I walked into the clinic, scanning the room. A couple comforting each other, a handful of women alone, their anxiety disturbing the tepid air. I was alone too. I wasn’t anxious, though. Scared, yes, but mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. There was no version of an abortion that sounded more pleasant than the other, less painful. The in-clinic abortion, while more acute, was at least a shorter process. I checked in, talked about insurance with the receptionist, then waited. And waited. Apparently the doctor was running late. After watching a bit of Little Miss Sunshine, I was called back to speak with the nurse. Was I positive this was the right choice for me? Was I positive about being positive? If I were so sure, why would I be crying? Did I want to talk to someone?
Yes. I was positive, and became more so every time I had to reanswer the question. I was crying because I didn’t know if it would hurt, but was fairly sure it would, and I don’t do well with surgeries. No, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I needed the growing fetus inside me to be out - that was my one and only surety.
Did I want the in-clinic abortion, or to take the pills home with me? In-clinic, please. That process involves a numbing and dilation of the cervix, followed by a removal of the fetus. I might feel cramping during the process. Okay, okay. Yes, give me the fentanyl. But, if I wanted the fentanyl, I needed a ride home. I hadn’t thought of that. What made me think I could have an in-clinic abortion, and simply walk out like nothing had happened? So, I called the one friend I could think of who might be free in the middle of the day on a Thursday and wouldn’t judge me. He was surprised to hear the news, but showed up not 20 minutes later like the guardian he is.
While he was on his way, I asked the sweet, polite, and patient nurse during my intake whether someone could hold my hand during the procedure. Yes, of course there would be a nurse in the room. They were so kind to me. I kept feeling it wash over me in waves, my surprise and gratitude at their kindness. I remember telling them all that, high on fentanyl about 20 minutes later, after I’d had the fetus removed from my womb.
The nurse gave me the IV tap of fentanyl and walked me to the room. It was terrifying. Some big box of a machine sat on the floor, that came up to my belly button in height - it said something on it that told me it was a vacuum. Was that what they were planning to use on me? The nurse told me no, that machine was for later-term pregnancies. I relaxed a little, and the nurse left me to undress. I laid on the table, naked from the waist down, paper under my bare ass, a warm blanket covering me, and I cried.
Soon, a new nurse and the doctor came in. While the doctor prepared her work station, the nurse asked me questions - what did I do for work? What did I do for fun? I told her about my book and the dance performances we were doing. The doctor interrupted to ask again, was I sure? She assured me it shouldn’t hurt much, and that the procedure would last only about 5-7 minutes.
I agreed, I was sure. She released my fentanyl tap, and I felt lightheaded immediately. Soon after that wave, I felt relaxed. I laid back, legs spread in stirrups, and let the doctor work while the nurse distracted me with breathing exercises and questions about my book. I cried the entire time, but not weeping. Just rogue tears streaming down my face while we chatted. I wasn’t sad or scared anymore, it was something else I couldn’t define.
It did hurt, a bit. I felt cramps, but barely. And not two minutes later, the doctor said we were all done, that everything looked perfect. She looked up at me, asked if it was as bad as I imagined, and I couldn’t answer. I turned toward the nurse, buried my face in her arm and wept. I don’t know why. I’ve never felt that way before. It was wordless and immense, so I just wept. The doctor didn’t wait to ask questions - I’m sure it was nothing she hadn’t seen before.
The nurse held me for a bit, petting my head, then asked if I wanted to get cleaned up. I said yes, and she left me with baby wipes and a pad. I sat up to see blood all over the paper underneath me. I wasn’t expecting so much blood. My feet felt weird hitting the ground - I was still high and I put the pad in my panties in slow motion. Then pants, then jacket.
A nurse took me to the “resting room” where they monitored my vitals for about 20 minutes, fed me crackers and apple juice. They had CD players for us to listen to - a Discman with headphones. I can’t even remember the music, I was so high. I never liked being that high, but I was grateful for how it held me in those moments.
They checked my vitals one last time before I slow-motion walked into the waiting room to find my guardian awaiting me, patiently and with concern. He was so loving. I couldn’t stop thanking him. He held my hand and walked me out of the clinic, while I cried into his shoulder.