I had an abortion when I was about seven weeks along.
I was working as a temp at the time. Twenty-six years old. No health insurance. I made about $1200 a month. Couldn't afford to live on my own because I couldn't cover rent, car insurance *and* living expenses simultaneously. I had just moved out of my best friend's one-bedroom apartment, where I had been paying slightly less rent than she, with her in the bedroom and me in the eating area of the kitchen (I'd rigged up a wall of cardboard-and-fabric between the breakfast bar and the kitchen for "privacy"). Was in-between, uh, well, just generally in-between (and, yes, I'm referencing The Cure here, along with my horrific life in my terrible twenties). Staying at my parents while I hunted for a reasonable place to rent that would be close enough into town that I could give up my car and just bike to work. Had discovered a teeny 1-bed next to Laurelhurst, somewhere near 32nd and Stark - but adjacent to the park, so sort of between Stark and Burnside. Just where the crummier houses leave off and the mansion-y places begin.
I was still sort of suicidal from being wrecked by my experiences in Alaska the summer prior; being molested by one of my roommates there really fucked up my head and I spent that winter after I returned being an utter mess. I won't describe it. I've done so before and I don't feel like going down that path just at this moment. It was horrid. I wanted to die but I didn't exactly want to have to be directly implicated in the process, so I just did all kinds of self-destructive things instead.
The abortion was out-of-pocket. My boyfriend paid for it, as well as for the additional general anesthesia expense (more than doubling the cost, making the total around $500, as I recall). He had allowed me to make the decision (I'm sure it hurt him very much to leave that up to me, particularly because of the one I did make) as to whether I would terminate the pregnancy, but he insisted that I have general anesthesia as opposed to local. He knew I couldn't face such a thing if I were only locally anesthetized.
(I still live with the guilt of having had the privilege, the
luxury, of general anesthesia for the procedure; because of all the
other women who experience it with only local anesthetics, their
thoughts of what is happening to them intact afterward. It is - it is
unfair, it is cruel, and I will never forgive that small part of me
that was too weak to face what I was doing to myself, to my would-be
baby, too weak to watch. To be present. I am still ashamed at my own
cowardice in the face of it. When others *must* face it because they
cannot afford to do otherwise.)
I never allowed, to myself, to him, to anyone, that I was hurt. That it hurt me to do such a thing. I only cried when I tried to get assistance from the state of Oregon in order to cover the cost of the procedure and they turned me down, because, as they explained, I made approximately twenty-seven dollars too much for them to give me even their most basic level of coverage. The person I spoke with said that I would have to have a child in order to receive benefits. I explained, but you see, I plan to remove any need for Oregon to have to cover me on their plan on a long-term basis through this procedure that I need and cannot afford, if you could only help cover it. I'm SAVing you! - the state! - MONEY!, I said, plaintive. The woman simply shook her head, her mouth a line. No. No, she told me, adamant, you can't receive coverage *until* you have the child. I said, hah aahhaahha hahah. That's so funny. I am trying to terminate the thing that would require you to pay for my insurance. I just need a little help to do so. And she said, Yes. I understand. You still can't get coverage until you *have* the child.
(The irony, of course, is that those who would insist on a woman having her baby regardless of the circumstances, is that she must then scrap and scrape and save and work three jobs in order to support the child, because there is simply NO WAY those same insistent folks will fork over the social services, i.e., their taxes, to assist such a woman in caring for the baby after it is born. No! to the welfare! queens!, they scream. Get a job, loser!, they scream. Have your baby, even if you were raped!, they shriek, and in the same breath, they blaspheme you for leaning on the system to raise that child. The one they said you had to have because otherwise God would smite you. You shouldn't have had sex, they simper, if you protest. You slut, they imply, the corners of their mouths tucked in just-so. That the man who fucked you and didn't have any requirements post-fuck? Ah, well. Such is a man's luck. Oh, shame on those men, they cluck, their feathers bunched tight around their big asses. But where is the man? And where is the evidence? And does that man get to go on and have a profitable, head-held-high kinda life? While his child's mother toils and strains and struggles, the system with its allure of come-hither-and-have-your-child, the system giving you another good fucking-over, once you've had it, where you must place your child in daycare and work during the day and maybe another part-time or full-time job at night to pay for the daycare and the health care and the fucking mandatory car seat that costs a minimum of $150 for a decent one, never mind the pricey kind that consumerreports.org insists on if you're a good, mindful parent and want your child to actually be *safe*, the $300-and-up variety, and there are the co-pays and the medicines, the over-the-counter cough syrups and inhalants that you try to give your sick, miserable child in vain in order to help them sleep so you can sleep so you can work so you can pay for the care and the medicines and the formula because you couldn't breastfeed because you had to go back to work when the baby was six weeks old and you couldn't afford a breast pump and then you find out that the formula and the bottles and cough syrup are possibly, no, DEFinitely toxic for your baby, your sweet, sweet baby they insisted you have because God would curse you and where in the world are those people now?, you wonder in the spare moments when you have the energy and presence of mind to wonder and not fall into the pit of despondency over your life, your whirlwind maddening life of work and toil and never seeing the child you gave birth to because they told you you must, backed you into a corner and threatened you with everlasting hell if you didn't listen, and now the aspersions and looks and glances you get on a daily basis when you're with your child, the whispers and the looks and the withering eyes that burn you, because, while it's no longer socially acceptable to comment to a single mother that she's a slutty sinner, the eyes still have it. Oh, they have it. And the man is off somewhere in Ibiza with his new girlfriend, the one he met in college while you were with your baby working sixty hours a week and barely surviving.
