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abortion

Abortion, Guest Posts

The Boy With No Name

April 14, 2017
winter

By Carmen Calatayud

When my son died
a thousand miles away
I made my arms a cradle.
~Kelle Groom, from the poem “Marguerite”

In the dream, it’s wintertime and I hate winter. I’m scared of the cold in the dream as well as in real life because my body can never get warm enough.

There is a hill with a naked tree, its limbs shivering. There is snow and wind and a dead grey sky, as though winter will never end. I’m not sure I can survive if there’s no escape from the cold.

Then a voice: I know this is the winter of your discontent. I have not forsaken you.

I wake up sobbing and realize I was weeping in my dream. I’m weeping into my pillow even though there’s bright desert sunlight streaming into this bedroom in Tucson. This voice, a mixture of Shakespeare and Jesus, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a dream. I’m convinced it was the voice of some deity or higher power that hasn’t forgotten me. With a broken voice, choppy from the sobs, I tell my boyfriend about the dream.

This dream comes one week before I learn the reason I’ve been feeling so sick for the past 2 ½ months, much more than usual. I’m pregnant.

***

When I was the moon, I wasn’t whole. Just a blue half-circle drifting through the sky. After I sloughed off pieces of myself I became a quarter moon, a sliver of light that gingerly rocks back and forth like a porch swing.

This is what I remember after the abortion—just a sliver of me being left, and a sliver of a child being sucked out of my uterus with a vacuum that hurt more than I could have imagined. It hurt so badly that I asked the doctor to stop. He couldn’t. I got dizzy from the sharpness of the puncture and suction.

My son was sucked out of me and spit into the sky. I couldn’t imagine where else he could go, so I saw his pieces in the Sonoran Desert darkness.

Each small star was a spark of my boy, glitter above me every night.

***

I go to the doctor because I feel sick, more than I usually do from what is chronic fatigue syndrome. Since the doctor is concerned about an ovarian cyst, she does a sonogram. I look at the screen as she drags the gel-covered wand back and forth across my skin, until a black and white picture appears.

“You’re pregnant.”

“Are you sure?” I’m stunned and feel my cheeks burn from the shame that I’m pregnant and didn’t know it. I’ve been nauseous for weeks, and had missed my period, but my period was already erratic. I thought it was the flu.

It’s a few days before the 12-week cut off for legal abortions, so the doctor reminds me that I have to decide quickly.

“I’ll support you whatever you decide,” she reassures me, her voice steady, warm. Then she pauses and I hold my breath.

“But you need to know that this is going to be a difficult pregnancy.”

I imagine what it would be like to hold my son. What he would look like, how he would sound. An August-born boy. I consider who his father is: a father of two young children who need and deserve attention, a heavy drinker, cocaine user and gambler who insists he is my soul mate. All of these addictions wash through my insides and create a pool that never drains. My body is heavy with this water, swollen and scared.

***

Little boy, if circumstances were different, I might have had you. I might have weathered being sick for nine months straight. But I didn’t believe I could survive what my life had become and hold you above it.

I sit outside the apartment door on a warm winter night in the desert. The stars are out. I see pieces of you float freely and sparkle in this universal life of yours.

You race across the Milky Way while my life stands still on Earth.

I’m stale and pale white, afraid of your father, an empty future, and the shrinking amount of change in my jar.

Poet and writer Carmen Calatayud is the daughter of immigrants: a Spanish father and Irish mother. Her book In the Company of Spirits was a runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award and a finalist for the Andrés Montoya Book Prize. Recently her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Origins and Cutthroat. The Boy with No Name is an excerpt from her memoir. Visit carmencalatayud.com. 

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Abortion, Guest Posts

My First Abortion

November 29, 2016
abortion

By Cheryl Diane Kidder

“Under the skin, an old order begins to shift… The first signs of change are as
imperceptible as the order itself, an order which has been presumed
as part of reality, part of the earth upon which one puts a foot,
or the step itself, immutable, inarguable.”

