The following is a guest post by a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. They share the harrowing details of their recent spontaneous induced abortion and how going through the process made them become an even stronger advocate for reproductive rights. This detailed account provides insight for people who never had to go through the abortion process before.
CN: Elective, induced, and spontaneous abortion; unwanted pregnancy; genital/reproductive system discussion; discussion of an embryo in negative non-baby terms; bodily tissue
— The Emergency Room
— Gynecologist Visits 1&2
— Discussions with my Pro-Life Parents
— Gynecologist Visit 3
— Waiting for my Planned Parenthood Appointment
— My Planned Parenthood Appointment
— How All of this Changed my Views
I am writing this anonymously because I live in a USA state where knowledge of my having an elective abortion could be the difference between my getting a job or not, and would also attract much harassment toward me. I also feel this post is particularly relevant for right now, as the House just passed a country-wide 20-week induced abortion ban — which mainly affects impoverished people and those who wanted a baby, but something went wrong.
My pronouns are they/them/their or ze/zer/zem, should you desire to talk about me in the third person. “The writer/author/OP” is acceptable as well.
**A spontaneous abortion is commonly known as a miscarriage — it is initiated by the body.
**An induced abortion is an abortion initiated by a doctor for health reasons (the embryo/fetus is no longer developing/developing properly, is a risk to the uterus’d person, etc).
**An elective abortion is an abortion of an embryo/fetus which would have otherwise turned out to be a healthy infant.
These terms will be used to normalize the use of the word “abortion” in its multiple meanings.
The Emergency Room
This all started when my fiancée rushed me to the emergency room at 2am. I was at level 10 pain, screaming, unable to walk, shaking in pain. As I laid on the hospital cot, I rocked myself, trying to distract myself from the unbearable pain that emanated from my uterus. Eventually, with drugs and time, it dulled to level 5. My parents came as well, since any time I went to the hospital they wanted to know. While my pro-life, abstinence-based father was in the room, the doctor informed me that I was pregnant — and, since I had an IUD, it was likely ectopic (in my oviduct, which is life-threatening). They took me into another room to do an ultrasound to confirm.
By their appearance, I would guess the specialist who gave me my ultrasound had a uterus as well, but they certainly didn’t act like it. This person shoved the ultrasound wand into my vagina as far as it would go, pressing into my already sore uterus, jabbing my tender cervix. As a rape survivor, this was almost as bad as my rape. It was slow, deliberate, and I didn’t feel I could say no — and, of course, it triggered my vaginismus (a condition where the vagina clamps down without the conscious effort of the owner, often against their wishes), which only made it all worse. I cried. My vulva, vagina, cervix, and uterus thoroughly sore and agitated, the doctors confirmed I had an ectopic pregnancy, and transferred me to my gynecologist for removal.
Gynecologist Visits 1 & 2
By now it was 8am, and my fiancée, parents, and I had had little sleep. My fiancée drove me to my gynecologist, where they performed their own ultrasound. Vagina’d readers, if you ever need a vaginal ultrasound, get it from an actual gynecologist, because this was much, much less painful. It was still uncomfortable, but did not feel like rape. When we went to my gynecologist’s office after the ultrasound, he asked,
“Is this the baby’s father?”
I scowled. “The embryo’s father, yes.” I corrected. My gynecologist decided it was not in my oviduct, but in my uterus, and that I was having a violent spontaneous abortion. I was told to monitor my bleeding, rest, and come back for a recheck in a few days.
Those few days later, the egg sack hadn’t grown much, and I was still bleeding, so we decided to keep watching. Sadly, since this was a confirmed pregnancy of some sort, medical practice dictated my IUD be removed. My fiancée was suspicious of this, since my gynecologist and his staff have all been gently urging me to keep it — even though I’ve been asking my gynecologist to tie my oviducts since I was 16, even though through this whole process I had talked about the embryo in negative terms and told it to get out. Next, this “professional” had the gaul to ask if my fiancée would be happy if this was a healthy pregnancy. My fiancée doesn’t feel he has a say in this at all, since it is my uterus, but his response was, “No, not really.”
Discussions with my Pro-Life Parents
At home, I have the uncomfortable discussion with my parents about my choices. They know I don’t want biological children, I have been very vocal about this since I was 16. I also know that they believe life begins at conception. They also believe that pregnant people, and the sperm donor, have a responsibility to the zygote/embryo/fetus they have created, and must care for it to the best of their ability (so long as that means it is birthed). They believe this because this is the result of sex, intra or extramarital, and those who have sex must accept these chances. Additionally, the zygote/embryo/fetus should not be punished for existing, for “inconveniencing” the uterus’d person’s life (any all those affected). I understand these feelings — I had, at one time, been anti-choice.
