I remember the first time I laid eyes on him. It was the end of the first semester of my junior year at the University of Kansas, and I attended a pregame at a friend’s house before going to a party. He was there. We locked eyes and I felt instantly connected to him, as if I’d known him for most of my life. He was dark-skinned, medium-built, average height and had alluring brown eyes that seemed like they were staring into my soul. He also had a beard (bonus points!).
But his looks weren’t the main source of my attraction to him. He made me feel seen. I didn’t have to hide who I was or shrink myself to get his attention, which is what I usually do with men. Throughout the night, we shared our mutual passion for working out and watching documentaries. We also shared what we wanted to do with our careers, and his goal-oriented personality matched mine—something that’s never happened between me and a man before. Although we ended the night with sex, it wasn’t just a typical one-night stand to me. It was a brief preview of what could happen if I felt fully seen and adored by a partner. I never told him how I felt because I didn’t expect to see him again given that he lived in Missouri, where he went to school.
But there he was again, a year later, during the weekend of my 21st birthday in October, at a pregame my friend and her sorority sisters hosted. He looked a bit different. He had grown his hair out, and he seemed more mature. We connected as if no time had passed since the first time we met. The night ended in sex again. It felt more like a one-night stand than before. Maybe it was because we didn’t talk as much as we did the first time. Nevertheless, I made sure to give him a hug before he left because I didn’t know if that would be the last time I’d see him. I also still had feelings for him, so I thought a gentle hug could serve as my makeshift expression of letting him know that I liked him.
Two weeks later, in November, I found out I was pregnant.
I took two at-home pregnancy tests and another one at Watkins Health Center just to make sure I was really pregnant. All of them were positive. Shit. Shit. Shit. Although I knew that his condom came off at the end of us having sex, I couldn’t believe I had gotten pregnant because that wasn’t my first time having unprotected sex. My immediate impulse was to get an abortion.
I’d never had the desire to be a parent. I had never had a strong maternal pull. I also didn’t want people to associate me with the stereotype of teenage/young adult pregnancy among black girls. Black girls have historically been socialized to be meticulously docile. In the early twentieth century, the black church (specifically black women in the church) incorporated a system of respectability politics, which is a form of moral behavior that black people were encouraged to follow to make them appear more worthy of respect in society. This moral code was especially inflicted upon black women, who were socialized to link their worthiness to their moral (and sexual) purity. Thus, as a black girl who grew up in the church, I was taught to always get good grades, not wear revealing clothing, and, most importantly, not get pregnant before being married. Because I had broken the third rule, I felt ashamed. I felt defective.
Those feelings were intensified for me because I was pregnant by someone I barely knew. My strong feelings for him didn’t erase the fact that I only had two interactions with him, so I didn’t want people judging me. I also didn’t want the child to grow up in a situation in which their parents were forced to be in each other’s lives. I didn’t think that was fair. Getting an abortion was what I needed to do. The closest clinic was a Planned Parenthood in Overland Park, Kansas. I called and tried to schedule an appointment. To my surprise, I found out that because I’m on Medicaid, I’d have to pay $700 to get an abortion. Medicaid isn’t accepted for abortion services because of the Hyde Amendment. This policy, which was enacted in 1976, prevents the use of federal funds for abortions.
I really didn’t have $700 to spare. I didn’t feel comfortable asking my family for the money because I didn’t want them to judge me, which left me with no other option: calling him. I scheduled an appointment for the end of that week, and figured I’d ask if he could pay me back half. The conversation went surprisingly well, and he agreed to pay for half.
The four days leading up to the abortion were scary because I had to go to work and school as if nothing happened. Life didn’t stop. I was nervous and confused. I felt like I was carrying this big secret. But knowing I had something growing inside me offered comfort and made me feel less alone. I would stand in front of my full-body mirror and stare at my stomach while thinking about what life would be like if I decided to not have an abortion. Suddenly I found myself welcoming the idea of motherhood, and I liked that I felt that way. Over just a few days I became attached to my baby. Although I knew I needed to have the abortion, I cherished the short time that we had together.
Being in Planned Parenthood was the most intimidating experience in my life. I went alone. The father lived in a different state, and I hadn’t heard from him since our first conversation, so I didn’t expect him to come with me. As I approached the entrance, anti-abortion activists shouted at me and tried to persuade me not to enter, which made me even more scared. As I sat down in the waiting room, I looked at all the other patients who had family members or partners there with them. I couldn’t help but feel extremely alone, and the long waiting period certainly didn’t help. Four hours later, the doctor gave me pills that would cause me to miscarry, and I drove back home. I had already taken the first pill which prevents the pregnancy from growing. I had to wait until the next day to take the second one, which empties the uterus.
The entire process made me very depressed. In the weeks after, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I aborted the baby in my bathroom, alone. That was emotionally damaging for me. I tried seeking emotional support from the father, but he didn’t respond. I didn’t expect to have those feelings because I’ve always supported the right to abortions, and I’ve never seen people who supported that stance talk about how having an abortion can have emotional repercussions. That was the standard anti-abortion argument, so I was very conflicted. I felt like I shouldn’t have felt that way. I didn’t want to side with anti-abortion arguments, however, I couldn’t stop those self-deprecating feelings from entering my daily thoughts. The physical pain was just as bad. For two weeks I had the worst period of my life, and I hated that that situation was happening.
Although the physical pain subsided after two weeks, the emotional burden weighed heavily on me. I wished I had more time with my baby, and I regretted that I acted promptly because I don’t think I really gave myself time to process everything. Instead, I was more focused on what everyone would think of me if they knew I was pregnant. I cared about what my family would think. I cared about what God would think. I cared about what the father would think. I cared about not siding with anti-abortion arguments. But I never allowed myself the freedom to think about what I truly wanted because, although getting the abortion was a smart choice, a part of me wanted to keep the baby, which is something I didn’t want to openly acknowledge. I liked the idea of being a mother, and I wish I had honored my feelings about that.
I’m in therapy now.
Although the past few months have been hard, therapy has helped me to advocate for myself, regardless of what people think. I’ve started meditating, journaling and using breathing techniques to prioritize my feelings. I want to honor my feelings, even if others might not like them. I’m learning to be at peace with the fact that I allowed the assumed opinions of others to control a very important decision in my life, and, more importantly, I’m learning to never do that again.