11.26.15 – The abortion

I had a Thanksgiving abortion. This was good because I don’t care much for the holiday and was provided ample time off from life to recover. I spent the morning preparing for the experience. A mound of warm blankets, heat pads, ginger ale, tea, one can of emergency Vernors, a bag of ice for snacking, a playlist of b-rated movies, one soft cat, a thermometer and a bottle of Percocet (an abortion gift), Ibuprofen 800 (prescribed), an antibiotic, an anti-nausea medication, and four pills of Misoprostol. The video I watched at the clinic informed me that cramping could begin as soon as thirty minutes after taking the medication but up to twenty-four hours to pass the pregnancy tissue. I would be having a miscarriage at home. I could expect contractions, nausea and bleeding. At three o’clock I washed down a half Percocet and one anti-nausea with a tall glass of water. At three thirty I placed two pills against the left side of my cheek, and two pills against the right cheek, took one deep breath, and pressed play on John Carpenter’s They Live. The pills dissolved slowly into a paste of wet sawdust in my mouth. I lay there with swollen cheeks for forty minutes until I could wash away the remaining pill-goo from my gums.

They tell you every woman’s experience is different. What a shit way of skirting around it. When a doctor prescribes you pain medication, you should find out why and then ask for more.

I started bleeding at four thirty, then a little pain. It didn’t resemble typical ovulation pain. It was more substantial. Deeper. Lower. Buried. It’s a peculiar thing to consciously feel one of your internal organs. At first, it was like a large fist slowly pressing out against my uterus, moving across one hip to the next and back. Then, a boulder rolling between my ovaries. I applied more heat and felt heavy. I fell asleep for a little.

Sometime between an alien police raid and Roddy Piper’s final blow my body transitioned into animal. Something took hold of my abdomen and began to ring it out. I woke up covered in sweat and blurry-eyed. I vomited. Then I was taken over by electric, resonant throbbing. I didn’t feel prepared. I expected waves of pain, but this was relentless. It could be a full ten minutes of this miserable state before a moment of stillness. There was more throbbing than there was not throbbing for several hours. I bled more.

I couldn’t lie down, I couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t sit. I walked around hunched over, crawled on the floor, sat cross-legged, laid on my side, on my stomach, with my feet up and my head down, then my head up and my feet down but nothing was comfortable. I was trapped inside of myself.

It was six thirty. I vomited again and fell asleep. It was more exhaustion than sleep. I didn’t rest. I just gave up for a little. It woke me up again at seven thirty. This time, worse. I must admit, when I’m in pain sometimes I cry. I didn’t cry once. I was somewhere else altogether.

Everything became a sort of alternative reality where I was floating above myself. I transcended pain and became primal, and bloody. A relentless electric shock. I vomited again. Then felt something drop out of me.

I didn’t look.

I collapsed again at eight forty-five and awoke at nine thirty. The third act was unforgiving. I’m not sure I have real memories from these final hours. Everything was white noise. I bled and I bled until I expelled one last something. I didn’t look and I didn’t care.

At ten fifteen it was over. Time was thick. I was suspended in that moment immediately after an old television has been turned off, when you can hear the static and a faint ring although nothing’s there anymore. I drank some ginger ale. Ate some mash potatoes and fell asleep. Strange dreams.

30 thoughts on “11.26.15 – The abortion

  1. Oh good god. I can’t believe it’s that awful. How come no one tells you that??? Is it like that for all women? Is it normal to vomit? Does the way you have the abortion depend on how far along you are? Why did you have to do it at home? I have so many questions!!!!

    And thank you for posting.

    1. The experience that I had is not the same for everyone, but vomiting is typical – which is why they prescribe anti-nausea medication. I was also very nauseous throughout my pregnancy leading up until the abortion, and many women are not. I was only eight weeks pregnant when I had my procedure, but again, each experience is unique to the woman because each of our bodies are different. It’s standard to have the procedure at home. If you think about it, there are many painful medical procedures that we go through at home, recovering from surgery, passing kidney stones, physical therapy after an injury, etc. The pain was intense but it only lasted a few hours and then it was over.

