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.