Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogging For Choice

Choice.

It's one of those things that we take for granted in this country. Our right to choose. We choose whom we marry, how we worship, for whom to cast our vote.

Women can choose to have careers, to be mothers or to do both.

We in this country have reproductive freedom, thanks to a precedent that was established 30 years ago today; a precedent that changed women's rights forever.

It's not a precedent that has remained unchallenged however. More than one political aspirant has vowed to overturn it if put in a position to do so. And now, one such person has his eye on the White House. He isn't the first, and he won't be the last.

Today is Blogging for Choice Day.




I don't normally particpate in these types of things, because I'm not really a joiner. I do my own thing, usually. It's how I roll.

But if ever there was a bandwagon worth jumping upon, this is it. And so I shall, with thanks to Emily at Wheels on the Bus for spreading the word about this very worthy cause.

I wrote this piece a while back and I've posted it on several different occasions. I can't think of a new or better way to put my feelings into words and so, I'm going to post it again.

Perhaps that is cheating, but....I think (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) it works better than simply cataloguing my views and laying them out for you.

No Suitable Title Comes to Mind


It’s funny how the details of our experiences are chosen by our subconscious and then preserved with perfect clarity, just waiting for something; an aroma, a snatch of song, a well loved painting, to resurrect them, while others simply disappear into the mists of time.

I wonder how our minds select which memories we are allowed to retain; which memories will plague or comfort us the rest of our lives. I wonder why we can’t forget things best left unremembered. I wonder why we can’t remember things we struggle not to forget. I can remember my grandpa’s funeral. I can’t remember the sound of his voice. I remember the words he spoke, but not the tone or timbre. I want to.

The thing I remember most about that day is how tightly her impossibly cold hand clutched mine. She absently ground the bones in my hand together in her mounting anxiety. The fear and desperation were telegraphed through her icy grip. I tried once or twice to disengage my hand from hers, but she only clutched me more tightly. She had held my hand for the entire two hour bus ride, and every minute since then. I stopped trying to let go and accepted that I was her lifeline to sanity and safety until this whole horrible mess was over with.

I was 17 years old.

When we reached the clinic, I was told I could not accompany her since I was not a relative or an adult. But when she quietly but emphatically refused to let go of my hand, the stern faced nurse/receptionist relented with the admonishment that no monkey business would be tolerated. We exchanged looks. Neither of us had the heart for monkey business. The suggestion was mildly insulting, but we were too scared and sad and sick to protest. We only nodded mutely and followed her broad back through scarred and yellowed swinging doors. The mingled odors of smoke and antiseptic made me a little queasy. My stomach lurched. I swallowed hard. She swallowed hard. Her grip tightened.

We were shown into a tiny examining room, where she was handed a paper gown and curtly told to remove all of her clothing, even her panties. The nurse gave us a hard, searching look before closing the door behind her. Suddenly my fear was replaced by anger. We were young…looking back it breaks my heart how young we were… and we shouldn’t have been in a place like that. But we didn’t deserve to be treated with such disdain.

I was angry at him too. He should be here. He should see this. See her. I cursed him for a coward and thought about the night he had tried to kiss me; laughing at how I trembled, knowing I needed to hate him for what he had done to her and not caring. But I had pushed him away, and the surprise on his face was a satisfaction like none I had ever known. I held onto that anger and used it to blunt the edges of sharp fear that knifed through me.

She cried as she undressed. I didn’t know what to do or say to make her feel better, so I busied myself with folding her clothing into neat little squares as she handed them to me. I rolled her socks into a ball, and carefully concealed her pink polka dotted underpants beneath a crease in her blue jeans. I folded her enormous GAP sweatshirt into a fleecy mound and then placed the entire pile on top of her shoes and turned to help her with the gown.

I had not seen her naked recently. Once we had undressed in front of one another with no thought to embarrassment or modesty. But for many months now she had kept herself covered with baggy shirts and heavy jackets. Winter in Wisconsin was an accomplice to the concealment of her burgeoning form. I gasped audibly as the truth of her condition and our reason for being here hit me like a slap in the face. She blushed through her tears and pulled the gown closed.

