You Go, Garry Trudeau!

Mr. Perry, there aren’t enough cuss words in the whole wide world to describe the kind of scum that you are. They should stick an ultrasound probe up your posterior orifice; maybe they’ll find your head in there.

I know I said this wouldn’t be a political blog, and I plan to honor that promise. However, I do plan to point out how those around us – politicians, religious leaders, air-headed teen-pop idols, even friends and family – can contribute to the overwhelming difficulty of making the decision to abort a pregnancy. The decision is hard enough, and if a woman is going to stay sane enough to make the right decision, she needs to recognize those that are feeding off her vulnerability, and learn to tune them out. I had the misfortune of being pregnant in Texas, but the IMMENSE fortune of going to a clinic that grudgingly carried out Perry’s dirty work with incredible contempt for the new bill, and incredible compassion for those of us made to suffer through its consequences. I was reminded constantly by the doctor and the nurses and the counselors that whatever decision I made would be the right one, and that I had no reason to be ashamed or to feel guilty. I hope that everyone who has to go through this cruel process (Texas isn’t the only state run by compassion-less dickheads) finds the kind of support that I did. If that support and understanding is unavailable to you, take it from me: you have no reason to feel ashamed. You have no reason to feel guilty. That fuzzy gray image of a blob inside your uterus might seem beautiful to you (it did to me), but it is because it is beautiful and dear to you that you are making a decision in the best interest of that blob’s future. If you are not ready to be a mother, for whatever reason, then growing that blob into an actual human being and bringing it into a world not ready to receive it would be far more cruel. Don’t let those GOP bastards get to you. Don’t let the picketers outside the abortion clinic get to you. They don’t know your pain, they have no right to judge you. Don’t let religious zealots get to you. If their god is such a wrathful, unforgiving beast, then you should pity them, not put stock in their judgments.

You are a good woman. You are making a wise, compassionate choice. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

When Atheists Believe In God and Hell

So yesterday we talked a bit about the five stages of grief. For most people, these are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You would think that the progression goes something a little like this:

If you are generally a positive person, or if you have superhuman powers, you might hope for something like this:

The reality for most normal people, however, is more like this:

Only, the colors in the flowchart make it seem like a far more cheerful process than it actually is. It is gut-wrenching, agonizing, terrifying, dizzying, nauseating, insert-a-million-of-the-most-horrible-adjectives-you-can-come-up-with-here. If you are a pregnant woman considering an abortion, or have already had an abortion, then I don’t need to describe it to you, since you are likely going through the process at this very moment. It’s a good thing to recognize each of the stages (you might not go through them all). It won’t make your feelings seem any less painful, but it might help you to maintain a clearer head if you know exactly what you’re going through and why.

Denial: For me, the gravity of the situation didn’t sink in right away. I spent a couple of days being completely numb and in a daze, not really spending any time thinking about the decision ahead of me, or the consequences of what I would choose to do. It was a defense mechanism that allowed me to continue living my normal life without much upheaval. My sole occupation was dealing with morning sickness (morning, noon and night) and making multiple trips to the grocery store everyday in the hopes of finding something I could stomach.

Anger: This is where I started to blame the universe and its mother and its neighbor and its dog for the situation I was in. I blamed my boyfriend, because he wasn’t ready for the responsibility, and who isn’t ready for responsibility at thirty-five??? I blamed my parents, because they are still living in their conservative religious/cultural bubble where having sex outside marriage is something that can be enjoyed only by men and whores. Good girls have hymens. Unless they’re divorced or widowed, then they have cobwebs. I blamed my boyfriend’s parents, because they raised him to be the kind of man who wasn’t ready for responsibility at thirty-five. Thirty-five! I blamed the U.S. government for doing such a piss-poor job of running a country that I didn’t have health care and couldn’t get a job despite trying for months and months and months. I blamed God, and I don’t even believe in any gods. But it was convenient to have an imaginary being to aim all my anger at. And when all these people, institutions, and fictional entities were still not enough to spread the fury around, I began to blame myself. What kind of a failure was I? I was thirty and still had not established myself enough that I could bring a child into the world and provide for him. (I will always refer to my unborn child as a boy. Of this I was – for no rational reason – convinced.) Who doesn’t have a job or a savings account or health insurance at thirty? Thirty??? Me, that’s who. And who has all of those things but not the courage to take on adult responsibilities? My boyfriend, that’s who. It was like I was spinning in a circle with my accusatory finger outstretched, and whoever had the misfortune of standing anywhere near me was going to get some share of the blame. Not to say that I was throwing the blame around without any rhyme or reason… just that I was angry at myself and the world for the situation that I was in, and focusing on the anger was easier than focusing on the painful decision at hand.