      Feel free to email me if you have questions that you think I may be able to answer.

  2. Dear Jex,
    I’m surprised and disheartened by the horrible pain you experienced via this chemical abortion. I thought the whole point of the chemical approach was to negate the pain of surgical abortion!
    Here’s what I can’t understand:
    Why, why, WHY is it taking so long to develop a medicinal method that turns the uterine lining into, effectively, teflon? Something like this should have been on the market a decade ago; made as cheap and available as Tic Tacs!
    I had assumed Plan B and RU4-86 were a milestone; eons better than surgical abortion. Who or what is holding up further research and better medicinal techniques? If you have any ideas, please share them on your blog (which is wonderful, by the way.)

  3. You’re so brave for posting all this and your writing is so eloquent. Essential reading for any woman, regardless of circumstances.

    re the pain, I naturally miscarried my second pregnancy at about 12 weeks, it never grew past about 7 or 8 weeks though, I just carried a dead thing about inside before my body realised. Awful.
    Anyway, I remember how cold the staff were. They made me sign consent forms for a surgical D&C while i was still in floods of tears and grief. I had desperately wanted that child but as far as they were concerned, it was just a medical procedure blah blah blah. That hurt, because it denied me the chance to process what had happened, come to terms with it and make an informed decision. They didn’t want me to have a choice, they wanted to wheel me into surgery the following day even though there was no real medical NEED to do so. it was simply “convenient” for them.
    I refused on the basis I had a job interview in London. So the following day I got on a train and travelled 3 hours to London. I sat through an interview bleeding slightly, knowing when I got back i’d have to submit myself to awful surgery for my own health.
    it sucked.

    then the morning I was due to travel back home I woke to blood soaked sheets. And so it began, natural evacuation of pregnancy tissue. It was nightmarish, I cried and I popped painkillers and I curled up on the sofa and wanted to die. I called the hospital to ask whether passing such huge clots and so much blood was normal but they weren’t totally sure and told me “if you’re worried, come in”. I had no idea what to expect, was this normal? Was the pain normal? Were the fist sized clots and the black sheets of tissue normal? Was I actually hemorrhaging? was I going to be ok? Even my mother who was with me and who’d done this several times couldn’t answer, she “couldn’t remember”. I think she’d remember this much hell.
    Maybe she just didn’t want to worry me, or she didn’t much care. Given her attitude when I told her i’d miscarried was “you didn’t want to be pregnant anyway”, I suspect she was secretly pleased.

    She offered little to no comfort. I sat and watched the olympic opening ceremony between trips to the bathroom to pass more enormous clumps of… stuff.

    I rang the train company and told them i needed to change my ticket, I even explained why in hushed tones, even miscarriage is something shameful we don’t like to talk about. The woman on the phone was sympathetic but the company wouldn’t alter my tickets, I had to buy new ones.
    I did, and the following day, still bleeding, still cramping, feeling wiped out from the blood loss and ordeal of the previous day I boarded a train and spent the whole trip asleep.

    I don’t remember when the bleeding finally stopped, but I remember the followup ultrasound and the relieving news “all tissue passed, you won’t need surgery”. After all of that, to then STILL need the D&C just felt totally unfair.

    Nobody called to see if I was ok, I never got an answer about whether fist sized clots were normal or what the black sheets of tissue might have been. Nobody wanted to talk about it, it was just sorta brushed under the table. A dirty little secret spoken only of in hushed whispers.

    Disturbing really, why should we be ashamed?

    But the pain, oh god.. it’s been about 7 or 8 years and I still remember the pain and the nightmare that unfolded each time I went to the bathroom. The thudding plonking of large chunks of tissue falling into the toilet, the relief as my uterus passed that tissue and took a moment to relax before starting to contract again. How utterly inefficient the painkillers were.

