For my first abortion, I was on a tropical island under general anesthesia, outside the barbarity of having an abortion in the USA.
A small push of the creamy contents of a syringe swiftly pulled me into a dreamless sleep, the edges of my consciousness tingled briefly before collapsing into painless, silent darkness
Sweet surrender, I welcomed it in
The next thing I remember, I was in the post-operative area, being encouraged to wake up by a soft voice and gentle nudges. Still silly from sedation, I put my arm around the friendly nurse and rested my head on her shoulder. We laughed.
‘Everything went well’ said the doctor afterwards, ‘but you should try to prevent future abortions because every procedure has its risks’
That I didn’t take.
I tried. I made several attempts to get an IUD, however I returned home without birth-control every time. One clinic didn’t stock IUDs, another was closed despite my appointment for an IUD insertion. I know I neglected myself, I should have prioritized it more, but self-neglect is a habit that was brutally beaten into my developing brain by my family.
To my family, I give thanks for my successes and my failures. Failure is merely opportunity in disguise.
My second abortion was in a crowded clinic in Philadelphia. The doctor didn’t tell me his name, or say a word to me. He seemed grumpy and rushed, which was to be expected. It was two days before Christmas, and songs about the holy infant baby Jesus wafted through the crowded waiting room of women desperate to have abortions- abortions which were delayed by a sexist legal policy requiring them to view a short video about the risks of having an abortion several days before their abortion could take place.
A volunteer hand-holder allowed me to squeeze her hand throughout the most painful few minutes of my life, telling me I was great at remembering to breathe as my cervix was forced open and the contents of my uterus were sucked out. In the recovery area, in so much pain I felt like I was dying, a volunteer pastor brought me crackers and ginger ale- silver lining of the brutal cloud of having an abortion without analgesia.
For my third abortion, I was blessed with a doula and nitrous oxide to take the edge off of anxiety and pain. A medical student on the care team was my abortion DJ- playing whatever music I requested from her phone (I asked for Bob Marley, to remind me that every little thing is gonna be alright). As I inhaled and exhaled the nitrous oxide through my mouth, I thought to myself, ‘I was made for this’. Years of yoga practice had prepared me for the mindful breathing necessary to receive nitrous oxide, and within a few breaths, I embarked on a spiritual journey.
Throughout my cosmic trip, my abortion doula guided me. She would gently remind me to relax my forehead and drop my shoulders away from my ears, told me how strong I was and what a great job I was doing, fanned me when I started to sweat, bringing me back to a place of peace and ease. Most of the time, the abortion clinic room had faded away and I did not realize that time was passing- perhaps it wasn’t.
My doula reminded me to lengthen my exhales by telling me to ‘blow out all those candles on the birthday cake’. In my shamanic trance, from the perspective that existence is a timeless field of elements and particles, of light and vibration, I knew that no one is ever really born and no one ever really dies.
Abortions are difficult. The decision to have an abortion, the experience itself, and the lifelong emotional reaction to it are all really tough. Electing to end a pregnancy has innate emotional complexity. There is a moment just before each of my three abortions when I thought, ‘It is not too late, I can run out of here and keep this pregnancy’, and I felt torn, no matter how sure I felt about the abortion going into it. Even with nitrous oxide, my third abortion was still breathtakingly painful, however feeling united with existence on the quantum level, understanding the immortality of all being, was worth it in and of itself.
I’m glad that I had every one of my abortions, as continuing my pregnancies would have been far worse. Although it breaks my heart to mourn my could’ve-been-babies, I didn’t feel supported by society, my family or my partners in any of my pregnancies. I’m glad that I will not have another abortion, praise be to my IUD.
A woman who has a miscarriage and retains the embryo, fetus or placenta in her uterus is allowed to have it removed in the operating room under full anesthesia, yet women electing to end a pregnancy must endure the same procedure in excruciating pain. To be freed from an unwanted pregnancy, however, is worth it every time.
Dear reader, I hope you never have to experience an abortion, however should the need arise, I hope you are blessed with a hand to hold, encouraging words, and by grace, nitrous oxide.