Before I was in a committed relationship, before I was a mother; life meant something very different. I was a senior at the University of Missouri, and I was on my way to being the first in my family to graduate from college.
I had a 3.8 GPA, an off-campus apartment and a work-study job to pay for that apartment. I also mentored other students, helped lead several school organizations and made it my job to know nearly every black student at Mizzou.
I was thriving academically and socially.
Still, I was only responsible for myself where it counted.
So when I missed my period in September 2008, my mind exploded.
I tried to convince myself that the weight of supporting myself through school was starting to get to me. It’s stress, I reasoned. It’s a hormonal imbalance, I convinced.
Yet, a dollar store pregnancy test confirmed what I feared.
I was pregnant.
I wasn’t raped or a victim of incest. I had consensual protected sex, and a condom failed.
I was disappointed in myself. I was a student with my whole life ahead of me.
I called my best friends crying so hard they could barely understand me. I went across the street to their apartment and ran to the bathroom threatening to take a bottle of whatever pills were available in the medicine cabinet.
I threatened to get in my car and drive off a bridge. In my mind, life was not worth living anymore.
The suicidal feelings passed rather quickly. I went to bed that night uncertain about what my next steps would be.
My friends hid my keys and told me everything would be alright. I wasn’t sure about that, but I think it’s what I needed to hear. Their reassurance calmed me down, and I began to think rationally.
I had less than a year left in school and no visible support system.
I felt conflicted.
On one hand, I was capable of being a mother. I was 21-years-old. There are amazing mothers who started their journeys much earlier in life than that.
On the other hand, I was on my way out of college with only a summer job lined up. I had no long term plans in place. I was considering graduate school and couldn’t imagine doing that with an infant.
I was also grappling with my faith. I was already a sinner having premarital sex, but somehow an abortion weighed more heavily on the scale in my mind.
My biggest concern was disappointing those who loved and cared for me. I didn’t want to be another young, unwed mother, a statistic.
Aside from my two best friends and the person I’d been intimate with, I told no one that I was pregnant. My friends would support me in anything I wanted to do.
The guy made it clear he was not ready for a child. I didn’t fault him.
Though his opinion did play a role in my reasoning; ultimately, how I was going to handle it was my choice to make, and I made it.
I decided I wasn’t willing to have this situation determine the trajectory of my life.
Abortion was the best option for me.
I contacted Planned Parenthood. Although the nonprofit didn’t perform abortions where I lived, they had knowledge of the resources in the area. I reached out to one of the facilities they told me about, and I scheduled an appointment immediately.
I was told that it was too early and that before 6 weeks the fetus is so small that there is a chance of leaving pieces of tissue, which could cause severe health issues. So I scheduled an appointment for a few weeks out and focused on how I would pay for what I remember being about a $500 bill.
The guy I was in this situation with agreed to pay half, but I couldn’t even come up with $250.
It was time to tell someone else. I called my sister and explained the situation. She was not disappointed. She was sad that I felt like I needed to go through this alone. She reminded me that I had insurance, which could substantially lower the cost.
We decided I would come home, and she would sit with me through the procedure. I was relieved that she was there for me. Her support solidified my decision.
I was having an abortion.
Weeks passed, and soon enough, it was time. Soon-to-be President Barack Obama was speaking at Mizzou, and I was driving home to Kansas City.
I’ll be honest. Missing that rally was my biggest regret in this whole thing. Though it might seem trivial, a black man was running for president of the United States in the first election I’d ever exercise my right to vote in. I was vice president of the black student government at Mizzou. I was supposed to be there.
Still, we left home on a Friday morning and crossed the state line from Missouri to Kansas. I had knots in my stomach by the time we made it to the doctor’s office and it was my turn to see the doctor.
He rubbed a wand across my stomach for the mandatory ultrasound.
I watched the walls.
He gave me some pain and numbing meds and did a physical exam. He commented that there was a lot of dried blood and that I’d likely already miscarried.
In the moment, a possible miscarriage didn’t mean anything to me. I’d made a conscious decision to have an abortion, so that was my reality.
The procedure was quick. I remember staring at a wall the entire time.
On the drive home, I wiped away tears in silence.
I wasn’t necessarily sad about the abortion.
I was still disappointed in myself that I’d gotten pregnant in the first place. I felt irresponsible. I was upset that life hadn’t gone according to plan.
Over the years, I started to lean into the possibility of having miscarried. If I decided to share my abortion story, which was rare, I was always sure to include that.
It felt redeeming in the face of judgment.
I don’t regret my decision. I’m not ashamed of it. I was, however, looking for something to justify it to others.
I’ve since stopped trying to rationalize the past. I’m 32-years-old now, financially stable and happily married with three wonderful kids.
I rarely think about my abortion at all. But I know if I had to make the decision again, I would make the same choice.
I did what was right for me.