EDIT: I got a lot of comments about this post being triggering. I do apologize for that and am putting the long form below a cut. In making this choice, I did a LOT of research online. I was solid in my decision, so what I really wanted was an honest account of what to expect, but what I found were pro-choice sites that stuck to the facts and anti-choice sites filled with stories of regret. I am hard-core pro-choice (in the early 90's, as a young teen, my parents actually took me to rallies to keep clinics open) and remain so after this experience, but that doesn't mean that parts of it didn't suck balls.
IN A NUTSHELL:
Dealing with the medical offices, the insurance company and the factory-like atmosphere of the clinic was frustrating, depressing and overwhelming at times. I wanted to do it without sedation because I have such a hard time recovering from that stuff, but they made it so miserable that I changed my mind at the 11th hour and went under. I still regret giving into the pressure, and am still feeling a bit off from the sedation, but when it comes to cramps/bleeding/etc. I feel great. It's nowhere near as bad as a normal period, even. I'd do it again if I found myself in the same position; however, I'd seriously consider spending the money and going someplace that is less of a factory.
THE COMPLETE TALE:
My periods are like clockwork, so when it didn't start on the Thursday in July when it was due, I started to worry. I took a home pregnancy test on Friday - negative. When it still didn't start by Sunday, I took another - this time it was positive. I took 4 more LOL...and all said the same thing. The next day, I went to my doctor's urgent care office to get a blood test to verify it and seek guidance. I knew that my insurance covered the procedure, but that I needed a referral (since it's an HMO). They told me I didn't need a referral to an OB and recommended the office in the same building. I called there and the girl on the phone made an appointment for the Friday morning. I thought I had it all together, but when I called to confirm the appointment and see if there were any pre-procedural directions, I was met with shock. The snippy young woman on the phone promptly told me that they don't do *that* at their office. When I asked who they referred people to, she told me the didn't because their clients *wanted their babies.* Needless to say, I got her supervisor on the phone who apologized profusely and sent me a list of Family Planning and Planned Parenthood offices.
I went back and forth with my insurance and various doctors offices. There were *no* regular OB/GYN offices who provided the procedure - save for one, in Beverly Hills, that didn't take my insurance and would've cost me $1100. They all referred people to Family Planning Associates so I gave in and called them. They made an appointment for me that weekend at an office about 30 minutes from my house. It would be $450. (Planned Parenthood, was about $750, BTW)
BF and I adhered to the pre-procedure instructions (no food/drink, etc.) and drove out there. I filled out the paperwork and went in for the vaginal ultrasound and the woman doing it told me I wasn't pregnant. I said, "yes, I am." And she dismissively said, "no, you aren't...there's nothing here." I told her that I'd taken 5 home pregnancy tests and my primary care physician confirmed it with a blood test. She then admitted that I could be too early to see, but that would mean I was "barely a week or two"...and said she'd give me a urine test. Sure enough, it was positive (but she made sure to point out that the regular test didn't pick it up, only the super-sensitive one, so I knew how "barely" pregnant I was)...but they wouldn't perform the procedure until they could see it so I had to come back in two weeks. The front office staff was a lot more helpful than the medical staff, I have to say. They told me as I was checking out that they had worked with my insurance before, so they would refund all but $130 (for the ultrasound and labs) and that I should get a referral so that when I came back it would just be the $150 copay.
That next week I made *another* appointment with my primary physician who put in the referral and they took it (NOTE: if you have insurance, and it covers abortion services, *make* your doctor submit the referral the first time) so BF and made the trek again yesterday morning. They rescanned me (it was the same woman, BTW, who didn't recognize me...and confirmed that I was six weeks and 1 day) and sent my back to the waiting room for a little while longer. When they called me again, they took me to a room that had 4 or 5 stalls and in each stall were 9 lockers. I was assigned locker 16 and told to take off everything, including bra and undies, and put on the robe, hair net and booties and take a seat in the chairs. There were 3 women ahead of me and two who were on the same "track" as me. They each met with a woman who sat at the desk taking vitals (height/weight/blood pressure). She then sent us to the lab, where my finger was pricked to test for rh +/- and anemia. That only took a couple of minutes and when I was deemed not anemic and rh+, they sent me to a different waiting room.
