prosicated: (Default)
prosicated ([personal profile] prosicated) wrote2004-04-01 10:58 am

On Choice, Bravery, and Strength

I'm writing this entry for a number of strong supportive people out there, on my friends list or elsewhere, who need to hear this story, even if they’ve heard it before.

I've written this story one hundred times, cloaked in metaphor, bound in obscurity, locked in code or privacy, but I've told it far fewer times in my native language of plain English; this is neither the first or last telling. I'm not writing for sympathy or support anymore, I'm writing for courage, in public. After you've read this story, you're welcome to comment and tell me anything you want or need, but don't treat me like anything less than the whole and brave woman that I am. You may not agree with my role and choices in the event I am about to discuss, and I respect that, even having lived through it. I wouldn't wish this particular nightmare on anyone, but I lived through it and came out better for the decision. I would not want that option taken away from anyone, no matter their race, age, creed, or location.

The story I am about to tell is the one that got me to where I am today. Had I done anything differently, I would never be here, about to accept an offer to a PhD program nowhere near my friends and family. I would never have graduated from [my alma mater], or lived in Philadelphia. I never would have met [my partner]. The choices I've made, no matter how vile they seem to someone removed, are the choices that shaped me, and I am proud of myself.

Alright, that's enough, I'll begin writing.

When I was 17, I got pregnant. I can pinpoint the date, time, place, and moment that I got pregnant. I was a peer educator on sexual education back then -- lecturing on sexuality, safe sex, hormones, STDs, and consenusal sex -- and I got pregnant through date rape. That's a different story, one I’m still not good at telling. The key point is this, I got pregnant on Halloween night of my senior year of high school. Trick or Treat.

A few weeks later, I had a gynecologist appointment, my mother took me because she had an appointment later that day. I should state, right away, my mother was incredibly supportive, and wonderful during this event. The gynecologist did her usual battery of tests, gave me an examination, and as I was getting ready to leave, she pulled me aside into her office. She told me I was pregnant and that I had a range of options open to me. She told me that I didn't have to let my mother know, if I didn't want to, and that she performed abortions in her office. She told me that it was legal at age 17 to have my abortion done without parental consent.
She also told me I could keep the embryo and laid out what pregnancy would mean for a teenager like myself. She started to pull out brochures on adoption as well, but I asked her to wait just a few seconds, I was going to get my mother. The doctor questioned me about that choice and I remained calm, this was something my mother should be involved in. I wanted her there, mad, sad, scared, or excited. My mother came into the office and I delivered the news myself. The doctor told us I was early enough in my pregnancy that I could have the mildest D&C possible, but that I'd need to decide by mid-December. I didn't tell my mother or the doctor that my pregnancy resulted from date rape. I regret that to this day.

My mother and I took a cab home. She and I did a lot of research that afternoon and talked to my father when he came home. Thanksgiving was a pretty silent holiday that year. My abortion was scheduled for Monday, December 1, 1997. Wait much later and the procedure would require anesthesia, it would interfere with my college applications, and besides, none of us could live with that weight.
I haven't mentioned where [boyfriend], the impregnator, fit in. I called him when I got home after my doctor's appointment, and he was excited, beginning to talk about raising a child together. He talked about how he would transfer to a local college, how I could go to a school in NYC, and how our parents could share in raising our child. I yelled and cursed at him; I didn't want his baby. He and I had been breaking up for months, and this new plot turn didn't change that. No matter how much I liked the idea of having a child (and I don't remember how much I did, just that the thought was there), I didn't particularly want his, wasn't even sure I could bear his (it never felt like "my child," only "his child" and "my abortion"). I didn't feel mature, or starry-eyed, enough to do that. I yelled at him, screamed, cursed, and cried for almost an hour. Finally, I asked him if he would come with me to the procedure. He agreed. Both of us knew it was the right decision.

On December 1st, my mother, [boyfriend], and I climbed into a cab and rode to my gynecologist's office in Manhattan. My mother cried, [boyfriend] cried, and I took the valiums and muscle relaxants that had been prescribed. I was dry-faced and trembling. We sat in the doctor's waiting room, too anxious to read, until my name was called. All three of us stood up, but only I was allowed into the room. My mother walked me to the door and hugged me, her face ashen. I was faintingly weak by now, the drugs had kicked in. My gynecologist met me there, her arm around my shoulder and walked me into a room with a gurney rather than the examining table and not much else. She helped me into an examining gown and she said she wanted me to try to sleep, so I lay down and tried. I was shaking, though, harder and harder, sleep didn't seem likely. The nurse gave me more valium and began the dilation process. By the time they wheeled in the vacuum, I thought I was calm. And then I began to scream, it was this other-worldly sound, ringing in my head, but apparently only as noisy as a kitten. A nurse came to hold my hand then. When it was over, her hand was bloody from my fingernails, I think. The hardest part was that I was never asleep and the tube that removed the embryo was clear. I dream about that tube of snaking blood and goo at least weekly, still. The cramping as she performed the abortion was agonizing. When she stopped, I had little feeling or awareness beyond those abdominal muscles, which at least quelled the horrible thoughts I'd been having. The nurse pried my hands out of hers and let my mother in. I was bleeding heavily, and my mother nearly fainted. [Boyfriend] tried to come into the room and I spat and hissed. I’m still not proud of that moment.

