[Throwback Thursday — Originally published March 2014]
It astonishes me that so many people throw these words around: baby killer. Of course, these are typically the same people who find and advertise studies that say most women regret their abortions, or are intensely depressed after said abortion, or any other (usually false) statistic they can throw at you.
But, did those people ever think that those words do not help these women? What they did is in the past, it happened, no matter how they feel about it. Having a bunch of people who really have no business in their wombs screaming at them about how they killed their baby, or screaming at them at all, could very well traumatize them. Trying to scare other women into not getting an abortion is in turn harming the women who already have. Or, do you not care about them anymore, because they made their own choices?
Now, I am not here to get into some drawn out debate, spouting science and history and religion and their flaws. This is not simply another “this-is-why-I’m-pro-choice-and-you-should-be-too” post. I have written countless pro-choice argumentative essays and research papers during middle school, high school, and college. I know by now that there is almost no chance of getting through to anti-choicers, no matter what route I take, phrases I use, or information I provide them.
This is for the people who might be thinking about abortion, for one reason or another. When I was in about seventh grade, I was firmly against abortion. Then my stepmother presented me with her side of the argument and her experiences, and I changed my mind and haven’t swayed since. So maybe I will reach someone who isn’t quite sure what to believe yet. But mainly, this is my story. This is the true, factual experience I went through with my abortion. This isn’t some made-up fairly-tale or a statistic, I am a real person who (you heard right the first time) had an abortion and am honored to tell my story, in the hopes that it might help someone else.
If you’d read some of my other posts, you’ll know that I have a history with drug addiction. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I am going to venture back into those times to relive this memory. I also take full responsibility for everything I’ve done; I chose to use drugs, I chose to have unprotected sex, and I chose to have an abortion. And I don’t regret one damn thing. I am one hundred percent confident I made the right choice, and live peacefully with my actions.
I was twenty-one years old, living with my boyfriend in the house I grew up in, the house my dad had moved out of when he and my stepmother divorced years earlier. This was my second time back since then; the first was in my wild, single, partying days–which my dad finally had enough of and kicked me out. It was a miracle he allowed me back. My father had pretty much neglected the house after he moved. I had pretty much covered the walls with beer and various bodily fluids, the floors and furniture with animal slobber, urine, and feces from the two dogs and three cats I had, and every other crevice with dirt and nicotine stains. It was a mess, but it had walls, a roof, furniture, electricity, and a bathroom, so it was more than good enough for us.
The house was on a lonely side road off the main highway; houses lined one side of the one-car-width street, mostly occupied by the residents who had actually built them, or their kin. Every house had a large back yard that sat on a small and shallow, but strong, river. Across the road were woods–we could never walk far enough to find anything else. Growing up there, I hated it. The location tricked you into believing you were close enough to the real world, to human contact, to adventurous outings. In reality, it was in the middle of nowhere. The only things within walking distance were a pizza shop/bar/canoe rental place-in-one, but you had to cross the deadly highway to get there, which I was not allowed to do without an adult, and a crumbling old glass mill. By car, the heart of town and the mall were only about ten to fifteen minutes away, but that didn’t help me then. We couldn’t even get cable until I was about twelve. However, for a twenty-one year old drug addict, it was heaven.
Now that I think about it, I would love to live there again. It really is a nice starter home in which to raise a family, after significant remodeling, of course. At the time, however, it was little more than a squat. It was small: living room, kitchen with table, laundry room, master bedroom, bathroom, “hall” closet, second bedroom (which, I found out after complaining about how tiny it was time and time again, was actually a closet my parents had converted to a bedroom–big enough for a twin-sized bed and two dressers, barely, with no “activity” space) with a tiny little under-the-stairs closet (also constructed by my parents and uncle). There was then an “upstairs,” which was really just a slightly-finished (in the middle) attic, with little cubby doors leading to what we considered the real attic–the area where some of the floor was unsafe and the ceiling was too low to walk under. There was no door; the stairs just led up to an open area; on the left was a big, open space with a half wall lining the steps; the right had a full wall but was much smaller, yet quaint. Both areas were connected by the approximately two or three foot open “hallway/landing” at the very top of the steps.
