Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Wouldn't Call it Regret

I'm a 48 year old woman, wife and mother of two wonderful children who are now young adults. When I was 34, I was a single mother, struggling to work, finish graduate school, and get sober. I feel like I had been a good mom up until my 34th year when I suddenly left a stable marriage and took up drinking heavily. 

Because I had my kids so young, I rationalized in my mind that I never had a young adulthood. I had a few short-term relationships, one of which resulted in a pregnancy. I found out within days of missing my period because I was scheduled to have surgery. I had broken up with the man who got me pregnant. I grew up Catholic and never in a million years thought I'd be in this position. I was 34, not a teenager. 

I spoke with my doctor and asked what he thought about abortion. He said personally he thought it was ethical if done very early on a pregnancy so not to cause pain to the fetus. That stuck with me and I had my abortions few days after that conversation! I felt it was the best decision at the time. I didn't want to have another child while raising my own children who were 12 and 8 at the time. 

For the most part, I know I made the right decision and was grateful for a safe medical facility to have it done. Last week when I was leaving my doctor's office, I drove by some women with signs that said "Pray to end abortion" and "I regret my abortion." That made me really sad and I've been thinking about my abortion ever since. Even though now I'm very happily married, I've been going through horrible empty nest syndrome and rethinking my choice. If I hadn't had an abortion, I'd still have a 13 year old at home. Maybe it would have been another daughter. My own daughter isn't close to me like she used to be. So, in my head I know I made the right decision for the place and time but since seeing that damn sign, I've felt a sadness. I wouldn't call it regret but definitely sadness.


Note from Mabel Wadsworth Center:

If you need someone to talk to about your abortion experience don't hesitate to reach out. Here are a couple great resources:  



Friday, October 9, 2015

From the Bottom of My Heart

Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center,

From the moment I first called to make an appointment to the moment I walked out the door afterward, I never once felt uncomfortable, unsafe, or judged. Instead, I felt safe, comfortable, understood, and respected. The attention that was paid to ensure all of these conditions was incredible and the empathy and compassion I was treated with went above and beyond what I ever could have anticipated, expected, or hoped for. An experience that could have been negative and horrible was met with such care and compassion that I felt completely confident and at ease.

I know it must be challenging at times to face the type of opposition that practices like this often do, so I wanted to make sure that you knew that this practice, and most importantly, the people who work there, provide a necessary service in a manner that positively impacts the lives of your patients. Without the support of the staff at Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center, I never would have made it through this with the confidence and conviction I have, no matter how sure of myself I may act. Everyone needs support in situations such as this and I was provided that from every member of the staff I encountered, which meant more to me than I will ever be able to articulate.

I am having a very hard time finding the words to adequately express the gratitude I feel, so I will simply say this -

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for guiding me through this experience with such care for my physical and emotional needs and well-being, for offering me kind words of encouragement, strength, and compassion, for figuratively and literally offering me a hand when I needed it, and for reminding me that I am brave. I will be forever grateful for the care I was provided with at the Mabel Wadsworth Women's Health Center.

With all the sincerity and gratitude I possess,

Mabel Wadsworth Center Client

Friday, June 5, 2015

My Primary Emotion was Relief

By Jessy Brainerd

When I was in eighth grade at Catholic School, in my Religion class, we had to take part in a mock debate project.  I felt incredibly lucky to get to argue the "Pro-Life" side of the abortion debate.  It was simple to me - abortion is murder, and anyone who had one was a murderer, and, unless they were a cold, hard psychopath, would obviously regret it for the rest of their life.  I still have a photo I snapped of the two other kids who were on my side of the debate, grinning and holding this accordion fold pro-life brochure with photos of aborted fetuses.

Fast forward to my learning to think for myself, becoming a parent at 19, and starting college at 20.  By this point, I had definitely become pro-choice, although I still remember very clearly thinking that I was pro-choice for "other" people, and knew it was never a decision I would make for myself. 

At one point, when I was in college, I was visiting with a neighbor, a woman in her forties, and another woman her age was visiting.  Somehow we got on the topic of abortion, and the other woman shared that when she had been in her thirties, married with two small children, she had learned she was pregnant, and knowing that her family couldn't afford it, had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.  I can remember very clearly how uncomfortable her story made me.  I made polite and understanding comments, but can remember thinking VERY clearly that she had "taken the easy way out" and wondering how someone who already had children could possibly decide not to have another.  It just didn't make sense to me.