Bargaining: This is where I decided that I would have the child no matter what anyone said or did or thought. This is where I imagined that I would somehow miraculously get a job with a hefty salary and ample benefits, all before I became visibly pregnant and therefore undesirable to employers. There was much delusion involved in the bargaining stage, as I sent out resumes to people I had already sent resumes to in the past year, thinking that somehow this time would be different. And I told myself, with desperation that I now realize was oh-so-sad, that if only I could find myself a secure job with a stable income, then I would keep the baby. And if I couldn’t find said job, I would do the right thing by my child and not bring him into a world where I couldn’t care for him. But the delusion continued until the very last day…

Depression: This was not a separate stage in my case, but rather a state I would enter into at various points every day, when I would realize that my anger was for naught, and my desperate job search was for naught, and all my hoping against hopes was for naught. This state involved lots of crying while in the fetal position. I have nothing remotely jokey that I can say about it.

Acceptance: This didn’t come for me until the very last day, really. On the day before the abortion, when I went in to get my sonogram and hear about the risks of the surgery (thank you, Rick Perry! May there be a hell just so you can rot in it), I was still hoping I would find a way to keep the baby. Seeing the little berry-sized blob on the sonogram monitor made me want to grin like an idiot, but I bit the inside of my cheek because I knew I wasn’t allowed to be happy yet. When asked at the end of my appointment if I wanted to make an appointment for the procedure, I made one for more than a week away, hoping to buy myself time. It wasn’t until I got home, saw an inbox void of job offers, and saw my boyfriend’s not-ready-to-be-a-father-yet face looking at me like I was crazy that I hadn’t made an earlier appointment that I realized I was defeated. There was no way that all the missing pieces were going to fall in place magically and allow me to raise a child. I picked up the phone, and feeling like a zombie, moved my appointment up to March 17th, and collapsed in tears, moaning from depths within me I didn’t even know existed. Acceptance isn’t always a graceful process.

I have no nuggets of wisdom to leave you with today. It sucked, that’s the summary. But I will leave you on this hopeful note: it gets better. I won’t say that I’m a shining ball of sunshine and rainbows these days, but I am certainly more at peace than I imagined I would be. It gets better, I promise. Hang in there. Remember the reasons for your decision, and be kind to yourself, and it will get better.

The Mayans Got It Wrong

The Blob will be the end of us all.

On Mother’s Day 2012, I was 6 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I wanted desperately, desperately, to keep the baby. But I was realizing more and more with every passing day that I wouldn’t be able to. So with every post I read on my Facebook newsfeed, wishing new mommies and mommies-to-be a Happy Mother’s Day, I would dissolve into tears. I wished the apocalypse would just COME already so I didn’t have to make the agonizing decision that was ahead of me.

When I called my own mother on that day, she said to me in her typical weepy woe-is-me fashion: “What’s to celebrate when my children are far away?” (My mother is your average narcissistic martyr, a specimen found readily amongst immigrant parents, I imagine. Or maybe mine is just extra special.) I wanted to reach through the phone, throttle her, and scream, “you HAVE children!!! You got to celebrate bringing them into the world, and they love you enough to CALL YOU EVERYDAY no matter how far away they are – even though you are a miserable, self-centered PAIN IN THE ASS – and you have the UTTER GALL to complain?!?! Some of us don’t GET to have our children, some of us don’t GET to celebrate today, and BY THE WAY don’t think that your fucked-up, shame-driven child-rearing and your complete inability to be supportive of your own children had nothing to do with that sad reality, MOTHER.”

Instead, I told her to enjoy her picnic on the lake with Dad, hoping that I had managed to hide all traces of bitterness from my voice.