This was the area my boyfriend and I claimed. When we first moved in, we got all new-couple-nesting-style and brought in more furniture, rearranged the old, and made it our own. However, over a short period of time we gravitated towards the upstairs, which we had dubbed as our bedroom, and rarely left it. Every now and then we would rearrange the furniture up there, but for the most part it stayed the same. Which was fine for us; it was big enough for us to have a bed, a futon, my desk-area, two chairs, a bookshelf, and several dressers. We only went downstairs to go to the bathroom (although often he would pee out the window and I would pee in a cup and pour it out the window–that’s how bad we got) or the kitchen (but usually we survived on snack foods).
Soon, we had acquired two dogs and eighteen cats (our original four kept reproducing) who had taken over the rest of the house, and we were too hazy to do anything about it. The small bedroom that was mine growing up turned into a storage area; the closet in that room was a home to baby kittens and their mother; the master bedroom was for the most part cut off in case we ever did have company, plus one of the animals had ripped up the carpet near the door so it was nearly impossible to get it open. At one point, even the bathtub served as a kitten and mother home, filled with blankets and pillows. Our favorite litters always lived upstairs with us, in the large dog crate we had bought previously but never used for the dogs. One winter the heat broke, so we got a large space heater for our room, which pretty much sealed our fate of never going downstairs.
I tell you all of this so you understand exactly how we were living. Sometimes we had odd jobs, but they never lasted long. We always managed to have a car, but they were far from safe. We woke up sick nearly every day, we spent days and days leaving our animals alone while we bunked at a friend’s house, either mooching off their supply or waiting for more to come in. We stole, begged, and conned to survive. We were in no position to raise a child — we shouldn’t even have had animals (and they were eventually taken away). We could barely, badly, take care of ourselves.
And alas, one day I peed on a stick and it told me I was pregnant. I had been very careless with my sexual relations up to that point. I was young and, honestly, dumb and thought I was invincible. I had been having unprotected sex for years and I had never gotten pregnant, so once my ex-boyfriends started procreating with their new significant others, I deduced that something was wrong with my reproductive organs. I even asked my gynecologist to check me out once, but she refused, telling me I was too young to worry about if I was fertile because I shouldn’t be thinking about having children at that time. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to have children, I just wanted to be able to have unprotected sex without the consequence of a baby. Looking back, I now realize how lucky I was that all I got was pregnant.
Somehow, even with the drug use and horrible diet, I got my period normally for the first two months. I didn’t even suspect anything until at least two months into the pregnancy, so once I found out I was much further along than I’d expected to be. Every single piece of information I could get my hands on said the same thing: the most crucial time to a fetus, the time when the most damage can be done, is during the first trimester. I had been indulging in an array of teratogens the whole time. And I wasn’t ready to stop. I knew I wasn’t ready to stop, and I knew that the struggle of trying to change my life would be long and difficult, and most definitely negatively impact this fetus (and probably continue to once it became a baby, and maybe even a child).
There was no doubt in our minds what we would do. We didn’t even really discuss it, except for once when I made sure he was okay with going through with it (I strongly believe that the would-be father should have a say, which you can read about here). It simply would not have been fair to bring a child into our world. There was an increased chance damage had already been done, and we could not assure that it would end there. To me, this was a selfless act. I was protecting another child from being born with a disorder; I was protecting another child from being raised by unfit parents; I was protecting another child from going into the system. However, I was also very selfish, and I admit that. Many people advocate adoption, and I have more respect for those who have made that choice than I do for myself. I knew, as I still do, if I were to carry a child for nine months and then give birth, I would not be able to give it up. I would not be able to live my life knowing that my child was out there with someone else, not knowing the life it was living, not letting my other children know their sibling. So there you have it, my reasoning. And it doesn’t matter if it’s not okay in your eyes, because in my heart it is, and that’s all that matters.
So, we called my parents and grandparents and family members and friends, and, because I have such amazing, loving people in my life, they all told us they would support us no matter what we decided. When we asked for help with money for the procedure, they offered it with no judgment. We collected the money and thanked them profusely, promising it would never happen again. They hugged us, and that was that, for the time being.
Of course, there was a hangup. There were actually a series of hangups, starting with how late I found out, but now we found ourselves in (or rather threw ourselves into) a monetary dilemma. Since we were so obsessed with our addiction, it always came first. When our fellow addict friend asked to borrow the exact amount of money we had (for what I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was drug related and I’m sure we were getting something out of it), promising he would return it before the cost of the procedure went up (abortions cost more the further along you are), we emptied our pockets. Of course, he did not pay us back in time, but promised it would only take another week or so and he would make up the difference. After a certain point, the difference is approximately one-hundred dollars a week. We started out at four-hundred, and were now up to six. Only that money never came, either.