    I’ve done childbirth three times, abortion/miscarriage process isn’t nearly as painful but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It’s scary because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know if it’s all going to be ok. Nothing quite prepares you, nobody wants to discuss it beforehand, nobody wants to talk about the icky bits. We need to know those icky bits surely? I mean, how would we know “this is wrong, I need to get medical help” if we’re not told what is and isn’t normal? For all I knew I was bleeding out, nobody bothered to reassure me. only reason I didn’t go to hospital was because I felt if I did they’d just tell me I was overreacting and send me home. I didn’t want that humiliation, I didn’t want to have to explain to more strangers “i’m miscarrying” and have them give me that LOOK. eugh.

    The hoops they made you jump through are ridiculous, but i’m glad you got what you needed. I’m also glad you shared it because these taboo subjects NEED to be talked about. Any woman considering this procedure needs to know what to actually expect, the pain, how wiped out you feel, the disgusting bleeding for ages, all of that. Nobody talks about these “icky woman things” and they SHOULD.
    it’s like when women get together to share birth stories, they never bother to mention aftermath and really? they should. Nothing prepared me for that either. Again “are fist sized clots normal after birth?”. I’ve sinced learned that no, no they are not but at the time nobody told me it was a problem so I assumed it was ok. When I mentioned “oh, I passed a clot roughly the size of a housecat” to one of the staff she just shrugged and told me “yeah, you’ll bleed a bit”. in the years since i’ve learned that actually, they should have rushed me in and investigated because clots like that are NOT OK.
    Nobody prepared me for engorgement either, nobody talks about the after body changes and I can’t help but feel that’s a bit irresponsible. It’s like they lose interest in you as a patient once they have the baby out, that’s “all that matters” and anything else is just “icky girl stuff”.

    I dunno, women’s bodies and the changes they go through is still so taboo and why? WHY is female sexuality and biology so scary? The amount of stuff I never even KNEW about my own body till I started reading medical stuff during my fertility treatment, it’s just crazy how much is glossed over. I mean ffs, we still don’t even talk about PERIODS. Why? Why are female bodily processes so disgusting we can’t talk about them?

  4. Thank you for this account of your experience with the abortion pill. It sounds horrible. I think I will go with IV sedation and a suction procedure.

    Thank you.

  5. thank you for this. i’m 21, living in ireland (where abortion is illegal) and 35 days pregnant. a website called women on web will send me misoprostol pills, though i’ll have to travel 200 km to get them from a post office in belfast. i’m absolutely petrified but now i know at least what to expect. thank you x

    1. Wolf,
      I’m so sad to read what is happening to you.
      60years ago my country did not allow abortion and women here had to travel to England or other country to get an abortion. In fact, they had to do that secretly, because it was illegal. But on the other hand, there were some women organizations who organized “touristic one day trip to England” :D.
      Anyway I’m ashamed such situation may still exists in a country member of EU.

    2. I’m glad you found a way around the ilegal system. Your post is very recent, i too will be thinking of you. Good luck

  6. My darling sister,
    I am so very sorry. I have been where you now stand. It is horrible, every inch of it. I do wish I could take it all away. It has been twenty years since I went through it myself, and yet I am still plagued by my decision. I pray that you will be spared from a sentence like my own. Redemption is possible. I hope you find it, if only as I still seek my own.

  7. well done on bringing into the light what should not be in the dark anyway – it is crazy in this day and age that such a choice should be a matter of controversy or shame

  8. This sounds awful, I’m sorry your experience was so painful and unpleasant. I’m glad you were at least able to do it over Thanksgiving break with plenty of time to recover.

    After my doctor explained what to expect from a medical abortion, I opted for surgical instead. It was quick, relatively painless, and thankfully covered by my insurance. I went under general anesthesia and didn’t feel a thing, only light cramping in the recovery room afterwards. My doctor and nurses were incredible and made the entire experience stress-free and pleasant. I was very lucky in that regard.

