Several weeks ago I received an email from Julie Evans. It is with her written permission that I share her email with you, our most important supporters, today:
I got pregnant in December. The relationship I was in was not one that had a future, but still, having an abortion was not really the first thing that came to mind. I somehow wanted to ‘make it work.’ The guy I was with was not in any place to be part of the ‘making it work’ process, and I sorrowfully realized this over the course of a week. The complicated circumstances surrounding everything only made things worse, and I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I kept it a secret from most everyone, partly because I was ashamed that I had been behaving so recklessly in a certain sense, and partly because I felt like if I didn’t tell anyone, then it didn’t really happen.
I think in the back of my mind, somewhere, I knew the best thing for me to do was to have an abortion. I just didn’t want to admit that to myself. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, but didn’t even really commit to going until the night before. I finally reached out to an old friend of mine who immediately drove over to pick me up and take me to her house, where I spent the night before the procedure and the weekend after. I am so grateful for her presence in my life, and for the caring role she so humbly took on with me.
At the Planned Parenthood I finally came to terms with my reality. It was a strange feeling. I didn’t really want to make the decision to have an abortion. I wanted someone else to make it for me, to alleviate some of the guilt. But really, it was the fact that I was indeed, on my own, that led me to the realization that I was finally taking control of my life. By making the appointment, showing up, and thoughtfully choosing to have an abortion, I was deciding that there was much more I needed to do, wanted to do, would do, before having a baby (if that is even in the cards for me).
It was not a pleasant experience by any means, but it was a liberating one. When I made that decision, I also made a promise to myself that I would become the woman I wanted to be. No more wishing that I was this or that, I would actually do all the things I wanted to do.
So that’s kind of how the whole marathon thing happened. Part of it, I guess, was really just a way to cope. I didn’t start off thinking I was going to run a marathon. I ran because it made me feel strong and free and like myself again.
I decided to run a half marathon that year. Ironically, the marathon was in mid August, just about 9 months after I found out I was pregnant. I felt even more committed to running because of that — I wanted to see how much I could change, how much I could grow and prosper in those nine months. I would not take any of that time for granted. The day I ran the half was wonderful. My parents and friends were there cheering me on. I truly surprised myself that day.
One thing people kept asking in the months leading up to the race was “Why did you start running?” With very few people did I answer honestly. Mostly, I just said, “it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.” The reality is that I had an abortion and that the abortion was the catalyst that woke me up to realizing how many things I wanted to do, how many adventures I wanted to have, and to all the things I still wanted to learn.
A friend of mine who worked for Planned Parenthood recommended Exhale to me the first month after I had my abortion. I checked out the website, but never called. Frankly, I just wanted to move forward with my life, and by September I felt like I had. But emotions started creeping in again, and I found myself crying unexpectedly, not understanding why. I felt alone. I felt like I’d used up my ‘grace period’ of being sad about my abortion. I felt like my friends didn’t want to hear about it anymore. So I called Exhale.
I honestly thought about hanging up the phone. I didn’t know what to expect, who I’d be talking to. But when the counselor picked up the line and introduced herself, I totally lost it. It was the weirdest feeling: this total stranger, just saying her name and asking for mine, all of a sudden made me feel like she cared. I mean, she did. She wouldn’t be volunteering to answer phone calls if she didn’t. I kind of expected there to be some script. Some nice things she was supposed to say to me. But it never felt like that. It just felt like she really cared. She didn’t ask questions, she just let me talk. And in the end, she told me she wished other women could have heard what I said because it was so inspiring. I thought: “Me? Inspiring??” I am so freakin’ grateful for Exhale.
I’m grateful that Exhale is not trivializing abortion or using it as ammunition in the political arena. Indeed, what I find inspiring and comforting (as a woman who has had an abortion), is that Exhale is Pro-Voice. I think that’s what it’s all about. Talking. And listening.
So now I want to run the marathon. And I couldn’t think of an organization that is more deserving of my time and energy (and hopefully my friend’s and family’s money!) than Exhale. I am extremely passionate about your mission. I feel it is my mission too. I want women everywhere that have had an abortion to know that they are strong and beautiful – that they can do anything they want to do with their lives – that the choice is theirs. Hopefully me running 26.2 miles, proudly wearing the Exhale logo, will inspire other women and men to speak up, reach out, and listen.
Thank you Exhale, Julie Evans”
I invite you to make a special gift to Exhale in celebration of our 5th anniversary as a national, multilingual service. With your donation to Exhale, you can help listen to more callers like Julie Evans.