Saturday, April 11, 2009


I wrote this a while ago and kept it in a place where only my closest friends could see it. Because I felt ashamed and because there was no right place to make something like this public. But this, among other things, is what this blog is for. So now in the interest of being really honest, I will share the story of failing to help someone, and the privilege of going to bed with my life un-fucked afterward.


Friday turned out to be maybe my worst day in abortionland, ever. I was working with a woman who was traveling out of state to have an abortion, and she ran into problems at every turn (money, escort, gestational age, new escort, clinic staff, money again), and each time she and I would pull things together and get her out of her bind, and then at the last minute, just short of me being able to do anything to fix it, she got fucked over one last time. And now she needs to start getting prenatal care, because in a few months she is going to have twins.

Yes, I know there are a lot of reasons she was not able to have that abortion. I know that I couldn't have known, before all this stuff happened, how badly she needed me to break the rules for her, how badly things would go if we complied with the logic that a client should try all the most affordable options first, and waste precious time in the process. There are a lot of ways to absolve myself of all of this, none of them completely honest. Everyone is telling me these things: it wasn't your fault that x, y, z happened; you couldn't have known what would go wrong; you can't do everything for every client; you succeed at helping people more times than you fail.

All these people are both right and wrong. These are things that people in the social-service fields tell ourselves because we need to justify putting away the client files after a day of failures, and we need a reason to open them up again in the morning. They are true things to say, but they are also not enough sometimes. Around 7 I collected myself, left my office with a couple of colleagues, and proceeded to get drunk, meet up with several more people, have a fun and noisy time, and stumble into bed at several o'clock in the morning. Then I woke up and it was Saturday and I thought about the rest of my weekend and how Monday was after that and then I suddenly couldn't bear the thought of going back to work.

And Monday I did go to work, and I couldn't bear being there. I heard myself being a horrible person every time I picked up a patient's call, slumped low in my chair, thought about how soon I could drop this gig. Couldn't humor my coworker who makes terrible jokes that I usually laugh at. So I arranged to take the day off today. And my partner called in sick to stay home and take care of me: because I need taking care of, like I am sick or something. We spent all day in bed then went out to get a book my partner wanted, and now I'm making an apple pie. I know I am really lucky to be able to give myself a vacation for fucking up. Where me fucking up means a woman's life will be changed forever; she is barely getting by with just her own mouth to feed, and now she will have three. How do I reconcile these things and go back to my work?


  1. my dear placenta sandwich: I liken what we do to a wild flower field--the possible variable solutions applied to the vast and unique amount of women and families who rely on our organic, non-certified expertise can be both beautiful and outrageously chaotic. Just last week I was wallowing in a circumstance where I felt I didn't give a woman enough time and after-care referral for her complex situation. What a shallow and hasty speed-counselor I am, I thought. I am a fake. But no, we're crisis counselors in a world that will not currently universally and formally train us OR hold us responsible for our attempted solutions and mistakes. This is a blessing and a curse--we keep waiting for everyone to actually care what we do or don't do? Thank you always for sharing...

  2. I have had similar experiences and each time it really does feel like such a privilege to eventually push that case to the back of mind knowing I did what I could but it didn't alter the outcome. Sometimes I feel guilty and sometimes I just do not have the energy to care and then sometimes I feel guilty for not caring. As cliche as it sounds, things happen for a reason, I sleep at night telling myself things happen for a reason in my life and in the lives of women we work with.

  3. Can't she give the twins up for adoption?

  4. I sometimes don't know if things actually DO happen for a reason or not. I can understand why you'd feel so frustrated and upset that this woman was unable to get her abortion, despite everything the two of you collectively did to try to make it happen. I think the reality is that sometimes things are so shitty. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes things work out the way we want them to in life. Sometimes they don't. This is the essential pain of life. Unavoidable. And that just sucks. So...I think...that when things suck and don't go the way we hope they go, we have to do the best we can under those circumstances. Sometimes, our best is taking a day from work, staying in bed, then making apple pie. I am sure she did her best to deal with it, too. You just don't know what HER best is. Maybe she took a day off and just spent it with her girlfriends too. And maybe that 'day-off' from thinking about HER troubles helps her get through the next two months before giving birth.

    It's no consilation that she's not alone in this situation; women all over the world, every day, are in her situation (but worse, because they live in countries where abortion is not legal). There are many children born, every day, who were not wanted. But they may become wanted. They may not. You just don't know. And that sucks, too.

    I feel sad you felt so sad and so guilty. I feel sad she cannot have her abortion; but I feel so grateful that you shared this because I think so many of us who work in this field have to deal with this. We see a woman show up at the clinic and she's three days' over limit; there's no way she can travel half-way across the country for an abortion. She's going to have a baby. It's so hard. And we don't have control over it. And that's hard, too.

    Thank you.

  5. Just a shot in the dark but perhaps she doesn't give them up for adoption because this blog is about ABORTION


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