Today’s post does not sugar coat. I definitely consider it adult reading. If you are a child reading this, go get your mama before you read any further.
Valentine’s Day twenty-three years ago, I sat and stared at a plate of food and struggled to not throw up. I hated the whole evening, but especially looking at such a sweet lady in the eyes, my boyfriend’s mother, knowing what he and I had planned for two days later.
About a week previous, I had been feeling incredibly sick for days. Then, I had been trying to walk to my technical writing class at the University of Southern Mississippi, but couldn’t make it up the stairs. As I sat on the middle landing, crying and feeling absolutely miserable, my professor walked up. He took one look at me and said, “You need to go to the clinic.”
So I did.
I described my symptoms to the nurse and the first thing she said was, “Could you be pregnant?”
From that moment on, my life was never the same.
I stared at her.
She started right back at me. I know what she saw: a young collegiate in a white Gap jumper dress, navy t-shirt, white Keds, navy socks, and one of the biggest polka dot hair bows ever. I was a serious bow head in 1990. I was also a very young looking nineteen year old girl sitting in a hard chair stunned and staring.
It would have been funny that I was so shocked at the idea, except it wasn’t funny.
She broke the starefest and said, “We’re gonna rule that out first.”
I took the test and she instructed me to come back in an hour. I called my boyfriend and broke the life changing news to him. He said he’d pick me up at my sorority dorm in a little over an hour. I don’t remember what I did for that hour. Not one moment of it.
As soon as I saw the nurse, I knew.
The only words I recall her saying were, “You are pregnant and you have three choices….” I clearly remember wondering what in the world she meant with three, but I didn’t say a thing because my head was spinning and so was my world.
The three minute walk back to my dorm was surreal. I wondered how everyone moved around as if normal instead of in slow motion like myself, while at the same time I worried there was some kind of neon sign flashing over my head, “PREGNANT!!”
One look at me and my boyfriend had his news. We went to a local park and I bawled. I had my head in his lap and I cried and cried. The only part of that conversation I recollect was him saying, “We can do whatever you want”, and me saying, “I don’t know what to do”. Somehow that all morphed into making an appointment for an abortion. Honestly, to this day, I don’t know how that happened.
The only clear thought in my head was, “I don’t want anyone to know. Ever.” I felt out of control. Allowing my boyfriend to take that control was natural.
I do remember the moment I was laying down on his sofa in his fraternity house and he made the call, not just figuratively, but literally. The call to the clinic. I remember clearly hearing him say, “We want to make an appointment to terminate a pregnancy.”
Terminate a pregnancy.
Yup, that’s what we were doing. That’s all.
I was a mess. A big fat stinking mess. About that termination appointment.
To the outside, it looked like my boyfriend and I were in big trouble. To all our friends, that’s how it certainly seemed. I didn’t know until sometime later that his roommate tried to use the opportunity to bring in an old girlfriend. My boyfriend explained what was going on and that instead of tearing us apart, it was pulling us together. I really believed that was true also. For a long time I believed it.
Other friends worried about my stress level, since I was sick all the time. I have to admit I’m surprised no one caught on. Maybe because I had all day sickness, not just morning sickness.
A classmate asked the day before my appointment if I was and my boyfriend/I were ok. I told her what was going on and something I misunderstood as God’s loving kindness to me happened. She said, “Oh, no. Well, ok. You’re going to be ok. I had one in high school. It’s going to hurt, but it will be over quickly.”
I’m sure she said more to comfort me. I just don’t remember what.
That next morning, we had to make a two hour drive to the abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, so I was picked up very early. I slept all the way there.
There were some picketers across the street. I kept my head down and so did he. We practically ran inside. We got the paperwork and he started writing. I remember thinking later that I wished I hadn’t used my real name.
Talk about a strange waiting room. No one wanted to make any kind of eye contact. Honestly, I’m pretty sure everyone wished there were cubicles. With cones of silence.
We were called back for consultation, which really meant to pay. Honestly, as they talked about terminating the pregnancy, all that was described was a piece of tissue being removed. It cost about $300. Cash.
A piece of tissue removal and a termination of a pregnancy. I held on to these words.
My boyfriend handed over the roll of bills he had collected.
We went back out to the silent waiting room to wait for my turn for tissue removal.
