As if this past year wasn't enough of a struggle, I found out I was pregnant with a guy I had only known for two months. Let that sink in. I met this man on a dating app and things seemed to be going pretty well but this was also February 2020,
and the world was slowly starting to shut down. We were navigating the newness of the pandemic together, but were still completely unaware of what was to come in the next year. When I realized I missed my menstrual cycle, I was terrified. My period has always been incredibly regular, and I could feel something was off in my body. I started to panic.
I waited a couple days and finally told my roommates I really needed to take a pregnancy test to get it off my mind. Those two pink lines showed up instantly––I was pregnant. The initial shock was hard to describe. I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. I’ve always been relatively careful, but I’ve never been on birth control. I’ve seen so many of my friends experience adverse reactions to different forms of birth control that I have never been interested in taking that leap myself.
My roommates took control of the situation immediately. I was unable to speak, think, or even stand. I couldn’t function for those first 20 minutes. While one roommate was just talking me through my rollercoaster thought train, the other was on the phone with Planned Parenthood talking about my options. I told them right away I knew I was not ready for a child, and they were both as supportive as two people could possibly be. The local Planned Parenthood only performed abortion procedures on Fridays and were booked out for another month. The reality set in that I would have to carry this pregnancy to 8 weeks, and that was … rough.
The appointment was scheduled, but my brain was in a total fog. And the nausea kicked in right away. Whoever coined the term “morning sickness” has a serious case of toxic positivity, because that sickness was ALL. DAY. LONG. for me. There were certain foods I couldn't even think about without throwing up, and I was basically horizontal all the time. I was also working full time as a nanny for a family, so not only did I have to be around two small children, I had to smell all the smells that come along with little ones. I would prepare myself mentally to change a poopy diaper and essentially go into complete zen mode just to not throw up on a one-year-old child.
During these weeks, I was tired, foggy, and incredibly hormonal. Typically, I’m a very active person, but during this time, I couldn't even fathom working out. My whole existence was just off. Perhaps when you are trying for a child, or even ready to be a mother, the whole process carries a much lighter weight. I was carrying while knowing it would be ending. It was a constant mental struggle, and I went through every possible scenario in my head one million times over. Could I carry the pregnancy full term and consider adoption, helping a family that wants this more than anything get their fair chance at parenting? Could I consider keeping it and trusting the timing of the universe that maybe motherhood was what I needed? Neither option felt possible, and I continued to think about all the things I still had planned for my future that a child would just not fit into quite yet.
Shortly after, I met up with the guy I was dating to tell him. He thought he was just coming over to hang out, and I met him on the front steps, pee strip in hand. I didn’t really have words, so we hugged, and I just pulled it out of my pocket and showed him. I think he thought it was a joke at first, and then I watched his face melt into the crushing reality of those two pink lines. We dissected the night it happened, and he got pretty defensive off the bat. Once I explained that I didn't fault him, and that I wasn’t upset with him, the tone of the argument changed and we were able to have a pretty healthy conversation. He told me he would support whatever decision I made and that we would go through it together. I mentioned that an abortion wouldn’t be cheap, but again, I wanted to make sure he knew this was my final decision and that I had to make this happen for my own future. That was the last time I ever saw him.
The feeling of being ghosted is always terrible. You go over and over everything that happened and wonder where you went wrong. In this case, I knew exactly what went wrong. The reality of going through this with me must have been too much, and he fled. Never paid a dime. Never had to experience the soul-crushing feelings of forming a life inside you that you knew wouldn’t last. Never had to have the tough conversation with his friends and family, hoping they wouldn't judge him. He never had to deal with any part of it. The emotional strength we have as women and the capacity of what we're forced to bear is beyond belief.
On the day of my appointment, my mom came into town to be with me. She is the pinnacle of strength, and I cannot imagine going through one ounce of that day without her. At the time, we were still in the beginning of the pandemic, in the thick of the fear. No one knew what was going on. No one knew how long it would last. We were terrified of germs and public spaces, and this cloud of fear was sitting so heavy on the whole world every single day. There were zero distractions for me, and I just had to sit with this other burden, like a 40-ton weight on my chest at all hours of the day.
As we pulled up to the clinic, there were picketers screaming outside the gate, protesting. One had a guitar and was playing a song about peace and love as I drove into one of the most emotionally-charged situations of my entire life. The veil of cruelty that hung over these people was so palpable to me, and I couldn't even fathom that they chose to spend their day doing this during a pandemic. I tried to shut them out and remember why I was there. I focused on the choice I knew so vehemently I had to make. My sweet mother stayed parked in that lot to watch me go in and shelter me from the hatred being flung in my direction. Covid restrictions did not allow someone to come with me, so I was on my own, in a waiting room with a few other women all there for the same reason.
I will never forget the way Planned Parenthood treated us. They were warm, kind, and so incredibly peaceful. Each woman in that clinic was right where they were supposed to be. I had tears in my eyes, and I swear I could feel them hugging me through the plexiglass dividers. I was sent into a room where they made sure I was in fact pregnant, and where I received more love and care than I can even explain. Those people are actual saints, and I will hold them in my heart for the rest of my life.
When it came down to brass tacks, I opted for the pill version, which was possible because I was still at 8 weeks. One pill is administered orally in the clinic, and then you are sent home with 4 (relatively large) pills that you insert vaginally a few hours later.
I got home and felt drowsy, but knew I was in for a long night. Boy, was I underprepared.
It was the absolute worst night of my life. I had foam at the corners of my mouth, I couldn't lay down, stand up, sit up, or even breathe properly. I was in so much pain I couldn't imagine going on. My mom was trying everything she could to make me feel better but there was just no way out. I had to go through it. The “tissue” passed vaginally, and I truly cannot explain the relief I felt when that moment happened. It was the first deep breath I had taken in 24 hours. I saw my future again. I felt my heartbeat again. I felt like myself again.
The next few weeks were a dream. I tried to remember what it felt like to work out, eat normally, and not carry this emotional embryo any longer. There was also a sense of loss that I wasn’t prepared for. I knew, without a doubt, I made the right decision, but it was impossible not to consider the alternative. Little by little, I felt whole again.
While my experience was under a microscope during a global health crisis, I never felt alone. I had friends, family, and nurses that all believed me, cared about me, and trusted my decision. It shatters my heart to imagine all the women who are not granted such luxuries. Women who are put into the same situation as a result of sexual assault, force, and even manipulation. I cannot imagine going through an abortion in silence. And I carry those women with me in my heart.
Laws and regulations that make it illegal for women to make this decision on their own are absolutely cruel. Every situation is so different, and contraception is not foolproof. Why are we so focused on a bulletproof vest, when we could worry about unloading the gun in the first place? Why are women expected to (literally) carry this weight on their own, while men are still considered stronger, tougher, and put in positions of power to make our choices illegal?
I learned more about myself during this time than I ever thought possible, and I have Planned Parenthood to thank for that. They held a space for me to feel protected, cared for, and understood. This saga started with a positive test that I will never forget. It ends with sharing my story.
Anna Ward is a guest contributor for The Whipp.