We sat, quietly, timidly, waiting.

A man came in and introduced himself as Dr. X. He surprised me by being kind and gentle. Seeing her tears, he pulled out a handkerchief and swabbed her face. He told her it would be alright. He told her they would take care of her. He told her the most important thing anybody had ever told her. He said, she was not a bad person. She didn’t believe him, of course. How could she? But she needed someone to say it. She needed someone to believe that she was not a sinner or a coward or a murderess. Her sobs turned to small hiccoughs and the tears slowed. He examined her quickly and then said, “Let’s take care of this so you can go home, okay?”

She clambered into the wheelchair obediently and he wheeled her out. I was unsure whether to follow. Surely they wouldn’t let me in THERE, would they? I didn’t want to go. But the susurration of the rubber wheels halted and she turned to beseech me with an outstretched hand. Our eyes locked and I shrank from the pleading. I looked at the kindly doctor, willing him to forbid me. He looked at me for an impossibly long moment and then inclined his head for me to follow.

"I AM NOT THAT STRONG!!!!" I longed to shout. But I followed meekly without uttering a sound.

To this day, I don’t know why he wanted me to go in there. For her? For me? For a larger purpose? To illuminate some larger truth? I wish I could find him and ask him. I wish I could tell him how that experience changed me forever. I wish I could tell him thank you for being kind to her. To us.

The nurses, who were not unkind, but who went about their business briskly, placed her on a table and erected a barrier over the lower half of her body. Seated at her head, I was relieved, but it made her uneasy. She couldn’t see what was being done to her, and I suppose it would have scared me too. She was given several injections and an IV. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I knew it was too late for any of the “easy” procedures. I was gripped by panic, suddenly. I didn’t want to see this. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to know how a problem like this is solved. She grew groggy and I wished for some of what they had given her. As she drifted, her grip on my hand slackened.

Freed, I did not know what to do with my hands. They stole to my chest and hovered over my heart, which felt as if it might burst from my chest. I must have looked stricken and afraid, because the kindly doctor came and lifted my hand from my breast to hold it in his own. It was huge and warm. He said "You're a strong young lady. She's lucky to have you for a friend." I felt a little better. His approval cheered me, and the anger I had felt at his refusal to grant me asylum from this ugliness abated.

He disappeared and returned gowned and masked. I knew it was time to begin. I tried not to hear. I recited poetry and song lyrics and movie quotes in my head, desperately avoiding the bloody reality unfolding beyond that flimsy white barrier. At one point, she began to cry out in pain and I felt sick again. He assured her it was almost over and indeed, as he spoke, I heard what I knew was the sound of her body yielding the contents of her womb. A slick sound followed by a small forlorn thud, and it was over. She panted with relief. I sagged against the table, still sick.

There was a smell that permeated the room, a smell that was rich and human. Years later as I attended my first birth, memories that had long been buried were resurrected by that smell. Then, it had meant death to me. Now I know it as the primal aroma of new life.

She was taken to recovery where she slept for what seemed like hours and hours. I was left alone with my thoughts, unable to concentrate on the novel I had brought with me anticipating a lengthy wait in the waiting room. I could not banish the thought of what I had seen by accident as we exited the procedure room. I glanced back for reasons still unknown to me.

I saw a nurse with a shallow pan. There was blood on the rim and some smeared on the sides. She laid the pan gently on a metal table, and then, touched the contents in what I can only describe as a caress. There was sadness in her eyes. I looked away quickly, not wanting to witness the disposal of that tiny little body. But her tenderness brought tears to my eyes for the first time that day.

Someone understood that this was not just a "problem" or a "procedure", but a baby. A baby that was now, dead. Part of me was very angry with her for not acknowledging that. I was angry even though I know that it would have destroyed her to think of the baby as a living breathing creature. I tried to work through my anger and confusion as she slept. My own judgement bothered me. It could have been me.

