So I remain silent, as I stand shivering on the corner -- hanging my head as if in a drug-induced dazed. I lean against a cold concrete pillar as the sky cracks open and its celestial tears begin to beat down upon my face. Great, just what I needed… another heavenly cleansing. The icy rain begins to sting, so I turn my gaze downward and lose myself in thought, while I stir some loose gravel with the tip of my shoe. A car rumbles by and the driver tosses a lit cigarette out the window, seemingly aimed right at me. I step back to avoid a direct hit, and it skips across the sidewalk. My kind are always treated like garbage out here, so this is nothing new. At least he refrained from honking and waving an obscene gesture as well. That’s more than I can say for most of today’s traffic. So back to my thoughts I go. As I look up at the walls of the abortion clinic that stands before me, I know my selfish choices are what brought me here, yet again...
I was only fifteen when it all started. I say “only,” knowing that to the rest of the world, it seems quite young. But, I had already lived through more than I deserved to by that age. I had been spun through a revolving door of “fathers” in my life, each one leaving a unique scar on me as they exited. To my family, I was a trooper. I was hanging in there.
Only I knew how broken I truly was, though.
I desperately needed stability, but more than that I desired control over at least some aspect of my life. Being abandoned time and again leads you to believe you’re weak and unwanted, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise. So, by fifteen, like most fatherless girls, I became a cliché. I went looking for love. And in a very sweet and innocent way, I actually found it.
My first boyfriend was too good for me. I was beautiful back then, my body void of the scars and markings it has now, but if you talked to me for more than ten minutes, you could tell I was a tortured soul, inwardly. He, on the other hand, was the All American poster boy for well-adjustedness. He came from a good middle-class family, was an excellent student and athlete, and ran with the popular crowd.
I didn’t know what he saw in me, but I knew I didn’t deserve it. Once he learned how flawed I truly was he would throw me away just like every man before him. I had to do something to distract him from ever really getting to know me, and being a teenage boy, he made that pretty easy. I quickly learned that my body gave me the control I had desired for so long.
Sex became my means to an end. As soon as I discovered the power it gave me, I was unstoppable. I broke up with Mr. All American before he could leave me and moved on to someone a bit more like myself.
The new boy was from my side of the tracks and also came from a broken family, so with him I didn’t feel quite as inferior. Still, now that I had my newfound power, there was no giving it back. I soon learned to control him with sex as well and before I knew it, my body had gone from being a temple to a tool, to a weapon in the course of just a year. But it didn’t matter, because no man was ever going to abandon me again. I would be the user from now on. I would cast a spell over them and then I would leave before it had a chance to wear off.
The boy from my side of the tracks was quiet, which forced me to talk. I felt like I could tell him more than Mr. All American, because he understood parents who fought. He had seen his mother getting hit a time or two as well. But I never went into great detail about my past. I never told him how my biological father, who only agreed to see me one time after my birth, remarked on how long my eyelashes were -- before handing me back over to my mom, and walking out of our lives forever. Or about the night my aunt snuck me out the side window-- before going back into my house and holding a knife to my stepfather’s throat so that she could collect my mother as well. And I didn’t tell him about how my next “dad” actually talked about maybe even adopting me, a month before he turned around and left my mom. It would’ve been easier just to have a neon sign, blinking “damaged goods” above my head. No, even with him there was still a limit to what he cared to know and what I cared to share.
Needless to say, things eventually became off and on with the boy from my side of the tracks. Every time I thought I saw my spell wearing off, or worried he was getting close enough to see my scars, I would withdrawal myself so he would have to chase after me again. My mother liked him, but of course not as much as Mr. All American. Still, when we inevitably got back together for what must’ve been the third time in as many months, she agreed to put me on the pill.
The bag containing my prescription was lazily tossed onto the kitchen counter, eventually finding its way into a fruit bowl on our island. I was just waiting for my cycle to begin so I could start taking those little pink pills. As the days stretched into weeks, my mother began to voice her concerns. I laughed them off because I knew there was no way I could be pregnant. I mean, we used condoms… except for when we didn’t.
