My aspiration abortion was today at 10AM, and I wanted to post the details here, not just so the people who helped me will know how it went, but in the hopes that the next time someone comes here looking for answers, my story might help them in some way. Please note, though, that my abortion ended up being more complicated than anyone expected, and that my experience was not the norm. However, I feel it's important for other people to know what could happen under certain circumstances.
I woke up at 5AM with a bad sore throat, which I knew was the start of a cold I've caught from my officemate. I'd been hoping I wouldn't get it, but of course on the worst possible day, my stupid immune system finally succumbed. I decided to push through anyway, though, of course.
My friend came to get me at 8AM, because we wanted to make sure we were on time in the crazy rush hour traffic. I was more nervous about getting there on time than I was about the procedure itself, but we ended up making it with plenty of time to spare. I'd been told to eat a light breakfast, so I ate a crumpet on the way, and we stopped at Starbucks where I got some madelines as well.
There were a few protesters outside, but they were all elderly and non-aggressive. They just called out to us and asked if we wanted to come talk about different alternatives before we went inside. My friend and I ignored them, and they left us alone.
When we got inside, I checked in at the front desk, then filled out a bunch of forms that included the following:
-- Driver information for patients who are getting sedation. I chose to get local anesthesia only, but I filled this out anyway, just in case I changed my mind or something went wrong.
-- Medical history including all the usual: age, number of pregnancies, etc.
-- Release consent form in case something went wrong and they needed to turn me over to my regular doctor.
-- Consent forms for anesthesia (you have to sign this no matter what kind of anesthesia you're getting)
-- Ultrasound consent forms
I gave these back to the front desk and went to sit with my friend, expecting the usual long wait, but I got called back less than fifteen minutes later.
I was taken into a private room with an RN, who went through all my forms with me and asked if I had any questions. She asked how I was feeling about my decision, and I said, "100% sure." She asked if the father knew, and whether he was on the same page, and I said yes to both. She asked me some standard medical questions (drug allergies, history of illness, etc), then took my blood pressure and temperature. My temp was actually somewhat elevated (99.8F), but I explained that I thought I was coming down with a cold, and I almost always run a low grade fever the first couple of days. She went over the procedure with me and told me that since I was only 6 weeks along, the actual abortion itself would probably only take 30-45 seconds, and that they could probably do it with manual suction.
After that, I was given a gown and a blanket, and shown into a bathroom where I could change. I left on my socks, sports bra, and t-shirt, and carried my stuff out to the nurse, who put it in a locker for me and showed me into an internal waiting room.
There were already quite a few women there, most of whom were hooked up to IVs, but it wasn't tense and silent like I thought it would be. One of the older women was talking quietly about why she was there, and we all ended up chatting softly with one another to pass the time. It was a weirdly calming experience for me, being there in a waiting room with a bunch of women in gowns, sharing stories. We weren't split up into categories we were outside the clinic; no one was rich or poor, tall or short, skinny or curvy. None of that mattered. We were a bunch of women who all had different experiences and wisdom to share, and even though we were all scared, we were also sharing an incredible bonding experience.
While we waited, each of us went through the same routine:
-- Go for a pre-op exam, which included a pelvic exam and a vaginal ultrasound. The doctor asked me if I wanted to see the ultrasound, and I said no. Then she asked if I wanted to know if it was multiples, and I said no.
-- Back to the waiting room
-- Go for a blood draw and to receive antibiotics. If you're getting sedation, this is where they hook you up to a saline IV. I was getting local, though, so I just had the blood draw. I also asked for azithromycin instead of doxy for my antibiotics, since doxy has made me really ill in the past.
-- Back to the waiting room
-- Go to empty your bladder, even if you don't feel like you have to pee.
-- Back to the waiting room
-- Go to the procedure room
I was really calm up until they came to tell me to pee, at which point I started freaking out. Lots of foot-tapping and cold sweats. I tried to comfort myself by telling myself that it would be quick and easy. I could handle 30 to 45 seconds of pain.
They called me into the procedure room, with a table that looks pretty much exactly like a regular gyno table, except instead of stirrups, there are bigger rests for your legs, which get strapped in. I figured this was for people who were having sedation, but I later realized that it's to keep you from clamping your legs shut during the procedure when it hurts. They tilted the table back a little, so my head was slightly down and my legs and butt were elevated. I started crying a little at that point, just from nerves.
The doctor was very nice, and gave me a minute to collect myself before she started. She began with another quick, manual pelvic just to feel where my uterus was, then she inserted the speculum. The speculum didn't feel much bigger than the one they use for regular check-ups. She swabbed me with iodine, inside and out, which burned a little, and then followed it with the local anesthetic injections.
I want to mention here that I have a high tolerance for pain. I got through jaw surgery with only a local anesthetic, and it wasn't especially pleasant, but I survived. So when I talk about things hurting, I mean they hurt.
And the injections hurt. A lot. It felt like exactly what you'd expect: a needle being jabbed into your cervix three times in a row.
