11.18.15 – Purgatory

My own biology is disarming.  I feel myself a vessel, and it’s both earth shatteringly powerful and wildly intimidating. I don’t trust my body.   One moment I’m on the straight and narrow, and the next there’s a storm in my stomach and Kubrick’s clamps on my eyes. It’s impossible to shake the reality. I’m unsure if this relentless reminder is rooted in the physical or my psychology.

There is an unusual place in-between. This is where I’m at. Both mother and unmother. Biologically, I am utterly aware of this new state. I am nauseous, exhausted and hyper-conscious of my breasts but forbidden to acknowledge my condition. I want to tell a co-worker who caught me sick in the bathroom that it’s not a hangover, and I’m not sick, it’s just pregnancy. I can’t. I want to ask my mother how she dealt with certain aches and pains, but she’s uncomfortable with the question. My abortion does not mean that I am an imposter. However, the fact that I plan to have an abortion does, apparently, mean that I am expected to hide my current condition. Sweep symptoms under the rug and grin. The future unmother navigates through a world where silence is demanded and shame is embedded in-between the daily fiction. One’s opinion of abortion is so often tied to the very fiber of personal-morality merely mentioning it to another may result in the potential loss of a friend, a family member, a job. I am fortunate to have a network of supporting comrades, but it pains me to think of those who don’t. What established outlets for expression are offered to the woman alone? Help lines? The equivalent of a mental illness support network that promises to keep all callers anonymous due to fear of humiliation. The crisis pregnancy center? A coercive anti-abortion propaganda center run by church-moms. If those were my only options, I would keep secrets too.

The purgatory of pre-termination is a social construct. The decision to end a pregnancy can be difficult and is personal but should not be embarrassing. I’m convinced that the emotional turmoil many women experience surrounding their abortion is so much less about their hormones, or some internal ethical dilemma, and much more symptomatic of perceived and real socio-cultural demands. The negotiation between the external and internal creates a hostile reality. It’s a thicket, sharp and dense, unforgiving and dismissive. The conflict revolves around potential life but she is the first casualty of the culture war. There is no room her.

6 thoughts on “11.18.15 – Purgatory

  1. This. I have been through this. The knowing why I felt like garbage, and knowing it wouldn’t be for long, and knowing that if I told someone, a multitude of perceptions about me and who I am would change. The first time, a teenager, I swallowed it up in silence, pretended to have the flu, pretended I didn’t know what was up. “I just feel awful today, must be that flu bug going around”. The second time, a mature woman, I was fortunate that my partner knew and understood, I could talk about how much my nipples hurt from stiffness (which was how I knew I was pregnant, only a few days after my period should have come), about how everything made me feel sick and disgusting. And then later, when people don’t know that you’re a dreaded abortion-haver, you can’t explain why you know about early pregnancy symptoms, because no matter how many years pass, you don’t forget how awful you felt physically.

  2. This is fantastic information and something I never thought about. I’ve never been pregnant but duh, of course the symptoms are still there even though someone has chosen to end it! Don’t know why I never realized it. For some reason it never crossed my mind that all the hurking and swelling and general body weirdness are still happening whether you want it to or not.
    Thank you very much for writing all this! If any of my friends is ever temporarily pregnant I will make sure they know it is safe to talk to me about physical complaints.

  3. This entry in particular got me. I know the feeling all too well.

    When you show up late for work because hormonal changes have rendered you exhausted all the time and you were interrupted on your way out the door en route to the office with a bout of morning sickness. As you stroll in 20min late your boss is upset, but you can’t tell them why. “Sorry I’m late, morning sickness and hormonal fatigue are a real bitch. But don’t worry, these won’t be an issue next week!” This isn’t a conversation that happens. You’re in a rare state of limbo, of purgatory. You’ve characterized it perfectly.

    Thank you for writing this blog. It’s comforting to know this experience is shared with other women.

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