My parents are not completely blind to reason, however (which is why I call them pro-life and not pro-birth). Had the pregnancy been ectopic, they would have wanted it removed — without question. Should I fully spontaneously abort and the contents set up shop, they would cover whatever the doctor suggested. Should the spontaneous abortion fail, they would not pay for any form of elective abortion, but they will still house and love me — not disown or kick me out, as some others would. Should I decide to carry to term and give the child up for adoption or keep it, my parents would help support that in any way they could. To my surprise, all of this included allowing me to use their insurance for the elective abortion, should Planned Parenthood accept it.
However, for me, keeping the embryo was never an option. I have tokophobia, which is the fear of pregnancy. This fear is so bad that if I see a naked pregnant belly I feel physically nauseous, and have extreme anxiety. Thinking about being pregnant or seeing a fetus move within a person will have the same effects. Additionally, I have my genetic issues that I would not want any human to deal with (though I understand if others do not feel this is a good reason to avoid biological children). Why should I bring another child in to the world when there are so many who already need children? So I scheduled a meeting with Planned Parenthood, should it come to that.
Gynecologist Visit 3
The embryo was still there, despite all the blood and cramping I’d been experiencing (thank you, menstrual cups, for giving me comfort though all this*). The embryo had tripled in size and had a heartbeat — meaning I was roughly 6 weeks in. All I could feel was intense, boiling fury. How dare this little parasite set up shop in my body. How dare this thing defy my precaution of an IUD, how dare it cause me all this pain and hardship, how dare it use my body for its own purposes. This was my body, and this little sh*t was getting EVICTED.
To be clear, I knew and know this embryo had no “agenda,” that it was not sentient nor aware. It was an organism following its DNA, just doing what it was coded to. It was no different from bacteria reproducing or yeast eating. That being said, I have taken many courses of antibiotics and antifungals in my life time; I have just as much of a right to defend my body and livelihood as a bacterium or fungus — more so, according to the law. So, while I had no notion of sentience for this embryo, that didn’t change that it was affecting me.
When I got in to my gynecologist’s office after this ultrasound, I opened with, “Procedure or pill?”
“Procedure, or pill?”
“I’d like to offer you a third option—”
No. I’d had enough of this “professional” caring about this embryo over his living, breathing, outside-of-the-uterus, actual patient. I spilled into a tirade of all of my reasons to not carry to term — the medical issues, the financial issues, the genetic issues, how I just plain do not have any desire for children. He referred me to another doctor for an elective abortion, as they do not terminate pregnancies in his practice. I discovered that doctor does not induce abortions anymore, so I turned to my Planned Parenthood appointment again — my salvation, my liberator, my hope for a future and cure for my anxiety.
Later, I attained my medical records because, unsurprisingly, I am transferring to a different doctor (who has agreed to tie my oviducts!). In the records he misgendered me the entire time, referred to my fiancée as my “boyfriend” (despite us showing him the ring), and his notes about our last meeting stand out: “I talked with [zer] about the apparent viable early first trimester pregnancy. [Ze] was very adamant in stating that [ze] was not keeping the pregnancy. Options were discussed. I encouraged [zem] not to make a [zer] decision. [Omitted]’s name and number were given.” Right in his own notes, this “professional” admitted to pushing his agenda on me — not his medical opinion, but his personal opinion. Later he states that I “refused pain medication,” but not only was I never offered it, my fiancée specifically asked the doctor if I should take ibuprofen and acetaminophen because he never offered anything.
Waiting for my Planned Parenthood Appointment
I waited anxiously for the Planned Parenthood appointment, doing my best to make my parasite as uncomfortable as possible by abusing my uterus with light hits without bruising — hoping that maybe, just maybe, this spontaneous abortion would finally be successful and that I would not have to have any sort of elective abortion. It’s not that I’m against an elective abortion, or that it scares me more than any other medical procedure, it’s just that it’s expensive — even at an institution whose goal is affordable procedures. This mild self-harm was probably a manifestation of my tokophobia, but it wasn’t serious and wouldn’t become a habit, so I allowed myself to do it. As I waited, this parasite worked its hormonal magic on me. I became hot and mildly moody, and I even started thinking of it as a “child,” “kiddo,” or “baby,” and using they/them/their pronouns when thinking about it. That is, until I really looked at my very pregnant coworker: how she waddled around, how distended her abdomen was. I felt sick. I thought of my own organs being pushed together and away by this parasite, demanding my body for its own. The nausea grew, and the little invader’s emotional warfare failed.