“They just don’t feel as good,” he would say, right as the moment of truth was upon us. Sex never felt good to me either way, at least not physically, but I knew forcing the issue at that very moment would surly break my spell, so a time or two I conceded. And that’s all it took.
In a half-asleep daze, with my abdomen in knots, I stumbled to the bathroom adjacent to my bedroom, fell to my knees, and violently released the contents of my stomach into the toilet bowl. After a few more heaves, now fully awake, I quickly became aware of someone’s presence behind me. Before I could turn my head to confirm my suspicions, my mother’s delicate hands swept past my cheeks and pulled my hair back out of my face. In that moment I felt like a little girl again. Cared for, and loved. No matter how bad things got growing up, my mother always loved me as much as two parents combined ever could. My guess is that because I was the product of her own unplanned pregnancy a special bond was created between us. Oftentimes we were the only one the other had, and our unconditional love was impenetrable.
She helped me up to the sink and as I began rinsing my mouth, she eyed my midsection as if expecting to see something and inquired once more about the little pink pills. I rolled my eyes and assured her it was just a bug, probably something I ate the night before. “I am not pregnant! How many times do I have to tell you?” In my mind though, I knew she wasn’t the only one I was trying to convince. My on-again, off-again boyfriend had started using drugs, and more than just recreationally. As I stared into the sink, my hand quickly maneuvering a toothbrush around the inside of my mouth, my mother disappeared.
Wanting nothing more than to shut down my brain and push these anxieties as far away as possible, I climbed back into the reassuring comfort of my warm bed and drifted off to the lulling hum of the fan.
What must’ve been hours later, since now the sun was prominent in the sky; my mother walked back into my room and gently placed her hand on my arm. “I need you to get up and pee,” she said. What? When did I suddenly become a toddler again, in need of reminders for this sort of thing? That’s when I rubbed my eyes open and noticed the Dixie cup and tiny white stick resting in the palm of her hand.
Immediately my heart dropped down to the base of my spine. No! Was this really happening? I reassured myself it was not. There was nothing to discover, and so with perhaps the last sliver of blissful ignorance I would ever have, I scooped up the cup and did as I was told.
I found my way back to the warmth of my bed, from which I could only see the lower half of my mom’s body, leaning over the counter in my bathroom. And just as I rediscovered my pillow I saw her rock back on her heels as she let out a slow and steady sigh. Surely she couldn’t tell anything yet. “How long do those things normally take?” I asked. “Three and a half minutes,” she replied. But before I could even relish in my relief she finished, “… but it only took thirty seconds.”
And then…. my world imploded.
Suddenly, I truly was a little girl again… a stupid, stupid little girl. As I wailed into my mother’s embrace, she quieted me firmly by saying, “How you react in this moment will define who you are.” I could hear her holding back sobs as she continued, “What you say and do now will be with you forever.”
How could she be so wise right now? And furthermore, how had I not inherited even an ounce of her wisdom?
I wanted to rip my stomach off of my body. Or better yet, leave my body behind all together for someone else to deal with. Here I was, thinking I had been making grown woman choices all along, but this was going to be the true test of my character. This was my defining moment. And as usual, I felt completely inadequate.
The following days were a blur. Family members began finding out, and so I braced myself for a barrage of condemnation… But it never came. My grandparents, who had helped raised me, called only to offer their love and support. This, of course, made me cry even harder. I desperately wanted someone, anyone, to hate me as much as I hated myself in that moment. “Tell me how stupid I am! Tell me what a mess I’ve made of my life!” I thought.
But no one did. Even the boy from the wrong side of the tracks just stared at me with pity in his eyes as he coldly placed his hand upon my shoulder, in what I’m assuming he meant to be a gesture of comfort. “Are you going to have it?” he asked. “Yes.” I responded.
