A Touchpoint True Story by Lauren
I was a 30-year-old living in Brooklyn. Doing marketing for a wellness company. I rode my bike everywhere, danced as much as possible, and hosted friends for dinners and BBQ’s often.
I was in a sexually active, monogamous relationship. We had been dating for four months. My partner was a bit on the reserved side, but solid and independent. We weren’t even sure how we were publicly referring to ourselves yet. I had spent years taking hormonal birth control and experienced severe negative side effects from it. So we were pulling out and avoiding sex during ovulation. I got pregnant.
I knew that I was not ready to be a mother and raise a child. So I scheduled an abortion at Planned Parenthood. I was six weeks pregnant. My insurance did not cover the procedure.
The appointment was scheduled ten days out. Ten days where I had to continue to live my life normally. Pretend to go through the motions. With no one knowing. While my body continued to develop a living being inside of me. The fear of judgement from others made me feel isolated and alone. I couldn’t tell anyone at work what I was going through or why I was so “distracted.” Additionally, I was experiencing debilitating physical symptoms: headaches, fatigue, nausea, swelling. I was in constant discomfort — it felt like I had the flu.
My partner came with me. I fasted in preparation. There were many more women there than I expected. Women of all ages and backgrounds. All waiting just like me.
The waiting is what I remember most about that day. There were several steps in the process, and each one happened on different floors of the building. For each one of those steps I waited — amongst dozens of other people — teenagers, young professionals, women in their late forties — and no one was talking in the waiting rooms. Just silence.
They called my name for the first step: a pregnancy blood test. My partner was not allowed to be with me beyond that point. Then, I received a psychological examination, followed by an ultrasound at the next level for final confirmation of the pregnancy. I asked to see it.
There was a little Apple earbud inside of my uterus. Or at least that’s what it looked like. Just a light grey outline over a darker grey background. But it was so powerful.
There was no doubt or second-guessing. I was just marveled by the idea that if I had chosen to not go through with this, I would be a mother.
Then more waiting before a urine test. Then more waiting on the floor where I was prepped for surgery.
There were posters of the female reproductive anatomy hanging on the walls of the waiting room. It dawned on me that I had never seen these images displayed anywhere in detail like this before. The surgery happened.
I woke up from the anesthesia sobbing. Shaking. I felt separated from my body. Completely and totally depleted. They gave me apple juice and saltines. I waited for my strength to return while lined up with six other women in recliners who were also recovering. I felt separated from my body.
My boyfriend and I took the subway because I was too nauseous to be in the back seat of a cab. I stood the whole way home because I didn’t know how to justify a young, healthy looking female needing a seat.
For the next two and a half months I was disconnected from myself. My body had to adjust to not having a fetus to take care of anymore. I was still gaining weight, tired, and sore. I was experiencing such intense cramps from my new copper IUD that I called the ER twice. I was missing work and social events because I never knew how bad I would feel on a given day. My whole life was affected.
For the months after the surgery, I was still living the shame of my silence.I didn’t want to explain it to my boss because she was religious and I wasn't sure if she was against abortion. My boyfriend never even told his family. Despite how challenging, I knew I had made the right decision for myself. There were no doubts about this. But I still felt shame. I felt guilty, slutty, and improper. I felt alone.
A new purpose emerges
I always cared about social justice and gender issues. But within a year of the abortion, with Hillary in the midst of her campaign for President, all of my experiences began to bubble and it became clear how increasingly affected I was by the patriarchal systems in our country. At work, in my relationships, how I felt about myself, how I made decisions, how I was raised, my motives, my ambitions. After the election I became more empowered and committed to specifically supporting women in general, and specifically with sexual and reproductive health because these areas were so targeted by the new administration. To be honest, and a bit cliche, I jumped into my newest project full force on November 9, 2016.
My life’s work is dedicated to being brave. To shifting paradigms. To looking at my experience, my privilege and learning from those that are different from me. I critically think about why I feel shame around my body and encourage women to change the structures they have grown up under. So much of what we as women do is for men. To receive their approval, be wanted by them, and be sexy for them. It is oppressive and shame-inducing. And we don’t need to operate like this anymore.
It is not just up to me to be bold. It is also up to the men to change the paradigms that benefit them. And not just only after we explain it to them. But because they realize it is unfair and our social system is broken. I ask that they join forces with women. Listen. Ask about experiences. Learn with us. There is so much to learn about our bodies, so much information to uncover, so many conversations to be had.
That is why I co-created CYCLES+SEX. On Sunday, April 30, we will meet to educate and celebrate the interconnectedness of our menstrual, hormonal, reproductive and sexual health for overall wellbeing and autonomy.
I call on men and women to take the lead in furthering this shift towards a more open and equal society.
To this day, I still have fear that what I'm doing with CYCLES+SEX or by telling my stories so honestly will be perceived as taboo or immoral. Just yesterday, I posted on social media about the event, and used the words "pubic hair" and "female ejaculation" and immediately felt scared that I was "crossing a line" and would be judged for being too liberal.
But if we can change the way people think and act around female reproduction, then maybe the next person to have to go through what I did won’t feel so alone.