I’ve been pregnant only once in my entire life, approximately twenty years and eight months ago. Depending on your perspective, that can mean a lot of different things.
For example, right now as a thirty-eight year old woman who’s never had kids and only barely escaped being married to the wrong man in my mid-late 20’s, it makes me sad. And somewhat fearful. In this life I may never know the joy (heartache and hard work etc) of having my own kids. I’d definitely want to if the right guy came along, but not otherwise. Some women I know have had a kid without a partner on-purpose. That is not for me. And, since a large part of my 30’s were swallowed by PTSD and depression, not to mention the desire to be as far away from men as possible… it’s little wonder I’ve been unable to do anything about it.
In my 20’s when I was engaged and planning children with my then fiancé, I was hopeful. I’d often wondered – and found out that so many other women like me did as well – if I’d given up my chance at children when I didn’t have my first. My fiancé assured me gently and we laughed and talked about names. We spoke of how we wanted to school our kids. We both thought it was a good idea for me not to work until they were at least in primary school, but perhaps I’d study in that time and work out what sort of career I wanted to come back to. We planned a lot for those babies that never were. We cared about them even though they were just ideas. We wanted a family. But when our relationship died, so did those dream babies.
For all of my teens and most of my early 20’s I’d been convinced I didn’t want kids at all. I was too messed up! I came from a family of people who fought with each other and/or were supremely talented at suppressing their emotions. I was no exception; I knew that. So why would I want to bring a child into the mix? Do unto them what had been done unto me? I couldn’t imagine it… my younger self would view my current self as vindication of her convictions. My current self looks at that younger me and wonders if my then convictions have helped manifest my current childless state, one I no longer want…
The night before my scheduled abortion, I was having unprotected sex in the car of a guy I barely knew. I was eighteen and living at M’s house, having fought with my parents over my “career” as a topless waitress/stripper (M’s parents knew what we were doing and didn’t seem to mind). The nameless guy and I were in the front passenger seat, parked outside M’s place and doing that dance of awkward half-clothed, can’t-quite-move-around-properly kind of sex. I don’t think it was any good. In fact, I’m certain I remember going inside and thinking what a disappointment it was.
The irony of my actions wasn’t lost on me – it’s just that I’d convinced myself I didn’t care.
Next morning I was on a train into the city with my two best friends, one of whom was envious of my impregnated state. She’d wanted a baby since forever. We blithely ignored the reason for our trip and chatted away merrily. I bet you didn’t know I’m about to have an abortion, I wanted to tell the other train passengers. My friends planned to drop me off at the clinic – a huge Victorian era house in East Melbourne – spend the day in the city and pick me up afterwards.
Truth was, I didn’t want to be doing what I was about to do. But I also didn’t want to be pregnant. And not just because I knew how messed up I was either. I simply didn’t want a baby at that point in my life. I didn’t feel maternal towards the tiny life I was carrying. As far as I was concerned I had no business raising a kid, especially since the father was a huge question mark.
Roughly two months along, there weren’t too many physical signs to give me away. There’d been a little nausea but no hurling. I knew I’d missed one of my periods and then I waited and… nope, still nothing. I think I might be pregnant, I told M, who bought the home-pregnancy test for me and waited outside the bathroom door while I peed on the stick.
No matter how many times I blinked, the damn thing still said I was up the duff.
I wasn’t emotional about it – there was only one course of action as far as I was concerned: becoming un-pregnant and as fast as possible please!
Back then, abortion was only quasi-legal in Australia. There had to be a reason given and it had to be because having the child wouldn’t be in the best interests of the mother… yeah, I was a mother once… if only fleetingly and unwillingly.
I looked up ‘Abortion’ in the Yellow Pages (this was way before the internet, folks!) and found a doctor in the city who could refer me. I was very businesslike and clear: No there was no chance of my having the baby. Not even for adoption (especially not in my family!). No, the father wasn’t around. That’s right, I’m not prepared for raising a child, and I’m too young. Yes, please sign me up for the pill. And thanks for the referral and info on what to expect.
Now it was time and though I couldn’t have told you then, I was numb. I think I’d barely been able to get an appointment inside the all-important three month cut-off window.
When I think of the abortion clinic now, it’s through a lens that’s fuzzy and a sort of greenish-gray in colour. It was on Victoria Parade, I think. Girls and women in a waiting room being called one by one. Changing into a hospital gown, completely naked underneath. Sliding onto the chair/bed and staring at the stirrups. A handful of medical-type people entering in white coats: Please put your feet in the stirrups. But now my errrm, nakedness is on show and you’re all standing down the business end!
I don’t remember the anaesthetic being applied. Time passed in dark unconscious slumber until I woke up on a gurney in the hallway, crying in pain. The cramps. Oh god, the cramps. Someone – a nurse perhaps – gave me painkillers. But it was over. I was de-pregnated. Bun-less. Just like I wanted.
My friends, bless them, brought me a sandwich and I ate it as we walked back to train station for our hour journey back home…