"I had been seeing a guy for two months. On the outside it was a pretty casual relationship. He and I had been friends for a while before crossing the line into more than that. He had just gotten out of a really long relationship. I knew he wasn’t ready for much and though I told him I accepted that, I was kind of falling in love. And then came the morning of a local music festival that he and I were attending together.
I had picked up a pregnancy test at the drug store because my period was a little late. At this point in time, I was not on birth control. Hormones tended to make me crazy and my body had physically rejected the hormone-free birth control alternative. But we were safe-ish. And after all, I was 38. I couldn’t easily get pregnant, right?
The shock I felt after seeing the plus sign on that stick was an emotion that I had never felt before. I woke my roommate up and he ran out to buy a couple more tests for me. They all had the same result. I didn’t tell my not-boyfriend that day. We went to the music fest and had a great time; in my heart I knew it would be the last great time we had together. But the whole time ‘I’m pregnant’ swirled around and around my head like a mantra.
The next morning I texted my gynecologist, whom fortunately is a friend of mine and she called me back right away. I snuck out of the house while my not-boyfriend was sleeping in my bed to speak with her. Every doctor should be like this woman; she calmed me down, she reassured me, she talked me through my options in a completely neutral manner. She emphasized that it was my choice, no one else’s.
That evening I asked my not-boyfriend to come back home after his hangover had subsided. He sat on my couch and picked up my guitar and started playing. I asked him to put down the guitar and told him I was pregnant. He asked what my plans were I told him that I was leaning towards abortion. He agreed.
Here’s where I was: I was living in a small apartment with a roommate and piecing together my income with three part time jobs. I paid for my own health insurance. Here’s where he was: he had just recently returned to school to get a different degree and was living in his grandparents’ basement. He promised me we would get through ‘this’.
I thought about all the times this could have happened in the past five years of being single, times when I had been stupid with men who did not mean a thing to me, men who would have made the decision I was facing a lot easier. It’s a blessing and a curse that it was who it was. If it had been one of those other men who I carelessly turned my body over to in the search to feel desired….well, I don’t think I would have any doubts as to what to do with a life that was created without any love whatsoever. The fact that I had feelings of love for my not-boyfriend meant I would have someone by my side through the process, but these feelings also made things even more heartbreaking and confusing.
Nevertheless, I made an appointment the next day with the one clinic in my state that does surgical abortions. In my head I imagined that I would just be able to go in and get it done at the end of the week. The first available appointment was in three weeks.
I highly doubt if there is any woman alive who has made this decision lightly. And I was no exception. During those three weeks, I imagined my life as a single mother. Because although I was falling in love with this man, I knew that the weight of what was growing inside of me would tear us apart, no matter my decision. One night I told him that I had thoughts of keeping the baby. He responded with silence.
I had asked a friend to take me to the clinic and she was more than happy to. But my not-boyfriend insisted on coming with me. The waiting room of the clinic smelled of stale cigarette smoke and antiseptic. There were five other girls/women in there and I was the only one there with the man with whom had gotten them pregnant. The others were with friends and there was one teenage girl there with her father. I noticed that he had a name tattooed on his arm, probably hers.
The nurses were gruff and one by one we were ushered to the back a total of three times. One on of those trips back, an ultrasound was done. The old Indian doctor told me in halting English that I was seven weeks pregnant. I had never gotten a blood test to confirm my pregnancy. I think a part of me was hoping that there was some odd mistake with three different pee sticks. Upon hearing that, those words 'seven weeks, seven weeks, seven weeks' would float in and out of my head for a long while.
If I counted back seven weeks from that moment, I could pinpoint exactly where I was. My not-boyfriend had been housesitting at his boss’ house in the country. It had a pool; and it was the time of the year that the Perseid meteor shower could be seen. He and I floated on rafts in the pool and watched shooting stars fly around above us for hours. And then we made what I called love on the edge of the pool. A couple of weeks later, for my birthday, he gave me a necklace that had a little meteorite pendant. Seven weeks ago, I had thought that maybe things were finally working out for me in this life; and then everything changed.
After my last trip to the back room of the office, I stumbled out into the waiting room, groggy from anesthesia and fell into my not-boyfriend’s arms and began sobbing as he helped me out to the car. My tears came from grief. And my tears came from guilt. My guilt came from seeing so many women my age struggling to have children, sometimes spending thousands and thousands of dollars to try to conceive. And here I was, unwanting of motherhood. And I am not a religious person but I wondered if there was some cosmic reason for why I had been 'chosen.'
For months and months following my abortion, I had a really hard time seeing pregnancy and birth announcements on social media. I avoided hanging out with my friends when I knew that children would be present. It was a constant math going on in my head. I could be five months pregnant right now, I could be eight months pregnant right now, I could have been the one proudly cradling my belly in pictures, making it everybody’s business.
But instead it was just me and my small tribe of friends whom I had confided in, shrouded in secrecy. That tribe of friends constantly asked me how I was doing and they wouldn’t take ‘fine’ for an answer. But my not-boyfriend…..well, he didn’t really ask.
I’ve heard it said that women feel like mothers from the time that they conceive; but that men don’t feel like fathers until they see their child being born. I think that’s precisely my relationship with my not-boyfriend ended not even a week after I had the abortion. For him, the news had made him aware that he was, in fact, in a relationship. And here I was, carrying his child and he wasn’t even willing to claim me on social media.
Just days later, we went to another music festival in Cincinnati; I was still having cramps from the procedure and bleeding onto sanitary pads. On the final day of the festival Josh Ritter, performed. I had seen him four times previously and not once had he sang my favorite song ‘Girl in the War.” So as the first notes of that song started to play, talking about a girl with eyes like champagne, my heart exploded all over Cincinnati and I reached back to grab my not-boyfriend’s hand and I knew that it was no longer a place that I could land.
That night, I sobbed to him, 'If you don’t think you can love me, then you need to let me go.' And he did.
It took me a long time to get over him. It was a new breed of heartbreak for me; and believe me, I thought I had seen them all by that point. Over those next few months, I was grieving my break up and the life I had carried inside of me briefly. I would never be able to unbind one from the other. I got a girl in the war and her eyes are like champagne. They sparkle, bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain.
I remember one particular day, one particular promise that I made while sitting under a tree on a gentle fall day in those weeks between two events that would forever change my life. On that day, I put my hands on my stomach and I made a promise. To myself, to the universe, to this little mass of cells. I promised that I would not make this decision in vain. I knew in the deepest part of me that I had some big things I needed to do in this lifetime, I had ripples that I needed to make. And I knew that if I had a child, I would not be able to do those things.
I had become well acquainted with myself and my downfalls by this point. And one of the things that I knew was that I was a consummate giver, offering all that I had of my cup to others without making sure that it was full. I did that with men. I want to heal from that. But at that point, under the tree on the park on a gentle fall day, I wasn’t yet there. I knew I would give all that I had to a child and neglect myself and all that I wanted to accomplish completely. And so I made a promise to myself, to the universe, to this little mass of cells, that if I made this decision then I would get out of my own way once and for all. I would become the person I was meant to be. I felt like I owed that to all involved---myself, the universe, this little mass of cells.
We are at a unique time in history where women do have the choice to say 'no thank you.' I’ve read that over 40% of women in America have had abortions. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about the heartbreak and the binds and the guilt and the what-ifs. Though this story might or might not fall within the bounds of romantic love, one thing is sure. It’s the most intimate one I will ever tell." —Ashley