My Abortion #26: Triptych Decalogue
Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days.
It’s a hard thing to say out loud in this culture: I had three.
Each less traumatic than the last. Each less typically excusable than the last.
I am of this culture. I am a product of it. I know how this goes. When we admit to what we’ve done, we must offer up an excuse—a justification and the culture deems us whore or situational. We can get away with that once, but not three times. I know this, so I remain silent. I say if asked that I had an abortion. I don’t give out numbers, names, dates because I know what happens next. Judgment. I’m ex-Catholic after all.
ONE: ABUSE. I was 19 the first time. You will forgive me this one. I dated an abusive young man for three years and on that particular night that this particular pregnancy occurred, I had said ‘no.’ My ‘no’ didn’t count for much and when I was pulling over on the side of the road weeks later to vomit and cry, it still hadn’t meant much. And when I begged my professor at UCLA to let me have an extension on the midterm, I felt like an idiot. And when he handed me money and made me feel guilty for taking his money, I felt like I was lower than dirt. He refused to go with me. A friend I’m not even close to me went with me instead. I kept thinking of how my mom had fucked up her life by having me when she did. How her life had been a stop start of college attempts and career attempts and I know she’d never have seen herself the way I just described her. But at 19 that’s what I saw.
Afterwards I went home to my grandmother’s where I lived and my aunt was over with her newborn, which freaked me out for the rest of the day. He didn’t want to talk about it after even though he didn’t want to have it. That part of the day hurt.
What didn’t hurt was the procedure itself. What didn’t hurt was the caring people around me at the clinic. All I felt that day was a little pressure and slight pain but the pain of my boyfriend was far worse—a deep thick pain that went numb on the ends.
TWO: DEBAUCHERY. I was 24. He was 28 and we were in LOVE. L-U-V. I was a country mouse and he was a city mouse and he was showing me all that had been walled off to me previously. I’d stay late after work and kill time in the city and at bars and then his apartment and all the while there was the booze and the drugs and the newness of girl in the suburbs discovers her own backyard the city. I was on the pill but hadn’t been seeing anyone. How did I know whether it was working or not? And then there was that night and the following day and the following night all rolled into one and for the first time in my adult life I felt like I was alive and that someone understood me.
And then the nausea hit me. And I cried and cried like one does when her illusions are shattered and she has no health insurance and barely has an apartment and I have that degree and some smattering of hope that something is leading somewhere soon. Maybe the job. Maybe the man. Maybe grad school. And he wants me to keep it and I realize he has a six year old he barely sees. And I remember not seeing my father for decades on end and I call human resources just to see how bad my insurance situation really is and I realize pregnancy is a preexisting condition and it’s not covered. All this while I remember those three days were full of acid trips and cocktails and cocktails of pills and folly and I know the risks are high and he doesn’t have his share of the cash, and he still hasn’t seen his kid and you go off alone and have it done in the same place as the first one and unlike the first time I feel an immense shame in coming back here because you were supposed to know better now.
THREE: TIMING. It has been a long time. I am now 30 years old. I live in a new city. I have gone off all forms of birth control.
I was married for two whole years and tried to get pregnant and nothing happened. The new husband has money, has family that hint at me with carrots of down payments and promises of fully furnished nurseries. I have sex with my husband at any and all times unprotected and nothing ever happens to me. He finds depression. He finds religion. He finds many things of interest, none of which are me. We live in San Francisco and it’s impossible to find affordable housing. I stay a full year longer than I should because I’m finishing graduate school with nowhere to live if I don’t stay. We go platonic. I nose to the grindstone. He prays to Jesus. And for reasons that still remain inexplicable to me? I sleep with one of my best friends. A male best friend. And I feel totally protected because I’ve been told I can’t get pregnant. I’ve been shamed that my former life as an abortion having whore in my 20s means karma. Means I can’t now. I ruined my chances. I finish school. I apply to teach abroad in Japan and get accepted. Everything is going perfectly. I put my stuff in storage. I file for divorce. I find out that I’m pregnant.
And in-between a few vaccines for extended travel I plan on in Asia, and some issues I was having with sleep deprivation (and a sleep therapist), and depression, I schedule an appointment for one final abortion. It feels no different than the shots I’d received. A momentary discomfort. I go to Japan. I put my post-married life in order and I try to thrive completely dependent on no one but myself.
CODA. A couple of years later I am back in the states, meet and marry my second husband and we have two kids—one when I’m 33 and one when I’m 35. Both pregnancies wreck my body—I go to the edge of seizures the first time. I am sent to a high-risk center the second. An hour after my second child is born the doctor confides to me that I am the type of woman who used to die in childbirth. Yes. I could feel it. I’ve experienced no greater pain in my life than the birth and the long nine months of each child.
The husband gets a vasectomy. Later as I go through the early years of pre-menopause, I wind up with a Mirena IUD to help stop the non-stop bleeding. The disinterest of married people of a certain age and length of time sets in. Retired from the catastrophe of fertility once and for all.