Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One Year Later

Maybe everyone does this trick, but I do it regularly and always have: I think about where I was a year ago, two years ago, three, seven, twenty. Where was I? What was I doing? I think of my past selves in unison with me now--all of us on this day doing the thing that we have done or the thing that we will do.

March 14 and 15 will always stand out for me. It was on these days a year ago that I had my abortion.

Me now, I am sitting on my back porch. It's unusually warm in my northern city tonight, and I'm wearing a sundress and flip-flops. I had Mexican food and margaritas with a friend tonight. I came home to my boyfriend, who is hunched over his computer inside, hard at work. I pulled a beer from the fridge and came out here to clear my mind and think.

A year ago I was curled up with my boyfriend watching Cool Runnings as a cool early spring night blew against the windows. Earlier that day, I had had laminaria inserted in the first of a two-day procedure. To calm my nerves for the surgery day, I had requested this film from my childhood. The last time I had watched it, I realized, was when I had my tonsils out. Do I have go-to, pre- and post-surgery flicks? Apparently.

I think about this blog regularly. I mainly think about the women who land here, who send me emails and who comment. I hope that this blog has been helpful to anyone going through an abortion. I think about you and my heart is full of love and support for you. What you are going through is incredibly difficult, and you are so strong. You probably don't know how strong you are. If you ever need to ask me anything, as a woman who has been through this procedure, just as another lady out there in the world, or whatever else, please do not hesitate to email me.

As for me, I'm doing well. I'm here on my back porch tonight, taking a break from my life to return to this blog that I once needed to share my story. My abortion isn't my day-to-day world anymore. I think about it sometimes. I think about what my life might be like had it not happened--in that "What If?" kind of way. But the moment is always fleeting, and I never doubt my choice.

These days my focus is on my career, my future with my boyfriend, my friends and my family. Talking with friends and family about my experience has brought me closer to them. The abortion helped my boyfriend and I acknowledge our differences and, in many ways, work through them. I can't imagine the people we were then bringing a child into the world. These days, when we talk about our future, there are children, but our relationship is stable and the pregnancy would be planned.

I have been off hormonal birth control since June, when the dreaded Depo-Provera shot finally wore off. I have been waiting for my menstrual cycle to regulate to its own normal before I pull the trigger on a Paragard IUD. The boyfriend and I have been using condoms in the meantime. Both condoms and humans are faulty, and we've had a couple trips to the pharmacy for Plan B pills. I'm pretty certain these huge doses of hormones helped further throw off my system, but my period seems to have finally regulated. I'm planning a Paragard insertion closer to summertime. Some of my ambivalence about Paragard remains. The longer and heavier menstrual bleeding with the Paragard sounds pretty blech to me, but I'm willing to put up with it to avoid hormones for now. If and when I get it inserted, I will update here as I know a lot of women wonder about IUDs.

There is no doubt that deciding to have an abortion was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but it was the only choice that was right for me.

If you are facing this situation and scared, I understand. I know. If you are ambivalent, I know. If you are conflicted, I know. There are so many women out there--1 in 3 of us--who know. And it will be okay. I, someone who never thought she would have an abortion--let alone a second trimester one, someone who was unwillingly shown her ultrasound, someone who experienced a rare complication post-op, I promise you that it will be okay.

If you are making this choice for you, without pressure from a significant other, a doctor, a friend, a parent, or anyone else, if you are doing it safely, and if know this is what you need, you are making the right choice for you. There are so many of us who can assure you: It will be okay. You will be okay.

If you ever want to ask me anything, again, please email. I have posted links on the sidebar that are meant as resources for women going through this experience. I used many of them when I was in your shoes. If you have a blog you'd like me to link to, or a resource you've found that you'd like to share, please email or comment, and I will post it.

I am 27, pro-choice and was (for a short time last year) pregnant. I conceived during menstruation, took oral contraceptives for three straight months afterward and then learned of my pregnancy at 13 weeks. I had a second trimester abortion at 14 weeks. I had a post-operative complication 10 days later. The odds of conception during menstruation is nearly* 1 in 1,000. I was one in one thousand, I'm okay, and you will be too.

Lots of love to you,
One in One Thousand

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Statistic

Two weeks ago this past Saturday, a man broke into my apartment and tried to rape me. I fought him off, he escaped, and I suffered only a bloody nose. I am still shaken, but I am okay, and I feel lucky.

I had just moved into a new apartment, where I was living alone, and this was my second night in the new place. I have since moved into a safer neighborhood, second floor 1-bedroom apartment. My investigation is ongoing, so I can't write much about it here. Sufficed to say, I believe the offender is in jail, caught only days ago, on his way to prison, but not for my incident, unfortunately.