  9. Wow I had no idea the chemical option was so awful. I had the IV sedation and a suction procedure over 15 years ago. I do recall some discomfort but it was not nearly as bad as what you have described. I understand the reason many women will choose to take the pills rather than undergo the suction procedure, it’s thought to be less painful, less invasive, and all around better…. however from what I’ve read here and from hearing about others I really think the suction procedure is much more physically comfortable. (Insofar as an abortion can be comfortable.) Thank you for sharing your experience in such detail. I really hope it will help others when making their choice on the matter.

  10. Wow. Sorry it was this bad for you. “Every experience is different” is certainly true… I was fortunate enough to experience none of this with medical. I took the pain medicine with the misoprostol, felt drowsy, lightly feverish and felt cramps a lot like my regular period cramps. No vomiting. I bled. I didn’t notice anything pass. I just wanted to share for contrast… the above story is pretty scary.

    1. Yes – my experience is not necessarily uncommon, but many other women I’ve spoken to have had a much easier abortion experience. Everyone’s body is different. I would say that despite the difficult experience, it was no more difficult than having a bad case of the flu, or recovering from a mild surgery. Fortunately, the worst of it only last a few hours and then it was over. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  11. This is terrible. I had a surgical abortion (at about 7 weeks) 37 years ago and experienced no pain at all. I think they used the suction method back then for an early abortion. I bled for a few days and that was it. I can’t believe women are being put through this, and not only that are expected to do it alone at home.

  12. I wish someone had been with you to help nurse you through it. You deserved more tender care. You were brave and strong and did what needed to be done.

    I had my first aspiration abortion procedure over 30 years ago. I was 17 and in no way ready to be a mother. I had subsequent abortions because the timing was not right. (None were terribly painful. All in clinics with lovely, caring staffs.)
    I also have three adult children who I (we) parented very well. A child is too important not to be chosen. Parenting is too hard to do it half-heartedly or resentfully. I don’t regret any of my abortions and I don’t regret having my three beautiful children.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Shame and demonizing must not be part of reproductive health. Xoxoxo

  13. I had an abortion, it was the RU-486 or whatever, the abortion pills. It was on my 20th birthday. Emotionally I was torn about it, I felt pressured by my then boyfriend, I was even threatened and felt I had no other option. My fear was too great to fight. I’m 28 now and after years of mixed emotions about my choice, I’m at full peace with it. I don’t regret it. I refuse to feel shame and guilt. I’m thankful that it didn’t end up with him as a father. A child shouldn’t know abuse. The abortion itself was scary, even after googling everything on the topic, going into such a heavy unknown experience is scary. The cramps started out tolerable but then it felt like my insides were being squeezed by a machine, or being hit with a cannon. Once the bleeding started, it kind of started like a normal period for me but increased so much the only thing I could do was turn on my shower and lay in the bathtub. Letting the water, my tears and all my mixed emotions wash away. For me, I did look. Part of me was scared that I’d see this little human looking alien washing away, but I didn’t. Thankfully. This might be too much information, but all that was there were blood clots. No different than what you’d see during a normal period. That was a relief. After many hours, I don’t remember how many, I was finally able to get into my bed, I was exhausted from the pain but sleep didn’t come. The experience itself didn’t haunt me. I’ve always dreamed of being a mom, since I was 12 yrs old, that’s all I wanted to be. I had to mourn the loss of my dream. It was hard, it was dark in my head for a long time. I’ve never written or spoken any of this before. But in your post, I see parts of myself and feel maybe it’s safe here to share my experience. Today, I’m grateful for all I went through, mentally, emotionally, physically. I grew, I strengthened, I gained an understanding and no empathy I didn’t have before. Women choose abortions for many reasons, I think regardless, it’s a crazy experience. Too many people think that those of us who choose this option are cold, heartless, horrible people. But we’re the opposite. For me, even while I was pressured, I didn’t want to bring are child into this world who I couldn’t provide everything it deserved, and I wouldn’t want a child to have an abusive, addict guy who only got money from his father as its father. A child deserves a whole lot better, I would’ve had a harder time living with myself had I brought a child into disfunction. I was 6 weeks along and had to look at the ultrasound before they gave me the first pill, but I never felt it was a baby, or that something was losing its life. I’m thankful I had the freedom to make the choice I did and no longer regret it. I did what was right. Every woman deserves that choice, no matter what her own story may be, it angers me people who don’t know any of us try to take that away. Sorry, I’m not trying to make this some political bullshit. That just annoys me greatly. I love and admire that you’re choosing to share your experience. After 8 years, this is the first time I’ve said anything. To me, I find you brave. You’ve done what I’ve been terrified to do for a long time. No one should stay in that place for as long as I have. I hope because of you, other women will see its okay to not be ashamed, embarassed and it’s okay to talk about this. There’s alot of women who have abortions, talking about it can do alot of good for many of us.

