If someone pointed a gun at me and filled me with lead, then no one would question my right to remove the bullet from my body. It was forced into me against my will, and I would be a fool not to fight tooth and nail to stop it from destroying my life.
The child growing inside me is the result of another wound: one much deeper than a bullet could reach. A wound that my mother says is a blessing in disguise, but I don’t see it.
I don’t mind telling you how it happened, but I won’t because I don’t want you to think it matters. Whether or not he loved me, whether one or the other was drunk or lonely or beaten into submission doesn’t matter, just as it wouldn’t matter whether the gun went off by accident or deliberate malice.
The only thing that matters is that I’m hurt and want to be well again, and an abortion is the only way to make that happen. At first, it seemed like my mother was sympathetic to the idea, but as the weeks dragged on it became clear that she was only stalling for time.
I trusted her though, and I kept promising to wait. Just until I talk to one more person—just until I read one more pamphlet filled with comforting faces and sourceless facts.
I waited as if one morning I’d wake up and realize I was making a big deal about nothing. As if I’d just failed a test or bumped a car that would be forgiven and forgotten. Day by day the child grew inside me, and day by day the child I used to be died to make room for it.
“You don’t have to decide anything,” my mother kept saying. By the time I realized that ‘not making a decision’ was itself a decision to keep the baby, it was already too late.
12 weeks had come and gone without me noticing, and no clinic in my state would take me now. My mother didn’t need to pretend to be patient or kind anymore. All the talk about my well being was replaced with accusations about my responsibility. I had to get a job—find daycare—find a man. I had to sacrifice myself to this wound, and offer it my dreams for a future that I had only just begun to plan for myself.
My mother said I was being selfish. Hadn’t she sacrificed everything for me? No, I told her, she hadn’t. She’d wanted a child, so anything she’d been willing to trade for that was an exchange, not a sacrifice.
I couldn’t talk to her anymore, so I confided in a close friend. A few days later my friend slipped me two bottles of pills which I treasured more than a thousand sweet words.
The first ones were supposed to detach the embryo from the uterine wall. The second set dispels it. I like that word—“dispel”. Like magic, vanishing it away without a trace.
This was no disappearing act though. I’d never felt such excruciating pain in my life as when I took the first pills. I got through it because I knew it was a cleansing pain like I was stitching myself back together to be whole again.
I had to wait at least 24 hours before taking the second set. Sometimes it hurt too bad for me to keep a straight face though, and my mother was quick to notice. She wanted to take me to the hospital, and the more I protested, the more suspicious she got.
There was no hiding it anymore after I took the second pills. I was rolling on the bathroom floor and couldn’t stop her from reading the empty bottles. The wound was healing though, and it was too late for her to do anything about it.
“What have you done you evil girl?” she shouted at me while I clutched my stomach in pain. “Nasty, vile, wicked girl. God will not forgive you.”
Her words couldn’t reach me anymore though. There was nothing left to hide. If God was watching, then he was the only one who should feel ashamed.
The whole process was a lot bloodier than I expected. Whenever I thought it had all discharged I’d clutch my stomach again and another wave would wrack my body.
To my mother’s credit, she stayed with me the whole time. After the initial outbursts, she held my hand and prayed for me. I told her I was sorry that I wasn’t ready to start my own family yet, but she said all the family she needed was already in this room.
I guess I was too relieved to understand what she meant until the next morning. After everything I’d been through, how could I expect to see my child waiting for me in the kitchen?
In a high chair pulled up to the counter. I thought it was nothing but an old doll until I got close enough for the smell to hit me. The stuffing had been replaced with the gore I’d left in the toilet. Congealed lumps that could have been premature organs or bones stuck haphazardly from the mess, and blood dribbled down the thing’s legs and onto the otherwise spotless floor.
I threw up in the sink. I felt my mother’s hand on my back, but it was cold and damp and brought no comfort.
“Still having morning sickness?” she cooed. “Don’t worry, that won’t last now that you’ve had the baby.”
“I didn’t have the baby. I don’t have a baby,” I told her as soon as I’d stopped gagging.
Her smile didn’t falter. “How silly of you not to remember. You must have known you were pregnant.”
“You didn’t think you could really interfere with God’s plan, did you?”
I didn’t want to look at the gruesome doll, but I couldn’t help it. I immediately began to hurl again.
“I’ve been thinking of names,” my mother prattled on. She reached out to hold my hair back, but I recoiled from her touch.
“She is a girl, isn’t she? It’s so hard to tell.”
“Mom, please. Don’t do this. Get rid of it now.”
“Sally is nice, isn’t it? Silly Sally—you’ve got to think about what the other kids will think too.”
My breathing came in ragged gasps. I couldn’t answer.
“Or Lizzy, that’s cute. Then when she grows up she can be Elizabeth, which is very—”
I was seeing red, and it wasn’t just the blood. I rushed at the doll, meaning to throw it in the trash. My mother was more lucid than she appeared though, and she immediately blocked me behind the kitchen counter.
“Don’t you dare!” she howled. “You have to let her sleep!”
“Which of us do you want, mom? You can’t have us both.”
“You’re being selfish again. Can you imagine Lizzy saying that to you when she has a child of her own?”
I made another rush, this time ducking under her arms. I almost reached the horrid doll before mom grabbed me by the hair and yanked me back. She was pulling so hard I can’t believe the hair didn’t uproot.
“You aren’t saving your grandchild!” I screamed. “You’re killing your daughter.”
She let go all at once. For a tense moment, we stared at each other. There was still intelligence in her twinkling eyes. There was still love in her trembling lips.
“I don’t have a…” she mumbled.
“Say it. Admit she’s gone. Please, mom, you have to.”
She pressed her lips into a thin, hard line. Whatever came next wouldn’t be a slip of the tongue. It would be deliberate and conscious and utterly irrevocable.
“I don’t have a daughter,” she said, at last, turning away from me. “My daughter wouldn’t do this to me.”
I packed my things and left that night, never to return. She’ll call from time to time, but I never answer anymore. She sends me cards, but I throw them away unopened.
What else does she expect, when she writes “we miss you” on the front?