The hashtag #youknowme is currently trending on Twitter.
Busy Phillips started it. She asked women to tell their personal stories about abortion. This is an issue I believe will end up in the Supreme Court as a challenge to Roe v. Wade, and the outcome is unsure for women all over this country. At least four states have made abortion illegal even in the cases of rape and incest, proposing a jail term of 99 years for any woman who ends her pregnancy after six weeks. I’m of the age where it’s not an issue for me personally, but it hurts that my 12-year-old daughter may grow up in a world where women don’t have control over their own bodies.
Abortion is never an easy decision. That’s the biggest lie about it, the idea that a woman has an abortion and then simply moves on in her life without a second thought. Women who have opted for this decision have plenty of second thoughts, regrets, and shame. It can be the hardest decision of a woman’s life, and she doesn’t just forget about it once it’s over.
That’s the way it was for me.
I found out I was pregnant in the apartment I shared with my husband Micah. After a week of missing my period, I bought a pregnancy test at my local drugstore and sneaked into the bathroom when I got home. If my suspicions were true, Micah would not be happy. We weren’t trying to get pregnant. In fact, I was taking birth control pills at the time. As soon as the first splash of urine hit the test, a plus sign popped up confirming my fears. I felt afraid for myself, but even more afraid of Micah, and I wondered if I could get away with not telling him at all.
Micah barely looked up from his spot at the computer when I came into the living room. I sat down on the couch unable to speak or pretend like something wasn’t wrong. Tears dotted my eyes, but I brushed them away in frustration. It was not the time to be sentimental.
When Micah finally noticed me, my fists were curled into tight balls as I stared down at the floor.
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked.
I didn’t answer at first, wanting to prolong the peace before I dropped the bomb. Micah stood over me with his arms folded and his face impatient.
“I just took a test,” I finally said. “I’m pregnant.”
It wasn’t the response I expected. He looked like he expected me to laugh with him. It wasn’t like there was anything funny about being in my condition at nearly 40 years old. If Micah was trying to make me feel ashamed, it was working.
“Oh my God,” Micah said through a smirk. “How the hell did you let this happen?”
His question didn’t seem worthy of an answer. I could have told him that the pill doesn’t work a hundred percent of the time, but he didn’t deserve my explanation. The first stirrings of hate grew from deep inside me, and I wished I’d said nothing at all.
“What are you going to do about it?” Micah asked.
That was when I stood up and walked out of the room. I finally realized I was completely alone with zero support. In Micah’s eyes, this was my mistake to fix. He was the Pontius Pilate of husbands, washing his hands of the whole dilemma. At that moment, I wanted somebody to hug me and tell me it would be all right. Micah wasn’t that person.
We’d been through this before. When we were first dating, I discovered I was pregnant right after he stopped talking to me to chase other women. By the time I had an ultrasound, the baby was already a fully formed girl. Micah decided we should get married, and I felt I was in no position to argue. Our baby daughter, Vanessa, was born three months premature via an emergency cesarean section and fought for her life every day in the NICU. Micah didn’t visit her even once in the hospital. Vanessa was merely a pawn for Micah to get whatever he wanted from me.
I loved Vanessa from the moment I saw her on the ultrasound, and it amazed me how hard she fought to stay alive. She was my little miracle who beat all the odds and grew up to be a healthy little girl. The doctors never told me what caused me to go into labor so early, but they said because of the surgery when I delivered her, I could never carry a baby to full term again because my uterus would likely rupture. That’s why I was taking the pill in the first place to prevent another pregnancy.
Micah and I didn’t talk for the rest of the day. Instead, he spent the day on the computer messaging his friends and making comments about my pregnancy. When he suggested to one friend that he might use a coat hanger, I knew that no matter what happened I had to leave him. The very sight of him disgusted me. For the rest of the day, I laid in bed feeling ashamed and like the butt of a joke. The level of anxiety I usually had was skyrocketing into a panic attack. I was under incredible stress living with Micah most of the time, but this seemed like more than I could stand.
The next day, I called a women’s health care agency to make an appointment. I explained my situation to the doctor, letting her know that keeping the baby was not an option. She confirmed I was six weeks pregnant. During the ultrasound, she asked if I wanted to look at the screen. I was too afraid to face the truth. Even though I couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term, part of me wishes I would have looked, but I think I knew I’d never be able to unsee it.
The doctor gave me two pills that she said would cause me to miscarry. I took the first pill in the office, and she told me to save the other one until the next day. When I got home, I didn’t speak to Micah about where I’d been. It was clear he didn’t want to talk to me either, so I went to bed and left him on the computer. I had cramps and felt tired, and I didn’t want another round of blame and mockery.
I grieved for my unborn baby, the little boy or girl who never had a chance with parents like me and Micah. We both suffered from bipolar disorder, although he was still undiagnosed back then. Depression covered me like a heavy weighted blanket, and I shut myself off from the rest of the world for a long time. I remember those days. How could I ever forget them? In my heart, I never thought I’d have an abortion in my life. Facing the reality of the situation made me realize that while I had no choice, I’d always be broken somehow. Somewhere out there in the universe, I still had questions with no answers.
When I felt more healed medically and emotionally, I packed a suitcase when Micah was at work and disappeared with Vanessa. He came home to an empty apartment which was what he deserved. As far as what I deserve, I don’t have that answer either. Ending my pregnancy was the hardest decision I ever had to make, and I think about it nearly every day. I feel now it was the right thing to do, but my heart will always be longing.
Vanessa is a preteen today. The thought of her living in a country where her body is regulated makes me angry. I’m frustrated for every woman that is raped or a victim of incest. I’m sad that women won’t have freedom even when there are medical issues. It scares me to think of abortions being less safe for women and the unsafe lengths they may have to go to get one. In 2019, the possibility that a woman could go to jail is stunning, decided by a bunch of men who will never feel helpless or desperate about their pregnancies.
I can only tell my story. It’s difficult. It’s never been easy to talk about this. I feel sadness and shame over it, but I’m speaking up now for women and girls just like my daughter whose livelihoods have been threatened by a bunch of male politicians. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s heartbreaking. Anything else is a lie.