  14. Thank you.
    I am very vocal about my abortions. I have no shame. I feel no guilt. I’m tired of people feeling like they have to hide their bodies truths. Women need to speak up and speak out. All of the mystery and secrets reviled.
    An women of any age any situation should be able to access the health care they want/need. Do we require 24 sometimes 48 hour waiting periods for gun purchases….. No but a women sometimes travels hours to a clinic and back and forth again to get the care she needs. End the patriarchy!!!!!!!!

  15. I posted my full story on one of your other pages, but I just want to reiterate here that my suction abortion was far less traumatic than what you went through with the pills. If you can get a suction abortion with general anesthesia (I didn’t) that’s even better. There’s really not much to it. The pills sound like hell.

  16. Hi Jex.
    I’ve made my abortion in October.
    The pain is terrible, but in my country we do it on the hospital, the nurses stay with us 2 or three hours to give an injection to take off the pain.

    The “father” never know about the pregnancy and the abortion.

    That’s the only thing that fucks me up mentally.

    I hope u’re doing good now. I am.

    No regrets.

  17. It’s been four years now that I went through a so similar process. It’s the first time I talk (or write) about it. I flushed the memories of all physical pain with the blood and the clot. The emotional and mental pain do still come back sometimes. I felt trapped, I was ashamed, I felt alone knowing that those close around me would never forgive my decision if known.

    I moved to London to start a masters and a couple of months on was diagnosed with a nervous breakdown. A few months later I discovered I was pregnant. My partner at the time did not agree with my decision to terminate the abortion. He didn’t want any part in my decision even if he was relieved by it. I guess he didn’t want to carry any sort of guilt or heavy conscious.
    But how could I gone ahead with such an enormous task? How could I assume the responsibility for taking care of a second life if I couldn’t take care of myself?
    Sometimes I feel haunted by my decision but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I guess we are a product of our society and learn from it to condemn ourselves even when we know our decisions were the correct ones.

    As for the entire process, I was so relieved to be in England at the time. I was treated in a public hospital with dignity and some compassion which would not have been the case back home.

    Thank Jex for the blog. For allowing those in going through a similar experience to find answers or some comfort and come to terms with the ghosts.

  18. Hi
    I had the suction procedure with anesthesia and I didn t feel anything, fortunatelly the memories that I have from the process and the moment are not that strong or painfull as you described. Congratilations on talking about this subject.

  19. I think you females deserve every bit of pain and more. You think you are hurting imagine what the BABY is feeling!! You decided to be whores and screw around then use abortion as a birth control how pathetic you all are!! Absolute cowards not worthy of birthing a child. I wish I could seal up your vagina my damn self to stop you from having sex and aborting like it’s no big thing. Worthless absolutely worthless women!!

    1. The fetus does not experience any pain prior to 24 weeks of gestation. This is because connections from the periphery to the cortex have not formed prior to that point, and the cortex is necessary for pain perception. Abortion is not a form of birth control. You have absolutely no insight into the cause of my pregnancy or details regarding my sex life. While abortion is a perfectly legal medical procedure in America, forcibly sealing up women’s vagina’s to stop them from having sex is a horrendous crime, and an appalling suggestion.

