My eyelids are heavy, a result of the medication cocktail still coursing through my veins – something to help ease the pain, something for the anxiety to help take the edge off, nothing to fix a broken heart.
While my eyelids are heavy, it is my heart that carries the much heavier load.
6 weeks pregnant today.
It’s been 2 weeks since the first pregnancy test came out positive and there have been many tests since. I took them, one by one, somehow hoping a negative one would confirm that none of this was really happening. One by one, every test came back positive. Pregnant. Pregnant. Pregnant. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
It was undeniable.
This was pregnancy number 6. The previous 5 resulted in 2 miscarriages and 3 beautiful children that I couldn’t imagine life without. I knew I was pregnant before the test could even confirm it; I felt it in every part of me.
Sometimes, 2 weeks can feel like a lifetime.
The decision to be here today wasn’t an easy one and I’ll spare you the details of how I came to make it, for now anyway.
But here I am.
Standing outside the door of the clinic, waiting for security to let us in. He’s standing next to me, dancing around in desperate need of the washroom. I have to go too, but I have been given orders to hold in my urine until after the ultrasound. We go through the first door and up the stairs to another one. Another door, another buzzer.
Can I help you?
I have an appointment at 10.
In the reception area, we both submit our ID. Security is tight here because it has to be. Although there were no demonstrators outside on this date, anti-choice advocates (or pro life as they affectionately call themselves) have become increasingly aggressive and violent. Confidentiality and safety are key.
Once we get through reception, he makes a run for the washroom while I sit down to complete the intake and information package. It’s long and as a social worker, I’ve seen this line of intrusive questioning before. To most, the questions seem random and unnecessary, but understanding the logic behind them sends me into tears immediately. I now know exactly how the counselling session is going to go, and I’m not going to make it without breaking down.
For the last 2 weeks, I’ve barely had an appetite. Because of the surgery, I haven’t been able to eat or drink since the small dinner I forced down last night. Now, I’m starving. Between the hunger and the nerves, I feel like I’m going to throw up.
They call me into the first office, the administrative part of the intake. I hand in my completed information package and provide all health insurance information for billing. Not all provinces make abortion available, and not all cover the costs. Out of curiosity, I ask how much the procedure would cost if I didn’t have coverage. I’m told it is between $500-$900 depending on how far along you are and any complications that may arise. Although I am fortunate enough to be able to afford that, I am grateful that my province supports the right to choose, regardless of the reason for the choice. At a time where so much uncertainty about women’s reproductive rights looms over the USA and the world, I count my blessings loud and clear.
The nurse hands me my first two pills, Ibuprofen for the cramping and an Ativan to ease the anxiety. I take both, and anxiously wait for the anxiety to taper off.
I go back to the waiting area and he smiles at me. I’ve become so familiar with that look but today it seems so foreign. I smile back, feeling myself becoming numb in preparation.
Stay here Sandra.
I repeat that in my head, over and over until I come back. My mind reverts to numb during times of trauma, a practice that although has helped me to survive in the past, it terrifies me. I have yet to find the words to describe that absence of feeling. If you’ve been there before, you understand why, and I’m sorry that you too have ever had to experience it.
I still can’t look at him; looking at him makes everything more real. The pregnancy. The baby. The pending abortion. The love.
The kind of love that I never saw coming and probably should have steered far away from. I wish I could have. I tried. Holy shit, I tried.
He asked me later, after everything was over, if I believed in reincarnation and how I felt about the afterlife. I said I believed that we came back to live and experience many different lives.
How do you know though?
Sometimes, I just feel it.
I wanted to tell him that I had felt that since the moment I first saw him, in this life. I wanted to explain how my soul recognised him, even though my eyes didn’t. That feeling that he had been in every life of mine before this. That love.
But I didn’t.
The nurse called me into the next room, the counselling room. I remembered the questionnaire I had filled out earlier and the tears came quick.
What’s going on?
I let out a laugh and raise my hands in a way that silently said “look at where I am!”
All of this?
I nod, taking the tissue she offers me.
I have no question that I’m making the right decision, but nothing seems to make it any easier.
Will you have any support after this?
I have spent the last two weeks full of love for those around me; there is no shortage of support in the life I created for myself. I have engaged in some very real, honest, raw and incredibly emotional conversations with some amazing people in the last 14 days. Friends who check in periodically, if not to talk, just to put a smile on my face and let me know that they are sending me positive energy and love. Friends who respect my space and pace, what I will and won’t share, and my need to just sometimes shut down and not say a damn thing. I am blessed.
She believes me and asks one more time if I’m sure I want to go through with this.
I say it, but no sound comes out. I nod my head, I’m sure.
She tells me to go grab my bag from the waiting area and that I’ll be moving to the medical area. I walk back towards him, grab my bag, desperately try not to make eye contact and walk away.
