The Other Side: Part IIIPosted: March 17, 2014
I used to be vehemently pro-life. I always swore that stance had nothing to do with my belief in Christianity. A fetus was a baby–it had it’s own heartbeat, it’s own DNA. It was clearly alive, since if it wasn’t, it would be called a miscarriage. My opinion wasn’t based on religion, but science, I insisted. A fetus was its own person–yes, it was dependent on its mother for survival, but weren’t all children?
I didn’t judge women who had abortions. I assumed that they made the choices they did because in their opinion, a fetus was just a clump of cells. They were clearly just misinformed. I, however, knew the truth. I knew when the brain waves started, I knew that a fetus developed so quickly that by the time most women found out they were pregnant, it was basically already formed.
When I left religion, my ideas changed. I still thought a fetus was a baby, it’s own person, with its own unique set of fingerprints. What changed was, I wasn’t sure it mattered anymore. Since humans are just here by chance, since we come from the same stuff as grass and mud and rocks, who was to say that a fetus had any inherent worth? That it needed to come into this world? In fact, I started to feel the opposite–that life is a struggle, and unless you could be damn sure you wouldn’t be signing another human being up for an existence filled with heartache, there was really no reason to add more beings to the chaos.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was absolutely conflicted. The thing growing inside me was a person. I looked at my children, with their beautiful little faces, and I thought–what if they had never come to be? It hurt so bad I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t imagine a world without their smiles, their laughter, even their tears. Their snuggles, their words, their curiosity. At the same time, I live with daily guilt over not being able to give my children the lives they deserve. They have two parents who are cranky and stressed–parents who, quite honestly, should have never got married in the first place. We live in a crummy two bedroom apartment, all of us on top of each other, never able to have our own space or a moments’ peace. We are struggling hard just to get by. My husband and I count the years until both kids are in school and we can finally have some time to ourselves. We send out job applications like its going out of style, hoping against hope that one day we will finally catch a break, that we can become the family we were meant to be. That we won’t need to save up to take our children to the dentist. That sending our son on a field trip with his kindergarten class will not break the bank. That our funny, dramatic daughter will be able to take acting or music or ballet. That our rough and tumble son can have the opportunity to channel his energy through hockey or karate.
And then there is our mental health–the pair of us. Clinically depressed, with a nice helping of anxiety. Tired, stressed, dying for the day when we can afford a baby sitter so we can go on dates. Desperate for a future that does not involve sharing our bed with a toddler who wakes up crying several times a night, and being greeted at 5:30 AM each morning by a four year old who is a hopelessly early riser. Both of us, having our meds adjusted every couple months so we don’t crumble at the billionth request for a cookie, a cup of juice, someone to turn on the TV or play Legos with.
And me. So unable to handle pregnancy hormones that I’d almost been hospitalized when pregnant with each of them. Having had to quit my job when I was pregnant with our youngest because not only did my crying all day make me a lousy employee, but my sciatica was so bad that my legs frequently gave out underneath me and I became a liability.
I could not have anymore children. I could not be pregnant again. I could not. I could not. I could not. We wouldn’t survive it.
And…whose baby was it anyways? I didn’t know. I couldn’t be sure. All I knew was that my husband was on leave from school because his depression had got so bad he couldn’t manage anymore, and if I went to him with a stick with two lines and the word “pregnant”, we probably would have both ended up in the hospital.
Who would care for the children we had now? Maybe we could send them to live with my husband’s parents on the other side of the country while we both received psychiatric help. And then…I could have the baby. Find another family to raise it. But my children would know that I had given away their sibling. And…being a minority, I couldn’t be sure I would find a family to adopt my child. Having volunteered at a pregnancy center in college, I knew the statistics. White healthy babies were adopted immediately. Children of colour were often sent to foster care. I could not hand my child over to the government. I would have no idea who had him or her, if they were okay. And then I realized, even if I did find a family to adopt my baby, I would still not know that they were okay. Could I bring another human being into this world in which I had suffered so, if I wasn’t able to ensure it would have a decent life?
And…I have my two kids. They are here, and they are now. They are born. They feel. They are. How could I go through with something that would shake their world so badly? I brought them here, and I am responsible for making sure that, at least as far as my own actions go, they are taken care of.
The Switch freaked out when I told him it was probably his. He tried to remain calm and act as though my well-being was his primary concern, but he kept talking about how he had paid child support for 18 years, like he deserved some kind of medal for donating sperm and writing checks and abandoning his child’s mother. He called the clinic for me. Said there was an appointment for Thursday–just 3 days away. I needed to call and book it myself. If I had to miss work he would give me the money I’d miss out on.
I told him it was too soon. I needed some time to think. I could hear the edge of panic rise in his voice, wanted to slug him when he mentioned “18 years of child support” again. This was my baby. It didn’t belong to him. He didn’t care about what was best for anyone but himself. In a way, it was understandable–I mean, who was I, the girl he’d been screwing for a month? I told him I would make the right decision and he needed to trust me.
I went online to calculate how many weeks along I would be, and felt like I’d been slapped in the face when instead of telling me how far along the pregnancy was, the Calculator announced “Your Due Date is November 3.” Due date. I had a due date. No. No. No. No. No.
At five weeks it was was still an embryo. It wasn’t even a fetus. That was better. It looked like a tadpole. That was okay too. “YOUR BABY” the website announced, is the size of a poppy seed.
I had a baby and it was the size of a poppy seed.
I needed to do this before it got any bigger. Before it had fingers and toes and started moving around. I remembered my 12 week ultrasound with both of my kids, how very baby-like they had looked. Their ultrasound pictures are framed on our wall. When I’d been pregnant with my daughter, we’d compared her profile to my son’s. We could tell her lips would be bigger but her nose would be smaller. And when she came out, that had been exactly the case. Her beautiful little mouth curved up like a doll’s. Even now, she sticks out her bottom lip dramatically and says “Heyyy!” when something doesn’t go the way she wants. It melts my heart. I had to protect her.
I made an appointment for that weekend. I wasn’t sure I would survive an abortion, but I was sure I wouldn’t survive having another child.