Why am I writing about this here, in this blog about my abortion? There are a few reasons.

What if I hadn't had the abortion:
I couldn't help but think, within minutes after the assault, that I could have been almost 8 months pregnant when this happened. Would the offender, when he first opened my door to peer in and see who was in the bedroom, skipped on raping a very pregnant woman? Would I have even been home alone or would this have even happened, as my boyfriend and I most likely would have moved in together and be living elsewhere?

Threats to my reproductive system and my sexual identity:
Thus far, I don't feel scarred sexually or emotionally by the abortion or by the attack. I am aware that these things could impact me down the road, could seep in insidiously, and I keep a check on my sexual and emotional health and happiness.

What if I had been raped:
Because I am slightly psychic but do not learn to listen to my gut, I had this thought the day before the attack: 'It would suck to be raped if you had a yeast infection.' (I had a yeast infection at the time.) Followed by, 'It would suck to be raped if you weren't on birth control.'

The emotional toll of simply having a stranger violate my personal space and attempt to violate my body, it's hard to describe. I cannot imagine the unspoken pain of women who are raped, nor can I imagine the devastation if that rape results in a pregnancy.

That there are people out in this world who would suggest that rape does not "justify" an abortion absolutely sickens me. That they would want to further control the body and destiny of a woman whose control of those very things was violently ripped from her sickens me as well. I usually don't fill this blog with much vitriol toward those people, but fuck it. Those small-minded, self-righteous urchins should feel what that violation of space and body feels like, how it shakes you to your core, how it leaves you jumping at shadows and tree branches cracking, and sobbing at your own fear in the middle of the night, and then experience a lifetime of the product of that violation. Oh, how their hollow ivory towers would crumble.

Amazingly, one of those small-minded people is a friend of mine from high school. She once posted a link to this disgusting (and so-bad-it's-almost-funny) essay that mainly uses the movie Rob Roy as its evidential proof for this opinion. This friend called me the night following the attack after I posted a note on Facebook explaining what had happened. In tears and hysterical (Please don't call your friends who were just the victim of a violent crime if you are in tears and hysterical, by the way. It's not helpful. In fact, it's upsetting.), she said how happy she was I was okay, so glad she was that I fought, how much she wanted to hear my voice. And what might her message have said, I wonder, if I hadn't been able to fight him off, if I had been raped, if I was pregnant with the rapist's child and if I chose to terminate the pregnancy? What if I had shared that on Facebook instead?

Breaking the silence:
It's not my style to be silent. (Have you noticed?) I want to share my experiences and stories from my experiences because it is important to me that there is more understanding, more compassion, more connection between a statistic (like 1 in 1,000 women on birth control will get pregnant on their period; there is one sexual assault every two minutes) and the experience (me).

The day after the attack I wrote a letter to my friends and family. At first, I intended only to send it to a handful of friends and my family members. After I wrote and edited and started adding names to the list, I kept adding more names and more names and more... Soon, I sent the email to nearly 50 friends. Within hours, I decided to post most of the email as a note on Facebook.

Responses came pouring in. Support, advice, words of love. One woman, who I only have met on two occasions and is dating a friend of mine, sent me a private message. Four years ago, in her first week after she moved to this city, she was raped. She admired me for sharing my experience, she said. My heart slammed against my chest. This strong woman, this brave person, I could not imagine what she had been through, and she was reaching out to me. There were others out there, women I knew who had been through much worse, and I wasn't alone. None of us are.

The silence is not okay. It cloaks the experience in a shroud of shame, fear. By sharing our stories, even the most difficult, we support one another.

I am considering creating a separate anonymous blog about further issues affecting women, sexual health and my own experiences moving forward from the abortion. I started this blog with the intent to chronicle one experience, and I'd like it to exist somewhat statically, so that women going through an abortion might refer to the direct experience of the abortion and my healing. However, things keep happening to me (funny how life works!), and I would like to keep sharing. I think another blog may be the answer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

EC and me

I took a Plan B One-Step pill on Saturday.

It goes without saying that I wasn't expecting to do that, but sometimes little slip-ups happen. My little slip-up played out a lot like the notorious sex scene in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up.

At 4 in the morning on Friday night, having lovey, drowsy sex, I realized I was not going to orgasm. Feeling close with my boyfriend and wanting him to climax, I whispered in his ear that I wanted him to, even if I didn't.

'What?!' he said. I whispered yes, and he said, 'No, no no,' and then... he came.

There I was thinking he had been insisting 'no' because we never like to have sex where one person orgasms and the other doesn't. But his shocked and scared face shook me from my lovey-drowsy state, and I asked with panic, "What??"

