I am 21 years old when two pink lines tell me that I’m pregnant. To give context to this desperate public bathroom cliche, know that I have wanted to be a mother since I was a child, I knew that He was my life love days into our relationship at 17 years of age and went on to bare two of his daughters some 10 years later. But in this loaded moment the only clarity a clear blue test offers me is an instant knowing that I am not going to have this baby. The unexpected conviction is overwhelming & unwelcome.
There are quiet, well established rules set about how we are supposed to feel in this situation & I’m not comfortable breaking them but it’s difficult to wrestle your conscience with piss wet fingers in the beach carpark amenities.
Plans are made and the motions are unrecognisable. Waiting seems infinite. My natural tradgectory is inward but it becomes tenfold. Introspection places my fear & the truth is horrific to me. I’m scared I won’t be able to have an abortion. I’m scared someone will make me have a baby. This is hard in ways I can’t reconcile, like butting heads with biology. I strive to feel guilt, shame, uncertainty but I cant reach them. I torture myself with threats that this may be the only chance I get to mother but that doesn’t feel like reason enough. How strange to tempt the dichotomy of time and circumstance. I’ve always been plagued by a healthy share of paradoxes but not wanting the very thing I’ve always wanted is the loneliest irony.
The nurse takes my hand and asks me to count backwards from ten. Anaesthesia like ice cold comfort, I too willingly surrender to a black expanse in which everything will cease to exist for a moment in time. Its a relief to disappear, it’s a relief to reappear. In between I dream of He & I hurtling toward forever.
Six years later I am holding a glass of wine in the solace of my mothers lounge room, warm and buzzing with conversation & familiarity as she prepares dinner for the family. I’m only half listening to the news bulletin but something grabs a hold of the pit of my stomach before I can comprehend what I’m hearing. There is a call for women to contact an abortion clinic due to incidents of deliberate infection with hepatitis by an anaesthetist. The clinic appears on the television screen.
I watch my wine creep through broken glass and pool in a deep red circle in the middle of the room. He holds my shaking hand and says it’s going to be ok. I can hear that my mother is no longer talking or cooking. Secrets exposed in a quiet panic and I cannot bare to turn around and face her.
It takes close to an hour to get through to speak to the receptionist and when she answers the phone I don’t speak for a full minute but she waits, breathing steadily until I find words. My voice immediately betrays me because she whispers “it’s ok love, take your time” before I even finish a sentence.
She takes my name and date of birth. Another black expanse of time opens up as I wait for her investigation. I try to revisit the circumstances, the decision, the relief it all bought. I tell myself this is a reckoning. That I deserve this for lack of responsibility. For selfishness. For granting us the luxury of time. I throw anything at myself to try to numb the blow I’m about to receive but nothing sticks. There is no guilt or shame & still no regret, just the quiet first stir of rage.
“You’re fine. He didn’t treat you, he wasn’t here yet. You’re fine darling”
Of course I’ll never forget what she said but how about the way she says it? Euphoric relief rushes through her airwaves so that when the words come she is almost laughing.
I’ll never forget that my safety offered a complete stranger such assurance. Powerless in the tide of someone else’s hate, this is how we realise our value.
So my vulnerability was imagined, this tradgety does not belong to me. The shame of how good it feels completes my rage. I’m angry because I was made to feel sorry for myself. I’m angry because I was so glad it wasn’t me. I’m angry because it was someone else. I’m angry because I still don’t regret it. I’m angry because isn’t it already hard enough. I’m angry because where are we fucking safe. I’m angry because things like this could take away our right to choose.
Is that what this was? A punishment?
Protesters scream on the news, a grotesque vindication. Dead eyes of the perpetrator in handcuffs stare through the camera. I turn off the television and remember the receptionists voice. To how many women did she have to say it wasn’t
alright, darling? How many of them weren’t holding the hands of the person they love when they heard? And now to have to live with illness, everyday a reminder. Their vulnerability in that defenceless time is so crushing to me that I am not game enough to read about exactly how he did it, a cowardice indeed but this heartbreak does not need completion.
I almost never think about this occurance, and don’t feel that it has stayed with me much at all until I find out that I have to deliver my first child surgically. As my obstetrician goes over the details of the procedure I can hear myself asking if I’ll ever be left alone with the anaesthetist or put under a general anaesthetic. No he responds, perplexed. So I tell him, awkwardly, apologetically. I wait for him to say something but he is silent.
I finally speak and euphoric relief rushes through my airwaves so that when the words come I’m almost laughing. “I’m fine darling, he didn’t treat me. I’m fine”.