Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath. ~ Arnold H. Glasow
I was being completely rebellious while living with Sharon and stayed intrigued by what was forbidden when I was living at home. No way was I waiting to have sex. For me, that closeness was about being needed and and wanted.
Stephen loved me. He said he needed me. I needed him too. I loved Stephen. I wasn’t casual in my attitude toward sex, nor was I educated. I was madly in love and that is all that mattered to me. Stephen was my hero.
At 16, it didn’t take much. We weren’t promiscuous. We were in love. We were naïve.
It was my Sophomore year.
One day I turned to my lab partner and said, “We used a condom yesterday, and it broke.”
“Happens all the time,” she replied. “I’m sure you’re fine.”
Of course I was fine. I had to be fine. Life was too good right now.
Fantasies of being with Stephen forever filled my mind. However, what if I wasn’t fine?
A missed period wasn’t totally unusual. My menstrual cycle was immature. There were no physical signs a human was growing inside me – until one morning when my reflection surprised me. Had my fairy godmother come? My boobs looked fantastic.
A lightbulb went off. Suddenly all I could think was, I might be pregnant.
An ad for a clinic that just around the corner and that was offering free pregnancy tests grabbed my attention, and Stephen and I went together. I needed him to be with me and he was. A woman walked me through the pregnancy test.
Today, many women take it for granted that they can determine whether or not they’re pregnant in the privacy of their own homes — often in the very early stages of pregnancy. Things weren’t always so simple.
I had to give a urine sample in a little bathroom around the corner from the office where Stephen waited. We then had to wait ten days for the results. The long wait inspired nervousness. Stephen and I went back to the clinic and a doctor told me I was pregnant.
At first, I was numb. My world was crumbling. I put on a fake smile and Stephen reached over and grabbed my hand in his. I needed that and he knew. I wanted to appear normal.
I was petrified as the doctor said I was roughly twelve weeks pregnant. He notified me that he had placed a call to my father, as that was the law since I was a minor child.
My days of quiet contemplation came abruptly to an end. It was only a matter of time before Al would summon me back to the house. My breasts were growing; my stomach would soon follow. Would morning sickness kick in?
This was my body, my future — I wanted the decision to be mine and Stephen’s.
Stephen and I made a plan in the next 48 hours. We would have the baby. Get married.
Stephen would enroll in the Navy. That way he was employed and we had benefits.
I would live with his parents. Yes, this was our plan and we called his parents first and said we had some news for them. They invited us to dinner. I wasn’t sure how his parents would react. At dinner we spelled it out, exactly as we had planned, and although they were a bit disappointed, they agreed to the plan. From their house we called Al and invited him over. He refused and said Stephen and I needed to come to his house, alone, and not with Stephen’s parents. It felt odd as we pulled across the street from the house on Covington Road and parked. I had not been here for almost three months and it didn’t feel like I belonged. We walked to the door and rang the bell.
The first words we heard as she swung open the door, “An abortion is being scheduled.”
Stephen and I stepped inside the door and sat on the sofa across from Al. We let Al and Dotti know the plan we had and that Stephen’s parents were willing to support our plan.
Al said no. He was making arrangements for me to go into the hospital, the one right around the corner, and have an abortion. He said I needed to have the abortion right away. I was infuriated!
I did not want to have an abortion. It was my baby and this was none of their damn business. To me, in my gleeful hormonal state, it seemed a no-brainer. The baby was mine. Mine and Stephen’s. We were a family. I needed us to be a family.
Also, it was illegal to have an abortion in California at that time. That didn’t stop Al from getting what he wanted. Stephen and I ran out of the house and drove back to Sharon’s.
Stephen called his parents and told them what happened. They were inevitably distressed about the pregnancy, and now shocked at Al’s response.
Women have had abortions throughout recorded history, dating back to 2500 B.C.E.
Almost half of American women have terminated at least one pregnancy, and millions more Americans of both sexes have helped them, as partners, parents, health-care workers, counselors, friends. Collectively, it would seem, Americans have quite a bit of knowledge and experience of abortion. In one of the many curious twists that mark the history of abortion, the campaign to criminalize it was waged by the same professional group that, a century later, would play an important role in legalization: physicians.
A week later Al had me picked up at Sharon’s by the local Mountain View police and had me delivered to nearby El Camino Hospital. I was hiding in the little closet room around the corner from the kitchen. Because Sharon didn’t want the police in the house, she convinced me to come out and go with the officers. She needed to protect her mother.
