I am not squeamish about charging up to the check-out-counter and unabashedly slapping down a fist full of condoms. Never has it occurred to me to pad my purchase with candy bars and/ or toilet deodorizer in order to mask the fact that, yes, I soon will be having sex. In fact, I pride myself in allowing all sorts of stereotypically ‘embarrassing stuff’ – feminine hygiene wipes, ex-lax, wart remover, and the like, to slide down the belt unaccompanied by benign bodyguards. I am fearless.
This past January, however, forced a change in my checkout brazenness. I needed a pregnancy test. In fact, over the course of a single evening, my relentless denial-logged ass required six pregnancy tests. And with each subsequent, panicked, trip to the store, my backseat filled with mountains upon mountains of superfluous crap, all haphazardly snatched, in order to sandwich one little box. I still have piles of uneaten Doritos lying around.
Flash to the night previous: studying my naked form in the bathroom mirror, I stare in horror at two grotesquely swollen and aching breasts. When did that happen? My lower back creaks and throbs. I can smell the falafel truck 6 blocks away. No period. Fuck. Turning away from my ballooned bosoms, I sidestep lurking hallway roommates, barrel into my adjacent bedroom, and proceed to attack my laptop. Abandoning the Samuel fucking Beckett PowerPoint presentation due in class the next day, I spend the night frantically Googling early pregnancy.
24 hours later. Once again, locked in the bathroom, and up to no good, I squat over porcelain and pee on the stick. I wait. There is a moment, a moment right after the second little line, that your heart ceases to beat and your stomach jams itself into your throat and everything gets really heavy. I remember sinking, sinking, sinking, until I hit tile. And then crying out—at god, at myself, at the little unknown inside of me “I Am Not Ready!!!!!” Repeat x 5.
I love babies. I love their little feet and their little soft chubby wrists. I love making babies smile and I love rocking them to sleep. I want to work as a nurse someday so that I can save babies. I want to have babies of my own—lots and lots of them. Motherhood is the overarching goal of my life. But not now – now I am 22. I drink too much and I smoke too much and I have Frieda Kalo calendar paintings strategically plastered on my dorm room walls. I get regrettable tattoos and have questionable one-night stands. I spend hours proselytizing on why Batman is not a goddamn superhero. I am not ready to be a mom. My uterus, however, didn’t get the memo, because this past January, despite fistfuls of condoms and the best of intentions, I found myself kissing tile and more afraid then I have ever been. Eventually, I rose to my feet and faced down the clock.
When you are pregnant and unsure if that is a good thing, time is your enemy. Every minute which passes means greater growth and therefore greater possible destruction. I remember reading a Borges short story once in which a man is sentenced to death. He is an aspiring novelist and on the eve of his execution he prays for time to finish his novel. The next morning facing down the firing squad, a miracle occurs. The bullets catch in midair, eyes do not blink. The world is crystallized. The man, suspended, completes the novel in his mind – struck dead and at peace a year later with the placing of a period at the end of the final sentence. This, too, would have been my wish – time; an eternity to sit quietly and weigh my choice.
I had one week. I used that week to sob to my mother and my sister and my best friend. I watched a tiny girl in a pink rain jacket tie her shoes. I researched and made epic pro/con lists. I had terrible beautiful dreams. I spent time in my boyfriend’s dank Brooklyn apartment, scrutinizing the space for baby potential. Who is this useless overgrown child I have been sleeping with? Why does he insist on watching back-to-back episodes of hoarders while we are going through crisis? This apartment looks like an episode of hoarders. He is not ready. I am not ready. I remember hyperventilating as I manically scrubbed down his black and putrid sink with a clod of steel wool. I felt boxed in and paralyzed. The world looked different.
Ultimately, I found myself sitting rigidly in a sunny Planned Parenthood center. “If you like Pina Coladas/ and getting caught in the rain…” drifted softly over from the headphones of the jittery young woman seated across from me. It was an icy blue day and miraculously I had scrounged up the 650.00 dollars needed for my medication abortion.
Draped in a white gown, legs spread; I watched my 7–week-old blip on the sonogram – just a hopelessly minute little bump of infinite potential. As the doctor placed the pill in my palm and bid me swallow I noticed that the package had been torn; 3/5 pills were missing. Who were the other women? Did they sink, sink, sink as they let the chalky white sit on their tongue for just a moment? It felt a lot like when I had swallowed all that aspirin 4 years back. It felt hopeless.
The next day I bled and the day after that I started in on the path towards accepting my choice. Time has passed and no longer do the smells of the world conspire against me. I can walk down the street without bursting into tears when a child totters by. I am healing. I am empty. I will never forget my little blip; the light given back to the universe, which I hope can find its way home to me someday. Someday, when I am ready.