It’s time for me to give birth to this. To let it go.
I should have celebrated a child’s 10th birthday last month.
I was 9 weeks pregnant, I saw the ultrasound, but I still let them walk me down that narrow corridor alone and I didn’t stop them from sucking the life out of me. Literally.
I had an abortion.
I was 17 and had been dating my boyfriend for 6 months. We had sex only one time.
One of the first things he said, after telling me he wasn’t ready to be a dad yet, was wondering aloud if he should marry me now?
Because that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Him convincing himself out loud, moments after I revealed how altered our lives were going to forever be from this moment on … to marry me?
Somehow, he also thought not having the child was the right thing to do. But, he gave me time to think about it, and constant reminders that this was my body so ultimately it had to be my decision.
Because I was 17, I couldn’t have an abortion without parental consent, unless you went before a judge and had that waived. Which I did. The judge paused before signing the papers and that pause was the single most terrifying thing in my life. He saw my terror with this decision. He noted that I had a support system, that I could do this, that I would be okay. My boyfriend came with me and the judge noted again, he had never had the father of the child come with the mother to petition for an abortion.
I played games with myself: If the next song on the radio is about love, I’m keeping the baby. If my mom asks me if I’m pregnant again, I’m going to come clean. I’m going to tell her. I’m keeping the baby! I want this baby. I love this baby. If the judge says I need my parents signature, I’m keeping the baby. This is it.
The judge struggled, sighed and then leaned over and signed the petition. He gave me the power to make the decision on my own, which is the one thing I wanted someone to notice that I did not want to do.
I was reckless on my way home and wanted to crash into something. I wanted to feel something outside of my body; to be aware of the fact that I had arms and legs. Not just a uterus. Oh how aware I was that I was not alone.
The elaborate lie that was now my life at 17, gets twisted and spun, until I end up at the Women’s Clinic. We went together, he wanted to be there for me. I wanted him there to catch me when I fell. We needed each other to pull through. To keep telling one another that this is where we were, that this was happening when one of us weakened and faltered. It’s a long process of meetings, waiting and counseling, then more counseling and even more waiting, and lastly physical explanations of what was going to happen. Then an ultrasound.
They weren’t going to show me the ultrasound but I asked to see it. I was completely numb. Somewhere along the line of making the decision to be in that room, I shut down completely, stopped feeling emotions or recognizing sensations.
I wanted to be the heroine and see the baby on the screen and then get up and walk out, never looking back.
I wanted to join the mob of protesters outside of those doors and plead with myself to turn around and walk away. There was another way. There’s always another way. Someone wanted to help me. Someone wanted to tell me that it was going to be okay.
But I went inside myself, shut down, turned it off and walked through the next hour outside of my body, watching myself physically go through the motions of changing who I was for the rest of my life.
I was not a heroine: I am a coward.
My name was called and I had to part with my boyfriend. They ushered me to a waiting room in the basement of the clinic with other women, where one by one we were picked off the chair of possible and walked through the door to the chair of impossible.
I’m numbed by the nurse while she holds my hand. She reminds me that I can change my mind up until the dilation of my cervix; after that there’s no turning back.
A war so violent was waging inside of me. I can’t tell who is louder: Me or The Shame.
Somehow, I’m comforted by the fact that the doctor is going to warn me before he dilates my cervix. That I’ll have a last chance.
Only, he never warned me and now I’ll never know.
I had little pain but I could feel what was going on. I shut my eyes to stifle the overwhelming sense of regret. I laid there exposed for a few minutes to let the numbing medication wear off before I was taken to the bathroom and told to get dressed. By myself. The bathroom was no better situated than a bathroom you would find in a gas station. Nothing to hold onto and I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t see what I was doing. I had never been drunk, but I now know that I was standing there grasping for air as I tried to put one foot in my pants at a time – bleeding – as if I had just drank 2 bottles of tequila in an hour’s time.
I felt jilted and like I was being treated in a substandard way, but then I thought – did it matter? Am I even allowed to think this – I just had an abortion, who the fuck cares if I can’t stand up and put my pants on.
I was instructed to sit in a lazy-boy chair to “recover.” Little did I know that years later I would still be dragging around that mythical lazy-boy trying to recover from that day. I was shaking violently, so they got me blankets and tried to calm me down. There were other women, in a half stupor like me, “recovering” – watching blindly as the TV in front of us changed pictures faster than we could focus on faces. And then I threw up all over myself. In my hair and all over my chest, the blankets, the chair, my chin, my cheeks.
My body was expelling words I didn’t know how to say. The storm in my stomach crashed and thrashed and became liquid venom all over my “recovery.”
I was given a couple napkins to wipe up and sent back to the bathroom to clean off. I had vomit matted in my hair and stuck to my shirt. I smelled of acid, which was fitting, I felt poisonous.
They gave me some tylenol and let me sit back down. It was up to me to let them know when I felt I was ready to go. I wanted to run out of there and be taken away. I wanted to be so far away from that last hour. I said I was ready and they helped me walk back up the same corridor. I was greeted by my boyfriend who didn’t know what to do. His eyes gave away his mirroring guilt of mine. His wonder and then his immediate, flashing accuracy of seeing right through me. I went through with it and he knew. I’ll never forget seeing in his eyes how he saw me in that moment.
We both put our mask back on and he walked me to the car. He didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t either. He was nervous and trying to make me feel at ease. That’s when I realized I had another decision to make, I could either deal with this right now, I could face it and we could get through this together and then see where the pieces fell, or I could laugh it off. Forget about it. Bury it.
I chose to bury it. To pretend that I was so looped up on the medicine that I didn’t know which way was up. God, how I hated myself. The car got quiet and I turned to the window to cry silently while he drove me to my safe house. Not home. Couldn’t go there and bleed all weekend, cramp and express hormonal milk. No, I hid.
From there life went on and I waged this constant war of fear every minute of every day. I secretly read about pregnancy online, following along with the “would be” due date. I gained weight and fed myself self-loathing words of hate. Our parents found out and confronted us. I remember all I wanted to know was if I had had the baby, would they have still loved me? And through tearful confirmations they hugged me and said, we love you now and we would have loved you then and we will love you forever.
I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that way about myself.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.