At the hospital I was told I was getting a D&C. Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Doctors perform dilation and curettage to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion. I was getting an abortion and argued with the nurses that this was illegal. They didn’t listen. I needed them to listen. They didn’t.
All these years later I can still hear the scream I let out. I called Stephen from the bedside phone and we made a plan for him to come and get me about 11pm that night and we would run away. I waited and watched for the nurses to get busy and for them to think I was asleep.
Stephen had the car packed, money from his college account, and we were heading to Denver. That seemed like a good place to go and raise a child Stephen said. I got dressed and waited for a clear moment to make my escape, and then I ran to the elevator at the end of the hall. No one saw me, I was free. I needed to be free. As the elevator door opened on the main floor, a policeman was standing there and grabbed my arm.
Stephen came walking into the door at the same time to see us standing there. No words were spoken as the officer took me back up to my room. He remained outside my door.
The nurse came in and gave me a sedative.
“She’s from a fairly prominent family and we need to keep her here or her dad will raise hell,” the nurse said to the officer.
What was the point, then, of making abortion a crime when Al could make it happen?
I was three months pregnant. I was scared to death. From there, things only got worse.
In the morning the nurses took me to another exam room where the doctor put my feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated me for the abortion procedure. When I began to wake up, I realized that I could see blood and a black bag on a table over in the corner of the room. I was of course very drowsy. I had just barely opened my eyes, and I then immediately closed my eyes. I could hear voices talking about the disposal receptacle.
When does the Soul meld with the fetus and what happens to the Souls of those aborted?
I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic. The nurse told me I’d had a little boy. I was choking back tears. I was given another sedative and taken back to my room. I didn’t like the IV in my arm.
I knew there was nothing I could do that would bring back my son. I was so cold as I drifted off to sleep again. When I awoke, I asked the baby to forgive me. I held my tummy and cried.
I slept for two days and then I was picked up by Al and taken home. I was not offered any professional counseling.
Its been 50 years since I had my abortion.
Even though I have been set free from the bondage of that time in my life, the memories of that time still hurt so deeply upon remembrance.
My breasts were filled with milk, I was very sick, and I felt very alone. At home no one talked about “it” and I was homeschooled for the next two months as my breasts were leaking milk. I could not go to school that way. The secret needed to be kept.
Nothing was ever spoken about my abortion. It was a new day. It was like it never happened. During this time, Al totally checked out of the situation. He almost became numb to the whole thing. He had his own demons to deal with and couldn’t handle mine.
I was allowed to go spend a week with Grandpa Bell. I needed my Grandpa. My room was just around the corner from his room., I always felt safe in his home. He spoke to me so kindly and he showed me love. I was desperate for any sign that I was lovable at that point. He seemed so wise. Tears were pouring down my face as I fell to my knees sobbing, crying into my Grandpa’s lap.
“What is wrong with me Grandpa?! I am at the bottom and can’t go any lower. Please help me Grandpa.”
Darkness crept all over my spirit and I was worn down. My eyes were going dim and my bones could barely hold up my flesh. I was in a pit of despair. I was detaching from life.
Grandpa Bell was a wonderful, kind, gentle and loving man. He gave me a safe place to unabashedly experience all of my emotions – anger, denial, depression…(yes, I was a perfect example of the stages of grief). I was able to mourn my loss. I was so walled up against Al and Dotti.
Stephen did leave and go into the Navy. I never saw nor spoke with him again. I started drugging myself into un-awareness and drinking to the point of making myself sick.
I made a decision that year never to have children. The thought of ever losing a child again was more than I could even bare thinking about. The trail of misery went on.
I wonder if when I die I’ll get to meet him?
I think we’ll look back on the abortion war as one of the greatest embarrassments in human history and an incredible source of pain for so many people. We have cultural trauma around this. That’s why it’s so hard for people to talk about and hear new ideas about abortion, why people tune out discussions or nervously change the subject.
Many offerings for support after abortion are fraught with political intrusions or people assuming to know exactly why we are suffering, what will make us feel better, and what our opinion of abortion should be when we leave. What’s missing is space for authentic conversations and deeper examinations of our experiences in the context of our entire lives and our culture–with the possibility of being happy and free.
I think every experience with abortion is unique. I just shared mine as honestly as I could after all this time.
Everyone faces the challenge of finding meaning to their suffering. Phil McGraw
What harsh truths do you prefer to ignore?