Redefining Abortion: Lucy’s Story

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As part of our efforts to bust abortion stigma, we’re sharing real stories from real people who have chosen abortion. While Lucy didn’t have her abortion at carafem, we find her story funny, raw, comforting and honest, and we want to share it with you.

Interested in sharing your story, anonymously or not? Email us at [email protected] for more details. 

“My abortion gave me the freedom to continue making plans and dreaming big.”

I talk about abortion a lot. I know it makes people uncomfortable sometimes; I’m even willing to allow that that might be the reason I talk about it so much. I’ve become gifted at maneuvering very pedestrian, impersonal conversations around to become deep-dive investigations into my relationship with reproductive justice. I’ve done stand-up comedy about it onstage in front of 500+ people, I’ve nonchalantly inserted it into conversations with coworkers, I’ve tweeted about it countless times and shared it with people who were less than thrilled, for religious reasons or just for the sake of old-fashioned decorum.

Here are the facts: I was 25. I was in a pretty solid relationship with a man I trusted and respected. We were using the pullout method, which is actually so stupid a thing that it doesn’t even deserve to be labeled a “method.” We were using the Lazy Idiot’s Maneuver. The Don’t Think About It Too Hard Non-Strategy. I had lost too many hours to the chronic headaches brought on by various birth control pill brands and was exhausted by the whole thing, plus I knew from experience that Plan B was easy to acquire in case of a “downstairs oopsy-daisy,” which is a term I just made up to spare my family members the discomfort of actually having to think about me having sex.

Anyway, I went and bought Plan B the next day (for the third time in my trampy little life) and listen, the instructions say to take it within 72 hours which is three days, so I took it a day or two later, stuffed the box into my nightstand and forgot about it. (This seems like as good a time as any to interject my favorite Two Truths and a Lie truth about myself, which is that I’m actually allergic to semen, so “forgot about it” is inaccurate because that kind of pain, happening in that part of your body, is not easily forgotten.)

Five weeks later, my body started ringing alarm bells. I imagine that if we had been trying to get pregnant, the inexplicable nausea and excruciatingly sore boobs would have been less like alarm bells and more like the funky finger-snapping intro from Love on Top, but for someone who still wanted to backpack through southeast Asia, get a Master’s degree and maybe try hallucinogenic mushrooms, it was a very ominous feeling. I bought a box of pregnancy tests at CVS, took them one after the other, and then sat down on the hardwood floor outside my bathroom and said a lot of swears.

In truth it was nothing like the movies (this was before Obvious Child); I didn’t agonize over the decision for even a second. My boyfriend did not offer an opinion or any kind of dissent, he just showed up, emotionally and physically, and sat with me while I held my head in my hands, while I called my parents, and then while I stared at my living room rug for what seems in memory like at least six days. My mom’s reaction to the news gelled perfectly with how I felt about it, which is to say that she reacted as if I’d said I had a horrible case of the flu. She wasn’t angry or shocked or speechless, she just wanted to bring me over some food and make sure I had called the doctor.

My boyfriend and I left early the next morning for the Planned Parenthood in Gaithersburg. I remember applying eyeliner for some reason, and then crying it out when my roommate came into the bathroom to rub my back and ask me how I was doing. I don’t think I was crying because I was sad about having an abortion. I think I just felt overwhelmed and very suddenly, paralyzingly grown-up. I think that’s really the thing that ensnared me during those few days when I was going through the whole thing: I absolutely could not pretend for one more second like I was still a stupid kid, the baby sister who couldn’t be blamed for the broken dish. I was an adult who had been delivered the most adult responsibility possibly ever, and having an abortion felt just as much like a very adult decision as would choosing to have a baby.

The people at the Planned Parenthood in Gaithersburg were so good to me. They didn’t have to be. It was early in the morning, the lobby was dingy and sad, and they had probably seen so many young women in so many stages of unwelcome adulthood that it could’ve been entirely transactional and I wouldn’t have blamed them. But they asked me the requisite questions (are you making this decision on your own? Do you want to see the ultrasounds?) with such gentle kindness that I was moved to tears all over again.

I was still on my dad’s insurance at the time. The set of pills the nurses gave me cost next to nothing. If memory serves, the package of maxi pads and the consolation nail polish I bought myself later that day cost more than the abortion. We got burgers for lunch and took a nap, and then I tucked a few pills into my gums and… had an abortion. My abortion looked like this: me, prone on the couch in purple plaid PJ pants, my dad and boyfriend drinking whiskey on the rocks, my mom serving us dinner on the ottoman, a sudden onslaught of severe, sinister cramps, a sort of out-of-body moment in the bathroom when I looked down and saw something I didn’t totally recognize, a night of restless sleep and a day of Netflix and foot rubs.

Look, I know I got the privileged end of the stick here. I’m white, I’m from a well-to-do family, I have my own steady income, I had a partner who knew that my decision was the decision, and I have my health. I know that this story goes differently for everyone. Abortion, like womanhood and like feminism, is not a monolith; there is no right or normal way to have an abortion. But for me, the fact that I felt empowered and in control from start to finish means that it is my duty as a woman to talk about abortion as often as possible and in a way that makes it okay for other people to talk about it too, if they want. If you had an abortion and it wrecked you for a while, that’s okay. If you had an abortion and you haven’t told anyone about it, that’s okay too. If you had an abortion and you feel guilty about the fact that you never really felt guilty about it, that’s a billion percent normal and okay. I want you to know that should the day come when you want to casually mention it or write it down or make up a song about it, you can. I know you might be worrying that it’s one of those things you don’t talk about, or maybe you’re worried that if you talk about it some karmic evil will befall you or your mom won’t approve or your judgmental frenemy might try to start an unpleasant dialogue about it, but you should know that I’ve risked all of the above a hundred times, and even if you quietly say “I had an abortion” and you look up and don’t see anyone in your corner, know that I’m there with my arms open if you’re a hugger and if not we can just high-five and if that doesn’t feel right either, I can just be here, in your corner, talking about my abortion and ready to hear you too, if you want to talk about it.

lucy Lucy Samuel is a freelance writer, artist, activist and occasional stand-up comic living in Washington, DC.