Now we had to lie to everyone who had given us the money in the first place and tell them I had indeed gone through with the abortion, I just didn’t want to talk about it (red flag — I don’t mind talking about any ‘private’ detail of my life). We started scheming about ways to get up that significant amount of money in such a short time, and the weeks kept flying by, the amount we needed steadily increasing.
Finally, we managed to sell my boyfriend’s car. We had enough for the insanely costly procedure (again, my memory is a little hazy but I know it was over a thousand dollars) and thousands more for drugs, cigarettes, and for once, food. Oh, and gas to get to the clinic, many, many miles away. I made the appointment and got my instructions. Thankfully, things were looking like they were going to work out.
As we were walking into the clinic, there were two or three women standing outside protesting. They approached me and tried to talk me out of “killing my baby.” They gave me pamphlets, and were actually remarkably kind. I still wasn’t in the mood, though, so I thanked them for their concern, but explained this was already a done deal in my mind, and my choice to make. After all the aggression I’d gone through just to get there, I really couldn’t deal with them much longer. They wouldn’t let up, so I politely asked them, “So if I do decide to walk away right now, per your request, I assume one of you will adopt the child I will be forced to birth and cannot care for?” Then I went on a little rant, asking questions about how many children they had adopted, how often they volunteered or donated or did something with their time to help the real, suffering children out there, instead of worrying about unborn fetuses, many of whom would no doubt end up suffering as well. They didn’t have any decent responses, and let me walk away.
The waiting room was packed. I had to fill out forms and try to keep my brain from exploding due to the boisterous noise emanating from almost every other patient’s mouth. It was not comfortable, or comforting. I was called to have an ultrasound done, to determine just how far along I was, and waited in a hallway with a bunch of other women. We all talked about our reasoning; everyone had a different reason, and they all made sense, because they were our own, relating to our lives and our stories, no one else’s. During the ultrasound, I asked if it was possible to determine the sex. As much as I knew this was the right decision, I still wanted to know. It was a big part of my life and after it was over, I wasn’t planning to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. I would accept what had happened and proudly display it as another badge; another thing I had gone through and made me stronger; another thing that contributed to who I am today and helped shape my life. I also knew that my boyfriend wasn’t as nonchalant about the whole situation as I was, so I alternately planned to keep the ultrasound images, name the unborn fetus, and keep a dedication page in one of my journals.
The ultrasound tech first told me that they weren’t allowed to tell me the sex. After much complaining, she said she was only trained to determine the gestational age, and wouldn’t be able to tell me anyway. I’m fairly confident she was lying, but she agreed to print the images for me, so I bit my tongue. After the ultrasound I was told to wait again, and wait I did. After a short while I was called to speak with someone (a doctor? psychiatrist? human relations person? CEO? Honestly I have no idea), who informed me that they were unable to do the procedure because of my medication.
When I had called to make the appointment, I spoke in length with someone about my taking suboxone. I told them I was taking suboxone on my own, which I bought off the street, to help me overcome my heroin addiction. I didn’t want to admit to current heroin use, and I had heard that opiods often react negatively with anesthesia. I was assured that this would not be a problem. Now this woman was telling me that, since I did not have a prescription for the imaginary suboxone, I could not have the procedure done today. I either had to have a prescription, or go to a seven day detox and then make another appointment. I didn’t have time for that; I was nearing the cutoff gestation week for legal abortions. I started to cry. It didn’t work, the woman would not budge. She then told me I still had to pay for the services I had received (mainly the ultrasound), even though they had failed me by telling me one thing over the phone, allowing me to start the process, and then taking their words back and spitting out new nonsense. I yelled, and eventually forked over one-hundred-and-something-dollars, spewing obscenities the whole walk to the car. I often wonder if those protesters saw me come out and convinced themselves they had changed my mind.
