A few days after International Women’s Day, “mom” aborted her 6-week fetus. She was encouraged to write about her experience as part of the healing process.
In the mornings, after the alarm, I’d have a dream. I’d be standing in the moonlight in a forest. My child was at my feet. There was no noise, but she was crying. I could move, but chose not to.
A few weeks before, I had discovered, contrary to all logic and two home pregnancy tests, that I had a child. An embryo, I should say, as the nurses insisted. I had been a mother for six weeks and a bad one at that–I drank and smoked. I even dumped the father. I always thought I would get an abortion, (“straight from the pregnancy test,” I told friends) scoffing at the perceived difference between prevention and cure.
But my ideas had formed when my 16-year-old friends were pregnant. Raised pro-choice, I had assumed only Catholics continued unplanned pregnancies. But I was about to graduate from university. All of my theories were for other people–poor, teenaged mothers.
At night, I’d stare at the ceiling and talk to my future kid, apologizing for what I might do. Eventually I decided to trust my gut reaction, on the theory that if you know the details of a situation, you instinctively know what’s ethical.
I searched for answers to three important questions: What does the fetus look like? Is it aware of its surroundings? And, what will happen to it? In trying to answer those questions, I was bumped from social worker to counsellor to the Kids Help Phone.
They told me to call Telehealth. I panicked. “I am NOT calling TELEHEALTH about killing MY CHILD! TELEHEALTH is who you call about STOMACH ACHES! FUCK YOU!”
Finally, a nurse at an abortion clinic gave me answers (a pinprick; no; and it’s incinerated), but refused to book me an appointment because I was too upset.
Clinics a use local anaesthetic so you risk endangering yourself if you move. I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to sob, as I had through our phone call.
“If you can’t stop crying,” she said, “Call the hospital. They do general anaesthetic.”
I was furious at a bad system and at God for not giving me the clarity I so desperately wanted. On a booklet’s advice, I wrote a letter. I booked the appointment. A friend asked what I would do if I had a miscarriage. I said I would have a party. What was nagging me, I explained, was if I should give it up for adoption.
We talked for hours and I discovered I had a positive view of the brave women who got abortions before the procedure legal. Women who got abortions, I paraphrased from a magazine article, were strong people who valued their lives. They told the world they were more than just bearers of children.
It was a way for them to say, “I will not take whatever happens to me. I will choose the path of my life.”
That was the closest I was going to get. I did my pre-operative appointments, got morning sickness for the first time on my last pregnant morning, fell asleep between doctors. Women came for prenatal appointments, partners in hand, dragging small children behind them. One woman carried her newborn, overwhelmed.
“I just came in to say thank you! I am so happy!” she repeated as the nurses approached her.
The next day was Women’s Day and throughout the city, abortion debates and protests raged. I went to the hospital. I sat with three other girls. “What’s your name?” one asked. “How far along are you? Are you nervous? Do you have a boyfriend?” They had been there for hours. I felt like a PoW about to be executed, waiting to be called.
Nurses, anaesthesiologists and doctors asked, and sometimes double-checked: “What are you here for today?” “An abortion,” I answered, three times, waiting for a bolt of lightning or their admonishment.
A nurse walked me down the hall, talking constantly, rubbing my back. Doctors and nurses swarmed around a table in the middle with lights over it. “No, no, no ,” I thought, trying to back out of the room. The nurse had me lie down. One person put a blanket over my legs, someone else wrapped a blood pressure cuff around my arm.
Above my head, someone pulled an oxygen mask on me and the anaesthesiologist tried to stick a needle in my hand. I stared at the ceiling and tried not to think that this was a mistake. Then I tried to figure out if I had enough leverage to bang my head off the table and knock myself out.
They fiddled with the needle. It hurt, and my hand twitched. The anaesthesiologist gripped my hand to steady it. I grabbed back. When I woke up, the Barenaked Ladies were playing. “This is not my house,” I told a nurse. Half an hour later, I was lucid and my friend walked me out. I ate a four-course meal, and we went home.
I felt physically better than I had while pregnant. We watched movies, ate ice cream and talked, like my baby had just dumped me. I went home and lay in the bed where I had talked to my child for so many nights, debating and apologizing. I realized that there was nothing to say: I was talking to myself. Now there’s only me.