Every woman pictures how her first pregnancy will be at some point, even if just for a moment.
Maybe it's the brief walk-through of the baby section of a department store or a friend's baby shower. Or it's the gentle reminder from an older family member that you're "not getting any younger." Either way---the thought of making your body home to a developing human implants itself.
You imagine your reflection with a swollen belly in a supremely adorable flowing maxi dress and flower crown while your very handsome and supportive partner cuddles you in a loving embrace. You see the tiny beautiful being in your arms while you rock in a meticulously decorated nursery and hum Beyoncé songs quietly. Everyone is proud of how you embrace motherhood and have three snaps in-waiting for your preemptive "snapback."
You are the crown jewel of new parents. It is a lovely vision.
But what if it doesn't happen the way you've imagined? What if you're 25, freelancing to make ends meet, waiting for your "big break" in the industry, and one month away from not being able to keep a roof over your head? Will you still be the picture-perfect vision of a woman's "true purpose?"
That is what I had to ask myself.
On the day that I scheduled my abortion, I made three lists. One was all of the things I wanted to do before I became a mother, the other was all the reasons why I wouldn't be able to enjoy my pregnancy, and the final was all of the people who would be disappointed in me. That final list was the one that seemed to crush me the hardest.
Yes, I'd been irresponsible. Yes, I knew better. Yes, I was a Christian. Yes, I had all these goals and dreams but who said I had to throw them away because I was a mother? But seeing my own name at the top of the disappointment list followed by that of my mother and mentors was unshakeable.
So I made the call. But, that was just the beginning of the process.
First, you have an appointment. I remember sitting on the clinic bed, undressed from the bottom down, with one of those cheap, itchy gowns on. The nurse, who had clearly been in this position more times than not, was very clinical. She told me she had to do an ultrasound to find out how far along I was. I thought I knew...I gave a number of weeks...she checked...I was wrong...by 2 weeks.
Because of that, my only option was to have a surgical procedure.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I opted to do it with no medicine. After all, it was my irresponsibility that brought me here, why should I not have to feel any pain?
My appointment was for the next week...
In the meantime, I was still pregnant.
I told a few close friends. They all expressed that they'd love me no matter what I decided. I ate a few whole pizzas. Considered that maybe being a mom wasn't the worst thing for me right now. Watched some birthing videos. Threw up. Tried to enjoy my swollen breasts. Slept...a lot. Lifted some heavy things. I'm not proud of the thoughts behind that decision. I waited for the week to be over...for all of it to be over.
On the day of my abortion, I pulled up to the clinic and there were protestors outside.
Signs with broken baby limbs and discarded fetuses created a sea of sadness for me to part on my way in. I was uninsured at the time so my ex paid the cashier a bit over $300. We sat in a pretty crowded waiting room in front of a girl who was crying onto the shoulder of a boy who could not have been older than 18 and behind a man who was talking loudly on his cell phone about how he "knew she was pregnant" and was "glad that she wasn't just getting fat."
A nurse came out and called my name. I went to the back and was told to put my things in a locker and, of course, to undress. Another itchy, cheap gown. A waiting room with other women making a decision that they'll carry forever who were all "watching" a National Geographic special on penguins came after.
Then another ultrasound.
A moment of panic when the nurse tried to hand me a photo of the baby I wasn't keeping.
An outburst of tears.
A really intimate moment with a woman I'd never met where she held my hand and told me "you'll get to have this moment again and it'll be a happy one."
Then, more waiting.
"Milner" is the way I was called into the procedure room. Then introduced to a man who told me I could hold his hand at any moment if I needed to. I held the hands of a lot of strangers that day. The doctor was nice enough. Scrolled down the details of what he'd be doing. I heard none of what he said. "Can you please turn the screen, I don't want to see the baby" was my only response. I remember pain. That's all really. And the hand holding. The man I held hands with said "you can sit up when you're ready"---that's how I knew it was over.
The pain was still there.
I was crying.
When I finally did sit up, blood rushed down my legs.
I apologized to him.
He told me it was fine and handed me the biggest maxi pad I've ever seen in my life. There was a recovery room where I held hands with another woman I'd never met. She also gave me saltine crackers and pain medicine.
I went home.
You can't do much after an abortion.
I know that pro-lifers would have you believe that us heartless c*nts kill babies and then kick, ball, change into a Starbucks to meet our girlfriends and rehash the dirty deed. But that's not what happens. You spend a significant amount of time still feeling pretty pregnant.
Your boobs are still swollen. You still have some cravings. You're still exhausted. You're sad. You're confused. You wonder if you really are a baby killer. You think that maybe God won't allow you to get pregnant again because you've done this. You pray. You try to be normal around people who don't know. You cannot lift heavy things. You cry.
You don't eat. You avoid eye contact with mothers and babies. You can't take the "what-ifs." You heal...slowly. Your body is still weird. You bleed...a lot. You write a script about the day that your boyfriend refuses to read because it's "too hard to go back there" for him. You slowly start to tell the people who should know. You try to forgive yourself.
It is a life marker.
You now sort things in BA and AA. Before the abortion. After the abortion.
You cannot look at your partner the same. You cannot look at yourself the same.
You feel the tension race up your spine when abortions become a subject of national conversation and try not to take it personally when Facebook statuses from childhood friends condemn the women who "do that." You volunteer to work at clinics walking women in past protestors. Sex makes you too nervous to enjoy it anymore. Even with protection. Because nothing is 100%, you know?
Your biological clock starts to tick louder and louder. You think it's selfish to want kids after you've been given the opportunity and choosing differently. You tell yourself you don't want to be a mother. It's easier that way. You hear that someone you considered a friend tells someone your story, she texts you a denial, "no worries, your secret is safe with me." You block her. It is not a secret. It is part of your truth. And you get to decide who knows.
Years go by. Most of your closest friends are now mothers. You make sure they know how proud of them you are. You send baby gifts. You relish being Auntie Iman. And a Godmommy! You no longer feel like God will punish you...at least you hope not. You find a man who makes that vision of parenthood seem more real. You get a year's worth of birth control while you still have health insurance because in Trump's America...
You seek out advice: what's motherhood like? You recognize that you made, what you felt, was the best decision at the time for your life. You cannot erase it by pretending it never happened. You cannot bury it down beneath your first heartbreak and next to the words you never said to an old friend. You parted ways with a part of yourself and that void will remain.
But even still...you are whole.
You are not ruined.
You are not a walking graveyard.
You are human.
And one day, when the decision is yours to make again...you'll do what you deem is best. That's all you can ever do:
Act. Learn. Heal. Repeat.
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