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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 [livejournal.com profile] lilith23 and [livejournal.com 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.

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