Not being bitter was a daily battle. I watched enviously as young mothers I know (some of whom got pregnant much the way I did – unmarried and unplanned) toted their kids around, beaming with pride and joy. I hated all those mothers that posted pictures of their kids on Facebook. Every. Fucking. Hour. I’m not kidding you. What’s up with that? Seriously, Little Timmy dumps a bowl of cereal on his head, and your first thought is to pull out the camera? Actually, I get that. I would probably do the same thing. Sure, grabbing a mop would be more efficient, but it would not provide ways to embarrass your son in front of every girl he ever brought home to meet you in his teenage years. I’d be that snap-happy mom for sure. Which is probably why I chafed even more with each adorable picture and every cute quote posted (“Today little Timmy pointed at the lady ahead of us in the grocery aisle and yelled ‘her underwear is showing Mommy!’” Seriously, Little Timmy is awesome. I want a kid like that). Facebook became the bane of my existence. Well, in a whole new way, at least.

I never want to turn into one of those bitter people that can’t be happy for others. I realized a few weeks back as I glared at my computer screen with a picture of Little Timmy smiling innocently back at me, that I was beginning to turn into one of those people. This, in turn, made me realize that I had a lot of anger to vent and a lot of fingers to point at a lot of people, including myself. Looking back now, I realize that I actually went through the five stages of grief before I even made my decision. I suppose that means that I had made my decision right at the start, but needed to grieve the loss of something that I did actually want (a baby, duh) before I came to terms with said decision.

Damn. How’s that for a breakthrough? I just figured that out as I wrote today’s entry. Thank you, blogosphere. And thank you, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Can I call you Lizzie?

The point is, the bitterness came from not wanting to own my decision. Today (Day 2 after the abortion), I was at an event crawling with babies (pun totally intended). And I felt the bitterness creeping back into me. And when my conscience wagged its finger at me and I banished the bitterness, I became overwhelmed with sadness and longing. So… today’s lesson is that the Kübler-Ross model cannot be applied in a linear fashion to real life. That is, emotions are one giant, quivering, slobbering, mass of whatever that stuff is that the Blob is made of, and sorting through them is messy. Thanks a lot, Lizzie. (See? Still bitter and assigning blame. This will be a long road.)

Ah, blame. Let’s talk of that another day. Today, I am going to wrap myself in a blanket with a pint of fake ice cream (I couldn’t do dairy when I was pregnant. Well, hello there, coconut milk ice cream! Where have you been all my life?), lock the door to keep the Blob out of my house for the night, and watch some mindless TV. Now is the time to indulge, my friends.

P.S. Lest you think I am turning into a creepy stalker that will kidnap Little Timmy, rest assured. That cannot happen since he is a figment of my imagination. Well. That just made me sound even crazier. Folks, there is no Little Timmy. Just a lot of cute kids in my life that are tormenting me these days with their cuteness. 

That Damned Blue Line

It’s funny how the minute you tell people you are pregnant, they think it’s okay to ask, “weren’t you using birth control?”

a)      Obviously, if we didn’t want a baby yet and weren’t trying to conceive, there were some preventative measures put in place.

b)      Have we ever discussed my sex life before? No? Okay, then I would really rather not start now.

Maybe this whole ordeal made me feel incredibly exposed, like I was having to share details of my life that should have been between myself and my boyfriend alone, and I’m just griping about nothing important. In our case, we had substantial evidence to convince us that we would never be able to have children, and so we became kind of lax with the whole prevention thing. Whoops.

This was, however a double-edged sword. We had two false alarms in the past, and even though neither of us felt ready to start a family yet, each time those two sad, parallel blue lines showed up on the pregnancy test, my heart would sink a little as I would realize that I may never see that oft-coveted plus sign. So, when a few weeks ago I saw that third perpendicular line, screaming at me loud and clear, I wasn’t sure if I was filled with joy or filled with terror. Actually, I was numb.  Until about two minutes later when, shaking, I was telling my boyfriend. (The shaking at this point was not entirely out of fear. I remember having to suppress a smile for about two seconds before I said it out loud. There was obviously a part of me that really wanted this.) Then I took a deep breath and sat in complete silence for a few minutes. He was pretty silent, too. I was proud of myself for being calm. That didn’t last long. A couple of hours later, I peed on another stick, just in case. Damn, that plus sign was dark. There was no mistaking it. Then about two minutes after that, I was panicking, saying “of course I can’t keep it, what on Earth will I tell my parents, we’re not even married, you don’t even act like you ever want to marry me, our relationship has been anything but stable, how can I bring a child into THIS?!?!