And the irony of the system giving you the fucking-over after you've already been fucked over is not lost on you.
But I know you're already aware of that. I just had to say it. It feels good to say it.)
I left. Head high. Stumbling a little on the way out to my boyfriend's car, and letting that be the reason I cried. But then, crying, because I knew, if I couldn't acquire state assistance, on my oh-so-robust wage, that there were women already with babies and kids who HAD to live on less than I was doing in order to receive state-provided benefits. SHITTY ones.
and I cried for myself because I had to go through the procedure because I was too unstable to have a baby. Drunk. Drugs. Series of relationships too miserable to recount. Latest boyfriend totally, bizarrely different, but -- based on my experience leading up to him, I knew better than to rely on the notion that it would survive my - me. however, I wrapped up that portion of the crying menu quick. didn't need to linger. this was too important.
I could not do that to another human, not knowingly. Not with the little handful of sanity I clutched, desperate, like a miser with a small collection of dirty pearls gathered from dustbins around a large city with dark pockets.
I had a dream about it, just before the procedure. A morning or two prior.
I don't want to relate the dream. But I remember it. I still don't know what it meant, if anything. But that it has remained with me, that dream, makes me feel its significance, all of these years hence.
I woke up after the surgery and I was sick. So sick. I threw up. A lot. My old friend happened to be a nurse's aid, worked with the doctor who performed my surgery, only at a different clinic. I'd requested that she be present during the thing to - watch over me. She held me while I barfed in the clinic's toilet.
Weeks later, I still bled freely. New, orange-red blood (because my uterus had been swept clean, so the lining had to replenish itself, which takes time).
I will never forget.
I will never forget what it meant to decide with lightning speed that I would not produce a child that I could not give up if I were to carry it to term because I don't trust people. That I could not be a mother to.
I occasionally -- maybe once every few years -- do the math. Think about him, especially now, in relation to my son. How old he'd be (of course I have no idea whether it was a boy or a girl but I have somehow, in more recent times, chosen his gender as boy. Not sure why).
My health exception was life-and-death. My own life. The child's life. My prescience regarding this subject was crystal clear, the cleanest pane of glass you ever laid eyes on. I could not mother that child, I could not give it up to some stranger to mother. I would have done terrible things that the child -- oh, I don't dare think of what I would have done. I cannot. They are unspeakable. Unthinkable.
I was not in the third trimester. But my health was at stake. Sanity. My life.
Now - I have a child. One who will be (relatively) unscathed by my current bordering-on-insanity, because of, thanks to, my supportive, wonderful parenting partner, and our family. (I hope.) This, after I've aged and settled down and done some soul-searching and taken some anti-depressants and other shit, besides. Grown up a little (as much as someone stricken with the permanent childishness of adhd can).
I would not have this now, my son would not exist, this life we have now, it would not exist, if I had not been able to decide to release that first child from me.
Is that not a health exception worth excepting? Accepting? Is that something someone, anyone, could have possibly decided for me, given all the details I have deliberately not shared here - the ones that would convince the most ardently anti-me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was choosing correctly - that is, if thou hast spent any longer than a sliver of time inside this skin, this spirit? That thou canst do if not in possession of this uterus, this heart, this head? And to think, for but a moment, that thou wouldst attempt to do so for any NUMBER of women. I am mortified by it.
cross-posted at Debbie's personal blog, i obsess.