– from A Chorus of Stones, Susan Griffin

I paid for my first abortion with a Visa. I had to. Planned Parenthood didn’t have an installment plan and in 1983, when I was 24 years old, I didn’t have the two hundred dollars in cash to give them. My limit on that card – my only credit card other than my Macy’s card – was five hundred dollars. I’d just mailed in a payment so I was pretty sure I had enough credit left.

The entire procedure, start to finish, was two hundred dollars. This included the procedure itself, and one follow up visit, a week later, if needed.

It didn’t occur to me to do anything but pay for the entire thing myself. I had no way of getting in touch with the other responsible party and even if I did, I wouldn’t have. I did have some vague recollection of his face. He was tall, but not very bright. And though I lived in San Francisco, the first reports of AIDs and HIV and how it was transmitted seemed to only pertain to certain communities, communities I was not a part of. The thought of a deadly illness felt like the faraway bleating of sheep, two valleys away and impossible to hear clearly. It was still only 1983, which at the time was much closer to the innocence of 1970s than to the horrible realization we all had to face after August 1985 when Rock Hudson died. Continue Reading…

Abortion, Birth Control, Choice, Guest Posts

The Choice

July 20, 2016
Abortion

By Teri Carter

On January 22, 1973, by a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law and made abortion legal in the United States. Roe v. Wade stated that a woman had the choice to end a pregnancy in early months without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months. This ruling was based on her right to privacy.

In the years before Roe v. Wade, my mother gave birth to 3 children: in 1965, 1968 and 1972. Her first 2 pregnancies began without a husband, which in the 1960s meant she had to get married twice to men she should never have even considered marrying. My mother did not have the option of ending her pregnancies. She also did not have access to birth control, though Enovid, the first birth control pill approved by the FDA, had been on the market since 1960, and by 1965 was being used by 6.5 million American women.

The Pill was only accessible to married women, and would not be legally available to single women for 7 more years. The Pill would never be approved by the Catholic Church. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

How to Get Through It.

December 4, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Jillian M. Phillips.

Step One

Two days after Christmas, realize your period is late. Triple-check the calendar, just to be sure. Ask a friend to drive you to the Planned Parenthood. When you get there, keep your head down, hoping no one you know sees you. You don’t want to explain that you’re neurotic about your flow and too poor to buy an eight-dollar pregnancy test.

When the doctor comes in and confirms that you’re pregnant, hide your smile. Try to appear appropriately distressed because you’re not married. Nod along to everything she says. Pretend that you are interested in “Options.” Accept every pamphlet gratefully and solemnly, as if each one contains a sacred promise.

When your friend drives you home, share the news with her. Allow her to see your joy, but don’t tell anyone else. You know how hard your life has been lately. Your rent is way overdue. You’ve received two disconnection notices from the power company. You don’t want people telling you that your baby is a mistake. You don’t want it to be a problem people tell you to fix. Rationalize that you have eight more months to be in a better apartment in a better neighborhood. Your boyfriend, X, has a new job. If you watch your budget carefully, you can save enough to get a nicer place.

 

Step Two

Write in your journal about how excited you are. You know this baby will be a boy. Name him Caleb. Picture him with black hair and gray-blue eyes. See him in your mind as a voracious reader with a contemplative nature. He will be a poet. He will have a strong will. He will speak softly, but firmly, and use literary quotes in everyday conversation.

Decide that you are unwilling to allow X any say in this pregnancy, because he will tell you to get rid of it. He’ll tell you that you are financially unstable, barely able to take care of yourself, not ready. Write in your journal that you will wait until your second trimester, when you can’t legally terminate the pregnancy. It’s only two months away. You can keep your mouth shut for that long.

 

Step Three

Call yourself an idiot for leaving your journal open on the kitchen table while you were cooking dinner. Curse your stupidity at not putting it away in your nightstand, where it belonged, instead of letting X find it. Now he knows you’re pregnant. He tells you exactly what you thought he would, and is even angrier because he knows you were planning to lie to him.

