Life after her choice

Emma Dejong

The woman in this article requested that her last name not be included.

Jen was 22 years old when she arrived at the Bellevue Health Clinic in Bellevue, Neb.

It’s an old building on the corner of one of Bellevue’s main streets. Instantly her eyes were drawn to the large, green letters that spelled “abortion and contraception” in capital letters.

On her way in she walked by a woman hiding behind a fence.

“She was crying, and she begged me not to go in,” Jen said.

She walked in, filled out the paperwork and paid $384 in cash. There wouldn’t be any record on her checking account that way. Then she went into the full waiting room.

There were some couples and some women sitting by themselves.

“Nobody looked at each other,” Jen said.

A nurse called Jen’s name and explained her options. She thought the abortion pill “sounded terrible,” and they ended up using the dilation and curettage method.

The nurse asked if Jen had any questions.

“I asked if I’d be sad,” she said.

Jen went through years of pain before that day at the clinic. She said her “downward spiral” started in high school.

She grew up in a Christian family in Yankton, S.D. When she was 16 years old, she went to her first party with alcohol present and she was raped. She told her parents right away.

“After my family found out that drinking was involved, they told me it was my own fault,” she said. “I had to apologize to my rapist.”

And she had to sit behind him in math class.

Jen continued to party in high school and after graduation she went to Doane College in Lincoln, Neb. She quit after two years and moved back home to Yankton.

“During that time I was on seven-day drinking binges,” she said.

This involved drinking heavily for seven days, and then staying sober for seven days. That summer, she met someone.

“We just started sleeping around, and it was casual,” Jen said.

She passed her morning sickness off as hangover symptoms. After a couple weeks of it she found out she was pregnant, but she didn’t tell anyone. She was overwhelmed.

“I’m like, ‘I don’t have a college degree. I have a drinking problem. My parents hate me. I can’t keep a job,’” she said. “It’s not even like [the father] was my boyfriend. He was like my drinking buddy.”

So she wanted an escape. When she searched for abortion clinics online, Bellevue came up and Jen made her decision.

Jen said the clinic’s environment was “very casual.”

“They weren’t encouraging [my abortion], but they were very apathetic to the whole thing,” she said.

After the abortion was over, Jen had to wear a large pad to absorb the bleeding, and then they asked her if she wanted to see the baby. She said no.

She sat on a recliner for a half hour as the bleeding subsided and was offered water and a cookie. She said she felt hopeless and numb.

“This might not be what it is for everyone, but [through] the whole process of it you’re just hoping someone comes up to you and asks you to stop,” she said.

When she got home, she felt relieved. That night, she went out drinking, like normal.

“Nothing changed, except for the fact I wasn’t pregnant anymore,” Jen said.

But the relief didn’t last.

“It didn’t take long for what I did to sink in,” she said. “In a matter of weeks or months I was devastated.”

Six months after her abortion, Jen told her family everything.

“At that point I felt like I had nothing to lose,” she said. “My life was seriously such a mess, so what would be the difference?”

Jen said her parents didn’t completely understand the extent of what happened, but they “opened their arms and poured their love out on me.”

She decided she wanted to get her “life back on track,” so she came to SDSU to finish school. She was still severely depressed.

“I just felt the weight of a life,” she said. “You start to realize what it is you just went through with.”

Jen started seeing a counselor for depression and continued this on a weekly basis for two years. She described the sessions as “painfully honest.”

“It really felt like my last resort,” she said. “It was either that, or I probably would have drank myself to death or done something more permanent.”

She started going to the Brookings Wesleyan Church, where she met Deborah Dyer, the executive director of Elizabeth’s House, a pregnancy help center in Brookings.

After her counseling at SDSU Jen has wanted to share her story “in some way” to “make an impact.” She’s currently a volunteer at Elizabeth’s House.

“I just thought that when I got pregnant, that was the end-all,” she said. “That was the end of my life.”

But it wasn’t. She is now married and plans to have kids someday. She currently works at Kid’s World Learning Center and volunteers at the Brookings Youth Mentoring Program.

It’s still hard for her to share her story, but she does it because she wants to offer hope and comfort to others with similar stories.

“For those that have had abortions, know that you have a Father that loves you, and your life can be beautiful again,” she said. “You can have true peace and enjoyment.”