My Abortion #5: Two Brass Cats

Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days.

During my freshman year of college, I got pregnant. I was a part of that tiny percentage of women who gets knocked up while on the pill. At eighteen, I was not prepared to have a baby. The first person I called when the test results came back was my father. He was calm and loving; he didn’t yell or say awful things. While I was waiting for him to drive up and collect me, I called my brother who came dashing over and sat with me in my narrow dorm room listening to music until our dad arrived.

My friend across the hall called the guy with whom I’d had sex—I’d met him through her and he’d been my first one-night stand—while I stood beside her waiting to take the phone but he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. He’s since become a seemingly successful painter. I wonder if he ever thinks about what happened with us, that we could have a thirty-five-year-old son or daughter right now.

I took a few days off school and went back to my parents’ house. My mom was distraught. She’d had several miscarriages before giving birth to my brother so perhaps on some level she was struggling to see her daughter give up what she had fought so hard to keep. But she made me special meals; made herself available for talks, if needed; and bought me two brass cat statues (I’m extremely fond of felines) as a way to show her support.

My best friend drove me to an abortion clinic near my parents’ house. It was clean and bustling. Everyone there was friendly. I paid with the money my parents had given me. A nurse with bright blue eyeshadow offered me a valium, which I declined. My doctor was an older man with gray hair. His voice was deep and even; he made me feel secure. I cried all the way through my abortion; the nurse held my hand and spoke gently and reassuringly to me, promising me it was almost over. Afterwards I was taken into the recovery room, where I stretched out on a Lazy-boy sort of chair and waited for the bleeding to stop enough to leave. There was some pain, some cramping. Other women who’d had the same procedure were resting in their chairs beside me. The light was low, and I think music was playing. I laid there for a while, listening to all of us breathe. I drank some water from a Dixie cup. And then my best friend drove me home.

The following week I was back at school. I often cried myself to sleep those first few weeks, perhaps hormones, perhaps grief. I don’t think I really knew at the time. And all these years later I’m past childbearing and never had a baby, which sometimes makes me staggeringly sad. And yet I never doubt that decision. It was the right one for me.

Deciding to have abortion can be rife with emotional, mental, spiritual, religious, or logistical quandaries. For some, myself included, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. It can be complicated. For others, it’s not. But this is true of many medical procedures. And as with other medical procedures, no one other than you should be able to decide what does or doesn’t happen to your body.

While there is sorrow to my story, it’s not a horrific one. It would have been nice if the future-painter had stood by me. And perhaps it would have been good to have had some children later in life, when I was more settled with myself. But all-in-all this a pretty unremarkable retelling of me undergoing a safe and straightforward procedure that I needed at that particular point in my life. And isn’t that what all abortions should be like?  

Jane Ratcliffe’s short stories have appeared in New England Review, The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, NER Digital, Literary Orphans, and The Intima.  “You Can’t Be Too Careful” was selected as a Best American Short Stories Notables 2013.  Her novel, The Free Fall (Henry Holt), was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the most notable books of the year. She has written for numerous magazines and websites including Vogue, The Huffington Post, Vh-1, Interview, Guernica, The Manifest-Station, Tricycle, The Detroit News and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood—and has an essay anthologized in Lost and Found: Stories from New York edited by Tom Beller.  She has her MFA from Columbia University.

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