I’m lucky to have two days off for the dreaded trip to the Big City. I have never driven there and the thought of eight lanes of cars whizzing by as I desperately look at my directions and pray to find the right exits worries me. During my first trip, I cry. I begin to think the universe is telling me to ask for help, but that would mean talking about the rape. My mind shuts that idea down fast. A tiny part of me believes if I could get rid of everything that reminds me of the rape and never talk about it, then it would be like it never happened.
Leaving many pissed off drivers in my wake, I finally make it to PP. To my relief, it is clean and bright, not the dingy, rotting, mold-covered place the antis say it is. A pleasant but efficient phlebotomist takes me back to the lab and draws my blood with minimal pain. When I turn white and start seeing stars, she gets me some orange juice and helps me lay down on a table until I feel better. I should have warned her I do that a lot.
Big City PP is not offering RU-486 so my only choice is a surgical abortion. I had hoped to get the medication abortion, but would have had to drive 5 or 6 hours further. And I have to wait four weeks to have the surgical procedure. I get horrible morning sickness that stays all day. My co-workers are convinced I’m bulimic. I swear I feel my jeans getting tighter around my waist every time I put them on, even though I’m losing weight from not being able to eat. Each day, I wake up, puke, remember that I’m pregnant with a rape baby and feel an irrational panic that I am never going to get the abortion and will be forced to give birth. It is the longest four weeks of my life.
Finally, the day for the procedure comes. I am ready three hours early, so I get on the road, steeling myself for more traffic trauma. It’s a good thing I do, because there’s a giant multi car pile-up on the interstate (no, it doesn’t have anything to do with my lack of city driving skills).
I’m still the first one to sign in for the abortion clinic. I sit in the downstairs lobby, reading, rather than roam around a strange city and possibly miss my appointment. I lose myself in the adventures of Alex Delaware, the psychologist who helps a police detective solve serial killings. When I drag my head out of the book, I notice that many more people are in the lobby. Five minutes later, we go to the upstairs lobby, which is also clean and bright; no blood on the floor, no women bleeding out or staff berating women.
I have already filled out my forms and I’m not feeling chatty. I want to stay lost in my fantasy world. The woman across from me, well barely a woman, she’s maybe 18, looks like she’s been crying, and like she might let loose again. I hope she won’t talk to me (a selfish thought which I’ll later regret). But I hear her in surround sound as she tells the man with her that there is no way they can afford to have a baby. He disagrees and says he doesn’t understand why she gets to decide. She half-heartedly says she can’t believe he would try to tell her what to do, then throws her hands up and buries her face in a tissue.
I finally get called back and turn over my pile of papers to the nurse, who reviews my medical history. I find out my blood type and that, yippee, I get to pay $50 and get an extra shot. The nurse takes me to another room with a comfortable chair and small TV with a built in DVD player. She says the movie will explain how the procedure is done and what to expect.
I want to tell her I have already read, both on the internet and in books, how abortions are performed. I have seen the photoshopped and mislabeled images of the antis, who would have me believe my gestating embryo is currently knitting “mommy” a sweater in utero, but I’ve also read good information from legitimate sites and medical texts. Still, when you have been bombarded with tales of abortion clinics being blood-spattered abattoirs it is hard to completely get the idea out of your mind – although,I would have taken my chances with an abortion in the abattoir rather than giving birth.
Back in the lobby, the lady sitting next to me is chatty. She and her husband, who is outside smoking, just can’t afford another child. They have three already and are barely making ends meet, she can’t afford to take time off work, she is too old to start over, her other children are in school… I just nod, too wrapped up in my own problems to offer support, or even tell her she doesn’t owe anybody an explanation.
It’s a relief when they call me back to check my iron. I am afraid it’s going to be low, but I am just over the limit. The nurse walks me to the ultrasound room.
The ultrasound tech is super cheerful. I just want to hop on the table and get it done. She explains that she is going to try to get the images she needs doing an abdominal ultrasound but she may have to do a transvaginal since I am early in the pregnancy. She puts some sort of cold gel on my abdomen and uses a small, hand-held device to try to get an image. She slides, presses then looks at the screen and frowns. After a few tries, she says she is sorry but she has to do the transvaginal.
I think she expects me to throw a fit, but I’ve been reading about the process and am actually ready for this. She leaves, I undress from the waist down and lay back on the table. Over my shoulder, I see the transvaginal attachment, like a sex toy on steroids.
The ultrasound tech puts a condom-looking thing over it. tells me it may be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. Still smiling as she inserts the attachment, she keeps reassuring me that this won’t take too long. She looks from my face, to the probe and to her screen. Finally, she tells me has the image she needs.
“Can I see it?” I ask.
She cocks her head sideways, as if I’ve asked something she’s never heard before. She says most women don’t want to see, but I can if I want to. I do. I need to see it to make my final peace with this decision. She turns the screen. It looks like a jalapeño pepper; not at all like the antis’ pictures of 7 week embryos that they describe as “fully formed babies.”
The ultrasound tech steps out, and I get dressed again.