Meet: Sarah

She does not look like a rebel. Rather, she looks like someone trying to be a rebel. But her baby face cannot hide behind even the stark white of malnutrition or black eyeliner. Her hair is chopped blunt, reminding of razors and bathrooms with closed doors and other things. The eyeliner does not hold back the sadness in her eyes. It comes through, watery and blue.

When she finds out she is pregnant she keeps it to herself, all seventeen years of her. Her parents did not raise her to be who she is, so she is alone, she thinks. And she makes her decision alone.

This is her story.

A sign in the waiting room says, No Children, for the Courtesy of Our Patients. As I wait, I count. There are one hundred and forty-seven ceiling tiles. Outside the window, the day is too beautiful.

Ted* is here but he’s off in the corner, checking his pager. I’m sure he’s cheating on me, and I say so when he returns. But he just laughs.

He stays seated when I’m called in. As I walk behind the nurse, I tell her I think I’m Rh-negative so she steers me into a room and hooks me to an IV antibiotic. A brunette forty-something woman is in the chair next to me and I can’t help thinking she looks like  a motherly type, and I want to know why she’s getting an abortion.

Next, I’m taken to a room where a woman behind a desk counsels me. There are papers scattered in front of her and I don’t want to have this conversation. I tell her I want the abortion. “Ok,” she says. And that is that.

I’m taken to the ultrasound room, where they check to make sure I’m pregnant. A young woman with long, brown hair points to the embryo on the screen and takes a moment to look at me with shame. I don’t blame her. She has a job that makes her do this all day, find embryos that will be aborted moments later.

Rising Above the CrowdThe operating room doesn’t look like the ones on TV. It should look more important.  But it’s just a regular doctor’s office. I lie back and can feel the cold vinyl on the other side of my gown. A collage of flowers is taped to the ceiling. Pitiful red and purple flowers cut from a magazine, not even cleanly. I laugh, almost.

It reminds me of a 1970s shop vac, but I don’t look long. They put the gas mask on me and begin counting.

When I wake, I am lying on a cot in a large recovery room filled with other women. Some women are sleeping, others sit with their heads in their hands. Some are simply getting dressed, tying shoelaces, and I think of gym class. I notice I have on just my shirt and underwear, lined with a large pad. My pants are at the bottom of the bed, so I put them on and check out.

Ted has a card and a balloon that says, “I’m Sorry” or some shit like that. In the car on the way home, the balloon keeps hitting me in the head.

***

I struggled with it for a long time. My psychologist told me to create a makeshift gravesite, so I did, at a local park. I went a few times and tried to mourn. But I couldn’t. I felt sad other times, but I couldn’t feel sad on demand. I gave up the makeshift grave shortly after I started it.

It’s still hard to wonder about who he or she would have been. I’ll think about it, briefly, every time I see a 7-Eleven. That was the date, July 11. And when I meet someone born the same year. But I’m not as sad about it as I once was. Saying that makes me feel inhumane. But it’s honest. I have come to terms with it. I was not ready to raise a child the way a child deserves to be raised, and I made the right decision.

I’m happy I had a safe place to go. I was 17 and desperate–I would have had an abortion no matter what.

But hopefully now women are treated better after the procedure. No one should have to wake up and figure out where she is by herself.

 

*All names have been changed.

6 thoughts on “Meet: Sarah

  1. It’s also terrible when those same legislators won’t fund programs to help mothers and children. Provide contraception, provide support for moms in need, educate, etc.

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  2. This broke my heart. Mary, I wouldn’t know what to say either. I remember one day early in my pregnancy, like 5 weeks or something like that, I centered myself and tuned into my womb, putting my hand over it. I imagined sending loving energy to the tiny barely-fetus. Suddenly I felt this incredibly strong life force shoot out at my hand. It shocked the hell out of me to realize that there was a genuine being in me, with its own incredibly strong will to live. And it was so obviously not my energy, but a completely different energy all its own. I felt that strong will during the entire pregnancy and I see it in him now. I came to this realization that I had no right to take that life from him. I never did. This was an incredibly disturbing thought since I have been vehemently pro-choice my whole adult life. I’m now going through a period of cognitive dissonance on the issue, although I’m pretty sure I will remain pro-choice because it is not black and white, and no one should force this decision either way on a woman. No one can know or understand unless they’ve been there themselves.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I feel similarly. I am pro-choice, fully and faithfully, but I think, frankly, that “our side” often doesn’t make the most compelling arguments. I do believe that life begins at conception–cells are splitting, etc. By any emotional or scientific argument, that’s life. And I don’t believe people have the “right” to take life away. But, as you say, the issue is not black and white. It scares me when people (especially adult white male legislators) treat it as such. I’m pro-choice because there’s a huge gray area and we need to give women a safe and legal place to go.

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  3. Thanks for the story, Jessica! I appreciate that you point out the many different types of women who decide to have abortions and that you don’t assign blame to either the clinicians or the patients.

    (Earlier this year, I was taking an elevator up to a massage therapist’s office and shared the ride with a woman, probably ten years older than me, who asked me where “the abortion clinic” was (somewhere in the tall building). She then mumbled on about how much she wished she didn’t have to get the abortion–“but I already have four kids and they’re full grown”–and how much it saddened her. I tried to cheer her and make her less nervous; I told her, “You’ve got this” (I never know what to say!) and exited the elevator. I went on to enjoy a Groupon massage while she had her abortion on a floor above me. While my life continued rather pleasantly after that encounter, I wondered how she would go about hers.)

    The makeshift graves are a striking image from your story. I always wonder whether women who have had an abortion (or a few) feel that the procedure was unmemorable and move on, versus women who make graves. I suppose there isn’t just one correct path.

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    1. I think you’re right — every woman handles it differently. One thing is for sure, from my experience most women and teenagers treat it much more seriously than those who would have the right taken away give them credit for. It’s not birth control to them; it’s an incredibly difficult decision.

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