I had learned that relief can exist with regret. The “best” choices for us can still leave scars. Nothing is all good or all bad.

by Megan

December 16, 2017

This hazy period of my life was ushered in by me missing a period. Most human lives are recognized this way. Since I was a baby, I played with baby dolls, cuddled other babies, and took care of those only slightly younger than myself. I desperately awaited the day I would become a mother, hopefully at a young age. I felt that my desire for children, to care for them, to have my own, was a huge part of my identity, the image of the woman I wanted to be carved into my heart. To love a child, to care for someone weaker than you, that felt holy, when everything else almost felt crass.

I have always been extremely sensitive and aware of my inner body. As a child I had to wear my socks inside out because the seam annoyed me too much, and as a teenager I dreaded eating most foods because I could feel it churning and burning through my digestive tract. I could not tell you or anyone when I got pregnant for the first time, at barely 16. My boyfriend at the time and I would often not use protection, so I went to the gynecologist with my mom to be put on birth control. They asked me if my period was late, I said maybe a day or so. They gave me a pregnancy test. Negative. They put me on the NuvaRing. I went back to Brooklyn from Manhattan, flying high on the fact that I was not pregnant nor would I be for the foreseeable future. “Really dodged a bullet!” I told my mom, scarfing down my food unusually enthusiastically.

Then the cravings started. The fatigue. The migraines. The nausea. The discharge. No period. No period. The days got colder. I hurt myself playing volleyball, I needed an X-ray. They asked if I could be pregnant. I said no, but had a twinge of guilt. I went on with my life. My mom finally bought a pregnancy test. She came home late from work one evening, as I was in my room watching reruns of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I peed on the stick and started cackling, hysterically laughing that I was pregnant. She told me to shut up, because my grandmother, uncle, and mentally-ill, drug-addict father lived downstairs. She didn’t want them to start trouble. I spent the next day home crying, all day, looking at my belly and refusing to believe what my body had been attempting to tell me for weeks. I went to get counseling, wrote pros and cons lists for every option. I was afraid of feeling that ill and powerless. I was afraid to not finish high school. I was afraid of my father’s wrath, afraid for my boyfriend’s future, afraid that my mother could not afford to support (another) child. At the ultrasound, they told me I did not have to look if I was thinking of terminating. I, a bold and fearless 16-year-old who felt indestructible enough to have unprotected sex, scoffed.


“I need to see the baby. I need to understand what I’m actually doing if I have an abortion.”


I saw it’s fully-formed profile, a curled up bean with a head and prominent nose like my father. The next time I was pregnant, the baby’s face was flat, like it’s father. But the baby was in me, was part of me. No one else could give birth to it but me. There was no way out but in.

I spent years silently bleeding with a hole in my heart, mourning the first baby. I babysat, worked at daycares, taught, kept spreading my love for kids as I could, while the hormonal IUD they had FORCED upon me at the hospital made me sicker and more disabled as the days went on. I dropped out of school. I took the IUD out. I began to heal my body, but my heart still hurt. It bled inside me continuously.

Then, I met a family in my apartment building who wanted me to babysit their newborn daughter in the mornings, then more hours as the parents went back to work full-time. She had cheeks like steamed Chinese buns, eyes that looked like they were perfectly carved into smooth marble, and the tiniest yet little chubby body I had ever seen on a baby. And, she was clingy. She needed me near her or holding her constantly. She had strong opinions she expressed in screeches. She hated to sleep, did not love to eat. But she loved to cuddle, read books, have me pay attention to her in any way. It was like my heart healed more since she was born that it had in the six years since my abortion.

When I fell pregnant again 8 years after my first abortion, I knew it from the day it happened. I felt different, unhinged yet elated. Then horribly ill. Too ill to watch the little girl, or go to my other jobs, or back to school as I had planned. The little girl would cry for me every day, so her parents told me. They also encouraged me to keep the baby, that they would help me. I wanted to keep the baby at first, but my boyfriend said he would never be in that child’s life. I was broke. My family was broke. My little girl was missing me. I did not want another child in the world with a father that did not love her.  I had migraines so debilitating, I wondered if I would suffer with them for the whole nine months, if I would have a stroke, or have to be hospitalized, get a feeding tube, miscarry, et cetera.  Pregnancy shows you just how not in control of your life you are, throws you around like a plastic bag in the wind. You can trust the process and have passive faith in the universe and your body, much like the trust you put in everything working together correctly when you board a plane. Once those doors shut, you’re on that plane for the whole journey, turbulence or not. Or, you can fight back, run before the plane leaves the gate. I would recommend going with the flow if you want to survive your pregnancy–for your own mental health–but I could not relinquish that control. Not yet. Not without certain disaster.

So I searched for days, weeks, for a doctor who would perform an abortion in a hospital. I wanted it done safely, with care, with staff who understood that I was terrified of doing this again. Doctors would not discuss the matter on the phone with me. Or they did not do abortions. Or I was told to go to Planned Parenthood, to a clinic. I couldn’t eat, walk, drink, work, get out of bed. My asshole boyfriend carried me to the car. I went to a “nice” clinic. I panicked as I went into the operating room, fighting the nurses off of me like I was fighting for my life, my heart trying to cling to the baby that it knew I desperately wanted. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t say goodbye yet. I waited another week or two to try the abortion again. I took an anti-anxiety pill. I had them put an IV line in me before the operating room so I couldn’t back out. But as I got on the table, as they shot the anesthesia into the IV line, I said “No, I don’t think I want to…”


And I was out.


The nurses rushed me out of recovery, not understanding why I was in so much pain, why I couldn’t just walk out of the room quickly like the other women. The chick next to me turned to me and said,


“Why didn’t you take a percocet before you came here? That’s what I did, and I’m fine. I even did it awake because I ate a piece of chocolate before I came here.”


“Bitch.” I muttered to myself.


Whatever. Maybe I’m weak. But, I didn’t feel like I had to apologize for my sensitivity this time. Some people cry at sappy commercials, some only at funerals, some never do. We are all different. This may have been my “easier” way out, both times, but it certainly was not easy for me. Not for one second since I saw my first positive pregnancy test.


I passed what I was certain was the placenta a few days later, and snapped a picture and stored it in my phone with pictures of my positive pregnancy tests, my ultrasound, because these were the only physical pieces of proof that I hadn’t dreamed this whole nightmare up. I had forgotten how it had felt to do this so long ago. The second time, at 24, was much more devastating than at 16 (even though I had a worse recovery with complications at 16). I knew now that some things cannot be undone, that we carry memories with us, that our actions follow us forever. That baby would never, ever be. I had learned that relief can exist with regret. The “best” choices for us can still leave scars. Nothing is all good or all bad.

A few days later, I went back to my little girl and was met with relieved hugs and kisses. I snuggled her to sleep as I had always done and breathed in the clean laundry smell that her cheeks gave off. I felt lighter…because I was emptier. Heavier with uncertainty about what I even wanted my life to look like, angry that pregnancy and getting sick from birth control I didn’t want and tried to convince my doctors was making me ill (no one believed me), and pregnancy again had derailed my original plans for so many years. I didn’t know what was even important anymore, what’s worth my effort. Did I even want children anymore? Could I handle being pregnant even if all the conditions were “right”? Who will I be if not a mother? I still don’t know, but the pregnancy was certainly a turning point. Move forward or it was all for nothing. Just keep going and loving, and it will fall into place. Hopefully.

This time, my new wound continues to fester. I wonder if it will ever close.


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