I live with peace and happiness now.
I am a person with a situation that would frustrate those with anti-abortion beliefs and biases. My situation is not the straw man argument that is circulated among those groups. I was not an “irresponsible” teen who engaged in pre-martial sex and other “unwholesome” or “risky” or “sinful” behavior, where pregnancy is a burden to punish risky youth. I have always tried to behave responsibly and plan ahead. I don’t say this to brag, but to point out that narrative often presented by pro-life groups paints an inaccurate picture of what those who decide to get an abortion look like. I studied hard in my youth to get good grades. I worked through university to pay for my schooling. I lived in an inexpensive, unluxurious apartment to save money for a down payment on my Salt Lake City home. I lived my life cautiously and conservatively in order to attain a comfortable standard of living. It is because of this mindset I chose to participate in a study conducted by the University of Utah. In exchange for monitoring and measuring my bleeding patterns for 6 months, I would receive a free copper IUD.
I was grateful for the opportunity because normally, insertion of a copper IUD would cost upwards of $700, even with health insurance provided through my employer. I was also eager to get on a form of birth control that didn’t rely on me taking a pill every day, had minimal side effects, and was touted for being the most efficacious form of birth control: more than 99% effective.
I am part of that less than 1% where an IUD fails to prevent a pregnancy.
More than two years after my IUD insertion, I was sitting in the bathroom of that unluxurious apartment looking at a pregnancy test. It was about to tell me what I already expected, that I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do or where to go when I saw the results, clearly displayed “Pregnant” on the digital screen. I called a women’s clinic that took my insurance and told them, they immediately assumed I’d want to keep the pregnancy. I hung up feeling confused and lost.
I remembered that I had previous experience with Planned Parenthood before, they provided me with affordable birth control when I was first married since my insurance would not cover it, and had a good experience. So I called them, explained I was pregnant and I didn’t know where to go, and they told me to come into their clinic.
When I arrived at the clinic, they gave me another pregnancy test to confirm, yes, I was in fact pregnant. They then asked how I would like to proceed and were prepared to give me valuable information on how to connect me with the proper resources to get care, no matter what my decision was: Prenatal care, adoption, or termination.
There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to be pregnant. My spouse and I were looking for a house and we had budgeted for the past 5 years of our marriage to afford a down-payment. I had recently gotten a new position at my work and was trying to focus on improving my career. My husband was traveling for work and wasn’t home for long stretches of time in a demanding job. Neither of us felt prepared mentally or financially to have children. But there is one reason above all these other justifications that trumps them all: I didn’t want to.
Choosing to undergo a painful procedure to insert a piece of metal and plastic in my cervix, I thought, was enough to ensure that I wouldn’t have to make the decision I had to. As I spoke to medical practitioner after medical practitioner after becoming pregnant, they all shared the same incredulousness. “This doesn’t happen very often.” “We see a lot of patients, but we only see about one to three patients a year like you.” Years later, one even looked at me incredulously, threw up her hands and exclaimed, “IUDs just aren’t supposed fail like this! It’s not supposed to happen!”
The Planned Parenthood and Wasatch Women’s Clinic medical professionals all also said, “You seem very certain of your decision.” There was no judgement whatsoever. The only thing they cared about was making sure that they could help me no matter what my decision was. They wanted what was best for me, no matter what that looked like.
I had to wait 72 miserable and grueling hours, but when I was finally able to get the procedure, my husband and I walked into the clinic together. We arrived early so I could be given a Xanax and 1600mg of ibuprofen. We waited in the parking lot for the doctor to arrive and for the medication to kick in. When we went back into the clinic I was surprised to see the waiting room was full. We were all there for the same reason, but we all looked so different and came from different situations. There were several women in their 30’s, a teenager and her mother, and one woman that looked to be in her 20’s, alone. Out of all the patients there to receive care, I was the only one who had my partner, the other responsible half, there with me. He was the only man in the entire building. My experience, with the support of my loving partner, was still very difficult. I often wonder how hard it was for the others in that waiting room to be there, carrying the other half of the responsibility all by themselves. While one person was there to undergo an emotionally challenging and physically painful procedure, the other person was somewhere else, free of that responsibility. We were put into an overflow waiting room where we sat on a couch, alone, waiting for the doctor to call me back. The walls of this room were covered with hundreds of postcards, cards, notes, and letters from previous patients, thanking Wasatch Women’s clinic. It was comforting to know there were other women who had gone through this before me and it was reassuring to read their messages of gratitude.
Terminating my pregnancy was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life. My partner wasn’t allowed in the room during the procedure, so I squeezed my nurse’s hand while I screamed. The nurse kept on repeating encouraging sentiments to me, “You got this. You’re so strong. Just squeeze my hand as hard as you need to, you’re almost done.” As I began to hyperventilate, she got me to maintain consciousness by kindly quipping, “Keep breathing, because if you pass out you’ll have to stay here all day under observation... and then your weekend is really ruined!” What I didn’t know is that during this time, still in the waiting room, when my partner heard my cries he ran back into the hallways to try and find me. When he realized that he couldn’t find me behind all of the closed doors, he sat back down helplessly. They let him in after the procedure was finished, and he brushed the hair out of my face as they cleaned me up. When they left us alone so he could help me dress, we held each other and cried. Not because we felt guilt or shame for what we had done, but because I had suffered so much mentally, emotionally, and physically in order to do what was best for both of us. Later he would express to me that he already felt so guilty the entire time, because there was so little he could do to shoulder the burden.
In the days, weeks, months and years that have passed, I think about my abortion and am flooded with a wave of relief and gratitude. If anything, the only sadness that I feel is that added regulations made the process of scheduling and receiving care more difficult. But I do not regret the decision I made to terminate my pregnancy. I am comforted by the fact that I went through with it. I live with peace and happiness now because I was able to terminate. I knew that life with a child would be difficult, even more so now with the COVID-19 pandemic. My partner’s industry, live events, is at a standstill and he is unable to work until large crowds can safely gather again. The added burden of having to financially provide for a child while also being the sole source of income for our household, would have added tremendous strain not only financially, but mentally. I am forever grateful that is not the situation I am in now, thanks to Planned Parenthood and Wasatch Women’s Clinic. They saved my life.
Lynn, Salt Lake City