I'm fifteen. I'm standing in the hallway upstairs at home. "I don't want you to stay over at his place", mum says. Enraged that she won't let me decide what I get to do, I defiantly spit back "If you're worried about us having sex, we can do that anytime!" I can tell my words land like a slap. I'm too mad to feel guilty. She takes a moment to answer "Well I hope you're at least using protection". "Of course we are!"
A week later, it's been seven weeks since my last period. I bring home a pregnancy test. Pee. Wait. And there's the blue line. I have a problem to solve and I move into action. I call the health clinic and ask for an abortion. I have to go in to the clinic and confirm I am pregnant. I'm indeed pregnant. I get medications to take at home, and an appointment at the hospital for the day. I'm staying at my aunt's that week. I lie about why I need to catch the bus in to town for the day. I get to the the hospital, nervous that my mum will show up at the women's clinic or that the staff will recognize me and tell her. She works at the hospital and we look so much alike. I have the required psychological assessment. It takes no more than 15 minutes. Am I really sure. Do I need any support? I just want to get it over with. The ultrasound confirms I am 10 weeks pregnant. I'm down to the wire for a medical abortion.
I get my own room. They give me a pessary to soften the cervix. The pain is excruciating. I'm told the cramping I am experiencing is like pre-labour. The nurse offers an injection of additional pain relief. My best friend arrives, but she has brought another friend I don't know. I now feel like a zoo animal they have come to look at. Lunch arrives and I can hardly eat. Moments later I vomit. I just about make it to the sink by the side of the bed. When I go to the washroom, clots splash into the bowl. I wonder if one of them is the fetus. I don't remember leaving or getting back home. It's another two weeks before I tell my boyfriend. He looks at me with wounded eyes 'why didn't you tell me?'
Because women in my family do it on our own.
Despite growing up in abortion access heaven (Sweden), the internalized shame was too big of a hurdle.
20 years later, I finally tell my mum. I confess I never told her because I didn't want her to know she was right; that she knew better and I needed her. She says "Well isn't it great that you had access, and it worked, even all those years ago." I'm relived to no longer carry the secret and finally sad that I went through it alone. For the first time, I cry over the loneliness I felt all those years ago.
Over the years, I would sometimes imagine the child we never had. "He would be 5 years now" (I was convinced it was a he). I struggle to even imagine how different my life would have been. I'm grateful for everything that came since.
Part of the abortion stigma is the myth that surgical abortions can cause scarring that impact fertility. Knowing what I know now, I wish that option had been offered and encouraged at the time. Later term medical abortions are more intense because of the size of the fetus at that point. 10 weeks (or 70 days since last menstrual period) is the last recommended use of RU-486.