When my name was called, I realized my boyfriend wasn’t coming with me.
From that moment on, I felt like a lonely member of an assembly line.
I was brought through a succession of rooms. The first one was the confirmation room, where I got another pregnancy test to make sure I was really pregnant. The puking was a giveaway, but since I wasn’t puking on them all day, they wanted to be sure.
After the talkative nurse told me that I was indeed pregnant, I was asked to put on a hospital gown and place all my clothes in a plastic beach bag to carry with me throughout the day. Weighed, measured, etc.
Finally, I ended up in second waiting room, filled with silent women, all with their heads down.
Every race seemed to be represented and a wide age range. We weren’t all dumb teenagers who got busted doing what everyone does, but no one is supposed to get caught doing. Like myself.
One woman had her name called and she walked through the door. The door. We all knew what the next step was and I couldn’t bear to think about it. Yet, it consumed me.
I was pretty irritated by the chatty nurses. I suddenly had the realization they were probably instructed to talk because none of us would.
Then one of the nurses offered a Saltine to a lady and we all blinked. And asked for one too. Awkward laughs released and even more awkward comments about how miserable morning sickness was.
For what felt like eternity, I waited. Then my name was called. I’m pretty sure I paled. Even now…. twenty-three years later, tears spring and I can almost feel the sensation of walking through that doorway.
Instructed to lay down on a cold metal table, a nurse’s face appeared over mine. A doctor rolled in. I kid you not. That’s how I remember it: he rolled in on a doctor’s chair. I never saw his face. He said, “Hello, Melinda. This will be quick.”
I think I hated him from the moment he spoke my given name.
Suddenly, a loud vacuum started and I thought my uterus was on fire. The nurse told me I could hold her hand and I did. I squeezed her hand. I cried like a baby. Like the baby dying within me was doing, but I didn’t know that at the time.
I just cried and hurt. And held that nurse’s hand. Even after the vacuum stopped.
I don’t remember being walked to my assigned recliner in a large room full of other women recovering from tissue removal. I do remember a large black woman coming, shaking me, giving me an injection, and shoving some papers in my bag while saying, “Keep these. They are important for you.” They must have given me some drugs , but I don’t remember that part. I only believe that because I was so groggy and slept so long.
Finally, a nurse came to tell me it was time to get dressed and leave.
My boyfriend picked me up outside the back door. Yes, seriously. Not a single soul anywhere.
I got in the car and slept more.
About an hour later, I woke up, ravenous. I told him to stop at the first place we saw, which ended up being Burger King. I downed two bacon double cheese burgers, onion rings, and a chocolate shake.
This is when I started believing the whole thing was pretty much behind us. I could eat. Time to enjoy my sorority’s two day formal. Granted, I was bleeding and medicated, so we had a few days to wait for normal life to resume, but it would. No alcohol for us (I told him if I couldn’t drink, then neither could he because we were in this together) a few weeks, so none for the two parties: one that night and one the next.
We even greeted our out of town company, a fellow sorority sister and her boyfriend from a different university, both friends of mine from high school. They had no idea how I had just spent my day. They just thought it was odd I wasn’t drinking.
We took plenty of party pics. I was smiling in all of them.
The next night, during the formal, I looked great. Seriously. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve looked beautiful and that night was one. One of the most gorgeous girls in the sorority (an actual calendar girl) came up and said to me, “You’re the most beautiful one here tonight.”
Those are the kinds of words I have always wanted to hear. Any other night, my heart would have soared. My mind was clear as a bell, sadly, because I was not allowed to use alcohol to numb it. I can actually see the whole scene in my mind: her walking up to me and saying it.
I thought of the dress. I thought of how my hair looked. I thought of how I was still bleeding.
I never wore the dress again and I refused to let anyone else. I never wore the white Gap jumper dress and navy shirt either.
It was time to move on. It was taken care of. Painfully, yes, but still taken care of. All over.
Except it wasn’t.
That is how my abortion played out on February 16, 1990, but it’s not my abortion story. There is much more to my story than that day. Stick around or visit often to really hear my abortion story. It’s actually a glorious one. I couldn’t be more grateful God made it so.
Have you walked this path? Love someone who has?
Why am I sharing this? click here.