BY RACHEL RICHARDS '17
Content warning: This column contains an in-depth description of the author’s personal experiences with abortion.
In the wake of recent abortion legislation, I want to hijack this week to talk about abortion, primarily surgical abortion. My abortion, until this moment, had been a secret shared with a handful of close friends and, accidentally, my parents. I want to do this because I am dedicated to making sure everyone has access to safe abortions. Nearly a year after my abortion a close friend shared her story with me outside of a bathroom at a party and for the first time I felt the warmth and support of solidarity. I’m here to tell you my story, and to tell you abortion is normal and important.
I found out I was pregnant in the Mead bathroom with a dollar store pregnancy test. My breasts were swollen, which had never happened to me during my period. I could smell if someone had thrown away a packet of salad dressing in the garbage across the room. It started with wild cravings, eating plates of just dining hall mac and cheese. I can still remember vividly dreaming about specific foods — entire dreams of me eating fried chicken. Shortly after, my cravings gave way to morning sickness. I was too nauseous to maintain a proper diet, and lost a significant amount of weight. The mood swings that had previously left me sobbing broke into numbness. On top of it, I was exhausted. I never felt any emotional investment in the situation, but I was fascinated with the experience. I continue to feel grateful. I know now something about my body that I would not have known otherwise, and that is pretty cool.
I made an appointment for an abortion on a Friday so I could have time to recover, time that I ended up deeply needing. The time in the clinic is a bit of a blur for me, but I can tell you I spent two mundane hours in a Planned Parenthood. I remember being whisked from room to room by kind staff. The procedure lasted only a few minutes with absolutely no discomfort. Afterward I threw up once in front of Mead in broad daylight. When the drugs wore off, I was in grueling pain for hours. While this is not a universal experience, I would suggest buying both acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and taking them on an overlapped cycle. This moment was not something I could have gone through alone. I needed people to bring me food, go to CVS for me and be a source of comfort. The cramps lasted on and off for a few days. About three days after my abortion I had intense cramps and started to bleed significantly for the first time. This lasted two weeks. A month later my period started up normally again.
What I have learned from the few stories I swapped with friends is that no one’s abortion is going to go the same way. A friend’s was emotionally straining, especially between her and her boyfriend, but her recovery was so smooth that after the anesthesia wore off she was up and moving around again.
My body continued to readjust. During pregnancy ligaments loosen; afterward they had to move back into their proper place. It felt like my body was a creaky old house, particularly my hips, which continued to cramp and twinge for a few months. My body is still different. My armpits smell differently, I enjoy the smell of roses more and lavender less, my periods are lighter and come with swollen breasts, I cannot eat that mac and cheese anymore. I felt and continue to feel nothing but relief and normalcy about my abortion.
The zine The Abortion Doula Project is an amazing resource. The PDF can be downloaded from their website.
I will drive you, I will help you find the funding, I will talk to you and I will be your support system. I can be reached at email@example.com
Rachel Richards is a peer health educator at Mount Holyoke College.