I am so self-conscious about my ability to write that I just googled, “how to write a story about my abortion.” Good start.
Based on my interpretation of what’s out there in the universe, there are a handful of ways to approach my story: from a socioeconomic angle, a political stance, or a conversation around women and stigma.
Or I could get creative. Maybe I could write a timeline of how I remember my day. That would be cool. Or maybe I could go back to my photos from 2012 and find screen grabs from my best friend with all my appointment details, or that wish list I wrote my boyfriend because it was the only way I knew how to feel loved by him during that time.
(In case you’re curious, the things I wished for were: a pedicure, pierogies with sour cream and absolutely no sautéed onions, some weird Japanese furry monster phone case, flowers…the list goes on.)
Lastly, I thought maybe I could write from the experiences of everyone who was involved in my story, like a Clint Eastwood movie.
The real truth is, when I was asked to write this piece, the intent was for me to talk about something monumental in my life. Yet all I was able to do was draw blanks. I’m a human, so like most, I have found a way to compartmentalize this part of my life because I want to believe that I am at peace with everything that happened.
* * * * *
I vaguely remember the moment I found out I was pregnant. The only relationship context I will give you is that it was a tumultuous one. My boyfriend and I had gone out for midday prawn tacos and on the way home I suddenly leaned out the car window and barfed everywhere.
I knew I was pregnant.
I think you know where this chapter leads.
* * * * *
Anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that my best friends are legit ride-or-die. To me, my best friends define family.
So I went down the list. It started with A, then to R, with my Mom, sister and Dad in the mix. It was actually one of the first times I wholeheartedly felt unwavering support from the two humans who made me (and the hundred millionth time I was reminded that my sister always knows the right thing to say). As expected, my friends were consistently supportive and were prepared to hold me up.
I remember sitting on the old, shitty toilet of my Oak Street apartment. I called my Dad and it crushed my heart. He said “Oh, J. Are you going to have the baby?”
I love that man so much. To my surprise, he was the only person that asked me about my “baby.” Most people were like, “Uh, so, um, uh….do you know what you’re going to do?” And fuck, I really can’t fault anyone for that. This stuff is uncomfortable. Heavy. Emotional overload. However, the warmth and love in my Dad’s voice felt like a blanket covering me.
Next was my Mom. She is a strong, independent, 4’9″, Japanese woman. I got the exact response I expected: the logical, best-decision-for-my-supposedly-bright-future approach to the situation. However, I realized that everything in my childhood was so perfectly regimented to create the best life she could for her kids. That was how she showed her love and it became real in that moment.
Then my sister. Her old soul is burdened by the pain of everyone she comes into contact with. I immediately felt the need to console her and tell her that I would be okay. Anytime I was hurt growing up, even if it was her doing, she would cry harder than I ever did.
The honest truth is, I knew I was going to get the abortion. Maybe that’s what made it so hard for me. Did I ever give the baby a chance? Was it selfish of me? The entire turnaround time from the moment I found out to the day of the procedure was three days.
Cue epic scramble to get my shifts covered due to a “family emergency.”
* * * * *
The next memory I have is the hospital visit. First they talk to you about more effective birth control methods. Then they dress you in a hospital gown, hook you up to an IV, and load you up on antibiotics while you wait with eight other women in line on hospital beds.
When my name was called, I was led around a corner to some special operating table with stirrups. The doctor had a funny braided rat tail and was very friendly and non-judgemental.
I felt weirdly safe. When he did the ultrasound he asked me if I wanted a photo of my baby. I battle between the belief that he wanted to A) allow me to keep this memory of my unborn baby close to my heart or B) give me one last opportunity to change my mind when I heard the heartbeat. My immediate response was, “WHAT THE FUCK? Do people actually request a photo?” He said, “Some.”
The procedure ended. I think I went back to the waiting room to lay down for about an hour but the drugs made things quite blurry.
I don’t remember getting into A’s car.
* * * * *
The next memory I have is collapsing in tears in the kitchen, A catching me. For all the times I was supposed to be some type of rock, this was not one of them. The fleeting moment of vulnerability was really good for me.
My mom came over to take care of me and lay with me while I napped. Being the overly nurturing person that she is, A would open my door quietly every hour or so to check on me and see how I was doing, only to tiptoe away as not to wake me. My boyfriend came over at some point, too. I have no malice towards him. In all honesty, everything that ensued leading up to and following my abortion was hellish and truly painful for both of us. We just didn’t have the strength to get through it together.
The actual procedure was the easy part. I think the hardest part for me, apart from watching and feeling my body unnaturally reverse itself, was making the decision to seek out therapy. It took me over six months of emotional agony to be like, “Okay, time to face the reality of this.”
* * * * *
To give you an idea of what sort of therapist I have, when I asked her once what her title was she responded. “Well, if I had to give you a title, I guess I would say that I’m a witch.” A little ambiguous, but very fitting. Every time I ever needed her in my life, she always sent me on my way feeling lighter and clearer. “As clear as an icicle,” she would say. I never really understood or questioned the spiritual realignment she would perform on me. This time I needed it more than ever.
When I arrived at her home, the room was melancholy. She sat quietly, allowing me to ball my eyes out for what felt like hours but were only minutes and seconds. In some way, I sensed that my release was therapeutic for all of us, including her rescue dogs and blind cat. She asked me:
“Was it a boy or girl?”
I was only 9 1/2 weeks at the time of having my abortion, so I never really knew. But I knew.
“A boy,” I said.
She nodded her head in agreement and said, “You made this decision together and he forgives you.”
I cried my heart out until I couldn’t cry anymore. I knew she was right. We did make the decision together. I left feeling a sense of peace, perspective, and forgiveness.
* * * * *
Fast forward five years and several times between then and now, I will still have moments of weakness balanced with moments of assurance in how everything happened. I can’t ever truly express to anyone the pain and sadness I burdened. I can’t ever understand why this was so fucking hard for me. I guess this has been my pedestrian attempt. It has taken me 1,826 days to finally sit down and write this.
Can I say that my abortion has contributed to the shaping of who I am? Yes. Does my experience define me? No.
I wear his memory in the creases on my face that age me; I carry his heart in my heart. But in this moment, I can say that I no longer think about it every day because there is a special compartment in my heart where this memory belongs because I know we are at peace.
The only thing I can say is if you want to openly talk about your abortion, talk about it. If you can’t bring yourself to, then I truly believe that’s okay, too. Great advice, huh?
“I think you need to process and deal with your abortion in a healthy way.” This is among one of many unsolicited opinions you may receive.
“We live in a society where we need to de-stigmatize abortions.” This is among one of many ways you may feel the moral obligation to talk about your experience to help others.
And yes, we absolutely, fucking do need to de-stigmatize abortions. How privileged are we to live in a society where we have access to safe abortions, yet also embody the freedom to speak openly about our experiences should we choose to? However, we are also human.
I have felt at times that I cling to my abortion as something incredibly sacred and personal. I don’t think that is unhealthy or immoral. It’s my experience, and I think that’s okay because no one can ever take that from me. But I also believe that the pain in our heart has an incredible way of healing itself, and maybe knowing that you are not alone is a big part of that.
But in the end, all you can truly do is listen to your soul and answer in whatever way you need, even if that means keeping your experience close to your heart. Whatever that answer is, it will always be the right one. I promise.