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How old were you when you had your abortion?

20 years old.

Who did you tell?

The “Father,” not a soul else.

Who came with you?

Noone. I drove myself.

How I felt at the time…

Kinda shellshocked, like I wasn’t inhabiting my body.  Sure that I needed to do this, though, but unclear about how it would affect me.

How I feel now…

Surprised I didn’t tell anyone – and sad that I was so ashamed about it because it could have been a better experience had I been willing to tell people around me and share the situation.  I currently have a lot of respect for young single mothers I know, and a strange distant envy that I wonder about, because I couldn’t be where I am today had I taken the motherhood route.

My story…


The first trip I made to the city, I carried with me a confused mind and only an indistinct notion as to where I was going, to a clinic near a mall I had coveted visits to as a fifteen year old girl.  Driving with abandon as the time for my appointment came and passed, I cursed myself up and down the same street where the huge hovering windowless block buildings Macy’s and JC Penney’s were the local population, and the neon cheeriness of a House of Pancakes offered up their senseless flashing lights as the only entertainment.  I hadn’t even brought the clinic’s number with me, so at a payphone with a phonebook I set up a new appointment through tears. It was that phonebook’s spurious logic – with the adoption agencies camping out next to the abortion clinics on the yellow pages that brought the tears on stronger.  Those agencies’ ads managed to rip the fragile seams of whatever dignity I was so sure I had up to that moment.  Though always staunchly pro-choice, I suddenly believed that what I was about to undergo and was absolutely unable to stop myself from doing, really was was a murder of that innocent life yet unborn.   Who cares if I would have no support in raising a child from its father, if I was young and too confused to be a guiding light for another soul, what really mattered was that I was severing its opportunity to breathe life into its lungs and claim the world as its home.  Who was I deny that?
For years after I remembered those women smiling out of the phone book, finally  realizing their dreams in a bundle of somebody else’s flesh and blood.  I listened to a Joni Mitchell song over and over and over again, daydreaming of how it could be, with crocuses to bring to school tomorrow.  I remember going so far as to justify my decision to myself: dark-skinned babies are not in demand at adoption agencies around here.  In our local high school you could count the people of color on two hands, and I didn’t want this child raised by some benevolant (how revolting and offensive!) white couple who believed that the civil rights movement had resolved racism.
And anyway, how in the hell would I manage to hide the bulge that would be fast approaching if I were to choose adoption; hide it from my grandmother, my father, his overly observant wife?  Who could promise me that this little creature would be properly loved?  And how would I feel to embody the role of one of Margaret Atwood’s fertile handmaids, to birth a child for somebody else to raise?
The man whose fine sperm had found shelter in my womb was against my having an abortion.  I don’t understand you North American (he meant white) women, so little respect for life.  He wanted us to go to a small town in the northeast of Haïti, where his mother would raise the baby.  Nevermind that I wouldn´t be able to communicate with his mother, as he had never gone so far as to share a smidgen of his language with me.
Still, it was his best idea, our heading south.  Maybe I would have even been convinced, had he come up with a way to get there.  Cause you can´t hop the train to Haïti, and this was the only way he could ever afford to take me anywhere.  We would never make it to the airport unless we skipped the turnstiles at Davis Square, and paying our passage to his mother’s door would have taken more shirts than he could ever pawn to that old ratchety man with the suit shop.
This man I thought I loved, he said it would have been the best gift he could have brought his mother.  Having been a disappointment himself he could offer her up a fresh soul to raise.  He said never before had he made a woman pregnant, and so this was an event, an important feat, for it was not for lack of laying with women that he had never made a baby. He in his ultimate wisdom said I could birth the child and leave it with his mother.  She would happily care for it until it reached high school, and the US was no place to raise a child anyway.  Haïti was far better, the people value life more, he told me.
As fantastical as his idea was to our reality, I would daydream about it, as if in an alternate world I would do precisely this.  His mother would be warm and loving, a surrogate for my mother-lost self.  She would raise our child in a place I wanted to trust blindly, precisely the way I wanted to trust this man,  Yet it was impossible to close my eyes to the reality, 2004, the year of the most recent coup d’etat in Haiti.  I wasn’t so sure what its repercussions on daily life in the country would be.  I couldn’t help asking myself just what this unborn baby would have to suffer living in rural Haiti after a violent coup d’etat, not the first and probably not the last in the country’s revolutionary and oppressed history.  Could I imagine leaving him or her in a country I didn’t know, with a woman I didn´t know, after carrying this baby to term?  But I certainly couldn’t raise a child in Boston, where some months I just barely managed to pay my rent when I was working, and whose father´s main daily mission was to find food and shelter.
Having a child meant entering into financial debt, it meant birthing an emotional burden I would never outgrow.  It was a fiasco and a shameful thing, so I felt it necessary to hide what was going on from everyone I knew, including those closest to me. Even working beside a midwife that summer did not open up my shame, I hid whatever was occurring inside of me even from her, a woman whose knowledge of pregnancy could certainly have helped me, even to abort naturally.  No, my shame was too strong, and this man whom I had tried my best to love was the only person I told of a new heart beating out of my belly, and he turned his head away.  Though he could never have supported the child beyond a few free meals and stolen diapers, he thought I should have it anyway.
I hadn’t seen that man since the night he shook his head at my decision, with a disdain which grew out of his genuine sorrow and disappointment, and his knowledge he could not stop me.  I had scoured the streets to find him, because I wanted him to come with me to this appointment, to go through the experience with me.  I wanted him to drive with me up to Portland from that friend’s place in Jamaica Plain where we had slept on a bed without sheets, and I told him what was in my belly.  He refused.  You can do what you have to do, but there is no way I will support you to do it, to go through with it.  So I went alone.
Thank somebody’s lord there were no pro-lifers hanging their wretched souls onto my shame and guilt as I parked the car and slammed the door and walked up the cement walkway through green dandelion-less lawn towards the door, making it to the clinic the second time round.  In fact, it was quiet, I was one of three girls in there, one young like me and another quite a bit older.  We sat silently together in the waiting room of that unassuming building, avoiding each others eyes, sharing the space but sharing it as separate entities, beside one another but somehow still so alone.
I had the choice of a vacuum abortion or some other type which sounded more complicated.  I wanted this over and done with.  I had no idea what the implications would or could be, physically, emotionally, mentally.  It wasn’t until years later when a friend told me of her complications after a similar procedure for removal of her nesting one that I realized how lucky I had been for nothing but emotional repercussions.  At the time I had no head space to imagine it, the scraping up of 300 dollars, and the secrecy around the appointment and the entire affair had been enough trouble.  I was working for free at my Dad’s farm and had poured my last bit of money into helping the helpless man I thought I loved, the father of the fetus, to have a place to sleep in the coming months.
While I tried not to grow attached as this being grew within me, I did use to sing to it. I sang a song that I was singing when my first true suspicion materialized, the suspicion that I was not bleeding because I was becoming a womb.  It was translated from a West African language, I was part of a choral group that summer, and it was one of the many songs we sang.  One day, as we were singing, the choral director looked at me, her eyes wide with inaudible emphasis when we came to the refrain:
♪♪Thula my baby, thula my baby, thula my baby thu-u-la my baby♪♪.
There was another moment of realization that occurred, inexplicably, when I was sitting with my grandparents watching their beloved Red Sox and David Ortiz, wearing his #34 jersey, hit a home run.  For some reason as that ball went into the stands somewhere over left or right or center field, I sat on their hard little black wooden kitchen chairs and in silent horror realized I really was pregnant.
The doctor’s name was Dr. Savage, and I remember thinking this had to be some really bad comedy sketch.  I already felt barbaric enough after the reaction of my ex-lover, and didn’t need it rubbed in.  Since I had been singing to the baby and talking to it, and since it had met its daddy for one night where I cried as he came and he asked me what was wrong and I told him what I hadn’t been able to tell anybody; since the baby had become someone for me, I asked this middle-aged white haired man who was in charge of vacuuming my insides while a nurse held me hand, I asked him whether I could see it when it came out.   I wanted to know that it was gone, to visually experience the conclusion of this event called being pregnant, this experience that I had decided to cut short in order to avoid its inevitable conclusion, namely the commitment of motherhood.
What came out was a petri dish of bloody guts and mucusy clear substance.  I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t know what I expected, to be able to hold it, to be able to see its 10 little fingers and toes?  It was just under 3 months, still legal to abort its time on earth in the state of Maine.  Try again little soul, some other more hospitable womb might take you through the nine full months you need.  It did not appear to me as if the contents of that petri dish could have ever been the launchpad for a life.  And it once again felt like dark comedy, not even heavy enough to be a nightmare.  Too matter of fact, too sterile, too quick. The petri dish held something that could never have been mistaken for a human.
The nurse told me to eat a hamburger, so I could regain some strength.  What a disgusting suggestion, I remember thinking, but I smiled, told her I would do that, and tried to appear as untraumatized as possible, as if I had just had my teeth cleaned or some x-rays done.  I did eat something, I remember making the conscious decision to follow her advice at least a little bit, she knew more about this than I did, no doubt.  I have no idea what it was that I ate, but I ate it, just like I might have eaten something only two hours before, and then I turned back onto the uninspired highways and drove myself home, where what I had done would begin to make itself clear and palpably contentious within me for years to come.
Even today as I write and edit, write and rewrite and re-edit this piece, I wonder why I did make that decision.  I know that it was the ‘right’ thing to do, but I also know that it was a decision based largely in fear.  I was dating a man who couldn’t keep 2 pennies together, and I was not prepared to be a single mother.  He and I would have eventually split for good, and the child would have wondered his whole life about his missing father, a man who roamed Boston’s streets looking for a warm bed to sleep in.  But this man’s words about my lack of respect for life must really have hit me hard, for he was not without wisdom.  I wonder if it was mostly a cold economic decision, or a response to our nuclear family social model, which I couldn’t have managed to come close to imitating.  Or was it mostly my unwillingness to shock my family by bringing home an inhabited womb carrying a brownskinned beautiful bundle.  My grandfather still said bigoted things whenever the occasion arose, and used to shut the television screen off when blacks were on it.  My father never expressed his feelings, but I knew he would have somehow felt he had failed me, and himself.  My grandmother would have swallowed her pain, but I know it would have brought her to suffer, and I was not prepared to bring this upon her.  Not to mention I feared childrearing, for I felt that I had lost my mother due to her inability to put her own needs first, always prioritizing her kids over herself.  Would I also give up on myself like that, out of a desire to be the best mother possible?  Would my dreams for myself and my own path become forever unattainable if I became a mother?
I have had another abortion after this, years later, in much better circumstances.  I was able to tell people about my situation.  I even had a friend I have had another abortion after this, years later, in much better circumstances.  I was able to tell people about my situation.  I even had a friend accompany me to the clinic.  I do believe that women deserve autonomous control over their bodies, and feel grateful to live in a place where I was able to make these choices and see them through without fear for my life in the process.  able to make these choices and see them through without fear for my life in the process.  I know that I would not be where I am today had I chosen to bear the burden and joy that would have been that child, and I am thankful for where I am.  A friend said a beautiful thing to me a while back, as we were driving past a huge reservoir on our way north, she told me to treasure the time I had with that soul while it inhabited my womb. That put the entire thing into perspective for me, and when I look at the expereince in this light, I am relieved.  For I think even after all these years I still carry the shame and guilt I felt then, they still live within me, and I need to let them go.  There is nothing shameful about choosing not to have a child.   Imagine how many men would have abortions if they were the childbearing sex, you would not see them ranting their pro-life rants, they’d be busy trying to take a fetus out of their bellies.  Abortion is an ancient practice, and I only wish I had been introduced to less invasive methods for achieving it, as even acupuncture can produce a miscarriage.  Had I known the herbs and remedies available to me, I would have most definitely avoided Dr Savage and his vacuum pump.  I hope for all women to be given the options and to destigmatize the easy predicament of an unwanted pregnancy.  While safe sex is imperative, mistakes happen and young women are fertile bodies just waiting to be given the chance to reproduce their genes.  It is our right to decide when and where and under what circumstances we wish to raise our children.

6 Responses to “Thula”

  1. Jenniex Says:

    This is really great.

  2. Venessa Listen Says:

    Interesting read, perhaps the best article iv’e browse today. We learn everyday cheers to you!

  3. admin Says:

    Venessa- thanks so much for reading and the support! Hothealthsite is great! Cheers to you as well!

  4. Lee Bradly Says:

    I haven’t ever seen a website like this. It ads some well needed nuance to a black and white subject.

  5. nisimint Says:

    Wow! Thank you! I reposted this.

  6. Londa Blinka Says:

    Thanks for writing this, must be hard to talk about but its good to read.

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