They warned me that the lidocaine they'd injected might make my ears ring and give me a metallic taste in my mouth, but I didn't experience either of those things. I was already whimpering in pain at that point, so they asked if I wanted to be sedated after all, and I said no. I could do it. It would be quick.
The doctor rubbed my leg and told me they were going to have to dilate my cervix a little. They didn't think they'd have to since I was only 6 weeks, but apparently my cervical opening was still too small for the tube. She warned me it was going to hurt, and I told her to go ahead, so she inserted a small-diameter dilation rod. And it did hurt. A lot.
Then came the first attempt: manual suction. Even after the dilation rod, it took her awhile to get the tube into my cervix, which had me moaning in pain. My legs were starting to shake, and I was biting the blanket they'd let me wrap myself up in. The nurse grabbed my hand and told me to squeeze, and promised it was almost over. When the doctor finally got the tube in and started suctioning, the nurse who was sitting next to me let me know, and I thought, "Oh god, just 30 more seconds. Just 30 more seconds, and I'm done."
The doctor told me we were all done, and that it would stop hurting so much in just a second. She took everything out and told me she was going to do a vaginal ultrasound to make sure they got everything. Usually, vaginal ultrasounds don't bother me, but I was in so much pain, the wand hurt going in.
And the embryo was still there. I was still pregnant.
As soon as they told me, I started crying. The doctor said, "I'm so sorry, honey. We're going to have to try again. Do you want sedation?" I said no, I just wanted it out.
The speculum went in again. The dilation rod went in again. A second dilation rod went in. My legs were shaking, my jaw ached from how hard I was biting the blanket, and I was in a cold sweat. They used the suction machine the second time, and it seemed to take forever. They pulled everything out and put the ultrasound wand back in.
The embryo was still there.
I started sobbing even harder and asked if this was normal. The nurse said yes, sometimes it happens. In my case, the embryo was quite far inside, in an unusual spot in my uterus, and it was hard for them to get to. They were going to have to try a third time. She offered me sedation again, and I refused again. I just wanted it over with, and I didn't want to slow down for an IV or injections.
They tried a third time, and let the machine run longer, and moved the tube around inside. It felt like my insides were being dug out of me with a pencil. I put my hand over my mouth because I was screaming in pain.
When they were done, the embryo was still there.
By the fourth time, I was in so much pain, I think I was in a weird kind of hysterical shock. I don't remember making any noises or crying or anything, but I must have been. I think at one point, I asked if I was going to have to stay pregnant or something, and the nurse told me it would be okay, they'd get it done, it was just going to take awhile. I remember holding her hand and wondering whether my legs were shaking because of the lidocaine, and whether or not I'd be able to walk afterward.
When they checked the fourth time, the embryo was finally gone. I started sobbing again when they told me, and kept asking them, "Are you sure? Promise me you're sure. Are you sure?" The doctor said she was going to go look at the tissue and make sure they got everything they needed, then left me with the nurse.
I don't remember what the nurse said to me. I think she was giving me instructions or something, because I remember sitting up, then needing to lie back down again, and her moving my legs and hands around.
Then I remember the doctor coming back and saying, "We're done. I promise we're done." I told her to promise me it was gone, and she said yes, she'd looked at everything under a microscope, and everything they needed was there. We were done.
Somehow, I ended up in a wheelchair, and then in the recovery room. The nurse in the recovery room helped me stand up and told me, "Don't worry if the pad falls. It's okay. I've got it." I didn't know what she was talking about, because I hadn't even realized the last nurse had put a pad between my legs, or that I was holding it in place. She helped me into the chair and put a warming pad over me, then gave me some crackers, apple juice, and ibuprofen.
I asked if I could stay longer than the 15 minutes they usually give people who have had local, and they said absolutely, I could stay as long as I wanted. So I closed my eyes for awhile until the panic/shock started to wear off and I started to feel better. Weirdly enough, I wasn't actually cramping that much, considering what I'd just been through. I was cramping a little, for sure, but not as much as you'd think. I'm not sure how long I was there, but it was long enough for the ibuprofen to start working.
When I was feeling better, I let the recovery nurses know, and they called my friend to let her know I was ready. I had to have some help standing up to go to the bathroom because my legs were still shaky, but I was otherwise okay. While I was changing, I noticed that I wasn't bleeding, so I asked if that was normal, and the nurse said yes. She told me to continue taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen at home, then helped me to the back door and turned me over to my friend.
It's been 8 hours since I went into the procedure room, and 6 hours since I got home. I'm still not bleeding. I don't have cramps. All I have is an upset lower stomach that keeps me running to the bathroom every hour.
I can't stop wondering if they actually got it all. What if I'm still pregnant?
ETA: 11:05PM, and I can't stop crying, because I suddenly feel like I've made a huge mistake. The circumstances surrounding the conception were impossible. My due date was Christmas. It took four tries before the doctor deemed the procedure successful. I remember thinking, hysterically, when I saw the ultrasound screen after the third unsuccessful try, that maybe the urge to fight is genetic, and maybe it was fighting the way I do, tooth and nail, to survive. And now it's gone, and I feel empty and alone.