Back in the lobby, the young man insisting his broke girlfriend have a baby they can’t feed is slouched and pouting in his chair; crossed arms, splayed leg and lower lip stuck out like a toddler not getting dessert. I am ready to get lost in my murder mystery again when they call me back for counselling.
I don’t pay much attention. My goal is to correctly respond to this woman’s questions so I can finally get an abortion. I don’t want to get into the rape. I didn’t want to say anything that might hint I don’t want an abortion. I certainly don’t want to be sent home “to think about it.”
Then back to the lobby for medications. The nurse gives me 800 milligram Ibuprofen and asks me if I’m sure I don’t want the Valium most of the other women are taking. I briefly wish I could have one of the mysterious happy pills, but even Valium isn’t worth spilling the beans to someone so I can have a companion. With regret, I say no again.
The antis have predicted the procedure room will be filthy, with dried blood on the walls and tables, with jars of dead fetuses placed haphazardly on various counter surfaces, with unsterile instruments laying on a bedside table. They will tell you the doctor is mean, rough, covered in blood and won’t tell you his name. He might even rape you, or slap you if you scream out in pain too loudly, because oh yes, there will be pain.
The nurse calls me back to the actual procedure room. The table is not crusted in blood. It has stirrups that you put your thighs in and slide down to the end of the table, instead of stirrups for your ankles like at the OB/GYN. I am barely situated when another assistant knocks and asks if it is OK if she comes in. She’s carrying surgical instruments that have clearly just come from the autoclave. I can tell because the tape on the outside has the diagonal black stripes.
As she is laying out the surgical instruments, there is another knock on the door asking if they can come in. I say yes, hoping they will start and finish soon. I am dreading the pain. I feel like I did a few years earlier when I had an infected wisdom tooth. I wanted it out so bad because it hurt, but had to take antibiotics for 10 days. I spent the whole 10 days excited to have the tooth out, but nervous about the procedure. I feel exactly that same way on the table.
There is now a doctor and another nurse in the room. She gives me a stress ball to squeeze and offers to hold my hand. I take her offer and she wraps both her hands around mine. The doctor asks if I’m sure I want to do this and I quickly say yes. I am so ready for this to be over.
The doctor tells me what he’s going to do. Having Lidocaine shot into your cervix is about as pleasant as having it shot into your gums. The nurse says they will explain everything as they go, and I appreciate that, but still keep trying to raise my head to see what’s going on.
I get a glimpse of the cannula. Why do antis have these morbid fantasies about a dull suction instrument- there’s no way it could perforate a uterus, intestines and rectum.
The nurse explains that the suction machine can be loud and I may start to feel cramping, especially near the end. I am to tell her if it gets unbearable. I feel no pain when the doctor inserts the cannula. As the suction machine began running, I start to feel slight cramping in my uterus like I have with my menstrual cycle. It gradually becomes worse until it feels like the worst cramps I have ever had. Just as I tell the nurse I don’t think I can stand it and nearly squeeze her hand off, she tells me it will be over in five seconds. And it is. I don’t feel anything when they remove the cannula. The nurse tells me I can lay there as long as I want, but when I feel like it I can go to the bathroom and get dressed.
I am expecting to be bleeding profusely, after reading one too many an anti-choice site. That stuff crawls up in your brain without you even noticing. Another thing they swear is that after an abortion you will see baby parts floating in canisters. So I wander over to the covered canisters and peek at my products of conception. I am amazed at how much blood and tissue of mine it took to support a microscopic thing that looks like a jalepeno pepper. There are no hands, feet, ribs, head or any other identifiable body parts floating in the canister.
Pregnant, I had felt like a character in a B-grade horror movies – knocked unconscious, placed in a coffin – still awake as the evil-doer is shoveling dirt on top of my coffin – listening as each pile of dirt marks less time I have to live. I felt that way the entire four weeks waiting for surgery and now – just as I’m gasping my last breath – the movie hero finally shows up and yanks open the casket.
I feel nothing but relief.
In recovery, I feel a little guilty for not feeling guilty. The young woman who had been fighting with her boyfriend has found a temporary bravado and is swearing she’s leaving his ass. They give me my RhoGAM shot and discharge me with antibiotics and home-care instructions, along with a date for a follow-up exam.
I smile as I walk out to my car. I am so relieved there no protesters. I had read about how they mob your car as you enter the parking lot. I was afraid of being filmed and somebody I knew seeing the film. When I was dealing with the rape, someone screaming, waving signs, encircling me with their friend, and calling me a murderer and whore, might have broken me.
As it is, I leave smiling with relief. I smile for the next 40 miles. In the middle of nowhere, I realize I’m hungry. It had been so long since I had been hungry and suddenly I was. I drive-through at a McDonald’s at a tiny town off the interstate. Four cheeseburgers, a large order of fries and a large soda. I sit in the parking lot, eating cheeseburgers as fast as possible, and the tears finally come.
They aren’t abortion regret tears. They are tears of relief at being able to close this chapter of my life. Sitting in my car, alternating wiping my face and stuffing more food in it, I’m sure people think I’m crazy. It is the first time I have eaten in four weeks that I don’t puke at least part of it up.
Planned Parenthood was the only non-judgmental place I found that would perform an abortion. I know antis hate the idea that anyone can have a good abortion experience. But having an abortion saved my life. Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Planned Parenthood saved my life.