I got pregnant on my 22nd birthday in the wee hours after a rockin' party but I didn't "know" until four days before I was supposed to leave for a European family vacation, and by then I wasn't even talking to the dude who did it anymore.
It was my first year out of college and I was an assistant at Conde Nast, so that meant I was working 14-hour days and partying basically every single night punctuated by brief slumbers in my teensy alphabet city apartment with a shower in the kitchen that I shared with my best friend.
Those days were a constant hangover and it wasn't at all uncommon for me to spend the first few hours at work excusing myself down to the 4th-floor bathroom so I could throw up in peace, so I never even considered the idea of morning sickness. I developed a maniac craving for turkey sandwiches with avocado, bacon, red onion and cheddar cheese on whole grain toast, but I figured it was just because they were awesome.
My period came but it was much, much lighter than usual; but I honestly don't even remember because I blocked a lot of it out which brings me to why I put the word "know" in quotations up there. The signs that I refused to question from some deep, hidden place inside me were there: I fainted in the hallway at work, I threw up in a doctor's office waiting area bathroom while thinking about some mushroom soup I ate earlier, and I was tired all. the. time.
But just like those women who go to the bathroom one day and pop out a baby without even knowing they were pregnant, I responded in actual, real shock when the nurse at a routine gynecologist appointment gave me a pregnancy test and came back to tell me it was positive. I'd told her my period was "a little different than normal." I was 10 weeks pregnant.
I was already in the hospital where my doctor practiced and they had an open appointment for a pregnancy termination that day like, two hours from the minute I found out. I knew in my heart it was right for me and the decision was made quickly. I paid for it myself with my hard-earned assistant paycheck and I never told the dude who stopped returning my phone calls weeks before, but I didn’t need him.
I had friends who loved me in more important ways than that guy ever could; one, who took my frantic call in a conference room, told my boss I wasn't coming back to work that day and lit a candle and ordered me a chicken parmesan hero when I came home. And another who met me at the hospital and held me while I cried the minute I saw her, and then after as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the west side highway in the backseat of a taxi we had to share with a stranger during the MTA strike, she told the driver to be careful because I’d just had “surgery."
And I had other wonderful friends who in the days and years to follow empowered me to feel like a member of a distinguished club for women who can have an opinion because we had an experience.
I called my mom first. I knew from having friends go through this very young that this relationship was a luxury not to be taken for granted. At first she reacted ... unfavorably, threatening that if I told my dad and brother that I’d "ruin their vacation like I’d ruined [hers]."
But while I lay on the table, and right before they put the laughing gas mask on my face, she called to tell me that she loved me. And then I held on to my oldest friend's hand and let it happen.
I’ve never once taken for granted that I am a woman in a relatively free country who had the access and ability to make an important decision about my own body. But I’ve never forgiven the condom for breaking. The experience was excruciating and disgusting and then it was over.
There isn't even an appropriately descriptive word for when your best friend tears away the blood-soaked medical table-paper while you're in the bathroom doubled over and crying so you don't have to see it when you get out.
In a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating the holidays with my fiancé’s family while silently remembering the 6-year anniversary of my abortion. He has a beautiful son who I love with the fierceness of a true, biological mother and I’d be lying to everyone if I said that sometimes I’m not terrified (though I schedule regular check-ups) that I’ve destroyed my chances of ever being one.
That he and his ex chose life made me keep this from him, the man I trust my whole heart with, until the month before we got engaged. I guess membership to the club doesn't automatically shield you from self-judgment.
And as a woman who wants children so badly I literally read strangers' birth stories for future inspiration and information, writing this abortion story hurts so fucking much. But I comfort myself with knowing in my heart that it’s not my only and final tale to tell.