Pregnant in Alaska, and grateful for my choice.

by Mel

February 3, 2020

Today is the March for Life, and we have a president who is attending, the first U.S. president to ever do so. I am full of rage, and terrified that in the future safe abortion may not be an option. On this day, I think back to my own abortion 20 years ago, and how grateful I am for the opportunity to have decided ​not to have a child.

I grew up with an unpredictable, abusive father. My mother was a teenager when she had me and ​her journals, which I read after she died, suggest that she maybe wouldn’t have had me if abortion had been legal. Roe was still two years away. So she struggled. She gave birth to my wonderful sister three years later. She worked and cooked and cared for us while my drunk father berated and threatened her. When we were older and she had the courage to leave, she’d seek refuge for the three of us, even if it was sleeping on a picnic table in the park. Eventually my mom left my dad, but the trauma all of us endured had changed us forever.

I hadn’t seen loving relationships for most of my life. As an adult woman I tended not to trust men. I sought connection in relationships that looked like my parents’ relationship, which only caused more trauma. Although my mom told me that it didn’t matter where I went, that my troubles would ​follow me anywhere I chose to go, I headed off to Alaska, almost 30 years old, with ​one in a long string of ​men​ who would ​not be an ideal partner​.

While I was there, working seasonally in the tourist industry, I met different people, happy people, educated people. I laughed and sat under billions of stars in a sleeping bag, drinking tea and ​writing, painting. A knock on the door might mean the Northern Lights were humming outside. Magical and wonderful as ​the experience​e was, ​my​ long childhood of trauma still festered.

In my second summer season ​in Alaska​, I split with the man I arrived ​there​ with. I dated several other men ​afterward​, one of whom was handsome and musical and wore thick glasses and had a funky classic car. He did nice things for me, but I didn’t always trust that he was sincere. Maybe the trauma in me recognized the trauma in him. We used condoms when we had sex​, but one ​night, the condom tore. I was nauseous​ imagining being pregnant​. I ​re​assured myself there was almost no likelihood of pregnancy after having unprotected intercourse just one time.

I missed my period. And a few weeks later my breasts began to hurt. I knew. So in this small town where everyone knew everyone, I bought a pregnancy test at the grocery store. I did the test in the office bathroom at work, where my roommate wouldn’t see the evidence. It was positive. I sat in the bathroom trying not to cry, wanting to vomit, wanting to scream. I never wanted children, and was denied sterilization when I requested it in my early twenties because the doctor was sure I ​would change my mind. She seemed to know better than me that I would want children one day.​ Had I been heard, I would have never sought an abortion.

So there I​ was in ​a remote town, far from my home in Colorado, and had no idea how I could get an abortion. A friend was kind enough to start calling around for me to see what my options were. She determined that abortions in Alaska were limited and it would be difficult to get ​across the state so she found a clinic for me in Seattle, where I would go for the weekend and no one would know. ​A friend ​in Seattle​ ​went to the appointment​ with me​. She was patient and kind​ and religious​, and I wondered if what I was doing hurt her. ​I wondered how she had the strength to help anyway. ​We were really just acquaintances, so I was surprised she was being so generous with her time and compassion. I rested at her parents’ house after the procedure. They fed me and I slept off the ​sedatives.

I was ​relaxed and calm during the quick procedure. The women at the clinic were kind and professional, and assured me th​is choice was mine alone. I felt strong and empowered, unfamiliar feelings for a shy child who grew into a skittish adult. I was so relieved when it was over. I was free again. Unburdened. Unencumbered. And the child that would have been did not have to inherit my trauma or live in a shitty ​house with me while I tried to get my life together. The child did not have to witness the wrath of its would-be father in a rage, or visit him ​while he was in care for mental illness. ​Now ​I ​could decide how to go forward with my life, without the fear of raising a child without resources, without even knowing who I wanted to be.  As it turns out, my life took a beautiful turn only a few years later.

Because I was not forced to endure pregnancy and parenting without the support and tools I would have needed, I went to college. I got a master’s degree. I have a job I love, that allows me to make positive changes in my community. I met the love of my life and while he worked through addiction recovery, I worked through my own stuff. Ten years we loved each other, and although he passed away from a rare cancer, I have his son and his son’s wife in my life — adult children with whom I connect and adore and share wonderful memories with.

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