X tells you to “do what’s right.” He reminds you that you have always been Pro- Choice. Curse yourself again for not having strong enough faith in your religion to hide behind. You have no argument other than that you’ve already come up with a name. The moment you rolled the syllables around in your mouth and felt them on your tongue, pregnancy ceased to be an abstract concept. Caleb is no longer a scientific term— embryo, zygote—he’s a person to you.

Listen to X’s argument. Let him pace around the living room as he rants on and on that you can barely put food in your own mouths, let alone a child’s. In a self-satisfied, fuck-you tone of voice, tell him that you are planning to breastfeed, which negates his argument. Casually add that he was the one who didn’t put on a condom. This is his fault as much as yours. He ignores this. You always forget to take your pill on time. One simple thing and you can’t even do that. Mutter something about subconscious intentions.

Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

Sharing Your Worst.

December 1, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Anonymous.

 

They say everything happens for a reason- and I found that easier to believe for a while.

But I call bullshit. Sometimes the worst happens for no reason whatsoever.

My daughter is a deep empath. She absorbs all of the family stories, feels sad for Godzilla when the M.U.T.O.S. are getting the upper hand. When she was about five when she wanted to take every homeless person home with us, as we had plenty of good food. They could sleep on her floor, she offered, or in sleeping bags in the living room. When I tell her stories about my childhood and how my brothers were mean to me (I usually tell them because the stories are hilarious,) she feels terrible for me and wants to somehow make it better.

So I can’t publicly write about one thing that happened to me because I’m worried it will somehow hurt her. There’s this part of me, this protective mama instinct that wants me to keep the truly ugly shit from her. I want my daughter to grow up thinking that pregnancy should be healthy. That the stories she hears that happen to strangers couldn’t possibly happen to her. When I thought of writing about this before, I imagined her years down the road thinking of this story, having been told, and worrying through her own first pregnancy, “What if it happens to me?” Or worse, that she would spend her pregnancy feeling sad for me and my experience – because that’s how she’s wired. Maybe this is the wrong approach, but as I’ve found in parenting, this is seat of the pants instinct stuff, so I’m going with my gut on this one. Hence, the anonymous story.

So why write it at all? To work it through?

No. I made my peace with this-or as much peace as you can make with the truly bad things that happen in your life- years ago. But there’s another part of me that remembers how very alone I was when all of this happened. I had heard no other story like mine, had nothing to compare to or sympathize with. Aside from the nurses who worked at the place where I got the procedure done, and my mother, and my husband, there was no one to talk to about this. It took a few years before I even saw an article where this had happened to someone else. And I did write about it once, anonymously for Salon in an op-ed piece because they were going to make “late-term” abortions illegal in my state. And for a time, they did. And I would have had no help at all had this happened to us a few years later.

My husband and I had shacked up for a few years when he figured it would be a good idea to get married. I was working, he was working, we enjoyed our early marriage as we had our first years together and four years into our marriage we bought a house. All of our ducks were in a row, he had a profession that could support us both, it was time to have a baby. I had contracted Lyme disease- nowhere near its east coast origins and had just finished my course of antibiotics and at my doctor’s advice, had allowed a month to pass after that. It was time to give it a whirl. I got pregnant in the first month. My husband had wanted kids since he was small, I was a bit more apprehensive about the whole thing, but was thrilled nonetheless. We were twelve weeks in and everything looked fine, so we came out of the closet, sat on our sunny bed on a Sunday morning with the phone (back when they were attached to walls) and called everyone we wanted to share the news with. Everyone was thrilled. This was really happening. I got the standard blood tests and we celebrated Christmas with family and I was 14 weeks along. My belly was getting round and hard. My brother said, “Oh, I just thought you were getting fat.” The day after Christmas I got a phone call. My doctor said that something in my blood test said we should probably get an in-depth ultrasound and an amnio. The chances were small, but something was up. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Truth

The Abortion.