Fast forward again to the fall of my senior year of college.  I had been casually dating someone for a few months - nothing serious, we had been friends for years, and the relationship had evolved.  My daughter was four, and I was working part-time in an administrative office on campus, and going to school full time, consistently making the Dean's list.  I have never, in all my life, had a regular menstrual cycle, and it was not at all notable to me if I wouldn't get my period for months at a time.

The night of a big winter "semi-formal" party/dance put on by one of the fraternities, I was getting ready with a friend, who was concerned because her period was late, but didn't want to go to the store to buy a pregnancy test.  I ran out to the drug store, and there happened to be a deal on a two-pack, so I decided that since I'd not had my period in a couple of months, and was sexually active, that I might as well take a test with her.

I can't describe the level of shock I felt when I saw an almost fully darkened "plus" where I was quite sure a "minus" should have been.  I decided that the sign was too ambiguous, and went out, occasionally breaking down in tears between drinks and dancing.  The next morning, I went with my Mother and my daughter on a little road trip, and between the stress, and the previous night's drinking, ended up having to ask my mother to pull over on the side of the road so I could throw up.

When I returned to my house, my mother taking my daughter out for the afternoon, I ran into the bathroom to take another test.  This time the plus sign was unmistakable, fully dark and accusatory.  I immediately lit a cigarette and started to sob.  Mom came back in, as she had forgotten something, and asked what was wrong.  I sputtered out that I was pregnant, and started crying again.  She was silent for just a few seconds and then said "It's going to be fine - you need to either put out that cigarette, or we need to call Mabel Wadsworth."

I knew, right away, that I couldn't continue the pregnancy.  I suspected I was probably about eight weeks pregnant, and hadn't been treating my body in a particularly healthy way.  I was working, taking a full load of classes, with the necessary amount of studying and homework, along with taking care of a four-year-old. I was on track to graduate in the spring, and knew that would be impossible with a pregnancy, and with another child to take care of.  I was so close to getting out of the need for food stamps, low-income housing, and Medicaid, and the idea of putting my daughter through years more of that struggle was unconscionable; we had struggled enough.

Before I called to make an appointment at Mabel Wadsworth, I called the guy I had been dating, putting a movie on the TV for my daughter, and taking the phone in the bathroom.  I explained the situation, and as soon as I mentioned having an abortion, I could hear the relief in his voice as well.  Neither of us was at a place in our lives for a child.

I made the initial appointment for an exam, and after the pregnancy was confirmed, made the appointment to terminate the pregnancy.  Because it was December, and I had no idea how I'd feel afterwards, I bypassed Christmas, and made the appointment for the week of New Year's Day.

My sister went along with me to both appointments.  I remember being so incredibly grateful that I didn't have to walk through the awful protesters holding signs like the ones I had used in my "debate" back in eighth grade.  My sister held my hand through the entire process, and brushed my tears away when I started crying due to discomfort.

I remember before I went in for my abortion, being absolutely terrified that I would immediately be filled with regret, and that this would be a pivotal moment in my life, from which I could never bounce back.  On the contrary, while I did feel a bit sore afterwards, my primary emotion was relief.  I was feeling back to myself by that afternoon, and spent the day with my daughter.

Since that day, twelve years ago, I have not regretted my decision.  There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision.  This is not to say that I haven't had those "what if?" moments.  Just a couple of months later, the friend I had taken the test with did get pregnant.  She continued the pregnancy and has a gorgeous daughter now, she was also engaged to a wonderful man at the time, and they have since had another child.

I graduated on schedule that spring, and am incredibly happy with the path my life has taken.  As my daughter is sixteen now, teetering on the cusp of adulthood, I have shared my story with her, and want her to know that, if she is ever in a situation where she has a difficult choice to make, I will support her.

I don't think anyone makes the decision to have an abortion lightly, it's not like getting a haircut, it's a decision that affects your life on the basest level.  I wish more women felt comfortable sharing their stories, because it can easily feel like you are absolutely alone in making the choice you have, which is pretty crazy considering that one in three women in the US will have an abortion.