This is a guest blog post by Dawn Bona, she wrote it in the hope that it encourages other women to share their stories.
I have been talking a lot lately about the need to take the discussion of reproductive choice out of the abstract and place it back into the concrete. The best way to do this is for women to share their stories with each other and the world. Our stories and experiences are what is truly being legislated, and what will be shaped by the outcome of current actions or lack thereof.
I haven’t written anything as of yet because I have never gone through the experience of having an abortion. I thought I didn’t have an experience to add to the conversation since I hadn’t had an abortion. However, all outcomes of unintended pregnancies are vital to the discussion. And as frightening as it is to post something so incredibly personal, I feel uttterly compelled to do so. I have learned to trust my gut, so here goes:
When I was eighteen, the summer after I graduated from high school, I went to the doctor for what I thought was an antibiotic resistant bladder infection. I had been on antibiotics for two months. When I got the test results back, there was a plus sign next to the routine pregnancy test. I was in shock. I stared at it for what seemed an eternity, as though if I willed it strongly enough, it would change from a plus to a minus. It didn’t change. I went back to the waiting room where my boyfriend who had taken me to the doctor was waiting. I handed him the yellow piece of paper and glared at him as he tried to make sense of it. I saw the light bulb come on as he realized what it said. He said nothing. We rode the entire twenty minutes back to my mother’s house, with whom I was currently staying, in complete silence, each of us pondering the implications of the news.
I felt like my life was over. I was not in love with this guy; he had a cute ass and beautiful blue eyes. I enjoyed dating him. I did not want to have his baby. I most certainly did not want to get married and play house. We pulled up in the driveway, and he said, “Well, I guess we should talk about getting married.” I didn’t reply. I got out of the car, shut the door, and walked into the house.
I knew it was a bad idea for me to have a baby at that point in my life. I was a fucking mess. I had a crap job that barely paid for my food and personal products. I was battling drug addiction. I was homeless. I could not live with my mother for more than a few weeks at a time before we started trying to kill each other. I made it through high school by bouncing from one friend’s home to another. What kind of mother would I be?
I told my family what was going on, and I asked my uncle for a loan to get an abortion and a ride to the nearest clinic which was two hours away. He refused. My boyfriend kept asking me to marry him. They all got together and formed a solidified front. I should get married. He should join the military to provide insurance and money for the new little family that was to form out of this nightmare. I caved.
A quick, makeshift wedding was put together at my aunt and uncle’s home. I walked towards the preacher and my soon to be husband wearing a little white, lacy dress, and every step felt heavier than the last. You know those nightmares where you’re trying to run away, but your legs won’t move quickly enough, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get away? That is what my “walk down the aisle” felt like. I could practically see my life swirling away into the abyss.
The night after my wedding, I cried. This upset my new husband, so he left the room and spent the night on the couch with the television drowning out my agony. He had signed up for the army before the wedding, and I couldn’t wait for him to leave in a few days. Ahh. . .matrimonial bliss.
While he was in Basic Training, I had a miscarriage. I was in the mall when it started. I went to the Emergency Room and curled up cramping in a little plastic chair, bleeding all over myself while my mother commenced filling out paperwork. After what seemed an eternity, they got me into a bed, shoved a catheter up my urethra, filled my bladder with liquid, and left me to wait for the diagnostic medical sonographer that was on call. I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom, and was refused pain medication of any kind. Two hours later, I was wheeled down the hall on my bloody gurney to the ultrasound room where they discovered that I had indeed miscarried in my second trimester. I guess all of the blood wasn’t enough of a clue.
Here’s the thing. I had never felt so relieved in all of my life. I was incredibly grateful that some twist of the universe had agreed with my prognosis of my readiness for motherhood and marriage when my family had not. I had not one person who supported my choice or was willing to help me unless I did what they thought was the right thing to do, which was get married and have the baby like a good girl. Shut up, smile, and do your duty. You were irresponsible; you deal with the consequences of those actions.
Keep in mind, please, that I was on the pill when I got pregnant. I was also running through multiple courses of antibiotics which, surprise, have been shown to interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. No one had informed me of this fact. Yet, I was treated as an irresponsible, promiscuous girl who needed to be taught a lesson.
This experience went on to shape the person I am today. I advocate so strongly for reproductive choice because I know what it is like to feel as though there isn’t one. I know what the shame, fear, and dread feel like. I know how hard it is to stand up for one’s self at such a young age, especially when one is broke and without resources to take care of herself, let alone a new life. I am all too familiar with this nightmare.
That is why I have decided to share my experience with others. Unintended pregnancies happen, for various reasons, and at various stages in our lives. I wouldn’t dream of trying to push someone in that situation into making the choice that I thought was the best for them. No one else can truly make that decision for another human being, at least no other person should try to make that choice for another human being.
I hope that others will share their stories, whether they are abortion experiences, giving up a child for adoption, or the decision to keep and raise a child. These are OUR experiences, parts of our lives that have everything to do with who we are and the course our lives take. This is not some abstract idea, and it is most definitely not something that should be legislated by a disassociated body made up of mostly men. This is why I fight for freedom of choice.