By Graci D’Amore, Jane’s Due Process
It’s frustrating when you’re pregnant when you don’t want to be; you’re nauseous, crampy, scared and angry, and the last thing you want to do is explain what you need from someone to feel comfortable. You just want them to immediately get it but unfortunately (and fortunately) people aren’t mind-readers. I needed someone to hold my hand, to seem 100% sure that everything would be ok; someone calm, relaxed, but still attuned to my needs. I needed someone to rub my back when I asked, to make me laugh, to remind me to drink water and offer to make food. Someone to be empathetic to my fears and discomfort.
When I was 24, I decided to have an abortion. I had recently ended a relationship with a guy who was moving away for school and a month later, I started dating someone new when I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant.
It wasn’t the worst experience of my life and it wasn’t the best either, but I didn’t receive the comfort I craved at the time. Looking back at it, I think if I had figured out what I needed and wanted from my support person, my medical abortion would have been easier.
First, let me give you some context: I was sure of my decision but I was also incredibly nervous about not knowing what to expect. I had never thought about having an abortion, let alone how it was done. I didn’t know what I needed, or how I would feel, I just knew I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was grateful for my sister who I called immediately. She had the medical abortion and walked me through what to expect like cramping, bleeding and passing clots.
My abortion took place in Kansas, where there are only two clinics in the entire state. Luckily, the clinic was only about 25 miles from my home (a majority of people in Kansas usually have to drive a lot further) so it wasn’t too much of a hassle to drive there.
I had my ex drive me to the clinic and when we arrived we walked by a group of anti-choice protesters, a guard padded us down at the door and I was given a stack of forms to fill out. Feeling nervous at this moment was an understatement. There were about 20 pregnant people who sat in the waiting room, some with partners or friends, and no one made eye contact. What was even worse, was the clinic staff didn’t really tell me what to expect either. The staff shuffled me from one room to the next; the lab for a blood draw, a vaginal ultrasound, a counselor who only asked if anyone was coercing me and finally the doctor who told me to swallow Mifeprex and briefly advised me to take four pills of misoprostol the next day.
The only person more nervous than me was my ex; he fidgeted, kept asking if I was ok, and never said anything helpful.
In retrospect, what I needed from him was calm and reassurance that everything would be fine. Instead, he wanted to hover and ask me every ten minutes if I needed anything. He was sweet but if I could barely handle my nerves, how could I soothe his at the same time? I told him I would rather be alone while I took the misoprostol at home but would call him if I needed anything. Having the new guy with me the next day seemed to be the better option, however, when I told him about the situation he seemed almost too chill–cold is a better description, like it hadn’t registered to him that I would be bleeding, cramping and passing large clots for the next several hours.
I felt like I had two extremes of “support” people, one who was too emotional and would crowd me and the other who pretty much ignored me. I was too overwhelmed and scared at this point to articulate my needs and comfort at this point, so I decided to be alone.
The day I took the misoprostol, I ate a small breakfast, put on comfy clothes, wrapped myself in my favorite blanket, put on The Wire, took the pain and nausea medications before placing the misoprostol between my cheek and gum and settled in. The cramping came in waves and gradually became worse until a few hours later I had a terrible cramp and passed a large clot in the toilet. I mostly slept after that.
I learned that it’s ok to put my needs first and that I didn’t need to prioritize other people’s emotions during my abortion.
In hindsight, a conversation after leaving the clinic with my ex or even the new guy would have been most helpful, but maybe I needed a girlfriend or someone with a uterus who could actually understand the complexity of it all? I learned that it’s ok to put my needs first and not to prioritize other people’s emotions during my abortion. Getting an abortion can be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting and we all deserve to be cared for in a way that feels good for ourselves at that moment.
If you have concerns about your sexual and reproductive health, our volunteer advocates are available 24/7 at 866-999-5263 and by text 8am-11pm CT to support you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help accessing contraception, STI testing & treatment, or an abortion in Texas.