When the night wind has calmed the quail and the full moon has crested the arc of the night, my eyes grow heavy, my mind in prayer. Silence and stillness wrap around my days. Weary bones and my spirit lift in slumber. Here, sometimes memories return like a wound.
October,1988. I terminated a pregnancy. It was the middle of the Fall Quarter of my sophomore year of college. I was heavily indoctrinated at the time by the extremist views of the front lines of the women’s movement, full of the desperate and sometimes embittered generation of trailblazers. I wanted to be strong, to make my own decisions. To be an adult. Take care of things on my own. Little did I realize, I would pay a dear price for what was really my own fear, confusion, self loathing, cowardice and immaturity.
I was in a panic. I wanted to have what I thought would look like a perfect life in the eyes of my mother. She had gotten pregnant at 20 out of wedlock and had to marry. She had expressed to me time and again how she did not want history to repeat itself. She was self-deprecating, calling herself a bad mother...then lashing out at me out of her own self hatred and search for identity. I took on her pattern in what I now see as the ultimate form of self-loathing in my life: my abortion.
In the 80's, in a progressive town, USA, they were using sea kelp to dilate the cervix. I had only had one pelvic exam in my entire life before this incident. I couldn't even keep my rear on the table. The nurse, very stern, treated me like I was being a big baby. At nineteen, I was a big baby, having just six months prior lost my virginity. I went home and practiced taking deep breaths and keeping my rear down for a few days before the procedure. That's how long it took for the kelp to dilate the cervix.
(It's funny, my psychology, I'm not sure what I was up to, but a few months prior to getting pregnant, I remember having a 'what if' phone conversation with my boyfriend. "What would you want to do if we got pregnant?" I had asked him. He, also involved in the women's movement and aware of my passion regarding feminism, said "abortion, of course." I was a bit surprised and disappointed, thinking we were in love, and expecting him to want to marry or at least act like we were in love enough to contemplate having a baby, just agreed, saying "oh, yes of course." Looking back, I think he was trying to give the right answer.)
My boyfriend and I at the time agreed to split the cost, but I could pay my half later. I vividly remember going to the ATM machine together and he withdrew $350. Not much, considering. We went to the clinic and while I sat numb, not realizing the gravity of what I was doing, he proceeded to tell me he had told his boss and his boss was begging him to let them adopt our baby. I was shocked of course, because we had a pact that he would not tell a soul. I was also shocked that this was his solution. At the time I was terrified of the actual pregnancy and the horror stories I had heard about labor and childbirth, and I couldn't bear the thought of someone else raising my baby. I immediately felt myself seething inside, but being a pretty passive person at this point in my life, I just said that it was impossible.
The nurse called me into the exam room, they did not allow my boyfriend in during the procedure. I was given a local anesthesia. Given my difficulty with the previous pelvic exam the doctor thought it would be a good idea. I immediately relaxed. I remember exactly what the doctor looks like, I remember the vacuum sound, a flushing, no pain, a quickness and it was over. They brought my boyfriend into the room. As soon as I saw him I began screaming in horror and tears. He grabbed me and held me. It was the beginning of the end for us, and I believe we were truly in love.
I took it easy for a few days. The weariness passed. The spotting subsided. A lot of relief set in. I felt liberated and righteous at the time. But it didn't take long for self doubt to set in. I sealed my own lips and spoke of it to no one. For years only myself and my partner knew the abortion had happened. To this day I have not told my parents. I believe it would cause them too much pain. I have grown to believe that the act of ‘terminating my own pregnancy’ was an act of self destruction, self abuse, and suicide.
Healing. Sometimes. Not healing all the way. Sometimes. Moving towards something that feels good. Reaching out to do something for another living being, to help someone to repair and heal with love, because I could not fix my own wound or help my own flesh and blood has really helped me over the years to come to terms with and heal more and more the damage the abortion had on my life.