Well to be honest, I was the same person but you wouldn't have recognized me. I think some of you will hate me after this but then omission can be a lie. And this blog isn't about lies. Besides, I respect you all too much to lie in any case.
14 years ago I moved from NJ to CA. It was the gutsiest thing I'd ever done -- so, of course, I panicked. I met a guy the first week. A strong, confident, opinionated guy that was from NJ too, but had been out here much longer so he really knew his way around LA.
To make a long story short in less than a month we became engaged and moved in together. My family was -- let's just say, "shocked." My friends were like, 'WTF?' It was not a pretty thing. I argued with everyone who loved me and alienated pretty much everybody.
Within 3 months I realized I'd made a HUGE mistake. It's not like I wasn't warned. His own sweet saintly mother told me in our very first phone conversation, "Don't let him RULE you." I laughed when she said it but it haunted me later. This guy was a controlling manipulative, bastard who battered my self-esteem at every turn. His lies and berating even caused me to stop writing; which is for me tantamount to suffocation. He monitored my every move, wanted a report on every phone call and didn"t like the fact that my mother calls me "daughter"when she leaves messages on my machine (why not, I don't have sisters so she doesn't have to specify a name.) He'd go through my things and read my journals. He'd lock the door and make me stand in the bathroom with him while he took a crap because he thought it was funny to make me smell it - "C'mon it smells like roses!" He'd actually lean his ass up against me and fart any time he felt gas coming on even if he had to run in from another room to do it. He said his father does it to his mother and it's sign of love (nevermind that his father used to beat his mother too, so for her that was probably an improvement). "There's so little love in the world, you shouldn't be picky about how it's expressed to you," were his exact words. (Which my therapist laughed at when I told her. That would be the therapist he sent me to near the end of our relationship because "I" had problems; and then told me to stop going to when I finally stopped taking his shit. But all that came too late. )
He "changed" my every opinion to match his own by manipulation, told me I'd be a bad mother because I was too "cold" and he was the "nurturing one", and badger me until I cried if I didn't want to do exactly what he wanted to do. He made me write lists of things to do to make me be a better girlfriend to him, post them on the fridge and read them every single morning. He made me buy most of the groceries even though he made more money. He did everything BUT hit me. In retrospect, I wish he HAD hit me, because that would have woke me up sooner and I could have avoided the path I ultimately took. To top it all off he was a bit... well I guess Sociopathic would be the word. To everyone else he was the sweetest, most generous , most romantic guy and I was "such a lucky girl". He put on a good face. So good I didn't think anyone would believe me if I told them how bad things really were. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I'd gotten myself into this and I made the fatal mistake of not running back to my family and friends for help. I thought they wouldn't take me back. I know now that they would have been my lifeline.
I kept trying to lay in the bed I'd made for 5 more months. Then about 8 months in I got pregnant. By this time I my growing hatred for him had taken root very strongly. But I still didn't admit that to anyone or ask for help. I did not think clearly. I know that. There was only one driving feeling. That I had to eventually get away from him. I could not allow any child of mine to have him as a father and I could not let myself be tied to him forever through my own child. I just refused to do it.
There you have it. My dark confession. The big issue of abortion that's raging all over the news and the blogosphere is my ugly past. But let me be clear. I am fully convinced that this is the single most horrible thing I've ever done. It haunts me. I sometimes wonder if the child I threw away was the only one I was meant to have. Maybe I threw away my only chance. Worse still I now realize I was a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. I could have done it -- been a single mom. But I didn't even try and I hated myself for a very long time. In some ways I still have a lot of resentment.
I want you know that abortion is not just an "issue" it is an "experience." People don't talk about what it means to go through it. They talk about wrestling with making the choice beforehand and whether you have the "right" or not to do it. They talk about the feelings of loss, guilt and sadness that flood your being for years to come. But they don't tell you about the gripping fear that you suppress and go numb to while you're laying on a medical table fully conscious. They don't mention the sights, sounds and sensations that swirl about you. I guess, it's because so few people debating it have ever actually done it and those who have, really don't like talking about it.
For me it was this: A day or so before I went in. They had to put something into the opening of my cervix to make it dilate. The B-friend told me I was on my own for the procedure. Fine with me. But I had to talk him into picking me up afterward since they told me I'd be too groggy to drive. On the day of, I had to take some drugs ahead of time, I don't recall what for. I got there and they gave me more drugs.
It was a women's clinic so there were lots of women coming and going. I wondered if any of them knew why I was there? I wondered if any were there for the same reason. None of the staff looked me in the eye. (Or was it that I couldn't look them in the eye?)
They took me back to a room and left me alone to strip from the waist down and climb onto the crinkly white paper that lined the padded vynyl medical table. I laid there alone for an eternity of five minutes waiting. The stoic doctor came in and explained the procedure in sanitary monotone. Basically it was going to feel like I was having menstrual cramps and a machine was going to vacuum the "contents" of my uterus. I wasn't shaking. I was very still. It was a "get it over with" stillness. The machine started up and they began; the doctor invisible behind the sheet and two nurses on either side of me averting their eyes from mine as much as possible. (But I didn't want to look at them anyway, did I? Of course, I didn't.)