"Uh, we got kind of carried away there, didn't we?" he said.

"What do you mean?" As the words passed my lips, it dawned on me... No condom.

For a moment, I was angry. How did this happen? I saw him open the wrapper and I thought he had put it on. We had even stopped so he could. But I realized that without my contacts in, and sleepy and distracted, I didn't actually see the condom go on. But what was he thinking?? What happened?

It turned out that our slip-up occurred through a series of miscommuncations, similar to Knocked Up's "Just do it!" sex scene where Katherine Heigl encourages Seth Rogen to hurry up and get the condom on, and Seth Rogen forgoes the condom to, uh, 'just do it.' I thought my boyfriend had put on a condom already, and he thought I, when encouraging him to orgasm, simply wanted him to pull out, or that I had started my period... (Face, palm.)

And to those birth control methods, I held back my exasperation and said calmly instead, "Just so we're clear: As long as I'm not on birth control and I don't have my IUD yet, only condoms. No pulling out. No unprotected sex during my period. That's how we wound up where we were in March."

He didn't say anything but rubbed his head and eyes and groaned. I think he was having a 'oh, yeah, duh' moment. Did I mention it was 4 in the morning?

We curled up together as I pulled out my iPhone to search on Plan B's website for the closest pharmacy that sells it OTC. By noon the next day, I took a Plan B after downing a bunch of water and veggies (I felt nauseous the only other time I took Plan B, about four years ago, so I didn't want to take it on an empty stomach.)

I still can't believe some people feel there's a stigma about emergency contraception like Plan B, particularly people who don't have a problem with birth control. For me, there is no stigma, no humiliation. Mistakes happen. That's that.

Though I did empathize with the dewy-eyed 19-year-old boy working the Walgreen's pharmacy counter whose voice cracked with each phrase he uttered during our transaction. Yes, my dear pharmacy friend, I am a 20-something, sexually-active woman. And yes, my sexual partner and I had an accident last night, but it's okay. And yes, I will also take this plastic cooler as I am going to the beach immediately after this, and thank you very much.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On choices and the course I've charted

I was in a friend's wedding this past weekend. I would have been six months pregnant exactly.

When I found out I was pregnant, in the little game of What If's that one imagines and plays out in her mind, I imagined calling my dear friend  J. to tell her: "I am sorry. I can't be your bridesmaid. I can't stand up there at the alter with you with my belly bursting out of that lovely eggplant purple dress you chose for me." I imagined drinking water while my friends toasted champagne. I imagined sitting at a table while my friends danced. I imagined that maybe I wouldn't go to the wedding at all. I imagined that I might wind up quickly married before my friends' long-planned wedding, that I might be moving in with my boyfriend during that wedding weekend instead, that I might be painting a baby's room in some tiny city apartment.

What if, what if, what if.

But instead, this is what happened:

I stood at the alter as two of my best friends joined in union as a couple. I was not pregnant and I was not married. I toasted them with champagne, and I danced to every song the band played. I was happy. Overwhelmingly so.

But still, there are moments. There was a woman at this wedding--a friend of the couple. She sang during the ceremony. She was 15 weeks pregnant.

At the rehearsal dinner, friends crowded her and touched her emerging belly and awed. She was only one week further along than where I had been when I had the abortion. My mind raced, and a lump rose in my throat. I walked away, took photos of some of the tables with the camera I had brought to help my friends document their weekend and got caught up in a long conversation with friends. Without too much effort, I breathed through my feelings of sadness, I grounded myself, I returned to my table for dessert, and I was fine.

That's what things are like these days. I think about the What If's, but I don't let them occupy too much real estate in my mind. They're there, and that's fine. Something would be wrong with me, I might be dealing unhealthily or repressing, if they weren't.

I recently stumbled upon a fabulous advice blog called Dear Sugar. Sugar responded to one letter writer who asked how he should know if he wants children, quoting a beautiful poem by Tomas Transtörmer:
'Tranströmer’s narrator is capable of seeing his life for what it is while also acknowledging the lives he might have had. “The sketches,” Tranströmer writes, “all of them, want to become real.” The poem strikes a chord in me because it’s so very sadly and joyfully and devastatingly true. Every life, Tranströmer writes, “has a sister ship,” one that follows “quite another route” than the one we ended up taking. We want it to be otherwise, but it cannot be: the people we might have been live a different, phantom life than the people we are.'
It's a stunning image, that sister ship setting course in a different direction. But the choices we make set us on the course we take. 'Thank you for this life!,' his narrator exclaims. And that is the wonderful thing: We can shout our gratitude both to the void for the beautiful improbability of our existence and to ourselves for making the choices we have to define our lives.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stuff Mom Never Told You

If you're a lady or are interested in lady issues, you should check out the fabulous podcast from HowStuffWorks called Stuff Mom Never Told You.

