show the world what an abortion really is, when you elect to have one, and that there is nothing to ever be ashamed about. I hope I can also convey how essential it was that I was able to make this decision and have access to safe, legal abortion. If you don’t think you know anyone who is personally impacted by this, you know me. Whether you are a victim of trauma, in medical distress, or simply not ready, you have the right to make the choice.
I was twenty years old when I got pregnant, fresh into my first year of a new degree, and fresh into my first relationship. I knew condoms were an essential, but was completely new to the world of birth control, outside of Plan B. Having just started on the pill, I figured that the missed period and sore boobs were just side effects—common and well known. At least that was until my partner at the time joked I might be pregnant.
Naturally, overwhelmingly anxious and eager to put our minds at ease, I took the test. All it took was two little pink lines to cause a complete breakdown. I remember sobbing for hours, alone in my room, terrified about what this meant, or what I was going to do, or what my parents would say. I knew I would not, could not continue the pregnancy, but didn’t know how to go about ending it. I never dreamed I would be in this position.
I was incredibly lucky in several ways. Firstly, I live in Toronto, where healthcare is free and easy to access. I had gotten my birth control from the Bay Centre at Women’s College Hospital, a subsidized program that offered a myriad of services, with whom I had a follow-up appointment the following week. I was also lucky enough to have a best friend who had been through this herself and could offer me support and guidance as I navigated this maze. I remember her running from work with another pregnancy test in hand, forcing me to pee in a china teacup, which at least provided some comic relief as I look back at it now.
At my follow-up appointment, I took a third and final test, confirming what I already knew. The staff there talked me through my options, which were limited because I was over eight weeks. I elected to have the surgical option and was scheduled in for an appointment the following week at Mount Sinai. It would be an outpatient procedure, relatively simple and quick, but daunting nonetheless.
The day of, my best friend met me at Queen’s Park station to go to Women’s College Hospital, where they gave me presurgical medication to dilate my cervix. We then moved to Mount Sinai, where I left her to complete the requisite blood work, IV, and pre-surgical questionnaire typical to any outpatient surgery. I remember being wheeled into a surgical suite, feeling very exposed in my pantsless hospital gown, and being told to count back from 10, and then nothing.
I woke up in the recovery suite, perhaps an hour or so later, groggy and feeling like I had incredibly painful cramps, wearing a pad the size of a diaper. It was certainly not glamorous, but I was so relieved at finally being free, I would have endured worse. I was getting ready to leave when I met a girl in the changing room going in for the same procedure. She looked scared, and I remember telling her it was nothing to worry about, and that she would be just fine. I hope she was.
I have absolutely zero regrets about having an abortion. Yes, the experience was emotional and scary—not because of the decision I made, but because I was young, not ready, and didn’t feel like I could tell my own parents for fear they would disown me. I had support, but also felt so alone, not feeling like I could reach out to them for help. As it turns out, they were only mad I didn’t tell them sooner.
I know I made the best possible decision for me. I was not ready to have a child at twenty. I had no desire to be a mother. I was just starting my degree, working, and couldn’t support myself, let alone a baby. My life would look completely different now, and not at all, I believe, for the better. That was my choice to make, and mine alone. If I choose to have children one day, that will also be my choice. There will be people who disagree, I am sure, and they are welcome to, respectfully. I believe every person should have the option, and no one should be forced to carry a child to term that they do not want, cannot support, or poses a risk to their mental or physical health. I also believe we should be advocating for better sex education and subsidized birth control so that we can support people before they become pregnant. Abortions are nothing to demonize, nothing horrific, nothing anyone should be ashamed of having, whether elective or medically necessary.
We can’t make the decision for anyone—we just have to allow them the safe, legal, option.
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