During a DJ gig in LA, I began experiencing PMS symptoms that lasted much longer than usual—tender breasts, insatiable hunger, and bloating. I kept expecting my period to start any minute. After a week of waiting, I checked my calendar (before the days of cycle syncing apps) and realized that my period was late.
My sweet friend Mary walked to a store with me to buy some chocolate and a couple of pregnancy tests. Like many people, I've nervously taken a number of pregnancy tests throughout my life—so as I apprehensively squatted down to pee on the stick, with Mary waiting on the other side of the door, I couldn't quite believe it when I saw the word PREGNANT pop up on the screen. I remember thinking, "it must be wrong!"
There's a strange moment when you experience shock, where you almost feel as though you're floating out of your body. It's as though your roots have been abruptly yanked out from the ground beneath you.
My mind frantically tried to make sense of what was happening. It grasped at different thoughts as they passed through my mind. I rewound to the past and fast-forwarded to the future, feeling afraid and anxious about the possible implications. How would my boyfriend react? Should I call my mum? Would she be disappointed in me? Was I deeply irresponsible for letting this happen? They say people with endometriosis can have trouble with infertility, so I was also struggling with feelings of guilt and confusion as I asked myself, "Is this my only chance to get pregnant?"
The one thought that I had with clarity, seemingly grounding me amidst the chaos, was that keeping the pregnancy wasn't an option. Although I was in a relationship and very much in love, I had an intuitive and deep feeling that this relationship and person were not right for me in the long term. Despite my desire to have children one day, we were not mentally, financially, or logistically prepared for a baby.
Being a woman and having to make bigger picture decisions can be difficult, especially when there is a real sense of urgency.
Five days later, I boldly walked into a clinic in New York City to undergo a dilation and curettage (D&C) abortion procedure to remove the tissue in question from my uterus. While the decision to terminate came "easily" to me, the aftermath was complex and grueling. I received very little support from my boyfriend at the time, which further clarified that he was not the right person for me to raise a child with. Although I had been clinical in my decision to terminate, perhaps because of the shame associated with abortions, how deeply challenging I found my emotions following the abortion was exacerbated. My hormones were undoubtedly running riot, but I also remember thinking that the deep sadness I felt afterward was like a sort of spiritual exchange or price I had to pay for the choice I made. In that moment, I had given up something profound, and this choice would ultimately reshape the course of my life. Having autonomy over my own body ended up being a gift. It was an opportunity to recalibrate and almost start afresh. It was another chance.
Seven years on I am now eager to start my own family and have struggled with two very painful pregnancy losses over the past 12 months, but even so, not a day goes by where I don’t feel that I made the right choice all those years ago. I am deeply relieved that I terminated that pregnancy, and immensely grateful that I live in a state where abortions are legal.
🩺 SCIENCE AND SPIRIT 👁️
from Dr Stephanie Colantonio, Looni’s medical adviser
At the age of 16, I had a surgical abortion and have never regretted it. Filled with fear and shame, I didn’t tell anyone about it until after college, when friends started confiding in me about their own terminated pregnancies. If someone had told me that nearly 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, I would have felt less alone.
Various emotions can arise after seeing a positive pregnancy test that you did not expect. Fear, sadness, overwhelm, and grief are just a few.
When you decide that you do not want to carry the pregnancy, it is important to recognize that you are safe and you have options.
During the first trimester, most people can choose between medical or surgical abortion.
- A medical abortion involves taking a pill called mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone. A second medication called misoprostol is taken 24-48 hours later. This is a prostaglandin that contracts the uterus to release the pregnancy. People who choose this option often appreciate the privacy and comfort of staying in their own home.
- A surgical abortion in the first trimester is called suction aspiration. A thin tube inserted into the uterus gently suctions the pregnancy tissue—the entire procedure typically lasts 15 minutes. People might opt for suction aspiration because it is a short procedure and usually causes less heavy bleeding. It’s 98-99% effective compared to 95-99% for the medical abortion.
Some people have more than one abortion in their life, and their choice of method to release the pregnancy might change. Many resources exist to support you through this process [see below].
A five-year study surveying 667 women, across 21 states, revealed relief as the most common emotion felt after an abortion.
Almost everyone in the study, including those who had difficulty deciding whether to terminate their pregnancy stated termination as the right decision at all time points up to the end of the five-year study.
This study, which was published in the Social Science & Medicine journal, debunks the assumption that most women regret terminating their pregnancies. This notion has been used by anti-choice activists to lobby for mandatory waiting periods and abortion counseling in many states.
For further reading, here is a link to the study; PMID: 31941577.
🌱 Spending time in nature can be a helpful support when healing from an abortion. It's important to rest your body for as many days as necessary before exploring movement, but walking, gentle hiking, gardening, sitting, wildcrafting plant medicine, picnicking, and other outdoor activities can be beautiful ways to get outside.
Dr. Stephanie Colantonio suggests these journal prompts for whatever is going on in your life right now, but they may be especially helpful if you are journeying through a pregnancy loss. Consider playing some music, preparing a warm tea, and writing slowly.
- What can you do to best care for yourself in this moment? What does your body, heart, and mind need in order to feel safe and nourished? Write a list.
- By making this decision, what are you possibly transforming in your life? What opportunities might saying "no" to this pregnancy, work situation, relationship, or other decision open up for a "yes"?
📚 Abortion Resources:
National Abortion Federation (NAF)
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1 Jones RK, Jerman J. Population Group Abortion Rates and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion: United States, 2008-2014. Am J Public Health. 2017 Dec;107(12):1904-1909. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.304042. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29048970; PMCID: PMC5678377.
2 Rørbye C, Nørgaard M, Nilas L. Medical versus surgical abortion efficacy, complications and leave of absence compared in a partly randomized study. Contraception. 2004 Nov;70(5):393-9. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2004.06.004. PMID: 15504379.
3 Gatter M, Cleland K, Nucatola DL. Efficacy and safety of medical abortion using mifepristone and buccal misoprostol through 63 days. Contraception. 2015 Apr;91(4):269-73. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2015.01.005. Epub 2015 Jan 13. PMID: 25592080; PMCID: PMC4373977.