Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here's a not-birth story for you

I consider myself a birth professional, even though I don't work in that capacity very often. The one and only time I went to a convention for birth pros, I was given a test to see what kind of advocate I was: woman centric, baby centric, pair centric.

Guess which one I am?

I chose to pursue alternative woman-led birthing (as opposed to directed, medical birthing) while I was pregnant with my son, my first child. It was my first child but not my first pregnancy. I terminated my first pregnancy in the summer after my first year of college. I was 18 years old.

That summer was a crazy blur of bad choices. I had met my boyfriend, a stage actor from L.A. in the last few weeks of the spring semester. He had come up to fish and discovered he had miserable seasickness. At that point I was woefully inexperienced and painfully self-conscious, enough so that I didn't really believe that this very handsome boy could be interested in me or anything I had to offer. When summer rolled around, I moved into a house with Actor BF and some friends and tried to make ends meet with a (very short) string of ridiculous jobs I wasn't interested in, and whatever money got sent from home. I drank a lot and hung out with some amazing friends who kept me fed and mostly out of trouble. No one thought to remind inexperienced, self-conscious, loudly feminist me that I needed to Take Care Of Business instead of letting Actor BF do it. I never went on birth control, and at some drunken point, our poorly-realized plan of condom usage failed. By the end of summer, I had Urgent Business to Take Care Of.

We ferried to Bellingham, and he gave me $300 before dropping me off at Sea-Tac, where I used $99 of it for a MarkAir flight back to Denver. I was numb and disbelieving the whole time. Apparently we visited the Ketchikan mall and had dinner at a pizza joint. I know that only because of the sentence fragments I jotted in my poetry journal. I made it to Denver with only a borrowed backpack full of dirty clothes and a sense of shame. My sister picked me up and drove me to her house. The next day she helped me call the clinic, and two days later she took me to Glenwood Springs and gave me juice to wash the Valium down with. Then she brought me back again, held my hand while tears poured down my face, and bought me lunch that I couldn't eat. She never said a word that wasn't support or love. She told her husband I had a bad case of the stomach flu, probably from food poisoning. She told our mom I was better off on her couch, where she could bring me soup. She let me cry and cry, and two weeks later, got me back to Denver so I could catch a flight all the way back to Alaska where I could finish what I started. I wrote a few poems about it, cried a little bit more, told Actor BF to fuck off, as he really wasn't good enough for me. And then I moved on.

I mention this all now because I read a blog post this morning on, of all things, a sewing blog. A 60-something hippie type told the author of that blog about her repeat abortions, the first of which was in 1969. The blog author came home and wrote about the harrowing experience of hearing these stories, and expressed her disbelief that the woman who told them could truly be at peace with her decisions. The author spoke of her sadness for this woman's "aborted babies." She wondered how this woman's life would have been different if she'd chosen to birth those children. She honestly believed that woman's life would have been better.

I know how my life would have been different. I could enumerate the ways, but suffice it to say that it would NOT have been for the better. I do not regret not having a baby at the precious age of 18, when obviously I could barely care for MYSELF. I don't regret not having a child with an alcoholic that I didn't love. Not only do I not regret it, I applaud it as one of the few truly sensible decisions I have made in my life. On the rare occasion that I dwell on it for even a moment, I think, "Thank GOD."

I have tried to write this not-birth story before, because I know that the stigma about abortion won't go away if we don't talk about it. I have found again and again that I was embarrassed to write it. But embarrassed about WHAT? I'm not ashamed that I made the choice I did. I'm not ashamed that I chose to go on and birth other children. I'm not ashamed to say I would have more if I weren't worried that this world can't hold them. Choosing to end that pregnancy gave me the strength to make other choices, ones that were crucial for me and my children. I'm not ashamed of that. The shame I mentioned earlier wasn't because of the abortion. The shame was because I prided myself on being too smarter than that. And I'm not ashamed to say that, either.

no regrets here, either

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to let you know I'm still here. Love this. And you.