The nausea and anxiety weren’t helped when my parents had the last of 3 sit-downs with my fiancée and I. They had been cautious and loving through the first two, but this third was their last attempt to make me view this parasite as a life — as a child that I was responsible for. Thought my father’s argument, he would end up unintentionally comparing my fiancée and I — as well as anyone else who gets an elective abortion of a healthy embryo/fetus — to child and spouse abusers. It got very heated, but eventually my mother insisted we move on to their other issue; they said our neighbor knew a couple who had tried and failed 3 times to adopt a baby. But if this couple was so desperate, why did the bun have to be fresh out the oven, still covered in vaginal juices? If the couple “didn’t want to have to deal with how the foster system affects children,” then why not adopt a child a few months or few years old? And why were these people advocating for giving up my embryo for adoption or foster care when they admitted these systems harmed their participants? But they didn’t make me answer that request, at least, so we didn’t have to get back in to the fight about my tokophobia.
My Planned Parenthood Appointment
After getting passed the protesters and in to Planned Parenthood (there were way more than on non-abortion days), one of the first things that stuck out to me was that the intro forms had a slot for preferred name, gender (she and he were given, as well as they and an “other” category), and a section for, “What sex did your doctor put on your birth certificate?” with Female, Male, and Intersex as options. Their efforts to include the trans community had me almost hyperventilating in excitement! I never overheard myself being misgendered, but the opportunity never really arose. They respected my correct name through it all, especially since there were two other people there with my birth name, and one with the same last initial as me. Most of their other forms were cisnormative (assumed the reader was a cis woman) and heteronormative (assumed the reader was heterosexual), but I’ll take the step they’ve made. After the forms, my fiancée could not be with me.
Once it was obvious that I was firm and informed in my choices, not wary or unsure, the doctors/counselors were all very supportive of my decisions. For once I wasn’t told that I would want children later in my life, and they didn’t try to get me to keep the pregnancy. After what I had been through, with all the, “You’re too young to know if you’ll never want kids,” “You could keep it!” “There is always adoption!” I’d had up to now, this was such a breath of relief. These professionals understood that, to some people, a pregnancy is not special or sacred, but a violation of their body. I also heard them turn a high school girl away when they overheard her mother forcing her into the elective abortion. It was so, so obvious that the mission of every person in that facility was to help you make your own informed decision and support you in whatever it was — no matter if it was medicinal abortion, elective abortion, adoption, fostering, or parenting.
My fiancée and I had arrived at Planned Parenthood at 10:10, and my procedure did not happen until 3:00. While this was annoying, it was completely understandable — about 30 were there, and 2/3 were going with the pill route. The doctor had to speak to each of them privately, so this took a long time. I am perfectly alright with this, since it is important that no one is forced in to their abortion, and that they understand the risks and process — factors that are important for any medical procedure. I chatted with the other people there for surgical abortions, whose stories I will not share for privacy’s sake, but they came from all walks of life. We were all given NAIDS (drugs similar to ibuprofen) for pain, a strong drug to relax us, another for anti-anxiety, and two to put against our cervixes to soften them. Most of us did not really feel the relaxer at first, but I know I certainly did when I stood up to go in for the D&C.
When I went in to the procedure room, I was told to undress from the waist down. The doctor was kind and professional, treating me warmly and respectfully. They warned me before they numbed my cervix, which wasn’t that bad, and when they pinched it, which was uncomfortable and caused me to gasp. I do not know if they had to use dilating rods on me, but I heard them talking about my cervix not being open enough, so I expect so. I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the curettage, but all together it was a seven on the pain scale. I felt the urge to cry — from pain — and did, because I knew this would help relieve the pain somewhat. That being said, the whole experience did not last that long, maybe a minute. As the doctor cleaned up, they told me I may feel some cramping as my uterus returned to its normal size. However, since mine was mostly extended from all the dead blood in it, I did not cramp. They also told me that with all the dead blood in there, my body would have taken one of three actions within a month: reabsorbed the material, continued the spontaneous abortion, or develop a bad infection. No matter what, this pregnancy would not have made it to term. I had to wear disposable pads because they did not want to risk my reusables (which I had worn to the appointment, since I had been bleeding this whole time) contaminating my surgical site, far from my vulva as it may be.
