20 Tips for Your First Abortion
1. It does not matter if you were on birth control, if you forgot just this once, or if you didn’t think at all. It does not matter if it was your husband, your boyfriend, or someone who was really working those olive corduroy pants. You are pregnant. And you are the one that is freaking the fuck out.
2. Tell someone else who will support you. Tell a friend, a family member, post it on Reddit, or whisper it to your cat, Miss Poke. Know you are not alone in this.
Know you are not alone in this.
3. Google is your best friend and worst enemy. Avoid any website that uses the word “life.” They will not help you. Also avoid all images. All of them. Even if it promises to be a cartoon drawing called “Olivia the Ovary.” They will not help you either. Read medical articles. Know your options. Treat it like applying to grad school: too much information and you drown; too little information and you drown. Tread lightly.
4. Make the appointment. Don’t be offended that the person on the phone doesn’t give a shit. Take the nonchalance as a sign that it is no big deal. It could be a teeth cleaning. A very deep teeth cleaning.
5. The time between making the appointment and going to the appointment is the worst. Stay busy. Drink heavily. You are not showing yet. Talk to Miss Poke some more. Drink some more. You are still not showing. It will be over soon.
6. In the waiting room, don’t assume anything about anyone except that they aren’t assuming anything about you. Read the packets. Well, skim the packets. They will repeat it all again later.
7. It will cost around six hundred dollars. Consider the cost of raising a child. Consider the cost of that Beyoncé concert ticket you almost bought. Now, let it go.
Consider the cost of raising a child. Consider the cost of that Beyoncé concert ticket you almost bought. Now, let it go.
8. Don’t be offended by the leading questions. The nurses are concerned about your safety. It only sounds like a Lifetime movie. Answer honestly.
9. Technology that tells you exactly how far along you are now exists. And it is terrible. You want to be zero days along, negative days along, but listen when the nurse says, “six weeks and five days.” Don’t dwell on this number.
10. If you say nothing, you will see nothing during the ultrasound. The nurses are humans, not monsters, just like you.
11. There are going to be other people in the room. Don’t wonder why one chose neon green nail polish. Don’t look for fear in the eyes of the puppy dogs dotting their scrubs. They’re professionals. They chose to be here, just like you.
12. You know the medium-sized metal bowl you use to mix pancake batter? The bowl your parents stored Halloween candy in? That bowl will also be in the room. It is for exactly what you think it is for.
13. They are dilating you only to the size of a pencil. But it feels Montana wide and big enough to smuggle kilos of cocaine. Be in awe at the depths of your body.
14. There will be a pain like someone sucking or pulling out your insides.
15. There will be a noise like someone sucking or pulling out your insides. Be mad that the Dyson guy did not put his energies elsewhere. Focus on the classical music playing in the background. Imagine if Bach ever knew what it would be used for.
16. Tell the doctor where you work. Redefine the meaning of small talk. Listen to her as she raves about the new Vietnamese sub shop off Grand. Watch her nod at the nurses. Let her rub your arm and tell you it’s all done.
17. Feel tears well up as they remove the tools propping you open. Let the tears go. Don’t sit up until they tell you. Feel lightheaded. Dress slowly and leave the room.
18. In the next room, listen to the instructions from the nurse with the soothing Caribbean accent. Assume she is in this room because of that nice accent. Eat the animal crackers. Drink the apple juice. Realize the tears were about hormones and relief. Breathe deeply.
Eat the animal crackers. Drink the apple juice. Breathe deeply.
19. Go to the bathroom and look at the chart that depicts how much blood is too much blood. Wonder at the verbiage, “a scant amount,” “a surplus.” Steal some extra pads from the basket by the door.
20. Go home. Relax. Eat a big meal. Process your emotions. Take a shower. Talk with your friends. Cry with your friends. Make inappropriate jokes about how you were “killin’ it” today and laugh with your friends. Eat a pound of chocolate. Listen to some Bon Iver. Take aspirin. Listen to some ABBA. Dance with Miss Poke. Watch a movie. Take your antibiotics. Buy a new dress off Zappos. Use a heating pad. Call your mom. Reread a book from your teenage years. Do whatever you want. Maybe make a list of all the things you learned.
Madeleine Roe is a waitress in Minneapolis.
Illustration by Jeremy Anderson.