Have you ever flopped down on a worn leather armchair with a seat so deep and broken you sink right into the floor? The kind of chair that envelops you totally and requires a great effort to heave yourself out of? Today was a relentless cycle of getting up out of this cavernous chair and being shoved back into it, over and over and over and over and over again. First, allow me to acknowledge that sleep is necessary for survival. Without it your entire existence will teeter on the edge of hallucination. Second, I’d like to reiterate how challenging it is not to be able to ask for certain daily-life accommodations as a pregnant person, and how much having to use the excuse of being “sick” to explain your pregnancy symptoms feels like betrayal.
Today was the day that I began to share this project with others. It’s also the day that the Facebook conglomerate took a virtual shit on me. They don’t want to make this experience too easy I guess. Post after post about this project was removed from all pages without explanation, the social network effectively filtering content to the benefit of one subjective viewpoint. Is conversation about abortion truly worse than someone posting “LMFAO” alongside a video of racist police violence? Who benefits from censoring abortion? Why do I have any standards or expectations of Facebook to begin with? Am I a threat to society?
(I hope so)
I can’t think about the day anymore. It feels like someone is ringing out a wet rag inside of my stomach and I have one-ton eyelids. I’m going deep tonight.
This is the second night staring at the grey shadows on the wall. No rest for the wicked I suppose. It’s a cruel joke because my body is begging for sleep and I’m now imprisoned in an endless cycle of exhaustion. Tried listening to records, tried reading dry philosophy, tried standing outside in the cold ‘til I shook, tried out the opposite end of the bed, even got up to 666 sheep and still no zzz’s.
They say its hormones. What a shit word, hormones – the perceived terrorist of mankind.
It’s time to resort to the medicine cabinet. I guess, why not? A girl’s gotta sleep, especially when she’s growing something inside of her, and even more especially if that thing’s not going to be growing for much longer.
Is it too insensitive to ask for a drink for two? Am I allowed to make jokes?
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.
The thought of being a mother is unfathomable. Not because I think that it’s impossible (obviously), but because it’s light years away from who I understand myself to be and who I am prepared to become. I have friends who are mothers. They are different. A friend who is a mother is not just a friend. She is a mother also. It makes a difference. I’m twenty-nine, and this year for the first time I am sometimes asked if I’m a mother, or a wife. My skin starts crawling. For my own reasons, I am agitated by conventional behavior. The spectacle of the family unit seems unnatural, yet, remains undoubtedly the reigning organizational system. We idolize the mother, the matron of life and parent-extraordinaire. As a child I used to stare at round pregnant bellies in awe, and replay stories of my own birth in my head. Socially, there is an invisible space created for the mother, the vestal woman, the reverent father, the fetishized child. It’s conceptual. To become a mother, is to transcend.
Motorcycle ride on a beautiful November day
Pull over to the side of the road
Rip off helmet
Car full of dudes drive by, honk and catcall.
A pregnancy test costs from sixteen to twenty dollars at the pharmacy. For about five minutes, the weight of the entire world rests upon the moment after you piss on a stick and the five minutes you wait for one line or two. Then you do it again. Get in the car, drive to the store, select a different brand, hand over twenty more, hope you don’t get stuck with the same clerk, drive home, drink three glasses of water and pee on another stick. New brand soaks through with an affirmative “YES.”
For some women, I suppose this is a moment for celebration. For others, terror. For me, shock along with some obscenities. Disbelief. Confusion.
What a curious device. This plastic piece of overpriced garbage delivering the news that there’s life on other planets. You can buy them at the dollar store. I think you can also buy paternity tests at the pharmacy now. Maury in your living room. Did you know that Maury is still a thing? It is.
I learned that sometimes women sell positive pregnancy tests on craigslist as a tool to manipulate men into staying in (presumably) unstable relationships.
In many ways, the pregnancy test is an emblem of momentous transformation. A plastic stick that holds within it a cosmos tunnel of what-nows, what-ifs and oh fucks. What power. Not inherently, but representatively so. The witch wand of motherhood.
The decision to become two people instead of one is monumental. Sometimes it’s the right time and sometimes it’s not.
This is one of the times that it’s not.
The pro-creator of this little lump lives in the middle of the desert 1,700 miles away from here, and I am one million miles away in my own head. On the verge of World War Three, the deification of Kim Davis and President Trump, this is not American soup for future family.
Over the last year I’ve spent months researching and writing about women’s reproductive rights, contemplating the burden and responsibility of motherhood, the relationship between our bodies, our religion, and our government. Now, I’ve unexpectedly become the theoretical woman I’ve thought so much about.
Pregnant, unprepared and uninsured. I am a version of myself I’ve never met.
Lucky to have a choice? Fortunate? Relieved? Abortion. That ugly word that hisses like poison from the gums of the righteous. A practice employed for thousands of years yet still bears the yoke of shame. Abortion. A word still so stigmatized, it’s only whispered in public.
This is my experience. I have roughly a week to tell it. Right now it’s real. Things are happening. I’m going to talk about them. For myself, for other’s on the frontier of unmotherhood, to fill a gaping silence surrounding the experience of a woman pre-termination.
Updates daily. Comments permitted. Let it out.