Relief — that was the first thing I felt. Relief and exhaustion, but mostly relief. I was myself again. Everything was still in place. The world wasn’t spinning. I didn’t feel good, but I felt better. I was out of the dark.
The physical aftermath was like any other brutal period; cramps, vomiting, the familiar ache in my lower back. The nurse recommended two ibuprofen for pain and good luck in the future.
The psychological aftermath wasn’t as easy to handle but it was also something I was ready for — the criticism, the insults, the insensitive questions; the way people tend to respond to things they both fear and don’t understand.
What killed me was I knew it could have been avoided. I knew that if I had just taken care of it alone without telling anyone I wouldn’t have had to deal with the social repercussions. And yet, some small vulnerable part of me reached out for help, for support. I still wanted to be taken care of, still wanted someone to tell me it was going to be okay. It was like walking into a snakepit and expecting not to get bitten; a dumb move, really.
But it taught me how important conviction is. How absolutely necessary it is to stand by your choices when you’re getting pulled in a million different directions, how important it is to know what’s best for yourself; to withstand pressure from people who don’t know who you are or what you’ve been through because, quick to judge as they are, they’re not the ones living your life for you. You’re the one who has to make your choices but everyone has all these opinions about them, isn’t that how it always goes?
I learned how to be stubborn.
And I learned how to be strong. I realize that’s an unbearable cliché but there’s no other way to really put it: strength is a skill, not a natural ability. The psychological survival instinct – how to not go to pieces when you’re fragile and unsupported – is one you hone, it’s something you practice; you realize how important it is to trust and take care of yourself because sometimes yourself is all you have and, ironically, all you have at the moments when you need others the most.
How to be emotionally self-sufficient.
Most importantly, or disturbingly, I realized that this is what a lot of people think being a woman means: being sacrificial. Giving up your own self, your own goals and beliefs for someone else’s agenda; reducing your body to little more than fertile ground. Spilling your own blood for some vague greater “good.” Perhaps that’s why the archetype of the Virgin, of immaculate conception, is so pervasive in our culture: she wasn’t given a choice, and yet.
But I was given a choice and I chose myself. I chose self-preservation over sacrifice; I can’t say what anyone else would have done in my position because I am myself and couldn’t have done differently. I chose to do what’s best for me so that if and when I’m ready to be a mother, I can actually be a good one. Just because you can have a child doesn’t mean you should.
And I know there are people who will always see that as selfish, but to me it’s just the opposite.