Of all the fears and uncertainties facing me in that moment, carrying this child to term was the only thing I was sure of. And oddly, the only place I could find any comfort from the crisis. Finally, something in my life was black and white. It was clear from the moment that second line showed up that I would be giving birth in roughly nine months. I know many might look at my decision as forfeiting my “choice,” but in my head and my heart, I knew the choice had already been made weeks earlier. This was not a punishment, or a death sentence, but merely the natural consequence of my actions. I had no one to blame but myself. No one to beat up but myself. The one thing I couldn’t have ever imagined, though, was how strong I would become because of this “selfish choice” that I so carelessly made.
For the first five months of my pregnancy I refused to name “it.” I didn’t talk to “it.” I didn’t even really acknowledge “it,” aside from taking prenatal vitamins and occasionally strapping Mozart laden headphones across my now bloated belly. This had little to do with whether or not I believed “it” was fully a human being; I knew “it” was, I could feel little feet kicking me at this point. No, this had more to do with the fact that “it” might not be my human being -- not for much longer anyway.
So during the months most pregnant women spend decorating their nurseries and poring through baby name books, I directed every bit of focus I had towards learning all I could about adoption. Just because my life was a mess, didn’t mean “it’s” had to be also.
While closed adoptions seem so harsh, I understood them. They were cut and dry. Open adoptions on the other hand, in which the birth mother is allowed to essentially participate in the capacity of distant relative, seemed absolutely excruciating to me. How could I watch “it” grow up in this parallel universe, so far from my embrace?
After months of prayer, counsel, and research, it finally came down to this: Which choice -- adoption or parenting -- would be more selfish? Selfish choices were what brought this child into the world in the first place, but they would not be what dictated “it’s” course in life.
So I had to ask myself: Was I leaning towards adoption because I wanted to live as a normal teenager again? That almost seemed laughable since I was anything but normal now. The first day of my junior year, I went from being barely a blip on the social radar to virtual El Niño. I looked like a child goofing around with a balloon under my shirt, as I walked down the hall to my classes. My face was still so young and innocent, a visual non sequitur to my body. But along went “it” and I, doing our best to tune out the incessant whispers.
As the first few weeks of school passed, I remember one day in particular when a girl who was more of an acquaintance than a friend approached my lunch table while I sat staring out the windows of the cafeteria. She was very beautiful but more than that she was tough. I had always admired the way she never took crap from anyone, be it her friends, boys, or even teachers. As she sat down across from me I noticed a foreign look in her eyes, an air of vulnerability that I had never seen before. “So, you’re pregnant, huh?” she asked. I nodded as if the answer even needed stating. “Yeah, I was pregnant this summer too,” she replied flippantly. Why was she telling me this, I wondered. We weren't friends. And what did she mean by “was?” Before I could even verbalize my question she continued, “I had an abortion though.” Many of my classmates had, so this didn’t necessarily surprise me but I knew I had to respond with something more than a nod. She had entrusted me with this secret for a reason and my silence was becoming an unintended form of judgment all on its own. “Oh. So how far along were you?” I sheepishly asked. She pretended to do the math in her head then looked off saying, “I dunno, like twelve weeks or something.” Over the past few months my mind had become like an angry wasps nest of sorts; my own fears, concerns, and thoughts buzzing around at break neck speeds. Without thinking I blurted out the only random factoid I knew from a fetal development e-mail I had received my previous trimester, “Twelve weeks…fingernails and toenails, right?” As soon as it flew out of my mouth, I knew it had stung. She looked at me, her eyes filled with tears, slammed her fist down on the table and said, “If I wanted to f***ing know that I would have f***ing asked.” Immediately, I looked down at the ground and mumbled off an apology but she was already storming out of the cafeteria.
In that moment I realized I had just made her “it” real. Not with a gory image, not with a bullhorn, just with a simple fact. A fact I foolishly assumed every pregnant girl, or girl who was pregnant, already knew. And something in me changed… forever. No matter what I chose for the child growing in side of me, because of that conversation, because of the horror I saw in her eyes, I knew I wanted to become an advocate for women who were also going through this scary and confusing experience. I wanted them to be given all the same information I had so that they could make informed decisions, which they could live then with, based on facts, not just emotions.
