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I’m Not Sorry – A Story of Life before Roe v Wade

by Mary

May 2, 2019

Write your stories, they say. And I laugh, & shrug, & think how I couldn’t ever say it right. That nobody would hear the voice of that girl the way she deserved to be heard.

This story neither started nor ended that summer night in 1969. Warm LA night, shimmering with psychedelic possibilities. The boy & I sat on the cool tile floor for hours & studied the endless patterns moving & shifting, two blonde kids, barely 18, entranced by colors & movement. And later the feel of his smooth skin under my fingertips, his sharp pelvic bones against my belly.

In the morning he was gone to hitch a ride up the Coast, a skinny little vagabond waif, just a whisper remaining of that journey into the reaches of my head the night before.

But he left something tangible. A swimming intrusion. Neither desired or expected. Irony.

Because I’d had no sex for months, not since I’d arrived in LA in February with my brother. The two of us escaping the harsh constraints of that farm, with the branding of guilt and God to be exorcized by the bright CA sun.

Dreams denied by a father who saw a girl of lesser possibilities. No need to be a good girl that last year at home, so I said I’m off to the library every night & I drank & partied & fell in love with hashish & the feel of a boy, any boy, inside me. Never any protection, never any consequences.

I wasn’t sure at first. Just a kid with sore breasts, vomiting every morning. But not that stupid. The LA Free Clinic was open to street kids, so I went to check. There were no pregnancy kits in the pharmacies then, you had to go pee in a cup. First visit was early, I’m not certain, but probably about 5 weeks. They said no, you’re not pregnant, so I went home to ponder. But pretty certain they were wrong. Two weeks later or so I returned to get the validation of what I knew.

My brother said, do what you want. We’ll do it together. If you want to be a mom. He laughed later & said I’d looked at him liked he’d opened that mythical third eye. I’d been living on acid & white crosstops those weeks before I knew, & I believed all the nonsense about devil weed & drugs harming a fetus, & besides, not mom material, no baby deserved me. So relief all around.

But what next? 1969. No Roe v Wade. California had moved ahead, but there were barriers.

The Free Clinic provided help. First, I had to go apply for public assistance. I don’t remember what it was called then, but something akin to Medicaid. Scruffy downtown office, asbestos tile floors, & long lines with my pregnancy results in hand. I recall little except the humiliation. And it took time. Once approved for aid, I then had to find a psychiatrist to sign off, stating that I was at risk for self-harm if I carried to term. Now I know that it was all box-checking, of course, but then I was terrified that I might not pass whatever the test would be. So I loaded up on speed & babbled my way through that ordeal. By then I was well over 12 weeks.

I don’t remember how I finally arrived with the gynecologist who accepted me as a patient. I remember vividly that I wore the only dress I had brought with me from my high school days, a little denim number with a white peter pan collar. I suppose I was trying for something.

My brother came with me. We sat across the desk while the doctor explained that I was too late for a D&C, and drew pictures of inserting a needle & explained how putting in saline would enable me to expel the fetus. OK. Seemed straight forward. He’s the doctor. What did I know?

The next morning we came back. Stripped down, I remember the cold table against my back, the cold, brusque swirl of something wet on my belly. I remember the pop as the needle penetrated the uterine wall, and the unexpected rush of warmth & salt enveloping everything. Then out the door, into another room, onto a bed. I had no idea what to expect. No idea at all. I was admitted to the maternity ward, to labor alongside women delivering their babies, and I had no idea.

The nurses were abrupt. Nobody met my eyes, no one offered a kind smile. Someone brought a lunch tray & set it in front of me. I vomited. Profusely, projectile vomitus of outstanding volume and force. The nurse frowned her displeasure.

Some hours later it started, late, late into the night. The cramping, the pain. They moved me to the delivery room. I could hear the moms laboring in surrounding cubicles. Women panting & crying & the low soothing voices of the nurses. I was alone, and it hurt so badly. I remember screaming. I remember harsh words. Don’t be a such a sissy. What did you expect? Judgement. No kindness. No, there’s nothing we can give you.

I was no sissy, though. I knew they could. No reason I couldn’t have something to ease the knives tearing me apart. So I screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Louder, harsher than their cruelty. Call him. Or I won’t stop. I won that battle, I guess.

Hours later, alone. Always alone. They hardly touched me, those two nurses. Finally a rush of blood & soft matter in the bed. Cramping, cramping. One of them came when I called. Look, she said, look at your baby.

I’ll never forgive her. Not a baby. FUCK You, I said. And I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry.

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