He Had No Choice.
By Brittney M. Walker
He or she would be 10 years old, probably now. My life would have been completely different and so would his. Maybe we would have been married, living in California. Maybe we would be living internationally, together, raising our child. Maybe we would have been separated, co-parenting.
We are both in college, on track to be the first in both of our families to graduate. We are both virgins. We are both diligent church-going Christians. We both loved each other, but I never admitted this while we were together. I wanted to wait until we were married to have sex. But it was too tempting, sleeping together in the same bed sometimes. We both had cars and this new found freedom as adults. No parents around to tell us ‘no.’ We spent days and nights together. We knew we were going to be forever. First loves.
Our first time having sex, isn’t at all like the movies. It is a little awkward. We aren’t even sure if we are having sex. I’m not even sure if a quarter of his penis is in. Then he climaxes. He doesn’t know what happened. I’m not sure either.
A few weeks later, my period doesn’t come. I tell him. We ditch school that day, I think. He drives us out of the city to a place no one would recognize us, somewhere by the beach. We drop into the local drug store and purchase a pregnancy test. I go into the bathroom, pee on the stick. It is positive. I am pregnant. We are pregnant.
We sit on the beach, crying. Unsure of what we are going to do.
I don’t want to have a child, repeating the cycles that have plagued my family for decades. My mom had me at 20. Didn’t finish college at the time. My aunts have the same or similar stories. I am the eldest of the next generation. I can’t start us off like this. I have to graduate. My cult-like Christian school won’t allow me to attend if I appear pregnant and unmarried. I don’t want to raise another human. I am just a child, tasting adulthood for the first time. I just turned 20. I decide I don’t want it.
I convince him that we don’t want it. So I start to research abortions. During that process, his position begins to change. Unable to hear his pleas, I soldier forward with my research, trying to abort it without going to the clinic. I read about natural herbs that induce miscarriages. I want to miscarry before it has a heart beat. Eventually, though, I make an appointment with Planned Parenthood. Their office is located right in a low to middle income neighborhood, where a lot of their centers happen to be.
The night before the appointment, we stay together, discussing our future, crying a bit, having sex. We figured out how to have sex by now. The following morning looks like we feel, dreary. He drives to the center, being supportive, but also mentions the option to keep it.
On the way there, I am afraid there’s a protest in front and people will shame me with their signs and jeers about aborting a baby. I just want to go to school and graduate. We arrive. There is no protest. The clinic is tucked away in an unassuming office complex. We park and go inside the building. The lobby feels sad. There are mostly women waiting there with a smattering of men.
I get checked in, test positive for pregnancy, again. The woman proceeds to share information about my options, and I think somewhere during her spiel mentions that I can change my mind at any time.
I am eventually led over to the ultra sound station where the doctor or nurse, I can’t remember which, confirms the pregnancy. The woman says something like, “It looks like you’re about 12 or 13 weeks pregnant.” Her voice is neutral.
I am then led over to a waiting area and I sit beside another Black woman. She looks around my age. Maybe a bit older. We start to chat and she says she’s already got five kids. She doesn’t use birth control. She’s also allergic to latex. So, this is her third abortion. She’s quite light hearted and chipper. Just part of the routine I guess. Somehow she brightens me up. She’s a statistic too, I guess. It’s not so bad. There’s life after this.
It’s my turn to go. A woman calls me into the next room. I am prepped with a gown and a bag or something for my belongings. The woman herding all of us women in the area is Black and looks like she could be my grandmother or someone from my family’s church. I can’t remember if I had imagined it or if it was real. Sometimes memory works this way. I pose some question about how she feels about working at Planned Parenthood and about abortions and things. Her answer is something along the lines of, “ I don’t judge anyone. That’s between you and God.”
I am lying on a table with a bright light overhead. There are maybe three or four people, including a white male doctor, in the room. The last time I was in this position was to get my wrist snapped back into place after I broke it as a kid after sneaking out of the house to roller skate with a girl in the apartment complex.
She, the girl from my childhood, had knocked on the door and asked if I could play. My mom was firm and said, “No, she’s on punishment.” I can’t remember what I did to deserve it. But after Mom closed the door and got distracted in the kitchen, I snuck out of the house with my roller skates. Some time after gliding along outside, undetected by my mom, I alerted the expansive Garfield St. apartment complex in Pasadena that I was in pain. My shrills were worse than the horror movies. I don’t remember them, but I do remember neighbors’ reactions. One woman yelled, “Her bones are about to come out of her skin!” It was pretty terrible. My mom worked at Kaiser at the time. So the hospital attention was pretty stellar.
Back to the abortion. Someone starts rattling off some information about what drugs they’re getting ready to push through my veins and that they’re gonna suck the fetus out of my uterus with a giant vacuum. I remember my calm quickly changing to anxiety. I start to ask questions like, “What do you do with the baby afterwards?”
The doctor, hovering over me, turns abruptly and sternly. Staring sharply into my eyes, he says, “There is no baby. It is a fetus.”
