History isn’t Mutable, But we are

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;

What if?

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

Part I – No Bastards No Choice

Part II – Never Again, I will hate you

Broken Chains – Start at Part I

Comments

  1. Okay. I know it might be a little early into the relationship, but……….. I Love You. I appreciate you sharing this private and difficult story.
    I just raised my beer and Cheers to you.

  2. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    Wow, Val. Thanks for sharing this story, as I had no idea these kinds of things happened. I mean, in America? I’m only 45 years old, but there’s a truth out there that the Gloria Steinems of the world knew and we, the younger, seem to forget the horrors of those who’ve forged the way. Kudos to you for being such a strong survivor. I count myself in the survivor mode (other stories, may or may not be told to the world at some point), and I am a happy person, as I WILL NOT let the dark forces of the world keep me down. I have a thought my grandmother told me when I was little I keep with me each time a wrenching sadness overtakes me (I’m also unable to have children): “Remember those beings, children, pets…for they will stay with your soul forever. And sometimes, they sit on your shoulder and guide you like an angel.” A wonderful saying, I think. Cheers, D

    • I count myself more than a survivor. I count myself a victor. That is a nice saying, if you read the whole series I posted a Janis Joplin song with “I will hate you forever”, it is appropriate.

      Val

  3. Yet another gorgeous, haunting, sad piece about the fire that forged you, dear Val. Hey, look me up on Facebook if you want to talk more (El Phoenix Farris or my page is the same name as my blog). xo

  4. Val, as you dig and unearth the secrets you have kept buried for so long and unlock the chains from the doors…You will begin to see why it is you are writing them down now..
    Unless we unlock those secret corners and free them from our hearts we cannot move beyond…
    Right now is the exact right time to unlock the doors and remove the padlocks.. ( I am going through my own personal awakening at the moment in the emotional dept )
    As hard as digging them out has been, Now you can start to rebuild and bring balance back..
    We all of us hold within ourselves ‘blame’ Guilt, Fear, Unforgiveness, Anger, Hatred,.. And we are often so HARD upon ourselves as its so much easier to to all of those things than it is to take ourselves by the heart and and Be tender with ourselves…Love ourselves and be compassionate with our thoughts to ourselves..

    Know too… that for what ever reason you went through your Pain, whether you believe in the after life or not Val.. … You were and never are alone.. And that little soul who chose to come to you for a short while is still with you..
    And for what ever reason for your most horrendous experience.. I also know that He will always love you… For He chose You!
    You just need now to look in the mirror and say Hello … And Welcome yourself back.. As you hold out your arms to give yourself some Love….
    Love and Blessings.. Sue..

    • Sue – you bring me to tears. Not bad ones, just tears. I know I need to work through these, each of them one at a time. I actually am past the guilt, but anger and my lack of forgiveness is simply part how I function in the world. Forgiveness simply doesn’t come free. I have long since forgiven myself for those things I did to myself, those things I did knowing I was doing harm to myself. Those that did me harm, no I don’t and might never forgive them if they have never offered ‘I am sorry’ for their acts. That is simply the ‘morality’ of my spirit. The rest, I have to sit back and consider.

      Thank you for your comfort and your spirit.

      Val

      • I know… It was after my Mother had passed that i thought I had forgiven her too.. And then only last month all of that past came flooding back and I knew deep down the hurts and wounds had laid inside so very deep I hadnt let her go..
        Maybe forgiving isnt needed.. For they have their own actions to be acountable for..
        But what I found, that all these things surface again for a reason.. And it is ‘Time’ within the world now that Past Karma and Karmic Debts are coming to an end.. As we face even quicker the results of what goes around comes around as we see there is a ‘re-action’ to every ‘Action.’ within the Pool of Universal Law..
        Now is the Time for Letting Go.. Letting Go of Bitterness, and Anger are all part of that…
        I have cried so many tears this past year and this last month you would not believe.. For many reasons .. But each tear is helping to cleanse me. from inside out..
        I still am looking through that mirror..
        Some days I say a bright Hello to the familiar face that greets me..
        At other times I look at that sad lost look as the tears spill some more.. And wonder just who am I kidding?
        But Deep within me I KNOW Val, that we are all of us going through some Deep Digging.. And the reasons are is that we like our Earth are Shifting our awareness..
        We are growing, And emerging as we let go of ego, of this material clutter and our past hurts..
        Hurts that we not only have carried in this life.. But hurts which we have carried many life times until we have learnt to let them go..
        One day I may write my own story.. of love and loss..
        But even now my own pain is too raw…
        So this is why Val you have shown so much courage in writing very skillfully your own pain and done it in such a way that has touched all who have read..
        And you now have to ask yourself..
        Why now do you at last shed it..on paper at least..
        Now you must look and Dig even Deeper and look into your heart.. And Let those scars finally be healed..
        I am so so with you upon your journey .. ~Sue

  5. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to respond I guess I’m speechless again and I am wondering if you are finding happiness now?

