In the summer of 1990, I had just turned 22. I was living in Chicago, finishing up my undergraduate degree in Theater, following the Greatful Dead around the midwest, generally having a good time. I had a sweet boyfriend, who was a drummer in a band (I had already dated the guitarist) who all lived in "the loft" together. It was such a great time- we were all such close friends (I'm still friends with all of them.) Very 1960's commune-free-love kind of thing. When classes started in September, I was fully entrenched in trying to graduate after having taken a year off between college in Vermont, and having moved back to Chicago to finish up my degree. I remember a few weekends I spent at my boyfriend's apartment, being very care-free about the sex we were having. I think I may have been between prescriptions of the pill (they all affected me terribly), and trying to be somewhat careful about using condoms. I do remember one marathon night in particular, when one of the condoms broke. Ooops. In the beginning of October, I noticed I hadn't gotten a period when I should have (two weeks after I should have.) I took a home pregnancy test and, you guessed it, Preg-o. I immediately puked. And I didn't stop for the next 2 weeks. I developed HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum), which is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy- to the point of danger. I was puking 6 or 7 times a day, and basically couldn't function- all I could do was drag myself out of bed and onto the couch every day. My roomate was awesome and took such great care of me (as did my boyfriend, but he was also dealing with school.) I tried everything to quell the sickness: I kept ginger-ale and saltines next to the bed, and made sure my stomache never got too empty. I ate small, frequent meals, avoided fried food and sugar, nothing helped. After many really difficult discussions, my boyfriend and I decided that it just wasn't the right time to have a baby. (A prophetic decision, as it turns out) We were both trying to finish school, both very young and neither in a position to be parents. So I called my doctor, and scheduled an abortion. She was pregnant herself at the time, and was so understanding and supportive. Because the HG had gotten so bad and I was getting badly dehydrated, she put me on an anti-nausea medication she said she would NOT have put me on, had I decided to have the baby. I knew right then, that that was the turning point for that baby and for the pregnancy. But oh- the relief. I had also made the decision not to tell my parents about any of this drama. I was putting myself through enough hell about it, I certainly didn't need the extra drama only my mom-the-diva would most certainly provide. So I didn't. I distinctly remember one night, sitting in my room in my apartment, talking about everything with my BF just before we had made up our minds about what to do. I will NEVER forget what he said to me:
"What if this is your one and only chance to have a baby?"
What if this is your one and only chance to have a baby. How those words ring in my ears to this very day.
I had another doctor's appointment, at which the "chief" OB/Gyn in my doctor's office was to check me out. He was an older, "old school" kind of doc- so pure in his condescension it was amazing. He walked in, and proceeded to ask me some questions, mostly about my choice. He then did his version of an exam, at which point he lubed up two gloved fingers and, without warning or even a single word, bruskly shoved them up my ass. Yep. you read that right- ass. Not vagina. Now I'm a Doula- I've seen a whole lot 'o"stuff" but I've never seen this in any exam situation. Of course, there was no nurse in the room either. To this day, I'm completely perplexed by it. He was a really well known OB. And he was completely abusive. After the exam, after I had gotten dressed, we had a "come to Jesus" sit-down in his office. He proceeded to lecture me all about responsibility, the evils of abortion, and to shove lots of adoption pamphlets into my hand before showing me the door. As if I didn't feel like shit enough. I remember thinking that I wished I HAD told my parents, if nothing else than because my Dad would have pounded this guy. But I was so vulnerable and naive and wracked with guilt. I did not change my mind, however, and made him schedule the whole affair for the following week.
On Tuesday morning, October 16, 1990 my BF and I checked in to the same hospital I was born in. 7:00 am sharp. It was a gross day- rainy, dark, cold. Perfect. In those days, abortions were performed in an OR. I was fully awake during the procedure, and my legs were up and strapped into stirrups. My whole lower half was at such an awkward angle, and so exposed. There were those green blankets, or whatever they were, draped over my legs, I was in a hospital gown, hair up in a cap, as if I was going through surgery. There were other people milling about the room while my hoo-ha was out there for all to see. One of the interns came and took a "look," as others were setting up trays and tools. I'm sure I had already been given something to "take the edge off." My doctor came over to the side of table, with her big pregnant belly, to reassure me and let me know how things were going to go down. I reached out and patted her belly, looking pathetic, and she said to me, "don't worry- your time will come someday."
I won't describe the procedure itself- it's really too horrifying. It was SO painful. It sucked.
Afterwards, we had to go down to the hospital admin. area and pay our bill. Because neither of us had any insurance, we were paying with checks. While I sat in the woman's office writing out my check, I vomited into her trash can.
Among the many journals, datebooks and notes I've kept over the years, I came across an essay I wrote at that time for an exam. It was a class on human sexuality. The "bonus" question was, "Discuss the advantages/ disadvantages to abortion based on your knowledge, readings and any additional information you know about the subject."
Here's what I wrote: