Tag Archives: memory

ABORTION- Writ Large

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Twenty years ago today, I had an abortion.

The thought struck me as I drove home from work, or rather, as I drove to my seven year old daughter’s science fair at her elementary school. The thought came again, once I went home and made supper for my eleven year old son, my daughter and her dad still at the science fair.

Twenty years.

Somehow, I am at a point in my life when I measure things by decades.

Trauma has a way of either binding or erasing memories from our memory. It is an actual chemical process that happens in our brains.

On that particular day, twenty years ago, moments were seared into my memory as if someone held a tattoo gun to my grey matter.

I wore a pink sweater and black pants. I carried an alpaca shawl with me that I’d been sleeping with for years and named Mr. Snuggly. Even after the nurses made me change into the johnny, I still had Mr. Snuggly draped around my shoulders. They made me take it off when I went in for the actual procedure. I felt so suddenly cold.

Have you seen the Netflix show Sex Education with Gillian Anderson? There is an amazing abortion scene in that. My abortion was partially like that and partially not. I watched that series not too long ago and found myself thinking wow…  they got it right...  but then when I thought about it today, about my experience, I thought about all of the ways it was different for me.

The strange, awkward camaraderie of the women as they waited their “turns” in the show was totally resonant with my experience. I’ll never forget the women who told me stories and tried to comfort me. But I got suddenly sick to my stomach and a nurse made me go into another room by myself to wait on a bed with bleached, white sheets. Maybe the nurse thought the other women, who had been through it before, scared me. They didn’t, to be honest.

To this day, I remember those women and feel the wave of comfort they imparted to my pale, conflicted soul.

Ask me anything.

Ask me if I was scared; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I was sad; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I felt certain; the answer is yes.

Ask me if I cried the entire time so hard, the nurses threatened me that if I didn’t stop the doctor wouldn’t do it and would make me come back another day. Yes.

Ask me if I wanted to die along with whatever bloody tissue they scraped out of my uterus that March morning. Yes. 

Ask me if I regret what I did. . .  the answer is no.

At the time, my boyfriend, and I use the term loosely because I learned later he cheated on me during our entire relationship, was a Marine. We had been together for a little over a month when I found I was pregnant. He was menacing, and became even more so after I told him I was pregnant. He doubted the pregnancy was his. He accused me of being unfaithful and deceitful. He told me I was ruining his career and his life if I continued the pregnancy.

Then he decided we would make great parents and he said he would allow me to keep the baby. That lasted for about two days. When I couldn’t make up my mind in the market over something minor, he berated me. He told me I’d make a horrible mother. He brought me to tears with harsh words, then soothed me, as he proved his point I was an unstable human, unfit to have a child.

But that was not all.

Statistically, abuse increases for pregnant women in domestic violence situations. I was part of this statistic.

He’d squeeze the tender flesh above my knees or my elbows, then scream at me when I recoiled in pain.

I found a grenade in his closet one night when I was hanging my clothes for work the next day.

A grenade.

He told me not to worry about it. It wouldn’t actually kill me; it would just create a shattering force to concuss me and render me unconscious.

Then there was the night he dumped a gallon of ice water on me in the dark. Out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it, so I screamed. I swore. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into the next room and told me to get my filthy mouth out of his house and to never come back. Soaking wet, he threw me out of his house.

At that point, I realized I could not have a child with this man. I was terrified for my own life, but even more for the life of an innocent infant that I might bring into the world.

Of course all the pro-life people will rail against me and tell me what an evil harlot I am. I should have considered so many other options. I should have worked it out. I should have left.

Well, when you are being dragged by your hair and when you are staring at a grenade sitting above your freshly ironed blouse, options seem rather scarce.

You may not understand or believe my reasoning, but at its crux, my decision to have an abortion was about being a parent.

It was about being a parent to that little cluster of cells that had nested in my gut way back then in that unfortunate winter, and about the world into which I did not want to bring it.

And it was about being a parent to the children I would eventually have– to Jack and to Emily. I shiver to think of how my life would have been irrevocably altered had I carried that pregnancy to term. In some subconscious part of me, I knew to become a mother at that part of my life would have subjected me to unspeakable trauma that would have ruined not just my life but the life of an innocent. I never would have been available as a human to parent other wonderful, spectacular, complex, humans.

He was thrilled. He promised he would stand by me. He became unspeakably kind.

I made the appointment. He drove me there.

He drove me home and made me a sandwich. He left it on the bedside table, and then he left me. I saw him maybe one or two other times again in my entire life. It was a blessing in disguise.

Ask me if twenty years later I still feel such a profound mix of emotions that I am reluctant to admit I had an abortion; the answer is yes.

Ask me if any day of any week I can tell you how old it would be. Yes.

Women are shamed for all sorts of choices.

Women are shamed for having sex. Women are shamed for not having sex. In extreme cases, women are subjected to violence for their choices.

Today as I drove home from work and realized it was the twenty year anniversary of my abortion, I realized I no longer felt shame.

It took me a long time to make peace with the images of that day imprinted on the coils of my mind. It still makes me feel a bit sad to think of the rainbow socks of the woman in the recovery chair next to me, how they were those socks with the individual toes.

For so many years I sanitized my abortion with euphemisms. I’d say, oh I lost a baby. Or, I had a pregnancy loss. Maybe those things are true. But it is also true that I had an abortion, and it is no less shameful.

You know, many years later, some time after becoming a mother to my son, I got pregnant again. The pregnancy was not viable. I tried to miscarry at home, and I ended up hemorrhaging in a grocery store because some tissue got stuck in my cervix. It was violently ugly and utterly traumatic.

The so called miscarriage was nothing more than science to me. I was only eight or ten weeks pregnant and I understood that the fetus was not biologically sound. But the horrors that my body endured as a result of that event was just not expected or safe. I wound up on an operating table having what they call a D and C. Basically, it is the exact same thing as an abortion. They scrape out the contents of your uterus and you go on your way.

At that point, it had been 13 years since my miscarriage, but I remember feeling triggered by the procedure. It brought back a flood of feelings and thoughts that were unpleasant and unwanted, unlike any of the times I’d discovered I was pregnant. I’ve been pregnant four times and I have two children. All of my pregnancies were wanted; they were all just not tenable.

So.

Here I am. Twenty years after my abortion. No longer scared. No longer ashamed, but still feeling things and still wanting to hug those crazy, generous women who were there with me that awful morning.

Abortion was a gift to me on that fateful day, just as it was 13 years later when it saved my life during my miscarriage. I didn’t know it at the time in 1999. It took me a lot of years to be able to see it for what it was and to get past the trauma, not of the abortion, but of the circumstances that brought me to that point.

Abortion should not be a dirty word. Nor should it be a gift. Abortion should be a right for every woman who needs or desires one. If you don’t want one, don’t have one. If you want to adopt unwanted children, go do it- there are plenty. But please, do not judge, blame, ostracize, or malign women who need or want this medical procedure.

This is my story. It is mine.

There is so much more to it. This is just the tip to the iceberg.

But this is what I wanted to share today, on this anniversary. Because I am no longer ashamed or afraid, of the word abortion, or of my story.

Compassionate and thoughtful comments are always welcome here at Momaste. Please note comments on this post will be moderated. Anything hateful, bigoted, or obviously written from troll land will be deleted. Take your Pro Life agenda elsewhere. If you have sincere questions or need support please feel free to connect here in the comments. Much love and thank you for reading. 

 

 

Awkward Girl

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I was always the awkward girl on the playground when I was small.  

I had a difficult time making friends.  I was painfully shy and at times it felt physically painful to even attempt interacting with others.  

My teachers complained I wasn’t social enough when they saw me walking around the outskirts of the recess yard.

Their complaint implied that there was something wrong with me.

When I go now, to pick my son up from third grade, I still feel uneasy, as I stand there on the blacktop, waiting for him to emerge from the cavernous, brick fortress.

My kids like to spend a while playing on the playground after he gets out.  It’s good for them, so I oblige.

My four-year-old, who is not yet in school, skips about making friends with just about anyone she can run or slide or swing with, and it doesn’t seem to trouble her if they run off to play elsewhere.  She doesn’t take it personally at all, but just finds something new to do, or someone new to race with.

My son has his school cohorts with whom he tussles and frolics to the point where I’m almost concerned one of them will get hurt.  I’m assured by other parents that this is just the way boys play on the playground after six hours of sitting in their chairs.  So I leave it at that.

I watch a lot of the moms chat with one another. Sometimes I see someone I know and will utter a few words about the upcoming field trip, or how challenging this particular teacher seems.  Sometimes we talk about our children’s extra curricular activities.

But mostly, I stand off to the side, feeling like I don’t really fit in.

I’m still shy.

It is not in my nature to approach people and I haven’t a clue how to make small talk.

Sometimes I still feel like that awkward, gangly girl I was when I was nine or ten, or twelve, or fifteen.  

Sometimes my stomach rolls and I want to run and hide behind a tree so no one can see how nervously I glance around, knowing I don’t fit in.

But mostly, I talk to that girl I used to be.

It is really a special thing to get to meet her again on the same playground where I once stood, lonely and confused about social customs.

It’s alright, I tell her.  Do you.  You’re just fine.  It’s okay to be quiet.  It’s perfectly fine to not want to waste your energy on small talk.  You’re gonna do just great.  You’ll see.  It’s all going to be okay.  There is nothing wrong with you. 

How Quickly “IS” Becomes “WAS”

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Over the last week, I noticed when I talk about Patty, I use the past tense.

I loved her.

She was dear to me.

She was a good friend.

To know her was so love her.  

She was an amazing person.  

I caught myself doing this and was kind of like, WTF?

Of course I still LOVE her.  Present tense.  And of course she IS still dear to me.  Present tense.  She will always be a great friend and an amazing person.  Those are just facts that go on and on ad infinitum.

FUCK THE PAST TENSE.

Fuck it.

I’m trying hard to remember a specific memory about Patty.  Truth is, after I left that job, we didn’t spend a ton of time together.  But that didn’t matter much.  We had a bond and a very deep mutual affection.  Like family you don’t see for many years because they live far off.

See, I did it again.

We still HAVE a bond and deep mutual affection.  Death does not get to put that in the past tense.

Death, that fucking fucker.

Anyway, the last time I saw Patty was when I was on maternity leave with Emily.  We went out to lunch.  I was still struggling with nursing Em and I sat there, scrunched up in this booth, trying to get Emily to pay attention to my boob and latch. But Em was fussy.  Patty held her patiently while I ate and the two of them made a love connection.  Patty loved babies.  She never had any, but she sure loved them and never was bitter or begrudging that other people had babies and she didn’t.

I guess it was her calm energy and sweet spirit Emily responded to that day.

We stayed in touch on Facebook and email, me and Patty.  Then we fell out of touch for about a year.  Then she died.

I didn’t know she was sick.  Turns out a lot of people didn’t know she was sick.  I think she tried to keep it private, and tried to protect people from the ravages of her illness.  She wasn’t one to make a fuss or draw attention to herself.

She was one of the best of the best.  

Um yeah.  Fuck you death.  She still IS one of the best of the best.  Present fucking tense.

I may not believe in God as such, but I very much believe in Love. And I believe Love doesn’t die.

So, I’ve got to focus really hard on not letting that black hole suck up my present tense and turn it into the past.  Because that would be the real loss.

 

Listlessly Listing– Mommy ADHD

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20140417-160527.jpgAs I put Emily to bed, I mentally made a check list of things to do before I went to bed myself.

  • Wash face.
  • Set up coffee (no I don’t grind my own beans).
  • Write a note in Jack’s agenda to his teacher about his homework not being done because he forgot his spelling binder at school, and what can we possibly do to “write” this wrong.  Haha, that’s a good one.  Spelling/grammar humor.
  • Lay out work clothes for myself for the week (don’t knock it until you try it, seriously, it is life-changing).
  • Take some allergy medication.
  • Look online for mermaid crafts.
  • Read a couple more chapters in that book you started.  It’s good, and OMG you’re reading a book!  Like a real book!  With pages and words and stuff!
  • Wash face. . .  oh wait, I already said that one.
  • Eat a slice of that chocolate chip banana bread you made with Emily this morning.
  • Write blog post about how you will forget this entire list and instead get a glass of wine and stream some Parenthood on Netflix.

Ugh.  Yes.  I seriously started watching Parenthood on Netflix.  I’m all caught up on the Blacklist (OMG James fricking Spader!) and needed a new show.

Everyone was raving about Parenthood because the series finale just happened or something.  So, I started mindlessly watching the Braverman saga, because apparently I don’t get enough of my real life in real life.  I have to watch other people live it on a sitcom.  Except they have way better hair at all times.  Even that sort of greasy, shiftless sibling is better coiffed than me.  And as a social worker, I’m not buying that those parents got that far with a kid that rough and didn’t have him tested for something before now. . .

. . .  but I digress.

Shockingly, I made it through my entire list without forgetting anything.  Maybe it was because I was chanting it like that old school Sesame Street girl, “a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter,” that I didn’t forget it.

Sadly, this is not the norm for me.

Anyone who knew me PTC (prior to children), knew me as super organized, efficient, and as on-time as a German railway.  But now, I’m pretty sure I have early onset dementia from sleep deprivation.

Sometimes there are just black holes where I was supposed to say or do something.  My brain races, like said German railway, but struggles to get to the right station at the right time.  Sometimes I get really frustrated by this organizational impairment.  Other times I have another glass of wine (after the kids are in bed, of course) and cue up another episode of something on Netflix.

Because, you know, I’m just tired.

I write shit down whenever possible, and that helps me stay on track.  Boy do I love my lists.  But there are times, like when I am rocking Emily before bed, that are not conducive to pen and paper.

I often wonder if this is what it is like to struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I also wonder if other moms experience this, and occasional speech dysphasia from sleep deprivation.  I mean, I’ve heard it’s a thing. . .  I’m not weird, right?

You know who are weird?  Those Bravermans.  I mean, a brother would NEVER (and I mean NEVER) ask his sister if she has faked orgasms.  But maybe I’ll get a hair straightener so I can start doing my hair a little nicer.

Either way, my memory lapses are an ironic reminder of how motherhood has changed me.