This is my story, one of many stories in my life, but one of the few in my
life that I believe is really worth sharing. I believe people need to hear
stories such as this, but we rarely do.
I need to begin my story with a little background. Several years ago, while
visiting my parents in Tennessee for Thanksgiving and introducing them to my
boyfriend Tom for the first time, I had my first manic episode and was diagnosed
with bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depression). I was hospitalized for 4
days. It began as mania and quickly escalated to psychosis. Suddenly and without
warning, I was quite out of my mind. This was definitely one of the most
significant, earth-shattering events of the 28 years of my life. After I left
the hospital, I stayed with my parents and let my mother care for me for a few
days before I faced returning to Delaware and to work. I was rather shaky,
skittish, and not my old self yet at all, but I had just enough courage or blind
faith to come back and face real life again. I didn't realize at the time that
most people take more time off after going through what I'd just gone through.
I was put on lithium to stabilize the mania, as well as the antipsychotic
haloperidol for many months, which literally robbed me of my self. I had none of
my usual optimism or love of life or humor. I had difficulty managing a smile
and felt like a zombie. This went on for a few months, which felt like an
eternity to me.
At work, I had been unhappy for a while, and just a few months after my
hospitalization, I found a different job within my company. I had applied for
the job, thinking I wouldn't get it but hoped I'd get feedback to help prepare
me for future attempts. To my surprise, I got the job. It meant moving back to
Tennessee, closer to my parents, but farther away from my boyfriend Tom in New
York City. I don't think I was ready yet for such a big change, but I dived in
anyway. I still wasn't feeling fully myself, and actually I had no way of
knowing if I ever would. I just kept telling myself to "hang in there."
At the end of my first day on the new job, I returned to my apartment, which
I'd moved into one day earlier, to find that it was on fire. The firemen were
putting it out as I arrived and a small crowd had gathered to watch. I lost my
pet parakeet, my bed, my clothes, and several other things, but I survived the
experience. And it was a relatively insignificant event compared with the
head-spinning experience I'd just been through and was still going through. I
was still recovering from the manic episode, adjusting to the medication and
trying to find myself again in the midst of a lot of change.
A few weeks later, I began feeling nauseous a lot, as if I had morning
sickness all the time. So, one weekend when I was on my way to visit Tom in New
York, I picked up a pregnancy test from a drug store. I couldn't imagine being
pregnant but I had to rule it out. I did the test as soon as I got to Tom's
apartment midday Saturday. The test came out positive. He and I just sat on the
sofa in disbelief and shock. (In general, I had always been careful about birth
control, but I had taken a risk that I thought was safe at the time. Obviously,
I was wrong.) Tom looked very upset, like he was just about to shut down on me.
I knew I had to act quickly. I didn't need to think long. I knew I couldn't have
a baby in the circumstances I was in. I was probably the most decisive I've ever
been. That day, I called a few abortion clinics in New York. It didn't take long
to find one that told me I could come in for the procedure on Monday morning. I
was thankful and relieved that I was able to find it over the weekend.
We had to go to the clinic over the weekend to have a conversation with
someone ahead of time about my choice. I was very clear, so this part was easy.
The rest of the weekend, Tom and I were both apprehensive and sad. I was
scared of the procedure. Tom was sad for me, and also scared. I think he was in
shock for a while over it. He was also relieved that I was so decisive and he
didn't have to make the decision that I'd made. For me, it was comforting to
have him near me physically while I waited for Monday morning.
I rescheduled my return flight, and on Monday morning, I called in sick. Tom
went with me to the clinic. He had something very important that he had to do
that day at work, so he couldn't stay with me. I had to face it alone, which
actually seemed appropriate.
Everyone at the clinic was kind to me and treated me with respect. It was
amazing. The people there were the most caring people I've ever encountered. One
woman (a social worker) talked to me privately in her office. We had a very
therapeutic conversation. She listened to me and reassured me that I had the
right to make this choice for myself, and that I was making my decision for
sound reasons. The women there explained everything to me. They held my hand
through the whole process, figuratively, when not literally. I saw many other
women there in my same condition. They were all or at least almost all
minorities. A few boyfriends showed up, but there were very few men around. I
felt a connection with the other women there. Some of them acted as if it were
no big deal to them. I was still very, very frightened. The process involved a
few different stages, and different waiting areas. Through it all, I was
resolute that I was doing the right thing. And though I was terrified, I allowed
myself to take comfort from the kindness of the staff.
