I Never Thought That It Would Be Me
Personal Ethics Narrative: Winner
Written by: Binita Riffat (CUNY Hunter)
From an early age, I knew the kind of girl that I had wanted to be. I wanted to be kindhearted but not weak, fierce but not overwhelming. I wanted to excel in the things that had always mattered to me- my education, taking appropriate steps towards my career, being a role model for my brothers, and the perfect daughter for my traditional, Muslim parents, who despite living comfortably in Bangladesh, worked low-income jobs here in America to ensure that my brothers and I received opportunities that they never had. From an early age, I knew that I wanted to make my friends and my family proud. From an early age, I knew that I wanted to be a doctor, because the thought of helping others and becoming a healer was something that lit up every fiber of my being and every inch of my soul. From an early age, I was kept in a bubble. I was given a daily curfew and kept out of conversations that would jeopardize my wellbeing, whether it be mentally, emotionally, or physically. There was never a moment where the “perfect” girl that I had strived to be didn’t feel protected or safe. That is, until I became pregnant at the age of nineteen. I had always heard stories about teenage pregnancies, and how difficult the decision-making process can be at that age. Before I had my abortion, I never thought that it would be me.
I have always loved children. I had been an after-school counselor throughout high school and my first year of college, as well as a summer camp counselor for children with special needs. I loved their beautiful, bright features, and how they always seemed to find the good in everything. I loved hearing their thoughts, and how they were able to make intricate connections that even adults weren’t capable of. I want to reiterate my love and adoration for children, because despite the decision that I made, this love has not gone away.
It began with the small symptoms that one can easily dismiss as stress. A missed period, lack of sleep, an overwhelming feeling of being tired, and inexplicable nausea. I was entering my sophomore year of college. I was supposed to choose a major at the end of the spring semester, and delve deeper into my pre-medical coursework while pursuing volunteer opportunities and internships. In my mind, everything had a set place and time. I was working towards a bright future, and at the time, I believed that that future included a boy that I had fallen deeply in love with. I had watched my friends fall in love all throughout high school, and never really believed that anyone would ever love me enough to want to be with me. He was my first boyfriend, and my first love. I trusted him wholeheartedly.
One morning, I woke up with a sudden sense of nausea that was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. After throwing up, the fear suddenly crept into my mind. I couldn’t possibly be pregnant, could I? I didn’t want to worry my boyfriend, without knowing for sure that something was wrong. I went to the pharmacy by myself, and purchased a test. I read over the instructions ten times before taking it. I flipped it over and waited the allotted time until the result came up, and when it did, my heart dropped in my chest. I was pregnant. I’d seen my friends have pregnancy scares, I’d seen the anxiety that came with them, but in times of crisis, I had always been able to remain calm and centered. My hands were shaking, but my mind was made up. I knew what I had to do. I called my boyfriend and told him about the test, and he simply asked me what I wished to do. I told him my choice, and I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment for a medical abortion that was to take place a few days later.
I became more conscious of my body after taking the test. I found myself placing my hand on my stomach at random parts of the day, and being more mindful of the things that I was eating. When the day finally came, I dressed in comfortable clothes and headed to the clinic. After sharing my insurance information with the receptionist, I was relieved to find out that my abortion would be free of cost. I was also assured that my parents would never find out about my procedure. I sat down in the waiting area with my boyfriend, and realized as I looked around the room that all of the other women that were sitting there were much older than I was. I realized then that age didn’t matter when it came to making such a life-changing decision. You were either ready, or you were not.