They hadn’t. I got home and started calling more clinics. I found one even father away with about the same pricing and made an appointment for a few days later, literally the last day I would legally be able to. The drive there was long, and I was incredibly high. I didn’t bother to tell anyone at the new clinic about my vice; I decided to take my chances of seizing and hoped they would be equipped to handle it if I did. As soon as we pulled up, I realized I got forgotten to bring underwear (at the time I never wore any), and knew I would need it, so I sent my boyfriend out to buy me a pair. To this day they’re still one of my favorite pairs.
This time as I was walking in there were no apparent protesters, but one woman did stop to say something awful to me. Maybe she was a protester, or maybe a passerby who just knew what went on inside those doors and had to try to make a difference by barraging me with insults. Either way, I asked her what her name was (I think Patty, but again with that memory thing; I could be completely making that up) and told her “I’ll name it after you,” and walked inside. She seemed kind of shell-shocked, so she didn’t have a chance to respond, which was probably better for her than it was for me. I had no time or energy for any more interruptions.
The waiting room at the new clinic was much, much, much much much nicer. There were only a few other people there, but looking back in my head I always picture just one because of how calm it was. The chairs were even comfortable. I walked up to the receptionist and checked in. Behind her there was a big dry-erase board with the exact amount they charged for each week of gestation. Everything was simple. It was wonderful. They even had a nice counselor who talked to me about future methods of birth control and how to get them, and about the abortion itself, why I was doing it, if I was sure. Nothing mean or demeaning, just a pleasant woman who was there for me, helped me with resources, and assessed my mental health. From what I remember after that, the wait wasn’t that long. The doctor was very polite and cheery, and kept calling my vagina my “bottom,” which made me giggle. He inserted some stuff and did some other stuff, and then a nurse came to give me the anesthesia.
Waking up was not as pleasant. I was in a completely different room, I’m pretty sure on a different floor of the building. Nurses were hovering over me and yelling; supposedly I had been accidentally pulling out my IV by trying to wrap myself up in the blankets. It was absolutely freezing in that room. It was a very large recovery room, where beds lined the walls and some other patients laid, but it seemed private enough (maybe because there weren’t many people there) and still nicer than what I had imagined the old clinic’s recovery room to be, if they even had one. I do remember being incredibly confused. The confusion coupled with the frigid air made me very upset. When a nurse asked me to walk back and forth across the room a few times, to make sure I was okay and everything was flowing like it should, I did it as quickly as possible. Somehow though, in that short period of time, the nurses made it very clear that they truly cared about their patients. We even joked a little, but only a little. They then gave me my at-home-care instructions, and said I was good to go.
Before I had woken up (or maybe when I woke up) they sent my boyfriend to bring the car around to the back door, where the post-procedure patients exited the building. When he opened the door, I just fell into his arms and cried. I was emotional, I was freezing, I was tired, and I was confused. I was happy. I just wanted to get high and relax on the long car ride home.
He let me sit there in silence for a while, and then we came upon a gas station where we loaded up on drugs and snacks. And then everything was normal. We talked and kissed and I sat awkwardly, but we were fine. Over the next few days my you-know-where did you-know-what (sorry, guys. For some reason this is still a no-no topic among today’s men) and my boobs swelled with milk, which was not a pleasant feeling, but it wasn’t unbearable. And then that stopped, too, and it was done. The end. And I did not regret it, as I still do not. I am thankful for the experience and for the chance to have the experience. I am eternally grateful that legal, safe abortion was an option. I am happy.
Now, years later, I am sober. I am attending college to be a teacher. I am writing. I am a mother of an amazing, wonderful, seriously adorable little boy, who would not have even been conceived had I not had the previous abortion. For those of you who believe everything happens for a reason, I give you my son. He is the reason I did not have a baby before, so he could be born, at a much better time, and fill my world with hope and love, as I can in return. It has been a struggle to get to where I am, and I still have a long, long way to go, but I am purely, one-hundred percent happy with my past decisions because they all led to this moment.
So no, I did not “kill my baby.” My baby is currently in sleeping in his bedroom; I can see him on the monitor. I terminated a fetus. I prevented what could have been a baby from being born unfairly. And no matter how you see it, it was never your decision. It was always mine.
So to any other woman who has had an abortion, or is thinking about having one, or might some day have one, I leave you with this: My name is Tempest Rose, and I had an abortion. It did not ruin me. It did not scar me. I do not regret it. It was the right choice, for me. No one else can make your choices, no one else has to live with your personal decisions. It’s in your hands, and I trust you know what to do, and I support you no matter what you decide.