It was NOT cramps. At least not like any I'd ever had. It felt like my guts were being ripped out -- and mind you I was on a lot of drugs. A tall nurse with long dark brown hair took my hand and held it. I don't think anyone had touched me until that point (other than the obvious and that didn't count.) I just focused on her hair and tried to breathe. That nurse is burned in my memory, her impossibly straight dark brown hair cascading down her back past her waist, standing in the ammonia sterile room, holding my hand so very gently and whispering softly, "just squeeze as hard as you need to."
In less than 10 minutes it was over. Up until then a white sheet across my abdomen and legs had blocked my view. But it slipped down my thighs and I glanced down. I saw the doctor carrying what looked like a large glass mason jar out of the room. It was filled about 1/4 of the way with blood and tissue. That's when I died. Every little bit of feeling just shut down. I stayed like that for a few days. And when I started to feel again the first emotion was anger and the second was guilt.
Even though the b-friend knew EXACTLY when to pick me up he didn't show up on time. The nurses kept coming into the waiting room and asking if I was okay and if I wanted them to call me a cab. I refused. Even when the fucking drugs started to wear off and I thought I could risk driving myself, I just sat there and stared at the god-damned door. I was going to stay there until he came. Eventually he did... 3 1/2 hours later. He took me home and then got pissed when I asked him to make me some tea. He really wanted to go for a bike ride and I was slowing him down with my request - my selfishness always annoyed him.
Now it wasn't really over yet. You see they wanted me to come back in 3 days. Because, get this, they had to make sure they'd "got it all" in case there was like some random baby parts growing inside me. So I had to spend 3 days with the idea of a mutilated fetus in my belly. But my check-up showed everything was a-okay. Right, sure it was. The b-friend asked me 3 questions when I got home.
- "Are you okay?"
- "What did the doctor say?" and
- "Did she say how soon we can have sex again?"
Let's just say that even though it took me more than a year to get my self-esteem back to a level where I could get away from him, the sex was officially CUT OFF!
I could tell you about the aftermath in the sickening waves of alternating guilt and numbness. But I won't. I will tell you that I kept it from everyone for a very long time. Upon my conversion to Catholicism I did confess to a priest. His response was this: "God loves and forgives you. You owe no one any explanation nor does anyone have a right to pry. You've punished yourself enough. Your penance is to go and do a kindness for yourself. Buy yourself a gift, treat yourself to a bubble bath, something, anything. It doesn't have to be indulgent. Just be kind to yourself." Not at all what I expected him to say. But then again he was a Jesuit. While it did provide a certain level of relief, the only thing was, I can't really wash an abortion away with a bubble bath no matter how much God loves me. And even if I don't really owe anybody an explanation I feel like I'm hiding something whenever the subject comes up in conversation. I have some very close friends that are strongly against it and I just don't want think about what their reaction might be. I think they'd still love me, but I don't know if they'd still respect me.
There are about 3 or 4 friends of mine who do know, Michael knows. And my mother knows now too. I didn't tell her for a very long time. And when I did I was terrified. But like the priest her response was wonderfully unexpected. "I love you. I love you more than anything," was what she said over and over as she held me while I sobbed. And I'm crying even as I write about it because I think that was the moment I really began to feel like I could eventually be healed. She said she didn't blame me for doing it, but I don't pretend it was the right thing to do.
Here is the thing. I am NOT the rape victim, the incest victim or the woman whose life hangs in the balance of her pregnancy. I am NOT any of those compassionate reasons why abortion should remain legal.
I AM one of the other ones. The ones they blow up clinics because of and shoot abortion doctors over. No I AM the one they scream "baby killer" at while waving signs of depicting the bodies of aborted fetuses (I'll pass on the souvenier t-shirts folks, I had a backstage pass to that show.) I AM one of those who made the CHOICE for entirely selfish reasons. I know that. I told you about my Ex-boyfriend only so you understand my mindset at the time, not so you would sympathize. I AM one who did it as a form of birth control so that I wouldn't have to deal with the consequences. Well guess what. I was wrong --I still had to deal with them. I still am dealing with it. I will until I am able to hold my first born child in my arms -- if God is willing. But I'd be lying if I said my life hasn't been easier because of it. I've traveled, I have a great job, live in a beautiful house and I'm marrying the most amazing man on the planet. Oh, yeah I've benefited, but that doesn't mean it was worth it. If I could do it over -- well I'd have a 12 year-old right now wouldn't I? But I don't. I wish I did though, even if he or she was being raised by somebody else, I sure wish it. I sometimes wonder if I'd had someone in there with me, someone who loved me, if maybe I would have had the courage to turn around. But "what if" is pretty sharp little knife and you can bleed yourself dry with it if you're not careful.
Abortion is the only sin besides Suicide that I believe is its own punishment. And yes I think it is a sin because it tears down the spirit and anything that does that has a very high "sin" potential. Whether it's a crime or not is up to the courts. For now they say not, and I agree. So here is my position: If a woman who was considering abortion came to me and asked my advice, I would do everything compassionately possible to change her mind (no bloody fetus photos allowed.) But if she still chose to do it I would go with her and hold her hand through it and tell her "Just squeeze as hard you have to." I would drive her home and make her tea or soup or whatever she wanted. I would check on her every day and make sure that she showed herself some kindness even as she dealt with her guilt. In short I would remind her that she is still worthy of love. Because quite frankly that is the first thing you forget.
But how can someone like me, who knows the cost of abortion, support the right to choose? And Catholic at that? Well, maybe I'll try to answer that in a future post if I can. It took me a while to summon the courage for this one.
I know some of you may be disgusted with me now. It's okay. I have days like that, too.