The podcast is full of awesome information on everything from nuns to kegels, smoking to subliminal ovulation. One of their latest podcasts explores the phenomenon of unknowingly being pregnant.

The ladies address the horror they imagine at such a discovery (as most of us would, and some of us have), and they also get to the heart of the issue. They wrap up their podcast with these points:
Sometimes we’ll hear things like an irregular cycle is normal, or feeling awful around the time of your period is normal, or just feeling awful in general, it’s hormones. People are quick to write off women’s health problems. And women are less likely to take time out of their day to go to the doctor and find out what’s going on… I think the lesson here is to take some time for yourself… Going to the doctor regularly, checking in on your sexual health with yourself, what’s going on here?

As I've shared my own experience with other women, their reactions have revealed all sorts of misconceptions about their own reproductive health and ways in which we women don't always spend the time with our bodies we should.

I've heard so many anecdotes. One girl friend has been fighting monthly yeast infections for two years to no avail; Another friend is facing entometriosis and taking hormonal birth control for the first time to manage it but having terrible side effects from the birth control; Yet another friend had an abortion after going off birth control because she thought you didn't became fertile again until after your period, when in fact you will first ovulate and then have your period.

What we don't know, or assume, or accept from our doctors, is often short shift of what we deserve. There's no reason to accept a shitty health situation as normal, and I hope that podcasts like this one help women see that. It's exactly the kind of by women and for women media that helps inform and connect us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharing the Experience

I didn't expect to tell as many people as I did about my abortion. In the end, I told 14 people--12 friends, my parents, my boss--that I found out I was pregnant at thirteen weeks and aborted at fourteen.

I didn't tell everyone beforehand. Seven people knew where I was when I suddenly dropped off the map for a week. The other people I told later for varying reasons. And while everyone I told supported my decision, the reactions varied.

My boss, the first person to know aside from my boyfriend, witnessed my breakdown after seeing my ultrasound. She placed her hands on my head as I doubled over sobbing, and tried to say something helpful. "Tell your boyfriend and be sure to consider all your options," she said. I know she meant well, but well, sometimes we don't say quite the right things. I assured her that my decision was made, despite the feelings of confusion and upset that waved about me.

My best friend K, whose apartment I immediately drove to after telling my boss and leaving work. She was my biggest support throughout the process, an amazing friend. When I told her she hugged me and listened and supported. After I left, she later told me she cried when she shared with her boyfriend, who is also my friend.

My parents learned two days before the procedure. I shared with them when I decided I really needed their support. Losing our house to foreclosure last summer and having them live with me since has strained our relationship. For the first time in a long while, they could be my parents, support and love me, and I could rely on them. I learned that my mom had an abortion, and while we both confront our experiences differently, it was a comfort to know she had been through this as well, that one of the 1 in 3 women I knew who had an abortion was my mother.

My ex-boyfriend, J who, as a raised Catholic, was petrified of abortion in our relationship. When I took the morning after pill in our relationship, he was conflicted and upset by it. But when he learned of my news the day before the procedure, he was nothing but supportive. He checked in after the procedure to see how I was doing, and we talked at length about his current relationship and their birth control choices.

My boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, C, who learned from my boyfriend before the procedure. They went through this experience together. She even had the same doctors and nurses as me. She's the only other woman I've been able to talk to who has been through this experience, and we've shared some really great conversations. I'm thankful that she has been there for both my boyfriend and me.

My friend at work, M, I told a few weeks after the procedure and only after learning that she was seeing my old, terrible gynecologists. When I learned that, I first blabbered about how terrible they are and not to see them anymore. She asked, "What happened?? Your face is turning red!" and I told her everything. She cried when I told her. She was the only person who did that, and I'm relieved it didn't happen when the experience was fresher.

My old college roomie, J, I told on the phone after the procedure. I'm in her wedding next month, and we've remained close through the tough times we've both experienced these last few years. She shared with my friend and her fiancee, M. I saw them last week, and we three talked about it together.

My old college friend B, who I told weeks after the procedure. I blew off plans with him when my complication happened, and we have been close confidants for years. It was natural to tell him, and his reaction was one of shock and support. He, like many people I told after the fact, wished I had told him before so he could have been there for me.

My boyfriend's family friends, B and C, who are brother and sister, found out from each of us after the procedure. Two weeks after my abortion, they learned their mother had had a daughter when she was 18 and when she could not receive an abortion as it was illegal. That news shook us both--it seemed to relate so strongly to the "what-if's" I was experiencing at the time, and we each shared our news with them.

