Sitting in the grey

by Mary

July 6, 2020

We’re told that you either learn a lesson the ‘easy’ way or the ‘hard’ way, but what about that grey area in the middle? What if our biggest lessons are housed in a place where both happiness and devastation live? In a place where confusion and confidence co-exist. In a place where we are the most uncomfortable, yet still are right at home.

That grey area was where I sat as I felt my child (no matter how small) leave my body. I was emotionally destroyed, but I was relieved. I was surrounded by support both near and far by way of my partner next to me and by my dear friends and family who were readily available, but I still felt alone. I felt secure, but was terrified.

I was 24. I’d just graduated college, with a whole future ahead of me. I’d had the summer of a lifetime. I felt free, untethered and in control. If humans could fly like birds, I imagine that’s what it would feel like.

I’d met my then-boyfriend only a few weeks prior to learning I was pregnant. He was smart, gentle, honest, kind, and attentive, and tall—everything I wasn’t used to. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for him to tell me that he had a forklift’s worth of baggage that would taint the magic. He didn’t. When I told him I was pregnant, I fully expected him to get up and run immediately. He didn’t.

It took him less than 24 hours to express that he wasn’t ready for a child. His visa extension wasn’t guaranteed. He wanted to continue the relationship, just us. He wanted something like this to be planned. We didn’t know each other yet. I was still weighing the options. I didn’t know what my future held. I didn’t know if I was ready to turn the page. We cried a lot.

In the end, I opted for a ‘medical abortion’, which entailed taking two pills 24 hours apart. One would discontinue the hormone that supported the pregnancy, while the other would contract the actual pregnancy out of my body– which I could go through at home.

It was a cloudy September morning. I sat in the small exam room alone. Two different nurses asked me if I wanted to go through with this by my own volition and wanted to make sure I wasn’t being pressured. I said no both times. Then they had my boyfriend come in. One of the nurses made sure we knew what to expect. They told me to do, watch and eat whatever kept me comfortable, calm and happy. We joked about how I wanted butter chicken for dinner that night. I laughed and smiled through the anxiety, guilt and dread. I took the first pill with ginger ale and cracked a joke. “That’s it? That wasn’t bad!” I said.

Looking back, I was naïve about what was coming.

A few hours later, I felt a sharp pain and I knew what was going on. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, but I met with him later and we went together to get the second pill from the pharmacy, pads, wipes and extra clothes for me. I think I was experiencing the pain of loss before I could even voice it or really feel it.

The next day, I took the second pill. The majority of the day was spent taking high-dose ibuprofen, putting heating pads on my belly, changing pads, eating Planter’s Mixed Nuts and Snickers, half-watching Game of Thrones and going through the unbelievable pain of contractions. Some of them I could get through by breathing deeply, and others I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore and had to just scream. I would squeeze my boyfriend’s hand as hard as I could. After every single contraction, I wanted to cry. I wanted to sob. I wanted to lash out. But I didn’t.

I kept hearing that you’ll know when you “pass the pregnancy.” I didn’t know what that meant until it happened. In the evening, we went to my favorite book store around the corner (with sweet cats lounging around) to get a walk in and a change of scenery. I was reading the introduction to an old comic book and I felt it. I knew on an intensely primal and deeply intuitive level that I was no longer pregnant. I knew I didn’t have a life inside of me anymore. I felt the discomfort of the grey area.

We went back to his apartment and I immediately went to the bathroom. His friends had unexpectedly come by (unaware of the situation) so I was alone in the bathroom. I looked at what had come out, and I just knew. I silently cried harder than I ever have in my life. I mourned the mother I would have been if the timing was right. I mourned the possibilities that were so precious and so beautiful, but not a guarantee.

I said goodbye, and forced myself to put the pad into the trash bag that was filled with a day’s worth of blood soaked cotton. I still think of how that bag—and the remnants of my could-have-been future–eventually went out into a cold, rain-soaked dumpster filled with things like moldy banana peels, and used tissues. To this day it makes me nauseous.

I splashed my face with cold water, changed my clothes, texted my best friend, gave a telling look to my boyfriend, put a smile on my face and greeted his friends like nothing had happened.

I’m 26 now. My then-boyfriend and I aren’t together anymore. We were just friends for a while. He stayed around as long as he could.

Now I’m living in a new city. I’m moving forward in my life. Every day I take a new step towards my future, and everyday I still think of and mourn the growing child that was so unexpected, but so undoubtedly loved. While I know my child would have been cared for and loved beyond measure, I also know that my child’s life would have been chaotic. I know that they would have been confused by so much, so early on in their lives. I know they would have felt unstable. It wouldn’t have been fair to them.

While I chose to not become a mother then and will always remember and love the little life that was my first pregnancy, I know that when I do choose to become a mother in the future, I will cherish and find complete and total bliss in every single moment. I will have the tools and confidence to make my own decision because of the struggles of my past, and my time spent in the grey. I will empower my children to be their own person who can wisely create their own path. I will love them with every part of me. I will teach them to unapologetically fight for what they believe in and for everyone to be able to do the same. I will remind them every single day that they are loved and chosen in this life. I will make sure they see the joy that they bring me and assure them that I wouldn’t have moved through my life any other way, because eventually every decision I made brought me to them.

I have learned that life will absolutely astound you. The grey area of life is harsh and unforgiving, but it is also stunning, and it is powerful. I believe we find our colors when we step into the grey. We discover the immeasurable love that surrounds us when we are vulnerable enough to acknowledge our unknowns. We find our power and we find our strength. We find our community. We find our voice. We find gratitude. We find love and patience for ourselves.

My story is not the definition of who I am, but rather is a foundational part of who I will become.


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