The medical staff were very kind. Everyone I encountered that day had a sunny personality, and I felt comfortable despite the situation. A medical assistant did an overall check-up and took my blood, as well as my previous medical history. An ultrasound technician did my ultrasound, and asked me if I wanted her to print out a picture. I accepted the picture, and waited in the waiting room again until a nurse called my name to go over my options with me. I looked at the picture with my boyfriend. I was five weeks and six days pregnant, and the fetus was just a tiny dot in my uterus at the time. When I went in to talk to the nurse about my options, I chose the abortion pill rather than a surgical abortion. The abortion pill was meant to feel more natural and could be done from the comfort of your own home. She printed out a packet for me, highlighted key points, and went over every aspect of the procedure with me. After explaining each step in detail, she asked me to repeat it back to her, to make it clear to her that I understood what I was meant to do. This simple act made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and that I was being taken care of. She then introduced me to the doctor, who spoke to me about my decision again, and made it clear that she and her staff would support any decision that I made. Not once did my mind waver from the decision that I had made. After I told her that my mind was made up, she again went over the procedure with me in full detail, including all of the medications that I would take and at what time. After I repeated the procedure back to her, she administered the first medication, called mifepristone. This medication blocked my body from producing progesterone, which ultimately stopped the pregnancy from growing. I was to take the second medication, misoprostol, the next day at home. I was told that this medicine would cause heavy cramping and bleeding. I was given prescriptions for pain medications and antibiotics that would ease the pain. On my way home, my boyfriend and I went to the grocery store and bought pads, snacks, and a warm compress. I knew that ultimately I would have to go through the process alone because my parents didn’t know that we were dating, let alone that we were having sex, but I was grateful for the little things that my boyfriend did to ensure that I was comfortable at the time.
I followed all of the doctor’s instructions. The next day, I prepared myself with the painkillers prior to taking the medication. After I took the misoprostol, I got into bed, and felt the cramps begin. I placed the warm compress on my stomach, and waited for the pain to pass. It was as if everything was at a standstill. Everything was quiet, except for the soft hum of my air conditioner. My mind was blank and my heart felt empty. It was a strange sort of feeling, because I yearned to feel close to someone and I yearned to feel protected. I wished I could talk to my mom about it, but I knew that the very thought of me becoming pregnant at this age would break her heart beyond repair. My parents had always showered me with love, and I had always made them proud. Although I wasn’t a perfect Muslim, they were still proud of the woman that I was becoming and they had high hopes for my future. I was always planning ahead. At the time, I had the next 10 years of my life already planned out. An unplanned pregnancy just didn’t fit into the picture. It was a decision that I had made rather quickly, but I knew that it was the right thing to do.
I drifted in and out of sleep for what seemed like hours, until I finally awoke at 3 A.M. and went to the bathroom. I felt the pregnancy pass, and suddenly, the pressure was gone. The second that I realized that it was over, all I could feel was relief. I couldn’t go back to sleep after that, so I stayed up and watched the sun rise from my bedroom window. I knew that in a way, my life had been changed forever, but I also felt that I was being given a second chance. I was able to make a choice and honor my own decision about an event that would quite literally impact the rest of my life. Other women are not so lucky. They are forced to continue onwards in their pregnancy, and are deemed as social pariahs if they have children born out of wedlock. Younger girls that were my age are shamed by their family members, at a time where they should be given support. Women who had plans and dreams for their future are forced to change the course of their life in order to support another human being. Not only does having a baby take a physical toll on a woman’s body, but it also affects their mentality and emotions, both of which are essential to one’s overall wellbeing. After all, how can you take care of someone else when you are not even capable of taking care of yourself?
There are many misconceptions about the women who choose to have abortions, but the truth of the matter is that this topic is not simply black or white. There is a lot of gray in between, and one cannot truly form an opinion about the matter without really being in the situation themselves. Women who choose to have abortions are not irresponsible. The decision truly isn’t as simple as it seems. Even after making the decision, your mind will wander and you will wonder if you could’ve been a good mother after all. I asked myself that often. The truth is, I do believe that I will be an amazing mother one day, when I am ready and have all of the resources that I need to ensure that my baby will live a long, healthy, and happy life. Women who choose to have abortions are never weak. Making the decision to have an abortion requires strength, on every developmental level. It takes a certain level of strength to stand up and make a decision concerning the rest of your life, despite what those around you believe. You must be resilient, and you must be true to your beliefs. After all, nobody knows what you are capable of better than you do.
It’s a part of human nature to explore the unknown. We are always keen on learning about things that we had never truly experienced, and we are quick to form opinions about things even before knowing all there is to know about the topic. The truth is, no woman should ever have to feel like they don’t have a choice. We are women. We are conditioned to be softer, more vulnerable than men are, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot be fierce as well. Living with the choices that I’ve made have just grown easier over time, and I am a better person today because of it. I continue to strive and work towards my future, all the while knowing that when I am ready, I will be better than I could have possibly ever imagined. I never thought that it would be me, but I am a stronger person today because of it, and for that, I will forever be grateful.