Thursday, August 26, 2010

All I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Working at an Abortion Clinic

Item #9:
1. It pays to be nice
When I'm taking payments, some clients are a few dollars short. If they've been a pleasure to work with at every step of the process, I comp the difference and send them on their way. But if they've been a pill, a pain, and a pest (as my grandma used to say) to everyone they encountered, I'm going to insist that they go borrow some cash from their driver or else reschedule. You better believe I'm nice to cashiers and sales associates, and I tip super-well.

2. Sometimes, the most important person to forgive and the most difficult person to forgive is yourself
Clients can forgive their ex-boyfriends for poking holes in the condom, they can forgive their sisters for not replacing their last pack of Plan B that was on reserve, and they can be at peace that God will forgive them. But when it comes to forgiving themselves, all bets are off. And when they can finally do it, good things happen.

3. Plato was right: We must "[b]e kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Even the obnoxious clients mentioned above in item #1 have their stories to tell. And I don't relish the thought of counseling the woman who declares, "I don't believe in abortion, but I have to do this," but when she tells me why she "has to," it's difficult for my heart not to melt a little bit. And it makes me appreciate all the compassion I've been shown in my life.

4. Listening is a valuable skill to have
Oh, so when you made your appointment, no one told you that you couldn't drive after anesthesia, that you couldn't eat or drink anything the day of your appointment, and that we don't take payment in the form of IOUs? My co-workers and I could give those instructions in our sleep. Just admit you weren't listening. That's why I always carry around a notebook and pen.

5. Maybe we don't know what we REALLY want until we've wanted both things
A friend of mine once told me about her unplanned pregnancy. She knew right off the bat that she was going to have an abortion. Until she saw a glowing pregnant woman. It was only when she really considered both realities, she said, that she could make the most informed and honest decision. She had the abortion.

6. When you miss a period, take a pregnancy test immediately
Don't assume it's a fluke, don't assume your body's being wonky. Especially, don't take a test, see a positive result, and then believe that if you ignore it, it'll go away. That's how you end up to be 25 weeks pregnant. And that's fine, but the procedure could have been quicker and cheaper if you had just taken that first test all those months ago. My co-workers and I sure make use of the free tests at the clinic.

7. You will make a decision when you are meant to make a decision
I learned from a wise, veteran counselor that some women know what their ultimate decision will be, but they don't know how they will arrive at that decision. It can be a long process, and a painful process, but it's a process that needs to happen. I've never had to deal with an unintended pregnancy, but I sure have dealt with tough decisions, and I took my sweet time.

8. A medical history is no place for forgetfulness
nor creative writing

Oops! When you wrote, "No known allergies, no history of major health problems," it turns out that you really meant, "Allergic to every item you will use at this clinic and a history of weekly seizures since birth." Details, details! And my friends, those details are what cause those major complications. I could say, "I'm 5'9" and I've never had any mental health issues," and it sure would be fun to say those things for a change. But that doesn't make them true.

9. Wear what you love
When we schedule your appointment, we suggest wearing comfy clothing since you'll be groggy and crampy. The first time I saw a client step out of the recovery room in 4" platform heels and a mini dress, I doubted the comfort level and practicality, but she rocked it and she was proud of it, and groggy, crampiness be damned. I, on the other hand, will wear hoodies and sweatpants whenever possible, but it's just my personal jam, and no one else's.

10. Some of the best people work in abortion clinics
When clients express nervousness or when they ask if the next person they see will be nice, I sometimes tell them that I honestly work with some of my best friends. And every person in the field that I've met has been amazingly compassionate, passionate, kind, giving, determined, and an absolute champion of women.


  1. Your "personal jam" - love it! I've been known to wear 4" heels to some bizarre places. I guess it gives you pride in your womanliness, something that I'm sure an abortion clinic fosters.

  2. This post was inspirational for me so I wrote about things I learned as a volunteer. It was too large for a comment so I added the url here.

  3. I also work in an abortion clinic, and some of the MOST important lessons in life I've learned there. You're post is RIGHT on! Everyday, I say we should write a book. The things we say and do, not to mention put up with! And you are definitely correct that some of the BEST PEOPLE EVER work in AB clinics! Thank you for keeping this blog. I look forward to reading it everyday!

  4. i love # 9. I wore a bright peach 50s housewife dress because... i'm crazy like that and the thought of having to go through that procedure AND wearing sweats really depressed me. honestly, i walked out of that place sad and crying but then i looked in the mirror and realized i was beautiful and young and not pregnant! it was a very good day

  5. your post is spot on, particularly the last one about the nicest people work in the clinics. . .you all were there for me and my wife the protestors abuse notwithstanding. . .btw, have you all seen 12th adn delaware on hbo?

  6. Did I forget to mention that I love this post and these comments?

    @Thank You! - what a great insight into the way you were feeling at the time - thank YOU so much for sharing it!

    And @Bob, I was out of town the week 12th and Delaware premiered, so I had a friend DVR it and am going to do a screening at my school soon :)


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