But then something shifted. The next morning, when I woke up, and suddenly my sore breasts and the overwhelming nausea had meaning, I smiled. I wasn’t horrified at the thought of being pregnant. I began to cherish knowing that I had the beginnings of another human being inside of me. How fucking awesome is that??? Pretty fucking awesome, I tell you. And when I say “awesome” I mean it in its true sense – it inspires awe, this little thing inside of you that was once two separate cells that merged, and now it’s a tiny little thing with a beating heart and the beginnings of eyes and a nose and tiny arms and tiny legs and… sigh.

Having been through false alarms before, I had already thought about what I would do should I find myself pregnant in the situation I was in (this is not a relationship blog, so I will try to sum it up quickly: living with my boyfriend, not having told my parents he even existed, not knowing if we would make it long enough to get married, but working on the relationship with the hopes that we would grow old together, because damn him to hell, I love the man. He’s been my friend for much longer than he’s been my lover, and I adore him, despite his excruciatingly annoying habits). So, when faced with the situation as a mere hypothetical one, I would always state rather bluntly, “I’d have to end it,” all the while wondering to myself if I would have the heart to end a pregnancy.

Well, I just found out the answer to that question the hardest way possible. I didn’t have the heart. Until the very last second, when the nurse was putting an I.V. into my arm, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to go through with it.

A lot of people will talk to you about empowering women with choice. I think they fail to mention that it is not a choice that women ever want to make. They should just have the option of doing what is right – for themselves, for those around them, and for the potential child – even though it might never be a choice they will truly, willingly make. Sure, there might be women who can march right into a Planned Parenthood and get that thing sucked right out like it’s a tumor, and walk out feeling relieved. I’m sure they know, even in their nonchalance, that they are making a serious decision. I am not one of those women. I cringed at the thought. I cringed just now, writing that sentence – calling an embryo a tumor and picturing it being sucked out – and had to stop writing to lock myself in the bathroom and sob for a while. At the risk of making an entirely inaccurate generalization, I will say that I seriously doubt most women can be so cavalier about it. It goes against our natural instincts. Even the most left-wing, liberal, militant feminist pro-choice advocate would have a tough time fighting off her maternal instinct – not to mention those wickedly powerful mommy hormones – with her rationale.

So to my sisters out there reading this, hoping for some glimmer of clarity in a confusing time, I say this: don’t think that because it seems like an impossible thing to do, you can’t go through with it, and that you won’t be okay afterwards. It might hurt like hell, I won’t lie. I am hurting still (well it’s only been a day since the surgery), and I expect to be hurting for a while to come. But if you truly think that it is the RIGHT THING TO DO, don’t hate yourself for doing it. The fact that it hurts is, in itself, proof that you are not a monster. You are a mother – even if you don’t keep it, you will have been a mother for a few days or weeks or months, being the sole protector of what is growing inside of you. And even if you choose not to let this one see the light of day, it doesn’t mean you are being hateful or unfeeling or murderous. The day before my abortion, a counselor at the clinic said something that summed it up beautifully – “either choice you make, to keep it or let it go, will be a choice of love.” Don’t forget that, and don’t stop loving yourself either, because you need that love now more than ever.

Thank You, thesaurus.com.

So, you’re considering an abortion. And you have found yourself, like many of the touted 1-in-3 women must have done before they did the deed, looking to Google for answers. The internet has, after all, been your best friend and confidante for decades now, am I right? (Come on. You know you’ve typed “I’m bored,” “I’m depressed,” “he cheated on me,” “itchy vagina,” “cheesecake recipe” into Google at SOME point in your life. Google is like your best girlfriend that you can share all your secrets with. Never mind that as far as girlfriend’s go, Google is one mouthy broad, because minutes after you tell her your secrets, you’ve got advertisers putting banners over your e-mail inbox, telling you you’re only 10 tips away from keeping your man satisfied, or here’s this miracle ointment for yeast infections! or offering you 10% off at the Cheesecake Factory.) Anyway. Maybe you’re scared and confused, or you just want to know more about the procedure and what it will feel like. Maybe you’re feeling alone and misunderstood, and are looking for others who have shared their stories.

Wait.