Some white liquid in a bag above me is shown and I feel its cold metally thickness ooze under my skin through my veins. I fall unconscious quickly. I remember as I was slipping into darkness thinking that the abortion scientists are probably going to experiment on the fetus and use the DNA to extract melanin samples or something. The drugs do something to ya.
I wake up in what looks like a death ward with lots women in gowns on gurneys, wildly bunched together like a bumper car ring. I hear sobs and quiet prayers in Spanish and cries for boyfriends and mates. A nurse comes over and says some stuff I don’t remember. I ask for him, my boyfriend. She says he can’t come back because there’s a bunch of undressed women in the space. I need to get out before the sadness settles.
When I am conscious enough, I am allowed to gather my things and exit. I see him there. He looks as if he’s about to cry.
Years later, after we brake up and I finally admit to him that I was in fact in love with him when we were together, he opens up and says he was hurt by the whole ordeal and didn’t really want to have the abortion. He thought he really didn’t have a choice in the matter. He wanted to get married and thought we could work it out, college, a baby, my family’s dislike for him. He expressed his deep sorrow. He would text or call on Mother’s day for years, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. He’d remind me of how old our child would have been.
I was annoyed by it. I remember sitting on the couch with the next boyfriend when I received a text from him that read, “Do you regret having the abortion?”
“What the fuck man!” is how I reacted internally. He wants me to feel bad for my choice. He wants me to wallow. I responded in probably some snide, dismissive way, holding my position and feeling no regret. Later, though, it dawned onto me that he was probably in pain from this.
I hadn’t considered his experience much. In fact, I don’t think it really mattered more than my own conflict with it all, at the time. After I broke up with the next boyfriend, I saw him. It was maybe five years after the abortion. He was going through a lot. We talked about the abortion. He was definitely challenged by the whole thing and in fact experienced some depression around it. Conceiving children wasn’t as easy the next time he tried with someone else.
In some ways, he felt like I was ungrateful and undeserving to have a healthy womb that could carry. It’s not so easy for some other women, he learned. I understood his challenge. I understood why he was so angry with me for a long time. I understood him feeling powerless. He was powerless in the matter. I had tunnel vision. I had a mission. Whether or not he could have made a compelling argument to keep it wouldn’t have mattered. My mind was made up. We weren’t having this child. I was not having a child.
I still don’t regret it. But I do think about it often. That doctor visit question comes up every time I change providers or give blood or get an STD test: “Have you ever been pregnant? y/n.” I think about how it affected him so greatly. I think about how my life would be different. I also think about the shame around abortion I experienced initially.
After it’s done, some women, me, … and men, him, go through shit. They cry, some weep, some are angry, some are scared, some feel like God will punish them, some feel undeserving of a happy life or a child in the future. Sharing these feelings and these thoughts with others is complicated, kind of like saying you’re a conservative voter and you’re Black and like guns and are pro-choice and a feminist.
I didn’t tell anyone I had an abortion for a while. I don’t think he did either. I needed to shed the shame and fear of sharing first. I didn’t want to be disowned, looked at as dirty and irresponsible. I didn’t want to be told I was on a path to hell and that I had committed murder, like the protesters say.
I eventually told my mom. He eventually told his and she was sad about it. Then I told my little brother and sister. I told my boyfriends. I told some close friends. He did the same. Fortunately, none of these people stoned me or even attempted to make me feel bad about it. If they did, I missed that message.
It was nice not to be shamed. The people around me were pretty cool, neutral about it. Who knows what they thought of me quietly. But I’m not sure it matters. The torture is, however, not having the support to deal with it properly. I wasn’t a good supporter to him when this all went down. I didn’t give love and hugs when they were needed. He suffered greatly from this. I’m pretty sure some women do too. I’ve listened to women talk about their abortions years after they happened. But having to deal with them silently for so long can be taxing and the damage irreversible.
It’s almost 11 years later and I thought I was pregnant some weeks ago. My first thought was, “I can’t have a baby right now! I just got a new job.” Then I thought about this whole experience. Then I thought about my man. Then I calmed the fuck down. I’m grown-er now and having a kid wouldn’t be so bad. In fact, it would be a delight. My mom has been anticipating her first grand-kid after all. When I got over my panic and finished woefully replanning my life, I embraced being a mom, especially with a man I love and match. In fact, my man and I started to get really excited about the idea and began gleefully talking about my pregnancy diet and a home birth.
But, my period was just a week late. We were disappointed that it came at all. We theorize the ancestors were testing out our attitudes.
Anyway, abortion provided me with choices. I have been able to live life super poor because I don’t have to feed anyone else. I have had the opportunity to pursue career options without worrying about childcare. I have traveled the world and slept in hostels and gotten into cars with strangers, because no one is depending on my return.
But my choice also came with some serious consequences. I think if either of us felt safer to discuss our options and had the proper relationship and emotional tools, we probably would have dealt with it differently.