I had no pain once everything was removed from me. None at all. I felt fine, aside from being high on the relaxer. After I dressed I was taken to a room with recliners. Each one had a small table by it, donned with tissues. I was given clear soda and pretzels and just told to relax. So I leaned back, snuggled in to my blankets, and fiddled on my phone. Another patient came in, seeming more shaken up than me, but the relaxers had made them sick, so it wasn’t that surprising. At least, I hope it was the relaxers — that’s when the patient started acting sick and strange, anyways. When the doctor came in to talk to the nurse, I asked them if they had seen anything like an egg sack to be sure the procedure was successful. They didn’t, but they did take out placental tissue, which made them confident I was parasite-free. They chatted with me a little while about some strangeness with my menstrual cycles I had never gotten an answer from my gynecologist on, and it turned out the D&C might have even helped it. Obviously, the doctor cared about us individually, even if they only saw us for a few minutes.
The nurse informed us that we could eat or drink anything — including alcohol — when we got home. We might have some bleeding and cramping for a few days, but we were to come back if we soaked through two maxi pads in one hour or seemed anemic. Nothing was to go in our vaginas — tampons, fingers, penises — for two weeks. We should rest the remainder of the day, and could work whenever we felt comfortable, but could not do heavy lifting for the two weeks as well. They asked if I was feeling well enough to go check my pad, and since I felt fine I did. I had a bit of spotting, not heavy bleeding (which would have been bad), so they sent me home. I spent the rest of the day watching anime with my fiancée, with little to no cramps.
The following days were fine, again with little to no cramps. I even worked a 5 hour shift (no heavy lifting). The two biggest annoyances were the pad and not doing anything with my vagina, which I very much enjoy doing things with. I spotted for a few days following the procedure. [tissue warning] I did pass a two-inch long chunk of placental tissue while using the toilet, which was painless and very strange to see. I had thought it was a blood clot at first, but when it did not break apart when I pulled it out of me I knew it had to be tissue. Additionally, since the embryo was only 5 cm when it was aborted, this definitely could not have been that. [gore end] If I had known what this would feel like when deciding between D&C and the pill, I definitely would choose the D&C again.
How All of this Changed my Views
What this experience has done is strengthened my pro-choice views even more. Before, I mildly sympathized with the plights of those who gave the sperm for zygotes. Maybe they really wanted children, maybe they had fertility issues, maybe they had cancer and this was their last chance before chemo. However, I still felt that, until artificial wombs become sufficient, it is up to the uterus’d person on if they keep the zygote/embryo/fetus.
Now, this has changed. I still understand the desires of the sperm-givers, but lean fully toward the uterus’d person being the only person with the final say in the matter. My fiancée, the sperm-giver in this situation, has been great through all of this. He’d been to every appointment he could be, he covered half the cost of the induced abortion, he drove me to PP and back (waiting in the facility the nearly six hours it took), and he supported my decisions, no matter what they were. However, he did not experience this. He did not clean out a full menstrual cup of blood from his vagina every day, he did not have to deal with wearing what felt like a diaper after, he did not deal with cramps that make you scream, he did not deal with the knowledge that another creature was using his body for its own purposes, he is not afraid for his livelihood because he had an induced abortion, and he is not afraid of harassment, should others find out he had an induced abortion. Yes, he and my parents are feeling the financial blowback of it, but they are not living with all of the physical ramifications of the situation. It’s all me — this all has directly happened to me.
Thus, no-one has the final say on my adult uterus but me. Not the sperm-giver. Not the parasite. Not my parents. Not the government. Me, and only me. Like any other medical issue or procedure.
(I am aware that, biologically, parasites must be of a different species. That does not change the fact that, aside from being a different species, the embryo was everything that a parasite is.
I am also aware that fiancée is used for women, but I proposed to him and I am also non-binary.)
* I cannot overstate how invaluable my menstrual cup was during this process (when I could use it, anyways – I used reusable pads during the two weeks of abstinence, but I was using that cup for almost two weeks before my D&C). I use the FemmyCycle, dysphoric as its brand may be, and it saved me so much money, time, room, comfort, and waste through this whole process. I didn’t have to buy more and more menstrual products for my weeks of bleeding, I didn’t have to completely change products every eight hours, I didn’t have to carrying around extra menstrual products for myself (more than I already carry for others), I didn’t have to feel like I was wearing a diaper or the discomfort of a tampon in my vagina (I can’t feel my cup inside me), and I didn’t have to throw several 10’s of products out and contribute to pollution. The cup also allowed me to more accurately monitor how much I was bleeding, which let me gauge how this spontaneous/induced abortion was going.
TL;DR: My violent spontaneous abortion and eventual induced abortion convinced me that the only person who has the final say over a person’s uterus is the possessor of said uterus, just as they have the final say over the rest of their body.