Here's where things got a little ugly. FPA only offers two options with surgical abortion: wide awake with lidocaine injections to numb the cervix or out cold on propofol. I don't like going under (I've done it at least 4 times for dental and other procedures) and it just takes me much longer to shake the groggies than is "normal." My request got repeated comments throughout the process - "eek, she's brave" being uttered repeatedly by medical staff and lab techs. SO. NOT. NECESSARY.
When I finally got pulled from the waiting room, it was by the anesthesiologist who made a similar comment and then proceeded to hound me about it. He walked me to the operating room which was very utilitarian (to say it nicely). They had me lay down on the table and get in the stirrups (which are a lot different than normal stirrups because you have to wrap your legs around some bars so that they don't close and put your feet in these leather loops - very awkward) but the real problem was the chaos. Apparently, they weren't prepared for a local procedure, so they were scrambling...people coming in and out, trying to find the right sized needles, looking for the lidocaine, etc. They finally started by dropping the part of the table under my butt (so you're kind of hanging there) and putting in the speculum - and I just couldn't take it anymore. It was a much larger speculum than I had ever had at a pelvic exam and because there was nothing to hold on to at the top of the bed, the bottom part of my body was super tight and my feet felt like they were going to slip and I didn't think I could last the "four or five" more minutes without moving and risking hurting my innards - so I told them I changed my mind. The doctor was annoyed, but the anesthesia guy got in there pretty quickly. I felt the needle go in my arm and was told to take 4 deep breaths. The first one, nothing, but after that I could taste it (metal and garlic) and feel it in my chest. It kind of burns, like if you accidentally take a big breath around cleaning fluids, but I was out in an instant.
The next thing I remember is crying. I always sob uncontrollably when I come out of a general (odd, since I'm not much of a cryer in real life...and one of the many reasons I hate it). A nurse made me sit up in the bed and then lift up my butt so she could slide an old school maxi (the kind on the belt) up around me to catch any bleeding. I stayed in the bed for about 10 minutes and then they led me to another dressing/locker room that was just like the first and, in fact, had the same lockers (they opened from both sides). I was given a pad (thankfully, though, I had brought my own - the ones they had were really thick and didn't stick to your panties) and told to put my clothes back on. At this point I texted my BF in the waiting room and told him I loved him but really hated his sperm right now LOL. I got dressed slowly (I wasn't in pain, really, just groggy/dizzy) and sat in the room - the three girls that had been in the first waiting room were here, too. We got water and tang and saltines and 800 mg of ibuprofen. One by one, the nurse gave us post-op instructions and our chosen methods of birth control and called the front to tell our drivers to pick us up (you exit from a different door than you enter).
BF met me outside. He drove me home and then went out to fill the prescription and grab food. We spent the rest of the day watching movies and hanging out. I took smaller doses of Advil (400 mg) that afternoon, but the cramps were so minor I've pretty much stopped. The abortion stuff - the cramping, bleeding, etc, is almost non-existant. Easy-peasy, really. My monthly periods are ten times worse than what's going on down there right now. My biggest issue, is from that damn general. I slept a lot yesterday and last night and today I still feel a little out of it. When I took a shower this morning, the steam kind of aggravated that chemical burn feeling in my lungs.
I'm still really angry at them for making it so chaotic and scary and at myself for giving into the pressure of doing it their way. I'm sure that had they been prepared *before* I came into the room and were calm and coached me through it like it was no big deal instead of acting like they were making it up as they went along, I would have been okay and the recovery would have been even easier. From the first visit with the tech who insisited I wasn't pregnant to the way the request for local anesthetic was handled, I got the feeling that this place is so accustomed to dealing with people who maybe aren't so in touch with their bodies/medical care/etc. that when people come in with some amount of knowledge it just kind of screws with their system. FPA provides a crucial service at a reasonable price. They make sure that it is medically safe and accessibile to so many - it is just sad that, in my case, it was so much more difficult than it had to be.