Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 22 January 1973
It is an important date, the reason this is date is important? It was nearly a one year after I lay on that cold table begging a doctor and two nurses not to perform an Instillation Abortion, while my mother waited impatiently in the waiting room. They did not have my agreement or permission, they apparently did not need it, they had what they needed, hers.
Forty years, that is how long it has been, forty years and some months. Until this weekend, I haven’t really thought about the reality that I had an illegal abortion. I guess in the back of my mind I have always known, always had in one of the boxes I kept safe from examination, but until Friday when I first started writing this trilogy in Broken Chains, I hadn’t really put the pieces together. I had always wondered why even when I begged them to stop, they didn’t; I knew the law yet they didn’t stop. I had always wondered why, what amounted to induced labor and then a D&C was performed well past my first trimester, I knew the law even in the early days of Roe v. Wade, this wasn’t the norm. I sometimes wondered how this happened, why my pediatrician the doctor who had cared for me my entire life did this to me with only my mother’s signature and why that little hospital allowed it, never reported it just turned a blind eye.
By the time I returned to and thought to ask, my doctor was dead. His practice had been taken over by two other doctors, two young and enthusiastic doctors and all new nurses who were more than willing to answer my questions. I asked for my files, they weren’t so happy to hand those over, this was 1979 and there was nothing to force their compliance with my requests. I explained my request though, what I was looking for and why I was looking. I just wanted answers; I wanted my mother’s signature and the explanation. I would have done anything, begged, crawled across fire, walked on glass, offered my body as a sex slave for those answers. I was so raw and I believed I deserved to understand why two people who should have cared for me brutalized me so terribly. Finally, one of those young doctors took pity after listening to my story, he told me I could read the file in his office but I couldn’t have copies and I couldn’t take anything with me.
There was nothing there!
Oh, there was a positive pregnancy test and a sad note, because he had known me all my life. The next entry was the night I was admitted to the hospital, February 11, 1972, it said I spontaneously aborted (this means I miscarried) a Male Fetus, there were measurements in the file, I don’t remember them anymore precisely; he was nearly 5 inches and nearly 3 ounces. I never knew, actually I always imagined, but I didn’t know they documented this information or even cared, now I had another nightmare, did he draw one breath?
Next I went to the hospital, I asked for the records. They told me the same thing, they didn’t exist I was never there for an abortion. I was never there. I gave up. I had an illegal abortion but there was no proof, only that I had spontaneously miscarried, that was all it would ever say. Perhaps only I would know the truth. No one else, only me.
Choice is being able to say NO
Over the years I had hardened my heart against the empty place in my homes, my marriages and my life called childlessness. At some point I became a misopedist; putting it out convincingly I did not want children and was not unhappy with the turn of my life. This was not the truth, not my inner truth but it was the only truth I had that would stop people from handing me their children.
I have been told many times, we are never given more than we can bear, never more than we can survive. I suspect this might be true, I even suspect there are reasons why some are forged in much hotter fires. What we do with the wreckage determines who we become and how we will live our lives. It is rare that anyone has an epiphany changes direction and turns their life around entirely. Letting go of every injury, releasing every painful memory and creating a new person to stand in the place of the old one, victim to survivor is much slower and harder.
There are many vigils we sit as we mourn our lost innocence, lost childhoods and then finally kicking in the doors protecting memories. I write these as trilogies to show clear paths not just of terror, pain, suffering or horror; but of growth, recovering and even sometimes joy (I promise). I will get there, I will write them. This was the worst of it, the hardest to write the hardest to remember. This short interval, just over 1 year of my life set my feet on a path towards so many other life choices I all too often look back at this single year and ask;
The truth of what happened, it created in me some beliefs and truths that to this day I believe, they have never changed they are immutable.
‘Forgiveness isn’t free, I don’t owe it.’
‘Choice isn’t just about Yes, it is also about No.’
‘I will never do to anyone what was done to me, that is a choice that I have.’
‘Survival is not for those without compassion, you can never live entirely inside yourself or for yourself.’
I built strong walls and I was fortunate to have a good mind. I was able to escape behind the persona I built without much challenge. Much of that person was the true me; strong, smart, hardworking, driven even and sometimes funny. Unfortunately, that person was also guarded, stubborn, quick to cut a person out of my life, quick to walk away, unforgiving even. There are many things I grew to like about myself over the years; many things though remained hidden even from my friends, there were also many things I never loved, things I believed did not deserve to be loved. Now, as I explore my history I am learning that just maybe I was wrong in my judgment.
So now I am walking down the hallways of my mind, shaking the locks and rattling the doors. I didn’t get here all alone I know that. It wasn’t all bad, it couldn’t have been. These are just those pivotal moments, those points of darkness that I decided to finally shine light into. With that I leave trilogy II in Broken Chains with this quote which I think is apt:
‘Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradations and despairs which otherwise must engulf us.’
William James (1842 – 1910), pioneering American psychologist and philosopher
Trilogy II – Broken Chains