  20. Thank you for sharing. I looked for such a plain and clear description when I opted for a Mifopristol abortion in October of this year to terminate a 5 week pregnancy. What you describe is very much like my experience. Not as painful as childbirth but quite painful even with anti-nausea meds and pain killers. I have had two abortions, one surgical and one chemical. The chemical one was much more painful but also much more personal. I felt like I had gone through a physical test and passed and honestly there was something to be said for that. I am not sure which I would choose if the issue came up again, which is interesting because in the middle of it I was wondering why I hadn’t opted for the surgical route, except that I didn’t want to have to wait. Thanks again for your words

  21. My girlfriend posted a link to this blog. This whole thing. I can only say: thank you mama.

    I am one of those abhorrent women that have had more than one abortion, one vacuum and one medication. I am the exact woman legislators refer to when explicating the moral pitfalls of social medicine. I am the slut that wanted to get pregnant for half a second during unprotected sex- twice. My body did not ward off anything. Everything was “legitimate.” And I legitimately killed them both. I have pictures of them both. They were time beings, for the time being.

    The vacuum was quick. I was doped. I had a fun time, even. The lady doctors praised me for my endurance. My lover held my hand and we looked forward to our wedding sans imminence. The bleeding understandable. The recovery like bruises ebbing from a beating I asked for.

    But the pills took its toll and exacted revenge in pain. The day stretched out in time the moment I felt the quickening of it. I thought ‘I am a tough woman’; I was eager to prove everyone wrong about the pain. Within an hour of the medicines, I had reverted to a baby, writhing around in issues I haven’t had to face in decades, moaning after a “mommy, mommy, mommy…” that left me alone in places she shouldn’t have with men that liked to fuck babies, with people that got a kick out of doping toddlers, with police that didn’t know how long I had been wandering in the dark. I used to wish that “mommmy, mommy, mommy…” had aborted me. And then I was the one doing that.

    All of my meaning surged around, bigger than my body and leaked out onto the bed and I didn’t beg or apologize for the passing; it felt like the seams ripping down my middle wouldn’t let me. All I could do was observe the life that it could have been. It could have been me. This little thing could have come out and made the best of it and then some and been magical and radical and beautiful and powerful and changed lives like I have changed lives. And I didn’t let it. And the self that I was that knew I didn’t have room for it was proud. And I knew it was not fair to put upon the little life as I was doing thinking about how it could be anything. I didn’t have room to let it be anything.

    And then a very real *POP* from deep inside my cervix, and then the thick tissues, the tiniest cord, a ball of flesh that could have been in a dish of liver and onions, liquids that resemble food we go out to expensive dinners for..

    I don’t get to corroborate my feelings with anyone. My lover had been there, but the magic was beyond him and he fled when I didn’t need him. I can’t reach out to my adoptive mother; she was arrested for trespassing a clinic in protest in her radical Christian youth. Her whole family would be wrapped in enigmatic shame if they knew my stories. I can’t write online because I don’t want to think about how much it would truly be ignored. I can’t speak to my friends because the issue seems to kill conversations dead in its tracks. And so I have this whole thing to myself. It isn’t like a boulder or hot iron. It’s just…. a story of me that won’t ever get out.

    And here’s your story. You understand.

    Thank you, Mama.

  22. Thanks for sharing! Thank Satan mine wasn’t as painful as yours!! I was worried my abortion didn’t work because of the lack of pain. I had heard horror stories from my 2 friends who had both a chemical and surgical abortions and they said to avoid the pill because it hurt them way worse than the surgical. But I chose the pill anyway because it’s less invasive. I took the 1st pill on a Friday,the second on Saturday. I prepared for the pain,got a heating pad, super thick long maxi pads etc. I hardly had any cramping or bleeding. Sunday came and I wasn’t in pain or bleeding like I thought I would,it was like a light period. I was stressing out thinking the fetus was in agonizing pain because it still lived and that I would have to go through the surgical abortion too!! Than Monday,late afternoon as I was out getting tacos with my boyfriend did the intense cramps start! I was relived but I was like holy shit I’m gonna bleed on the goddamn chair! let’s get these tacos to go! I didn’t pass to much pregnancy tissue, it was like smallish bloodclots.

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