July 14, 2014

The Abortion by Judy Bolton-Fasman.

I am weightless, airborne as I look down at my body on the examination table.

Like my mother and her mother, my post-baby weight has gathered in my belly, making me appear several months pregnant even at nine weeks. My legs are spread wide so the doctor can apply a cream to soften my cervix, easing my body to give way to the abortion.

Sometimes I wish this story had a cinematic ending. But I did not jump off the table, holding the back of my gown together, walking away backwards saying, “This is a mistake.” Saying, “I’ll keep the baby.”

Six months earlier, I was nine months pregnant, also waiting for my cervix to be effaced. At ten centimeters I could begin pushing my first baby out of fluid darkness.

“What will we call the baby? I asked my husband before the Pitocin made me heavy then delirious with pain. Later on in labor I disconnected from my body after an epidural paralyzed my legs so that pushing felt mechanical rather than necessary. I worried that without ripples of crushing pain I had not fully earned the right to be a mother.

**

The second pregnancy was like the flowering surprise of a bloodstain blooming on a crisp white bed sheet. I breastfed my first baby and hadn’t had a period yet. My husband and I should have known that I could get pregnant, but that would have meant taking the time to fumble for a condom or the diaphragm. There could be no barriers between us on that cold, starless January night. And given how difficult it was to get pregnant the first time, we never thought it could happen so effortlessly. In the two years we tried to conceive our first baby we desperately willed our bodies to do what they were meant for. When I was finally pregnant, it was as if I were the first woman in the world to carry a baby.

**

That first time I tested for a pregnancy, I rejoiced that a drugstore kit rarely registered a false positive. The second time I tested for a pregnancy I prayed to be the exception.

**

In the late afternoon the baby would not stop screaming and squirming in my arms. I often had fantasies of popping her in the microwave, cooking her until she was quiet. “Do you want to hurt your baby?” a therapist asked. “Wring her neck like you would a small chick?”

I lay the baby down in a basket plumped with clean clothes as if I were sending her away like Moses on the Nile. She rubbed her eyes and let out a few cries before succumbing to exhaustion. I hated parents who were nostalgic for a child that fit into their arms, that couldn’t answer them back. I longed for independence, for words to articulate how long the days were. “Yes,” said one of those parents, “the days are long and intense, but the years are short.” Liar, I thought.

 

**

My breasts were tender—a sure sign that I would bleed at any moment. I peed on the telltale stick anyway. Twenty minutes later two pink lines appeared. One for each baby I could have within the year. Pink is for girl. Two baby girls—one on each hip. I thought of my mother and her panic when she believed she was pregnant for a fourth time. She cried for a miscarriage. That was also the summer of her continuous migraine. “I can’t take this anymore,” she said about her headaches and her motherhood. She stripped down to bra and panties and lay in bed with a wet washcloth over her eyes. Her long dark hair was down from its bun and splayed on the pillow.

**

My baby girl was two months old when the Susan Smith drama unfolded on CNN. Each night at dinnertime I breastfed my colic baby to quiet her as I watched the police piece their way to the inevitable conclusion that Smith strapped her little boys into their car seats and rolled her car into a lake. She murdered her children to be free to pursue a romance. Was I, who was terrified of microwaving my baby to free myself from the long twilight days, so different than Susan Smith?

**

The summer I was due with my first baby, a series of business trips kept my husband from attending all but one childbirth class with me. I called my sister to come down to be my temporary birth partner. She was game until the instructor passed around a metal prod used to break the amniotic sac. It turns out I was a natural water breaker. Two weeks before my baby’s due date, I lay down to go to sleep and my water broke. Soaked and scared, I went to the hospital only to be sent back home until I had labor pains. The pains never came. They must have been waylaid deep inside my body.

The night before my labor was induced, I was tucked into bed among other women also awaiting their babies. We were curtained off from each other for some semblance of privacy. A couple of hours after I had had a sonogram to establish the baby’s position, a nurse came in and told me that I was having a boy. I called my husband in the middle of the night to tell him to prepare for a brit—a circumcision—in the next week. He would be marked like his father.