After about an hour, I was ready to move. My mother helped dress me, I signed some papers, and I was wheeled out to a cab in a wheelchair. My mother and [boyfriend] escorted me home, they were still in tears, I just whimpered and curled trying to get the cramping to stop. We watched The English Patient, and a few other movies, which I dozed and whimpered through. I was on the valium and muscle relaxants for three days. My first day out of the apartment, I fell on a midtown street from the cramping. For weeks I could barely breathe or laugh. I wore a diaper for those first few days, because the blood would come in waves, with the cramps, and I'd be unable to make it to a toilet to expell the tissue and blood.

[Boyfriend] and I finally broke up that same week, and I started going back to school, drained and zombified. I told only 2 people that last semester of high school. I told 2 more people the next year, at college, and since then, the story has grown in me, and with the input of others. My baby would have been born in the summer of 1998, close to when I graduated from high school, and s/he would be 7 this year. I caught mono one month later, after being sick that whole winter. My abortion may have left me barren (I know my uterus is slightly scarred, a symptom for a problem I have yet to test), it has certainly changed the way I relate to my own body and to politics, but more importantly, it has given me the life I chose, and the freedom to pursue my dreams. I cannot tell you if I will ever feel qualified to have children after that procedure, and I cannot say if that’s because of the abortion or because of my own personality. That abortion is a part of me deeper than most anything else.

I wrote this entry after reading the public and moving accounts of both [ profile] lilith23 and [ profile] abbacat. As abbacat said, here's my face to add to the statistics of women who've had abortions. I am glad I did it, and I am stronger for having shared it. There's no shame in my memory, guilt perhaps, but no shame and no dirty secrets.I owe an immense debt of gratitude to those who've listened to this story, in the past, now, or in the future.

Thank you.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 08:12 am (UTC)(link)
you're a brave, strong, incredibly gifted person.


that's one choice i'm immensely grateful i've never had to make one way or the other.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm glad you never had to make it either. Though I've heard enough of your stories to know you've been through harder choices.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 08:28 am (UTC)(link)
Indeed it makes us each who we are today to have faced such choices.

When you and I first starting talking, I felt a deeper emotion in me, this connection of sorts. And, you continually reinforce this feeling that on some level, our meeting was meant to be.

Nothing's changed between us, because I somehow already knew. You are what you are, and that is why you are loved.

*long hug*

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:43 pm (UTC)(link)
thank you, babe. I've loved meeting you and feeling that connection, too.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 08:35 am (UTC)(link)
you rule for writing that.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Why thank you!
inahandbasket: me snuggled in blankets looking happy (warm)

[personal profile] inahandbasket 2004-04-01 08:53 am (UTC)(link)
I've said it before.
You're an amazing person, and I'm immensely glad that you're in my life.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Likewise, dear.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 09:06 am (UTC)(link)
The noise I make here contains the most profound love I can hold in my body.

take it. it's all yours.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Damn, I miss you and your hugs, and, um, noises... =)

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[identity profile] 2004-04-01 09:08 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for sharing that - I am constantly amazed at the strength and goodness of my friends here on LJ.

Thank you.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:45 pm (UTC)(link)
You've got one heck of a friends base around here. I remain flattered for being a part of it. Thank you for reading and writing, Chris.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 09:19 am (UTC)(link)
hey... if you're interested, you should come to the new philly health collective's third meeting, tonight at 8pm at 4814 trinity. we're trying to put out a pamphlet for the march for women's lives, with the eventual (2-3 months from now) aim of making it into a zine with various information on abortion access, contraception, but also including personal experiences. oh, and the meeting is a vegan potluck too. :-)

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Oops, bit late I suppose. Let me know how it went. If I get to stick around, I'd love to get involved, tell me more?

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[identity profile] 2004-04-01 11:08 am (UTC)(link)
abortion is a tough choice & sometimes it is the best choice. go you for having the strength to make the best choice for yourself.


[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:46 pm (UTC)(link)
Danke. I've always wondered how being a mother impacts people's thoughts about abortion, any comments?