Before you hit “search,” know this, and brace yourself: the internet is rife with douchebags and douchebaguettes (yes, that’s a word) that are looking to make you feel bad. Their job is to feed off your fear, shame and confusion in order to push their own religious and political agendas. Pro-lifers be warned, you will not get a lot of respect on this blog. But if you’ve got an ounce of true humanity and compassion in you, perhaps you will continue to read it without judgment, and put down your “abortion is murder” signs.

But I digress. I am not writing this blog to forward any political cause. I am writing it because I, too, was sitting at my computer two weeks ago – pregnant, scared, searching for solace in cyberspace. And what I found was little solace. I had to sift through the pages that feigned support for women by calling them “victims” of abortion. I’m sorry. This might be a difficult decision, and I might be worried that all these tears finding their way into my keyboard will cause a short circuit, but helpless victim I am NOT. There were pro-choice websites that did little to address the emotional aspects of abortion, making it sound like it was about as hard as removing an ingrown hair. Pro-choice I may be, but unfeeling robot I am not. There was a handful of support sites where a large number of women commemorated their never-born children by naming them and putting teddy bear and angel GIFs in their signatures. To each their own, of course, but I didn’t think that beginning to think of the pea-sized embryo inside of me as “baby boy Johnny” was going to make for the most rational decision on my part.

And then there was an even smaller handful of blogs written by women who had gone through the process and decided to document it in all its detail. What to Expect When You’re Aborting was written with humor, and gave a lot of useful information (like her Abortion Recovery Kit, complete with: “First you’ll need a crucifix and crushing sense of shame — OMG JJJJJJ FUCKING KAAAY.”) But at times, I couldn’t relate to her glibness (I, for example, did not think of what was growing inside of me as a “womb squid,” and I didn’t think of the pregnancy as a “son of a bitch.” A large part of me really wanted the baby). Then there was I’m Really Having An Abortion? which focused a lot more on the emotional aftermath of the blogger’s abortion, but after a while it began to read like a soap opera (I love my husband, but I can’t stop screwing my boyfriend, what should I do?), and once again I found myself unable to relate.

Don’t get me wrong, these bloggers and others like them were the internet’s saving grace, and I am grateful for these strong women for sharing their experiences. I think there should be more voices like theirs, voices that speak of experience and truth and humor and heartbreak without spewing rhetoric one way or another. And that is why I’ve decided to add my voice to theirs.

So, today, I will leave you with this: Reject the stigma. It’s a difficult thing to do (or not do), but abortion is no reason for shame. I had mine just yesterday. And I know that crippling feeling of shame that you might be suffering from. It is creeping into me as I pause between paragraphs, but I am fighting it off. As should you.

When thinking of an anonymous username for this blog, I went to thesaurus.com and searched for “abortion.” Dumb idea. Here’s what I found at the bottom of the page:

Main Entry: failure
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: lack of success
Synonyms: abortion , bankruptcy, bomb, botch, breakdown, bungle, bust, checkmate, collapse, decay, decline, defeat, deficiency, deficit, deterioration, downfall, failing, false step, faux pas, fiasco, flash in the pan, flop, frustration, implosion, inadequacy, lead balloon, lemon, loser, loss, mess, misadventure, miscarriage, misstep, nonperformance, nonsuccess, overthrow, rout, rupture, sinking ship, stalemate, stoppage, total loss, turkey, washout, wreck
Antonyms: accomplishment, achievement, attainment, earnings, gain, merit, success, win

Screw you, thesaurus.com. Way to boost my spirits the day after I had my uterus vacuumed out. But wait… they also listed “terminate” as a synonym for “abort.” At first, this did not help me, since I was still sobbing about the potential future I had terminated before it even had a chance to exist. But then, I told myself that it was up to me to shape the way I thought and felt about my decision. And so I pictured myself, Schwarzenegger-style, wearing dark glasses, wielding my massive biceps (I don’t have those, but once the no-exercise-for-two-weeks-after-surgery ban is lifted, look out!), daring, just daring anyone to mess with me. I did not kill, murder, or terminate a life, but I’ll be damned if I don’t terminate this sense of shame that society is putting on me for making the right decision. And so, even though I am grieving today, and will grieve for a long time still, I will remind myself of that image as often as I need to, so that I can be strong enough to face the condemning voices around me (and those within me).

P.S. I thought Terminator was a horrible movie that only got worse with every sequel. Perhaps tomorrow I will come up with a better image to help me through these tough times.