I don't remember all the details of the actual procedure. I think I was given
something to relax my cervix, and I had to wait for a while. I remember having
to move into a separate, smaller waiting room and sit with a smaller group of
women, all of us wearing the same hospital gowns. There was a television mounted
on the wall with a soap opera on. It was a sad place to be.
I was then called in for the actual procedure (known as "extraction," I
believe). It was a small operating room that reminded me of a dentist's office.
I remember there was a good-looking, energetic black man working there. He was
something like a nurse, I guess. He held my hand and said something encouraging
and smiled at me. It was the most loving, compassionate smile I've ever seen. I
was so grateful. I was given anesthesia, and only got a brief look at the
surgeon before I went under. He made no effort to be personable toward me, which
was fine with me.
The next thing I knew I was lying on my back on a gurney in a room full of
other women just coming to after their abortions. The kind black man who smiled
at me earlier was there, and he was encouraging to me then as well. It was such
a blessing to have that kindness there, present with me, actually in the room
with me. Some of the other women were moaning in pain. I think the woman next to
me was moaning loudly. It was strange. I didn't feel pain at all, thankfully. I
don't remember how long I stayed after it was over, but I don't think it was
long, and I left and went back to Tom's apartment. I took a cab; I remember Tom
had insisted that I take a cab rather than the subway.
Once safely inside Tom's tiny apartment, I laid on the sofa and watched TV. I
felt sort of like a sick teenage girl, home from school. I watched "Doctor
Zhivago," that beautiful, tragic love story. It was perfect for the day. It
is a long movie, so I was able to just lie there for hours. His beautifully
decorated, tiny apartment was very womb-like and comforting to me. I don't
recall, but I think I stayed over that night and flew back to Georgia the next
A couple of years later, I was still remembering the kindness of the man who
smiled at me at the abortion clinic, so I decided it was time to write a thank
you letter. I didn't have anyone's name, but I wrote a letter thanking them for
how they treated me that day, and how they made such a difficult day bearable. I
pray that the caring ministry of those people and others like them continues to
be available and accessible.
I would not promote abortion as a preferred alternative anytime an
inconvenient pregnancy occurs, but speaking from personal experience, I know
that there are times when having the baby would be too much for a woman to bear.
I don't judge other women who find themselves in a similar situation to the one
I found myself in. I want what's best for all people, and I believe my abortion
was the best thing for everyone, including Tom, myself and possibly the unborn
fetus. I had been told explicitly not to get pregnant while taking the drugs I
was on (haloperidol, lithium, Wellbutrin®). Knowing that I was not supposed to
be pregnant influenced my decision, too, of course.
Personally, I don't happen to believe that an 8 week-old fetus growing inside
me is a "person" yet, so I don't condemn myself for what I did. I believe
I had the right to make the choice that I did, and I can live with it. However,
it was not a decision that I made lightly. It was still painful and difficult.
When I reflect now with the perspective of years having passed, I think I acted
like a general or a commander-in-chief who is put in a difficult position that
required decisive action that would result in loss of life, even his own men.
Even though the greater good may be served, it is not a decision he wants to
make. For me, going through the experience and carrying it with me for the rest
of my life seems to be punishment enough for what I did.
Out of the experience for me has come a deeper faith in God. That might sound
odd to others, but it comes quite naturally to me. I feel as though I walked
through the valley of the shadow of death, and God was with me all along, every
step of the way. I felt nurtured and cared for, and protected and safe, not just
by the caring people around me - the staff at the clinic, my boyfriend and my
best friend - but by God's constant presence. One big way that I came to know
God's love was through my ability to love and care for myself throughout the
Remembering this experience brings a few tears and a feeling of sadness and
loss. But it is also a way for me to be reminded and reassured of God's love for
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Just as it is written,
'For thy sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:35-39