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[identity profile] 2004-04-01 02:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for sharing the details of your story. Someone very close to me had an abortion once, and I don't know if she'll ever be able to explain to me how it was for her. So it is good to hear your story, and to hope that one day she'll be able to be as honest and brave as you now are. Thank you.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I hope my words did help, and I hope even more than your friend is able to speak her mind and story well some day. Articuation has been the hardest process for me, and I know what a relief it is to be able to share.
I would highly recommend reading the two other public abortion accounts I linked as well. It seems every woman has a unique experience behind her for such personal events, and it can only help us to hear them as clearly and as often as possible.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 04:19 pm (UTC)(link)
no, thank you. for being you.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:48 pm (UTC)(link)
No, no, thank you... =)
Enjoy LA, babe.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 05:23 pm (UTC)(link)

I don't think I can summ things up effectively in words, so we'll leave it at that.

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 06:49 pm (UTC)(link)
OK. I'd be curious some time if you figured out how. *hugs* (I do like hearing your opinions, you know that, right, Tommy?)

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[identity profile] 2004-04-01 09:30 pm (UTC)(link)

You are one of the strongest people I know.

You are going to rock out at Graduate school, who should know how damned lucky they are that they've got you. (Do you know where you're going yet, by the by?)

Here endeth my 2 cents.

(whisper 1: plain truth)

[identity profile] 2004-04-01 11:33 pm (UTC)(link)
not a day goes by where i am not inspired by your strength. i am honored to know you. keep on keepin' on, o strong, powerful woman.

Re: (whisper 1: plain truth)

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
*hugs* I miss you, Sir Naggy.

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
I have no words. I am tremendously impressed and my vocabulary is totally inadequate. Thank you for sharing that.

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 05:31 am (UTC)(link)
Of course. It helped me, too. =)

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 07:08 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for writing this.

Quakers got their name by the feeling of shaking when you're moved to share something with the group. I've rarely felt it in meetings, but sometimes in life, like now. Maybe someday i'll feel brave enough to.

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 07:20 am (UTC)(link)
I've always wanted to go to Quaker meetings and never worked up the nerve.
Silence is a really pwoerful thing, teachers know that, Quakers know that, Audre Lord knew that, but so many of us ignore the negative potency of not saying something important, or of saying it too quietly. I, for one, have too much to say these days, and getting it out is hard.
That said, there's a whole lot of steps before that quaking to say something, and even just recognizing that you have something to say is good. Good enough, even.

So thank you for reading, and for empathizing.

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[identity profile] 2004-04-02 08:41 am (UTC)(link)
I love you.

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 08:47 am (UTC)(link)
aww gee. I love you, too. =)
nanila: me (Default)

[personal profile] nanila 2004-04-02 09:21 am (UTC)(link)
One of the LJ friends who responded to my post recently had a child, and she said it was an immense relief. It healed her a bit. For some reason, it helped me to hear that someone was able to forgive herself enough to have a child when she did want it.

(On another note, you're an amazing writer. *squeeze*)

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 09:48 am (UTC)(link)
That is good to hear, it's been hard to extricate the abortion and my own fear of squalling, smelly, drooling things (dogs and babies are one in my head these days, even as I fawn over cute children and avoid dogs).

(thank you, I realized yesterday how much I enjoy writing, and had this pipedream of supporting myself through grad school by writing freelance editorial essays and personal narratives for newspaper sunday magazines and online journals)

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[identity profile] 2004-04-02 02:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I haven't replied sooner because reading things like this are hard for me to process. Thank you for sharing this with us. I think that you are an amazing person...

[identity profile] 2004-04-02 02:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, sweetie, you're compelled neither to read or comment on sensitive entries, that's what disclaimers and cut tags are for... thank you, though.
You're an amazing person, too. You're politically aware, intelligent, and a healthy balance of wild and responsible in your LJ posts which I assume are only a fraction of your mental involvement with the world.

[identity profile] 2004-04-05 09:03 pm (UTC)(link)
*more hugs*
i love you too.
drwex: (Default)

[personal profile] drwex 2007-12-07 03:01 pm (UTC)(link)
*leaves a pebble*
cos: (Default)

[personal profile] cos 2007-12-11 01:40 am (UTC)(link)
That is the most [adjective search... complete? real?] such story I've ever read.

I'm glad you made it here (the present day).
blk: (justin)

[personal profile] blk 2008-06-24 04:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I was browsing through journals of friends and came across your story. You tell it amazingly and thoroughly and I can see why so many of my friends think the world of you.

I had the same choice you did. I got pregnant on Halloween night, 1997, by my bf who I wasn't entirely sure about. I was 19. My son was born on July 20, 1998 and will be 10 this summer. I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had chosen differently. Thank you for telling your story.
Edited 2008-06-24 16:13 (UTC)