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My first pregnancy was supposed to be about joy. I was supposed to call my mother and make her guess what. I was supposed to be married and 30 with a graduate degree, a career. I was, in fact, 19. I was working 15 hours a week at a vintage clothing store where I'd been known to drink on the job, and I was dating a heroin addict I had known for two months.
My boyfriend called me when I was still in the chair at the doctor’s desk. I sniveled into my flip phone: “The test was positive.” He told me he wasn't ready to be a father.
I claimed to be pro-life for myself, pro-choice for everyone else; but the first person I wanted to talk to was the only woman I knew on the face of the earth who’d had an abortion: Dez, my boss at a vintage shop in Vermont.
She led me down the creaking steps of the store to her “office,” a desk hemmed in by racks of polyester pants, and sat me down in a chair across from her.
“You know what you gotta do,” she said.
I did. I just didn’t know how or where or whether I could handle an abortion. I grew up memorizing anti-abortion billboards in my Kentucky hometown, with Southern Baptist cousins who blocked the doors of health clinics. There was no sex education in my high school. My parents seemed to be neither for nor against reproductive rights; they were conventional Southerners who feared that talking about sex would encourage me to have a whole lot of it.
Needless to say, I had no idea where to go for an abortion. Dez dialed the number for Planned Parenthood and handed me the phone. First available appointment was at a satellite clinic three weeks out. The cost of an abortion was $415. I had about $50; heroin boy had even less. Insurance didn’t cover the procedure.
When I hung up the phone, Dez slapped my knee. “Why don’t you take a break from work for a while, party girl?” To her credit, she needed to fire me. (For drinking on the job, not for getting knocked up.) So just like that, I was pregnant, broke, and unemployed.
Later that night, with an insufferable mélange of symptoms—a permanent ice cream headache, endless nausea and exhaustion, and what felt like a shattered brain—I called my mother. I paced the narrow path between my bed and the wall of dead musicians, a thousand miles from my childhood bedroom, clutching the phone to my ear.
What you should—and shouldn't—be doing to keep your lady parts in good shape:
“What’s wrong, baby?” she asked on the other end of the line. Shame clawed at my throat, altered my voice.
“Nothing, Mama. It’s—”
But I detonated. I tried to muster “nothing at all,” but it came out more like "natal." I heard my father in the background: “She’s pregnant, isn’t she?” My mother asked if I was, and I was quiet. “Oh, Kassi,” she said. It was a whisper, but it felt like a bellow. I apologized and inhaled with a stutter. “Whatever decision you make will be a terrible one for you,” she said, “But if you keep the baby, come on home. We’ll raise the child here.” But as soon as she said those words, I realized what they meant: eighteen years yawning out into my future, the worry, the laundry. “No, Mama,” I told her. “I’m not having it.”
Really, my mother's offer was a formality. The last thing she wanted was for her only daughter to drop out of college and move home to raise a baby.
Going Through With It
Days before the appointment, my car broke down. I then had $15 to my name to pay for the procedure. I went door to door, asking people in my dorm for permission to borrow a car for a 92-mile trip. A girl with a buzzed haircut handed me the keys to her blue Subaru. A couple of days later, a $400 check arrived from my mother with the words “car repair” scribbled in the memo line.
On the morning of the appointment, a hospital gown hiked up to my stomach, I flipped through the photographs my roommate had brought me from the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., two days earlier. More than a million people had just marched for my right to choose and I was alone on an exam table, doing the thing I said I’d never do so that I could do the things I had always wanted to do.
The nurse rolled away a table with a tiny red gob on it—my almost baby. I shook violently, viciously. I pulled my underwear halfway up my legs and fumbled with an inch-thick pad, trying to stick it on the crotch of my underwear, feeling a combination of elation and devastation.
I would dream of babies for the next six years: I would have babies and kill them, have babies and lose them, have babies and care for them the way I cared for my little brother. I wished sadness took less work to heal, but healing would take everything I had.
Other than Dez, I had not been able to find one woman to talk to me about her abortion in the weeks leading up to my appointment. I'd checked the library for a memoir of abortion, but all I found were two books of personal essays. In one book, every writer regretted her decision. In the other book, every writer had made “the right decision.” It seemed like a conspiracy in which millions of women were bound to an implicit social contract to match their emotion to a political persuasion.
I was skeptical, but after my abortion, I signed that social contract, too.
Over the next three years, I talked about my abortion as casually as I talked about the tonsillectomy I had in high school. I suppressed any emotions that seemed inconvenient to me. I tried to believe I was fine, but I slowly began to unravel. I routinely pulled over on the side of the road to double over with my head between my legs during spells of free-floating abortion panic. I wondered if I'd go to hell, even though I didn't believe in hell. I curled up in bed, eating canned salmon, rich in the omega-3 fatty acids known to fight depression. I blared Access Hollywood over my thoughts.
On paper, I had the life I’d had in mind when I deferred motherhood—comfortable salary, fancy business card, dates with weirdoes. But I didn't feel fulfilled.
Eventually, my pain compelled me to try meditation. It wasn't fancy. I sat down on the bathroom floor and breathed. And it was there "in meditation" that I decided neither side in the political war had permission to tell my story for me. I would tell my own story—but first, I had to learn how to let the fear and pain come all the way out and to figure out what to do with it. I started looking for a place to heal with a community that wouldn't expect me to protest outside abortion clinics. Thankfully, Mother Google introduced me to a whole world of female healers across the United States. At the age of 25, I set out on a road trip to meet this motley crew and practice the rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual disciplines that healed my mind and transformed my life.
Embracing The Pain
I wish I had been prepared for the ungodly mental anguish I experienced for several years after my abortion, not so I could avoid it, but because that suffering opened the door to my political, intellectual, and spiritual awakening. I passionately support reproductive justice, and that means I fully acknowledge everything a person can experience before, during, and years after terminating a pregnancy.
The path of both personal and political enlightenment begins with embracing the totality of things, not ignoring the parts that make us uncomfortable. Enlightenment means compassion; it begins with suffering, with personal and collective grief, with telling the truth. Allowing all thoughts and emotions around my abortion to come out made it possible for me to heal them—and to embrace the hundreds of diverse stories of abortion I have been hearing ever since.
I no longer believe that conversations of healing around abortion hinders reproductive justice; in fact, deep personal healing is the first step to the true reproductive justice so many of us long for. Healing around abortion means different things to different people, but it's an individual journey that we take together.
It's time for all women who've had abortions to band together and create spaces to tell the whole truth, the things we've been afraid to say. Yes, I felt relief and gratitude in great measure after my abortion, but my first thought after my procedure was a feeling of awe: Women are complex, fierce, powerful creatures, and I could not believe so many of the one in three women who experience abortion were bearing this alone.
If you’ve terminated a pregnancy, talk about your abortion, even if you are afraid. Talk about it because you’re afraid. If it’s too scary to tell the truth for yourself, then tell it for others and we’ll all be free. If you’re not ready, just keep searching for the flicker in the distance. That’s the rest of us—we’re looking for your light, too.
Want someone to talk to about your abortion without judgment? Exhale's Pro-Voice After Abortion Talkline is available Mon-Fri 5-10pm and Sat-Sun 12-10pm. 1-866-4-EXHALE or go to exhaleprovoice.org for more resources and support.
May Cause Love: An Unexpected Journey of Enlightenment After Abortion by Kassi Underwood,
(HarperOne/HarperCollins). Available for $17,
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Source : http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/young-woman-abortion