Bio: Emily Schooley is an actor(vist), photographer, writer, and Girl Friday living in Toronto. Through her varied and occasionally traumatic experiences life has thus far thoroughly failed to kill her, making her that much stronger. You can find Emily online at http://emilyschooley.com or on Twitter @EmilySchooley. If you’re in Toronto, catch her improv troupe Pandora’s Toybox next performing at the Black Swan on May 10th – SHAMEBOOK features authentic pages from Emily’s diary, used to inspire scenes.
Note: I was both inspired and touched by Josh’s post about his experience with abortion, and wanted to provide my own first-hand experience to enlighten those who have never been through it. For those who have not, I sincerely hope you don’t find yourself in the position of having to make a difficult choice. Also, I know how hard it is to get your brain around viewpoints that differ from your own.
- Nobody else has lived life exactly the way you have, nor can they see things exactly from your perspective. What this means is that nobody else can or should have the power to make such a crucial decision for you that WILL impact the rest of your life. Not your family, not a pro-lifer, not a doctor, not a priest, not anyone. For me, the right choice was having an abortion, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever tell another woman that she must have an abortion.
- In the midst of emotional turmoil, you usually already know what you want to do, no matter how much you second-guess yourself. I’d always said that should I get pregnant I’d immediately go for an abortion. When I found out I actually was pregnant, I spent a lot of time mentally screaming at myself about “maybe I should keep it” and “you’d always planned on being a single mom anyway…”. At the end, it was the quiet voice – my intuition – that waited until all the screaming was done to reassure me that given all circumstances I was making the best choice for me. As soon as the procedure was over, I felt an immense sense of lightness and peace return. If I was to get pregnant now, my choice would not necessarily be the same one.
- The only person’s mind you can change is your own. I used to love starting debates with pro-lifers by telling them about my experience with abortion and that it was the best choice I’d ever made. While some of them were respectful enough to listen to what I had to say, guess how many minds I changed with this tactic. None. No amount of evidence or testimony can change someone’s opinion about abortion if they aren’t looking for reasons to change their mind.
- People who truly love you will stand by you even if they don’t agree with decisions you make. One of my best friends (who happens to be very Christian) was the one who drove me to the hospital to get my abortion. He’d come over to visit the night before; I hadn’t planned on telling him about my sticky situation but it came out through the course of the evening. He ended up staying overnight – and insisted on sleeping on the floor so that I’d get a good night’s rest in bed – and wouldn’t take “I’ll just take the bus, it’ll be fine” as an answer from me. He never told me that I was making the wrong choice or that I should keep it, even though I know those are ideals he values.
- Sometimes you need to be selfish, and that’s not a bad thing even though everyone wants to tell you it is. I was still in undergrad and wanted to finish school, and so I never told my then-boyfriend about my pregnancy. He was sweet and kind but I knew he wasn’t a forever deal; even if I had decided to keep it I was not going to ask him to be financially or emotionally responsible. I am a very strong advocate of it being the woman’s choice when all is said and done. I chose not to tell him because I did not want to burden him with the decision, nor did I want him having any say about my body or my future. You can call it selfish, but I call it self-preservation and my life would have gone in a drastically different direction if I’d had to start raising a child then, and I can guarantee that I would not be as happy as I am now. It takes strength to stand up for yourself in the face of extreme adversity.
- It’s easy to lose your head in a crisis, but hindsight is 20/20. At the time, getting pregnant was the absolute worst thing that I’d lived through in my barely two decades of life. Not so much for health/physical risks (though I’ll get to some fun side effects shortly) but because I was suddenly faced with questioning my morals, values, judgements, choices, and life path. Abortion is never an easy choice to make, even for someone like me who knew that the time and circumstances were not right to bring a child into the world. At the same time, any highly stressful situation is going to push you to the edge of where you feel you can’t handle anything else. Surprise, you can always handle more than you think you can – since then I’ve rolled with the punches of things like a wrongful arrest, court cases, car accidents, and a crazy abusive ex-boyfriend. It makes for great story-telling.
- Black humour has a time and a place, but laughter really is the best medicine. One of my favourite abortion jokes is about how it’s just like giving blood – you get juice and cookies at the end. Not everyone can handle hearing that, but finding some sort of positivity – even if it’s tongue in cheek – in a stressful experience it will help you heal from it that much faster. And in turn, that will equip you to handle bigger stresses that come down the road. Trust me, life rarely goes according to plan. I may be flippant now about “the time that I got knocked up” but that’s because I’ve processed it and learned from it.
- Seriously, don’t screw around with birth control. I got pregnant because I was a week late starting up my monthly birth control pills because I’d forgotten to bring them on a trip. We were using condoms at the time but accidents can and do happen – safe sex needs to be the responsibility of both parties, and you can never be too careful.
- Being pregnant makes you crazy. No, really. Not only was I physically sick and miserable for pretty much the entire time, I was also an emotional wreck. I’d lay in bed sobbing, eat half a bucket of ice cream, then decide that 2 am was a great time to go for a walk. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to withstand the hurricane force of pregnancy hormones. Even if you’re in a supportive and loving home with a child conceived out of love, it’s not easy at the best of times. Imagine how much worse it is for rape victims, for example – there’s no way in hell anyone should be made to endure nine months of that.
- Canadians are extremely privileged, and it’s so easy to forget that sometimes. We get so caught up in worrying about clothes and jobs and cars that we frequently ignore or gloss over problems of other countries. It’s part of the whole “first world problems” idea, but even amongst other first-world countries there are issues. Americans with million-dollar healthcare bills. Nevermind that abortions are still illegal in almost half of the world. It is both infuriating and terrifying that women now face the risk of having the freedom of choice taken from them. We CANNOT let that happen.