Thursday, April 15, 2010

The kiss of death

There is a solid, almost silent, understanding in my blood family that if I left abortion tomorrow no one would miss it but me.

I still remember the afternoon my mom and I had lunch about three months following my first day at the abortion clinic, and I was working closely with my first patient who was late in her second trimester of pregnancy.

Every summer, I would pack my winter clothing in a bag to store in one of my parents' various closets. I lived elsewhere, but their house remained home-base. That passing summer, I left the clothing unlabeled in the garage, and my parents accidentally took my entire winter wardrobe to Goodwill. My mother took me shopping for new clothes because I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe on my advocate compensation. Then, we had lunch.

I wanted to tell her about the patient I was working with. The patient was my peer--beautiful, intelligent, on birth control. She had gotten her period throughout the pregnancy and had a hidden, violent history of sexual abuse from her vocally anti-choice father, but she chose to live at home to influence and protect her young brothers.

She was told she miscarried at 14 weeks under her regular practitioner’s care. I was accompanying her through her surgical process for pregnancy termination at 24 weeks, and she felt like she was pregnant with an alien, even a monster. From an otherwise affluent family but overwhelmed by the various circumstances that led her to seek a 24-week termination, she opted to undergo the medical process in utter privacy.

She applied for a credit card to max it out to pay toward the surgery, pawned a violin and her grandmother’s pearls. She slept on her side so her boyfriend couldn't see her swelling tummy, as she was spending most of her time with him as she waited for one more paycheck. The clinic granted her an IOU.

During her surgery, she cried-out the entire time, just sobbed. She wept poignantly with the tender guidance of our immaculate doctor and well-versed doula, and I stood frozen and heart-broken with her pain to the side. Two weeks later she returned to fulfill her IOU, and she had a black eye.

As a nurse, my mom knew I could share no more than a vague description of the private case I was shepherding, even though my parents lived in a town far away, and I worked in a city. I released pivotal snippets. I told her about the violin and the pearls. About the perverted father who called himself pro-life. I cried in-front of my mother at lunch just three months in and working on my very first, multi-complex case.

I was outraged when I met abortion, yet fascinated. Mostly, I wanted to tell everyone why my job was a refreshing and insightful entryway into the professional world and why everyone should take the time to care for reproductive justice, but in the comforting presence of my own mother, I wanted to weep the injustices out like screaming underwater, how I could see that life wasn’t fair and how women struggled silently, valiantly, gracefully, and I might not be able to do anything about it even in my entire lifetime.

I wanted to weep-out how strange and frightening folks harassed me and my doctor and my colleagues and our patients and our patient’s families and the mailman, how they took our most sacral life, and how they covered it in jelly then blew it up on posters. I wanted to weep what we were doing to abortion onto my cottage cheese sandwich, into my bottomless glass of lemonade, all over the lunch booth. I wanted to lay my head in my loving mother’s lap.

Instead, I let a few tears drop before composing my pooling insides and dabbled my sockets with my new scarf and found no more words beyond the violin.

Ignorance is expensive. Anti-choice protesters prey on our beloved leaders. They spin seedy, self-centered stories all the way to a Supreme Court full of stifled, predatory, privileged Catholic men. They take away your private abortion coverage and spit in the faces of women they deem slaves if they deem them anything at all. They rape their daughtersour patients,
and then stand outside our clinic doors wailing about mercy.

In turn
, women,
mothers will quietly move this world until it swallows us all whole.

I’m fairly certain my family wishes to spare me from the sometimes debilitating reality I endure on behalf of this deeply stigmatized rite. They love me tenderly all the way to my childhood smile.

Yet, I cannot leave abortion because in the deep recesses of my most essential being, in the private conversations I cannot share because self-righteous fools are wretched wolves in their sleep, because not everyone can understand a love so deep it will sell its grandmother’s pearls to preserve maternal agency and the however blessed plight of offspring, as costly as abortion may sometimes be, I know abortion is sacred.

I see daily that it is profound and puzzling joy.

Have you made *time* for reproductive justice today? Consider supporting your neighbors who do not have pearls and violins to sell by donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds' annual country-wide Bowl-a-Thon drive. Find out more by clicking HERE.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This made me tear up.

  2. It is so unfortunate that you cannot share such things with your family. Maybe I was ignorant, but I just assumed my mother was pro-choice (I was never taught one way or the other). I am still not entirely sure how pro-choice she is but she has never said she is anti, and she knows about my involvement. I happily tell her about the exciting days volunteering at my clinic and the crazy protesters. I look at her like any other woman and I seek to educate her. But then again, this is Canada and 52% of Canadians identify themselves as pro-choice (24% self identify as anti's, the rest are apathetic or non-responsive).

  3. Muriel Rukeyser asked “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

    Your sharing the painful story of your client, while not literally splitting open the world, should certainly open some minds about the unbearable suffering that many women endure. I hope that by sharing your story, you move many to open their wallets for those who have little to nothing. I also hope that your story enlightens the black souls of those anti-choicers who feel they have a right to moralize and legislate women’s sexuality.

  4. Oh my, Thank you thank you thank you...

    My relatives are often my biggest fans and my parents are the captains of my cheering section, but sometimes, oddly enough, I think it's harder for them to know jagged pieces of the complexity without ever knowing the full stories-

  5. Great story. Very touching to see your empathy for others. Very hard to remain objective in these cases. You are very heroic to us.

  6. Don't keep the stories inside of you. Let them out and let them be heard so that others might understand women and the agonizing decisions they must make in life, especially regarding an abortion. I will hear them through your written stories or you may tell me over a quiet lunch. Let your voice be heard! I want to always be there for you.....Love, Mom

  7. I love this post! And I love the support you get from your mother. Thank you, Mother-of-Daughter-of-Wands!


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