There is paperwork and a questionaire at the gynecologist's office. One of the standard questions is, How many pregnancies have you had?I used to always lie to the people who expected things of me; but rarely on paperwork. I never thought I was accountable to technicians or nurse practitioners.
How many live births? Two.
I was always terrified that I was pregnant, beginning about five minutes after every sexual encounter. Please, God, please, God, please. I didn't know what else to pray.
Although I'd had intercourse the first time when I was 14, my first pregnancy didn't happen until I was 22 when my daughter flew down from the heavens to live in my belly for a while before making her grand entrance.
My baby girl was not yet two when she and I moved out of the family home for the first time. She would spend some weekends with her dad and then I would go out drinking with my coworkers and friends. I coudn't bear to be home alone. It was during one such pub crawl that I met Willy: shorter than me with long curly dark hair. He resembled Captain Hook. He was an easy target, so I went home with him.
I liked waking up to his broad back with a white t-shirt stretched across it. I liked that he had his own home and two boys who wanted to be brothers to my baby girl. I cooked meals at that house and we ate dinners together like a family.
But he was short, and he owned a house in a bad neighborhood, and he talked all the time about a band of singers that had died. And he had those sons, that I would somehow become my responsibility. And I was only twenty-three. And I wasn't even divorced yet from my first husband.
We had sex one night at the house I was sharing with a coworker. I had a single bed and my daughter was asleep in the next room.
"Can I come in you?" Willy whispered.
I went every week to get my nails done, because I wanted to be pretty like the other girls who dated Willy's friends. I went to a woman's white house and sat in her white tiled kitchen and watched her manipulate my hands and fingers and I couldn't even speak. I wanted to close my eyes forever.
"You seem different today," she said.
I never went back.
And then I was startlingly exhausted all the time. And hungry. And I knew what had happened.
The lease on the house I was sharing was ending, and I'd worked hard to save money from my $7/hour job so that I could afford an apartment for me and my daughter. I didn't want to live with Willy and his sons in that scary, dirty neighborhood. I'd found an adorable apartment with a long hallway and a living room and a kitchen with a window, upstairs from a deli, and had made a deposit on it.
But now there was this and it would require all of my savings.
I don't remember telling Willy that I was pregnant. I must have told him I couldn't have another baby then and I didn't want to live with him. I do remember the card he left for me at his house with his half of the cost: a Valentine's card that said, I feel like my heart's been ripped out.
I didn't want to be responsible for that.
I sat in a waiting room by myself. There were other girls there too. First there was a pregnancy test and then a counselling session and then the procedure. During the "counselling," a nurse talked about what choices I could make besides termination, and what methods of contraception I could use in the future.
Another choice was awake or asleep for the termination. They didn't call it an abortion. No one stood outside with signs or placards that day.
I chose awake. Awake meant a faster recovery but that wasn't why I chose it. I clung to the idea of not escaping any of it. I had made this mistake, I had to do this awful thing now, and I wanted to feel every inch and minute of the pain involved.
It did hurt. I laid on an examining table with my feet in silver stirrups and stared at a picture of flowers thumbtacked into the ceiling tiles and took big breaths as I'd been instructed until they warned me of hyperventilating. The pain, as my insides were scraped empty, was as big as my shame.
Afterwards I was sent to a recovery room with other girls. I sat on the floor and bent over my crossed legs: I'd read it would ease the pain of menstrual cramps and so it made sense to me that it would help in this situation as well.
I alarmed some of the nurses.
"What are you doing?"
"This helps with the cramping."
I was supposed to have a friend available to drive me home. I lied and told the staff my friend was waiting out in the car. But there was no friend. I picked up my daughter from her daycare and drove us both back to the shared rental house, where I made her ravioli for dinner.