    • These are hard to write, it is why I write them in three and even then they are long. That happened a long time ago, nearly 40 years now. That road from there to here was sometimes like climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (without safety equipment or a map). The strange thing is, despite the hurt and despite the loss most days I am happy. Some days that happiness has an edge, some days it has fuzzy corners but no, happiness did not entirely elude me. I think I finally got to where I could write these stories because of the volunteer work I do with Victims Impact, that is one story I tell over and over, have been telling for a very long time now. I finally realized last time (last month) there was something off, something wrong and that I couldn’t tell the story anymore because there when I was hurt 20 years ago I was really angry, I was just then starting to recover my life and someone tried to randomly take it from me. All the other hurt up to then hadn’t been random, they had been focused and intentional. It was then when I finally had to get brave, put my big girl panties on and start telling the story, the real story of my life.

      I try not to overwhelm, I know they are hard. But honestly yes, I am okay. Peaceful in my skin most days.

      Val

  6. –So now I am walking down the hallways of my mind, shaking the locks and rattling the doors.–

    We are much STONGER than we know, aren’t we, Val?

    I know this…because I’ m still living, breathing, surviving…

    You are truly amazing & inspiring. Xxx Love

    • We both are, I have been reading your story and at times find my breath caught. I wish my father were still alive so he could talk to you, I think you would find a great deal in common (read Victim Impact for why). There comes a point in our life when we stand up and tell ourselves we will walk the path of survival and become more. Some days are harder than others, some days we gnash our teeth and beg for just any relief at all; anything that will stop what feels like is killing us. The best we can ever do is not hide from the hurt, it took me years to learn this and learn both the passion for life and a compassion for both myself and others that let me finally give these stories out to the world.

      What you do is amazing and a beautiful memorial to your much loved sister. Your strength in holding your sister up and sharing her is titanic, for those of us who share in your walk we are only able to thank you for this and hopefully offer some of our strength back to you when it is asked of us.

      Val

  7. You have had a some very tough things to endure, Val. Your such a wonderful person! Hugs xx

    • Deb – so many of us did. I don’t know that mine was unique. I guess that is the odd thing about living the life I did, I knew so many street kids, so many abused women. Even my second mother, had a story to tell; as horrifying what she did to me was, even she had a history of her own that was no less horrific.

      I am going to keep writing these, even knowing they are terrible tragedies. I think part of me writes them because of the time we live in and my fear we could return to a time when we lose our voice and our children lose theirs and all their hope as well. I don’t know that I am wonderful, but I try for compassion and I try for patience and thoughtfulness.

      Val

  8. I rather think of the evolution to get you here as the distillation and fermentation of a fine, sweet brandy. The fruit is crushed. The water and sugar boiled. The brew chilled to the bone. The solution left alone to age in the cool darkness, until years later it is brought into the light to be savored by those who appreciate its depth, palate, bouquet and sumptuousness.

    I love you, sister.
    Red.

  9. What a terrible experience you had to endure. My heart aches for you. NO woman or child should have autonomy over her own body taken from her.

    • This experience is one of the reasons I am pro-choice. It is also what has caused me to be so vehement in my stance that pro-choice is not just saying yes, but saying no. That our ability to protect ourselves is not a privilege but a right. Over the years I became more and more convinced I was forged for a reason, it wasn’t just my emotional survival but my intellect.

    • I second this, Amaya. Until I read this post, it hadn’t really occurred to me that people would be denied the right to say “no.” Oh, how my heart aches to imagine the wrongs we inflict upon each other! But I am heartened, too, by these words:
      ‘I will never do to anyone what was done to me, that is a choice that I have.’

      This, too, is my choice.

      • Whether out of fear or true force women are forced often, this was especially true prior to Roe v. Wade. It was especially true for the young, for those without real voices. Whatever our moral stances on abortion might be for ourselves, whatever we believe our choices might be were we faced with this horrible choice I have known for years it is critical, we must protect women and their ability to say what their will is. I saw the devastation of loss, not just my own but others to back alleys and force, even after 1973.

        I said once to my second mother I will never be like you, my choice to break the chain of abuse started very early. My ability to do so though had to be learned over time those lessons were still coming even though the intent was there by the time I was 16.

  10. Hard to imagine something like that being handled so coldly. Sorry for your experience, but what a testament to survival you are.

    • I suspect given the time and the personalities involved there was no choice in the matter. Oddly, I don’t remember my pediatrician being a cold person, I remember adoring him as a child. I will never know why he did this because be the time I could ask he was dead.

      My second mother, well she was who she was. I have written about her history, what made her. It doesn’t change what she did, only explained her ethos (the first trilogy in Broken Chains is about her).

      Thanks for reading – Val

  11. Oh Val. What can I say? You are truly an amazing story of survival and hope in spite of heaps of hurt.

    So glad you are able to get this out at last.

    • Elyse – it is funny that there has never been a forum that was safe until now. We might all at times decry the Internet for its impersonal environment, how it causes us to decouple from society and community. Yet, in so many ways it also causes us to come together and create community as well.

      I will go back and forth for a while, write a series for Broken Chains. I think they come in threes, this seems to work. Then write my social / political commentaries. I believe I have found my rhythm.

      Thanks – Val

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