With Pitocin, Demerol and spinal block flooding my veins, my baby was born sluggish. She took a few minutes to cry. When the doctor finally announced that I had had a girl, I managed to sit up and ask if she was absolutely sure. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said to me.

**

The doctor who delivered my baby girl snaps off her gloves after she spreads the cream on my cervix. “It’s early enough so that all you’ll need is a D&C. It’s also encouraging that you’ve been spotting the last couple of days. You might have had a miscarriage.”

**

After I saw specks of blood on my underwear, I took long hot baths to hasten a miscarriage. My grandmother had done the same when she became pregnant with my uncle. She also tried to ripen her cervix with olive oil. Her two daughters, born a year apart, had frequently sent her to convalesce in the hospital. My grandmother gave birth to her only son born seven years after her first child, my mother. Mom brought him up.

**

The morning of the abortion I am still nine weeks pregnant. My husband drives in wide circles around the hospital for what seems like hours before we check into the day surgery. “You don’t have to do this,” he tells me. He holds my hand in the car as I explain to him again that Jewish law makes room for an early pregnancy termination if the mother’s health is at risk. “I’m in no shape to have two children fifteen months apart,” I say. And yet I want him to tell me that I can mother two young children if I have to. I want him to tell me that he will hire someone so that I can grocery shop alone and come home to folded laundry.

**

Abortion is what the unmarried do. What the unhappily married do. At that moment, I somehow manage to be both.

**

This is where the story could have another cinematic ending. I could tell my husband to drive me home. If my cervix holds up, I will have the baby. If I miscarry, at least I made the decision to keep the baby. But we walk into the same hospital where I gave birth to my baby girl, grateful that there are no screaming placards accusing us of murder. Just a waiting room wrapped in the quiet euphemism that I am there for a D&C. My cervix will be dilated and the doctor will scrape my uterus and scoop the cluster of cells. I mostly convince myself that there is just tissue lining my uterus.

I part from my husband to undress—the gown opened in the back—and I lay down on yet another table where I shade my eyes from the fluorescent lights. “Will I hear a vacuum sound?” I ask the nurse. As soon as the question floats between us I wonder how such a domestic machine can undo such a domestic act.

“We give you drugs that make you forget,” she says. That’s the conventional wisdom about the pain of childbirth too. I am the exception. I remember all of it.

Feet in stirrups, sheet draped over my legs, the doctor asks me to “scoot down” and count backwards into blankness. The number 97 is the last thing I remember. I wake up in a cold amnesia, shaking. Excitement is the other side of anxiety, and mania has taken hold of me.

I am lighter, unburdened, triumphant. I want to know the sex. Another girl? I don’t believe the doctor when she says that the sex cannot be determined so early in the pregnancy.

I catch myself thinking that I would have named the baby for my father and I cry for the first time that day. No matter that my father is still alive then. I follow Spanish-Jewish tradition. And right then and there only the living count. The abortion is for the baby I already have.

The abortion is also for the baby boy I will give birth to three years later. He is named for my father. He’s almost a man now—six feet tall with a deep voice, nerves of steel and the heart of a saint—yet I’m afraid to tell him about the abortion. What if he asks me if he would have been born if I hadn’t had terminated my pregnancy? I can’t give him a vague answer about the alignment of the stars determining his fate. He’s a smart boy and he won’t be convinced if I simply tell him that he was meant to be born. Meant to be ours. I can only tell him that he is wanted, needed.

 Judy Bolton-Fasman lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Rumpus, Cognoscenti, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other venues. She has just completed a draft of her memoir 1735 Asylum Avenue: A Family Memoir.

Judy Bolton-Fasman lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, Cognoscenti, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other venues. She has just completed a draft of her memoir 1735 Asylum Avenue: A Family Memoir.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation workshops: Seattle July 26/27, Atlanta August 9th.