Friday, November 13, 2009

Patient "support persons," and a reader poll!

Allied blog plug: If you aren't reading Every Saturday Morning, you should be! Last month, this post brought me close to tears, tears of anger at the way patients and escorts were subjected to not only simmering tension, creepy or violent threats, and verbal aggression, but also stalking and actual physical violence. Really, I just sat there afterward and felt like my bones were shaking from indignation.

But today I read this post that brought me to tears of gratitude, about a moment when strangers came together to help a woman in need -- not just the band of escorts and certainly not the band of "sidewalk counselors" (anti-abortion protesters and harrassers), but people inside the clinic, friends and drivers of other patients.

Now, I'm not saying I cry at the drop of a hat or anything, but another thing that always does it to me is seeing two patients' respective support people bonding in the waiting room, during the several hours the patient may need to be in the clinic offices -- for example moms sharing the experience of being a parent to a patient, or one offering to run out for some food for both of them or helping to entertain the other's grandchild who had to come along to the clinic.

We hear a lot about the isolation of needing a stigmatized procedure, and I certainly do see lots of women who don't want anyone to know, don't want to sit with "the others," come without a support person even if that means no Vicodin and no sedation, or cross their arms and avoid any eye contact with other patients. But when patients can reach out to each other, and when they have warm and committed support people who reach out to one another or even to other patients -- well, it does happen, and I still get wet eyes every time.

Question for readers! How many of you have been a woman's support-person during her clinic visit? What was it like for you -- were you uncomfortable? Did you make friends? Was the wait really long? Was it easy or hard to be supportive that day?

Or, if you've had an abortion and are comfortable talking about it in comments, did you have a support person, and if so how were they?

I'll post a poll on the right of the home page, if you want to tell us more anonymously, but consider ALSO telling us in your own words, which is always so great to read!


  1. I was a remarkably lucky teenager in that I had my parents beside me. My abortion was in the late 80's at the height of the protest movement, and there were no facilities in my hometown. I needed both the financial and emotional support they provided. Luckily, the PP clinic had learned of a GP providing abortion services only 80 miles away, so my folks took a day off work to take me to him and we were able to not deal with protesters as it wasn't widely known he performed abortions in his practice.

    My stepdad wasn't thrilled by my choice, as he had considered himself pretty anti-abortion until that point, but he recognized it was going to happen, at 15 I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to be a mother. He never said a negative word though, and I think the experience changed his mind, since he was getting VERY upset with another set of parents with a teenage girl who were being rather angry and dismissive of her.

    I am thankful forever for my parents being supportive. Disappointed? Yes, of course, especially since my mom had ALWAYS pushed that I come to her for birth control (I had gone to PP to get on the Pill... but my period never came. Timing.) What mattered most though is that I get my life back, not punishing me for my mistakes. When I came out of the light anesthetic my mom was there to give me a hug and let me know it was ok now.

    Best support ever. :)

  2. @TheRealistMom -- that sounds like some pretty good parenting! People who respond with love and support, instead of punishment or resentment, is exactly what I wish more of my clients could count on in their lives. Thank you for sharing your story :)

  3. I was a support person for a roomate in college. We took our HPTs together (mine was -hers clearly wasn't) and she asked me to take her. We went to a newer PP in the area (the only one) and there were protestors. Luckily there was a large parking lot they couldn't come onto so they just stood back. Some anti-choice or other had purchased the property across the small street and put up what I can only assume was a fake clinic (it was so new at the time it was a trailer) and hundreds of white crosses out on their lawn. One of the protestors said something like "God Bless" or "God be with you" and my friend said, very peacefully, "God Bless You" right back.
    My friend was very ashamed, as far as I know she never told her parents, and I have no idea why she didn't ask her boyfriend to take her, but I was honored she trusted me to ask. I don't remember the waiting room too much, especially since they allowed me to sit in with her during the procedure. I remember she started crying and one of the nurses, God Bless her, wiped her tears with a kleenex and told her it often happened due to the anesthesia. I held her hand, played with her hair and walked her out. We stopped for lunch and went home so she could nap. That was about the extent of it. I asked her how she felt over the next couple of days, but I don't actually remember talking about it again.
    For me personally, I was worried about the effect it would have on me. I'd been SO pro-choice for so long, but up until that point didn't know of anyone who'd had an abortion. I was worried I'd change my mind. But, my friend needed me so I went. And, I walked out more pro-choice than ever and haven't looked back.


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.