I follow the nurse into a changing area with lockers. I’m instructed to change into my nightgown and slippers, both of which I had to purchase the night before since I don’t normally use either. I lock up my belongings and head over to another waiting room. There are two other women in there waiting, Sheila and Steph. Enter Sandra, and I start to wonder if this is the “S” day at the abortion clinic.
Sheila is called for her surgery and within a couple minutes, I’m called for my ultrasound and blood check. After 3 children, I’m familiar with all these tests. The ultrasound monitor is tilted slightly away from me, I can’t imagine this is a coincidence. I peer over. The nurse sees that I want to see it and turns it so that I can watch. I wonder how many woman change their mind at this point as I make sense of the shapes before me. I’m staring at the screen as my 6 week old little bean comes into focus.
That love. Stay here.
I won’t change my mind now. I cry as I wipe the ultrasound gel from my already bloated belly and head back to the waiting area.
Steph is gone now too but Sunny has just arrived. Seriously, this really IS the “S” day at the clinic. Strange coincidence, I wonder if anyone else notices.
The nurse calls me in for surgery and asks me again if I’m sure.
I lay down on the bed and she inserts the IV successfully into my left hand, the blood pressure monitor on my right arm. She administers a much stronger painkiller and I become very aware that the Ativan has kicked in. Thankfully. Once everything is ready, she’s asks one final time.
Are you sure you want to do this today?
Now I’m hysterical, and getting scared that she won’t believe me when I say yes. I say yes and nod at the same time, still unsure if any sound is coming out of my mouth. She believes me and calls over to the doctor and nurse in the other room to tell them I’m ready.
They start the procedure and I continue to cry. As uncomfortable as it feels, I tell myself to feel every part of it. We punish ourselves in different ways, this, has always been my way. Pain.
They are using the ultrasound to ensure that everything is being cleared out but the cramping is making me contract my muscles, and its interfering with the image on the screen.
Relax your stomach.
I’m trying. I can’t relax anything. Before I know it, we are done and everyone leaves the room except for my nurse. She takes out my IV, sets me up with a pair of mesh underwear and a sanitary napkin for recovery. She helps me to sit up and walks me into the recovery room. I see Steph and Sheila again, both recovering. Steph doesn’t look good, she’s very pale and it’s concerning to everyone there. Sheila says she is feeling nauseous. The nurse puts me in my chair and covers me with a heating pad and blanket. She points to the crackers and cookies next to my bed and brings over two glasses filled with water and gingerale. I’m not hungry anymore.
I ask her to pull the curtains and she does, just seconds before I burst into tears. Steph is getting an IV put back into her and Sheila starts to vomit. I cry.
A few minutes later, when everything seems to settle around me, the nurse comes over to pull the curtains so I can get some air. She tells me that I need to try to eat and drink and puts two cookies on my lap before walking away.
I look at the cookies, two small social biscuits, and try to block out the sound of Sheila’s vomit next to me. I open the package and put half of one cookie in my mouth just as Sunny is being escorted into the recovery room. She is seated across from me and we make eye contact for a second before she bursts into tears. I desperately try to finish the cookies so I can get out of there, trying to wash the dryness out of my mouth with small sips of water. The nurse suggests some gingerale but watching Sheila drink some just before throwing up is making me nauseous at even the thought.
Please let me get out of here without throwing up.
The numbness hits me again; No dizziness, no nausea, no pain, no thoughts, nothing.
Stay here Sandra. Don’t allow yourself to go, not now. Feel!
They close Sunny’s curtains, and I can hear her sobs getting louder. I’m finally able to get up and use the washroom and when I return, I report my perfectly normal level of bleeding to the nurse so that I can be cleared to go. She hands me my aftercare package, complete with antibiotics to take to prevent infection, a common complication after an abortion. She explains everything in the envelope and tells me to go get changed back into my clothes. Once I’ve done that, I return to the waiting area where she meets me again to see if I’m ok.
She smiles at me in such a way that tells me she knows exactly what I’ve just been through. She tells me to be kind to myself, today, tomorrow and 5 years from now. That it’ll never go away but that this heaviness in my heart will.
Be kind to yourself.
She gives me a hug and I thank her, a strange sisterhood among strangers.
I brace myself to walk back into the waiting room but he isn’t there. I’m glad he isn’t. The process was supposed to take approximately 2-3 hours, but I had completed everything is just over 1 hour. The receptionist told me that he had stepped out to get me a coffee, I said I would meet him outside and left. As I stumbled down the stairs and outside of the building, the door closed hard behind me. I looked back and it hit me that I had just left behind a part of myself that I would never get back.
I started to walk towards the local Starbucks and my phone rings.