by Katie

September 3, 2019

They let me keep my shoes on.

I found that strange, standing naked under a gown, staring down at my sneakers. Tiny reminders that this is normal. This is casual enough to do in Nikes.

At least I had something to stare at. Something to focus on while avoiding eye contact with the women in my same position. I look back at my shoes; this is normal.

I bend to tie my shoelace and everyone looks at me. They probably thought I was going to make a run for it. Is that why we’re allowed our shoes? As a consolation prize? Is this a sign? Should I get the hell out of dodge?

I didn’t. I sat there, sick to my stomach, as the nurse asked me personal and penetrative questions sprinkled with casual conversation of what diet she was on and where she gets her nails done. Right. This is normal. I’m almost convinced. This is normal. This is casual. This is comfortable.

Then they poke. And they prod. And they take blood. And they press into my belly with machines. And stick things inside me to make sure I’m healthy. To see how far along I am. To see if I’m aware. How lucky is that? How lucky am I?

I sit in the waiting room with the other girls; my new sisters in secrecy. We half-smile watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation” on the scrambled television. But, mostly, we stare at our shoes.

Then a name is called and a girl is shuffled out. One by one we descend – the comfort of my old familiar friend Leslie Knope is soon replaced by some horrible post-apocalyptic war movie with MATT FUCKING DAMON that I can’t remember but can never forget. I was alone. The last girl waiting. In this post-apocalyptic room. With my shoes and my distractions. This is normal. This is normal.

Finally, my name is called. They put me under and then it’s over. Under then over. Around then through. I’m reeled into a recovery room and that sickness in my stomach is gone. For the first time in two weeks, I don’t feel nauseated. That lack of sickness makes me feel sick, and I cry for the first time all day. It’s over. It happened. That guilt-filled relief is suffocating. That suffocation is relieving. I’m empty, but finally full.

Nine months later, I travel down to Lima and partake in a Shamanic Healing Ceremony. Alpacas are native to Peru and often get pregnant with twins. As the two babies grow, they become too large for the small uterus and one of them naturally aborts itself to make room for the other. The aborted fetuses are found in fields and kept as symbols of good luck. The ultimate sacrifice; your life for another’s.

I let the Shaman bless me with this tiny skeleton; this little thing that could have been.  In that moment, I realized how wrong I had been. How unfair it was to blame myself for something that is natural. Something that is necessary. Something that is NORMAL.

So I exhale. And I forgive myself. Because I did choose life; I chose my own. I let the tiny alpaca go and, with that, it was over. Really, truly over.

I looked down at my shoes. The same shoes I wore during my own procedure. I stare at them. I stand on them. I walk out. And into the rest of my life.

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