Two home tests, a urine test, and a blood test. Positive.
"So you want to keep it, right?" The lovely female doctor looked at me with endearing eyes, ready to help me start my pregnancy and my new life.
"No," I said, "I want an abortion."
The look in her eyes changed from my own to the floor. She only looked back at me once before leaving the doctor's office to make a condescending cut I wouldn't forget: "And please, next time, use contraception.' She slammed the door.
The shame in that woman's eyes still haunts me today. I didn't go to my family doctor because he was male. The hope that she as a fellow female would understand my struggle and affirm my thoughts that things would be okay, died quickly.
I remember walking home from that doctor's appointment, blasting feminist music from my phone. I used to be self-conscious about walking around in public because I didn't like people staring at me from their cars, making judgments about how I looked or who I was. But this time it was different. I didn't care what people thought because for once I had the feeling they might not know everything.
I always knew I would get an abortion if I got pregnant before I wanted to be. I remember saying that to myself throughout high school. I would state it so casually, not caring if people had a problem with it. I would have friends that would say things like, "But I just couldn't do that, it's a baby." Though of course, it was scientifically incorrect information, they still had a deep feeling abortion was just plain wrong. But I always thought, what about the woman? The thing that's actually alive? How do cells garner so much sympathy, but the beating heart of a woman in distress is shown none?
With some things, you cannot fully understand them unless you experience them yourself. It shocked me how much shame I felt for doing something I never thought was shameful. It was hard for me to accept that I was not only doing something people didn't agree with, but that they didn't agree with it to the point where they called girls like me murderers. The shame that society puts on you was personally more difficult to deal with than anything else. I know, not everyone is an extremist when they're pro-life, picketing abortion clinics or sitting in the Oval Office signing papers, but the overall basic stigma surrounding abortion feels like it never ends.
It was a painful time. The boy who got me pregnant moved away and got a new girlfriend. I was losing friends, cutting them out as growing pains sometimes make us do. I was newly graduated from school and got a job working in a book warehouse. I would find religious books that would say things like "abortion is murder." There were pro-life, anti-abortion protests in my hometown. I had insomnia, depression, anxiety, and looking in the mirror grew more painful every day. I didn't know what was wrong with me and it was all hard to make sense of. I felt like I couldn't talk about it because I thought people would judge me. When I did open up, I felt misunderstood or unaffirmed by the responses of others and their dry support.
When you have a broken arm, people see the hurt. They support and comfort you, and they want to help you feel better. The pain is literal. But when your pain is on the inside, it's difficult to comprehend for yourself and others. You want help, but you don't know how to get it because you're afraid people won't understand, mostly because you don't understand it yourself. When we teach girls that abortion is shameful, we teach them to be silent. If they've had an abortion, it's a secret that they can never speak of again. Fuck that.
I have learned from my counselor that when we don't deal with fucked up emotions, they pile up and intensify. Some family or friends may never understand your situation. But let me tell you now, to any girl reading this who has had an abortion or may go through one: What you're doing, will do or did is not wrong or shameful. To make a choice is to be bold. To choose yourself is the ultimate act of care.
Luckily, I live in Canada where abortion is socially frowned upon, but ultimately legal. The clinics are small and underfunded, but they exist. For women around the globe, abortion is a struggle to access, due to the legality of the procedure, the expenses, and the limited access. This breaks my heart.
Sex is everywhere. We cannot escape it. Yet, periods, birth control, and even the word 'vagina' are taboo: there's blue liquid as period blood in commercials, birth control ads are vague and ambiguous, 'vagina' is seen as a swear word on television, and of course, abortion is an extreme taboo. Society wants our bodies for their appearance, not for their living, breathing actuality.
Now, as time goes on, though it hurts to hear someone one is against abortion, I think more importantly whether they think it should be legal or illegal is more necessary to discuss. It shows them if they think women can be their own people. And if they think abortion should be illegal, they don't think women deserve the right to their own bodies. It's as simple as that.
I became a woman that day. Raw, real and brave; I took control of my body and made a choice that would affect the rest of my life. I can't thank myself enough for being strong, walking into that clinic to make sure I was going to live the life I wanted to, while feeling judgment for what ultimately is my and every woman's, choice.
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Megan Gray is a copywriter based out of Calgary, running an online feminist platform called Menstruation Nation. You can find her on Instagram at @nationmenstruation.