B's girlfriend, K, shared with me her own reproductive issues a few weeks ago--she most likely has endometriosis and is in the midst of tests. In turn, I shared with her my own, also assuming incorrectly that B had told her. We grabbed drinks and talked for hours about the procedure, her reproductive issues and birth control.

The two women I know who had abortions have not told many people. My mother doesn't understand why I shared with people and even suggested I shouldn't tell people. She and my father told no one of her abortion until they told me. C, my boyfriend's ex, did share with a few people but does understand why I would be compelled to share my experience.

And why share the experience?

To destigmatize it.
If one in three women you know have had an abortion, could you say who they are? Probably not. I'm not happy that I had an abortion--nobody signs up smiling for that kind of thing, but I am happy to talk about it, to reassure women who have not had abortions that it's okay, to share experiences with women who have had abortions, to talk with as many people as possible about birth control and reproductive health.

To be close with the people I care about.
I am a sharer--extroverted and generally open. It was important to me not to block out friends from my past and present from this experience. We talk about everything else--why not talk about this?

To create a conversation that I hope goes forward.
I hope that these people tell others that they know someone who had an abortion. I hope they tell them that this person had an abortion when she was fourteen weeks pregnant. I hope it stirs conversations and further destigmatize the experience. I am not ashamed nor do I have any regrets about my choice. I want as many people as possible to know that, and I want women to know that they will be okay if they one day choose the same thing I did.

Finally, there was one woman who I did not tell but with whom I did have a long conversation about abortion. A. and I grew up together--ballet class at age seven was where it all started. We've never been particularly close friends, but she was visiting in the city, so we got together for drinks a few weeks ago.

"I like all your Facebook posts," she said with a smile, referring to my multitude of pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood postings.

"Oh," I laughed a little. "I may have gone a bit overboard, but it's something I feel really strongly about."

A. went on to explain that she worries that she and her husband, both musicians, cannot afford a child but that her husband staunchly opposes choice and abortion. It's a difference between them, she explained.

"I don't know," she said, sounding slightly defeated. "I always say, I'm pro-choice, but anti-abortion. I could never do it myself."

Bells rang inside of me. She sounded like me at age 17 in our high school AP Government class arguing for choice but conditioning my own response. She sounded like me when I learned two years ago that my current boyfriend and his ex had had an abortion. She sounded like me only a few months ago, before I learned that I was pregnant.

"I don't think you can know that, A., until you face it," I said quietly.

She nodded and then said, "I think you're right."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maybe Not the Mirena...

I canceled my appointment for the Mirena IUD. After weeks of talking with many ladies about birth control, chatting with a few other friends who have or have had IUDs, I began to question my decision to go with the hormonal IUD. Maybe it would have been fine for me, but the Depo shot and its insane hormones made me increasingly wary of using any hormonal birth control, regardless of how "locally" the Mirena's hormones work.

I talked with my very patient OB/GYNE about my concerns, and we discussed non-hormonal options. In the rubbers department, my doctor said she does not really recommend cervical caps or diaphragms. I wasn't really interested in those options anyway and am more interested in the copper, non-hormonal Paragard IUD.

I hesitated to go with the Paragard initially. Like many women, I heard the word "copper" and balked. The idea of heavier periods also isn't hot (though my periods have never been very heavy or crampy). My dad also shared a former coworker's horror story of infection on Paragard. That pretty much sealed the (initial) deal that Paragard was not for me.

However, after almost two months of weight gain, breakouts and mood swings, the Paragard appeals way more than any hormones at all. Riding yet another hormonal birth control rollercoaster sounds like an exhausting trip that I am not up for right now.

The post-operative Depo-Provera shot lasts until June 7th. I am no longer pressuring myself to come up with a quick birth control solution. If I am not certain, the boyfriend and I can use condoms until I feel sure of my choice.

Here I want to say a lot about how the pressure, (oftentimes) cost, and crazy side effects of birth control weigh on the woman in a relationship. How the woman becomes the sole vessel for these issues and stress. How insane it is that birth control options are not more thoroughly discussed--in school classrooms, in doctor's offices, among women. I, for one, have been talking VAGINA with my lady-friends NON-STOP recently. It feels great, too. With those women whom I've shared my experience, there is closeness and support, and simultaneously I can offer advice and knowledge. It's awesome.

I want to share and talk about this experience, about women's health, about sex, about birth control, as much as possible. Knowledge is power, and we must be our own advocates for our health, bodies and wellness. Here's to us ladies and getting the best we deserve.