I collected my bag and returned to the bustling halls of my high school, wondering if I should now be watching my back as well. The boy from my side of the tracks was long gone. He conveniently transferred schools, leaving me to take the brunt of the gossip and blunt inquiries all alone. I wanted so badly to run from the scandal and shame. Perhaps that was the appeal of giving “it” away, so I could move on with my life, far from all of these complicated situations I kept finding myself in.
But I also knew parenting could be its own selfish choice. I had recently found out that “it” was a boy. The gender made no real difference to me, but I had a son now. And suddenly he was very real. So real in fact that I knew he would have to be pried from my arms, if I deemed another family was best for him. No matter how much I resented this pregnancy, I already loved my son more than life itself, whether I was willing to admit it or not.
That’s when my mother’s words came rushing back to me, “How you react in this moment will define who you are. What you say and do now will be with you forever.”
My childhood lacked so much stability. I wanted better for my son. However, would I be who I was today if my mother had given me up for adoption? If I lived on some ranch in Montana and had my own pony, would my life be better now? Easier, perhaps, but I cannot honestly say that’s what I would’ve chosen for myself. Even in my current predicament, I was becoming quite proud of who I was. I had discovered a strength and resilience I never knew I had. Perhaps this was the “trooper” everyone else had seen all along. The ugly parts of my life, the ones that scarred me, left me stronger. My scars gave me character. And my character, while it did not always lead me to make the right decisions, led me to choose life for my son. And with that realization, I knew: I knew I could give him, perhaps not the easiest life, but a good one… with me.
The beauty of a crisis pregnancy is that both the crisis and the pregnancy are temporary. In the same way you must face your fears to overcome them, I had to face my panic, and in its midst I was able to find peace with my situation. I walked through the minefield of uncertainties that lay before me, and found a strength I never knew I possessed. And as I stared down my selfishness, it gave way to the greatest love I’ve ever known.
I cannot even begin to fathom the person I would be now had I simply “taken care of the problem,” like so many of my peers, since I was so greatly rewarded by seeing my pregnancy through; by seeing my son born and by watching my child grow into the fine young man he is today.
It was work. It was so much hard work. There were struggles, and many sacrifices. But he was and is absolutely worth it.
As an old clunker screeches to a halt, letting out a young girl whose eyes are swollen from a hard cry, I am suddenly pulled back into the present. She looks at me and I give her a warm smile. Surprisingly, she musters up a small one back.
I do not scream, or hold up a graphic sign, I simply let her know that I am here through my presence and say a quick prayer for her, because I have been there too, not that long ago. I had a support system that many of these girls don’t though. Which is why I stand with a list of resources and developmental facts in my hand, hoping that perhaps I can offer them at least a small bit of the help and information I so undeservedly received.
Because at twenty-eight, I can now fully acknowledge that my selfish choices are what brought me here to this clinic today. Had I not been shown the grace of a family willing to support me in the choices I made, there’s no telling what I would have rushed into based on emotions alone, and perhaps lived my life regretting.
I stand here in the stinging rain on this gloomy and foreboding day so that other young women will know that it can be done, by someone who looks and acts just like them. “See? We’re not all crazy!” I think to myself, inwardly chuckling, because I know I used to think the same thing about the people who stood on sidewalks outside of abortion clinics too. Yet, so many of the women I’ve met out here have been through unplanned pregnancies of their own, and have come through their “selfish choices” with the same calling to help others.
Another car drives past me, this one exiting the clinic. As they slow down to the stop sign beside me, I lock eyes with the young girl in the backseat. She looks drugged and melancholy, her cheeks blotchy from rubbing away tears. My heart breaks for her as I try to exude every bit of compassion I can through my eyes. Her face warms to me as the car pulls away.
And I think to myself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Post by Destiny