The responses to my piece about speaking up about abortion have been amazing. Friends and friends of friends and strangers have been reaching out to say, “Hey! I’m one of those women they keep talking about.” Many of them have written about shame and stigma, about regret, resignation, relief. These stories are important because they push us out of rhetorical hamster wheels and into the real world of lived experience.
With her permission, here’s part of an email from K. Let’s all remember that this is exactly one woman’s story and she speaks only for herself. Her reaction is not everyone’s reaction, nor should it be.
I’ve been processing that very difficult thing these past few months. I don’t know how I feel about all of it, but what I do know is that it is significantly harder – physically and emotionally – than I ever imagined this would be. It changes your life, even if you have the choice to make to not let it change your life in one particular way, by having a kid. Things still change. Forever.
Several years back I had a scare while abroad during which a friend wrote me this: “If you are pregnant, I don’t think having an abortion is selfish. Atoms come together and they come apart. If anything, abortion is an actualization of your rights. That said, it seems that abortion is tragic and awful and sad no matter what. Abortion speaks to the spaces in between, the gray area, the inexplicable. No one knows anything concrete when it comes to creation of human beings. No one knows what’s right and what’s wrong. One thing that I might find reassuring if I were in the same position would be the knowledge that pregnancy and abortion is an age-old part of women’s experience on earth. In abortion, one is joining the countless ranks of amazingly strong women who have made a difficult decision, perhaps the most difficult decision. In one sense, you will be far from alone.”
When it happened for real, I was luckily to be flooded by an immense amount of love and support. And it’s amazing how many people I’ve discovered close to me that have also been through this. Yet I still felt / feel alone. I think part of what is so shocking is how I always have felt like I had a voice and have stood up for those who didn’t, yet suddenly it’s like my voice is gone or I worry about what people will say, think or judge if I can find it again.
P.S. I recently read this phenomenal book, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. Ironically, I stopped reading when I suddenly was exhausted and sick all the time and could barely keep up with school/work. Months after I found out what that was and went through all this, I picked it up again. The book fell open to the last page I read, marked with a passage about how the right books at the right times can change our lives. Two pages later…well, see attached.
Click to Enlarge.