When she awoke, gray and trembling, my anger was gone, replaced by a deep weariness. I wanted to go home. And so we did. On a dirty bus, back to our clean lives where nobody knew what we had done. I went back to school while she stayed home "sick". I endured the looks and the whispers while she hid. We stayed friends for many years, but we never spoke of that day again. Ever.

I think the experience touched us in different ways. I became a birth junkie and eventually a doula; eager to rejoice in each and every new life, entranced by the miracle of birth. She has no children. I wonder if her heart aches when a baby cries. I wonder if she is haunted by the abesence of that child. I wonder if she will ever get over what happened. Mere spectator that I was, I don't think that I have.

You might be surprised to learn that I am vehemently pro-choice. I would never, ever consider an abortion for myself. I just couldn’t do it. But I have never been a scared teenaged girl with elderly parents who were devout Catholics and preached the wages of sin as death and eternal torment in the fiery pits of hell. I never had to face the prospect of being ostracized by my family. I have never been a victim of a sex crime, forced to carry the offspring of my attacker. I have never been desperately poor with too many mouths to feed already. I have never been told my baby had a defect that was incompatible with life, or that if the pregnancy was brought to term, his or her life would be filled with pain and suffering.

I have only been a girl who was raised in a lower middle class family with loving supportive parents who would have helped first and lectured later. I have only been an adult in a safe and healthy relationship, with the means to provide my children with everything they need and most of what they want. I have only been me, and I can only decide for me.

I do believe that abortion is taking a life. I do believe it’s wrong. For me. But I also believe that I, and only I, have the right to decide. It’s a sad and terrible thing with no easy answer. So ask the right questions and follow your heart. Don’t let political rhetoric and religious dogma influence a decision that YOU will have to live with the rest of your life.

And please, for the sake of every child that ever has or will draw breath, do not mistake abortion for birth control. Life is too precious to hinge upon the adolescent shame of purchasing condoms.

My friend and I have lost touch. I don't know where she is now, or if she has exorcised her demons. I hope she has forgiven herself. I forgave her a long time ago. I should have told her that. I hope she can forgive me.

22 Comments:

  • At 8:18 AM, Blogger Unmana said…

    Good for you for speaking out. Every woman should have the right to decide what to do with her body. Personally speaking, I would never want an abortion (I think), but why should I give others the right to decide for me?

     
  • At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can delete this if you want -- but being the girl on the table... it's something you'll NEVER forget -- you'll ALWAYS carry that guilt. The guilt that you took a life.

    Taking a life should NEVER be legal.

    I prayed before posting -- Yet I'm still faltering because the crime is so heinous. Taking a life should never be OK -- no matter how young or old.

    I praise God today that's He has forgiven all my sin -- even on that bright sunny day when I took a life. When Abraham took a life. When David took a life. He does forgive even the murders, which I now consider myself. But it shouldn't be OK.

    We will be judged as a nation for allowing that "choice". Mark my words.

    I'm anonymous because the bloggy world is small. And I carry that "murder" label on my heart - not on my chest.

    Thank you for posting your story -- I pray that God will grab your heart and lead you to peace that passeth all human understanding.

     
  • At 9:35 AM, Blogger Polgara said…

    Very moving and well written. I hope lots of people read it.
    Pol x

     
  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Blogversary said…

    I have been reading your blog awhile and you often put down those who are claim to be Christian.

    I find it ironic that you say you are not a joiner but that you have many liberal causes highlighted on your sidebar.

    This is not an attack comment, it is just something I noticed.

    The story you shared is quite moving and thank you for sharing.

     
  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Anonymous,

    I'm not going to delete your comment simply because our views differ. You made your point respectfully and I appreciate that.

    I think all sides of an issue need to be heard in order to make an informed choice as to where we stand on them. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    And thank you for your prayers for peace. Many years have passed and the experience has served to solidify my own views so I consider it to have been a valuable one. Is that peace? Perhaps as close as someone like me ever gets, I suppose.

     
  • At 10:55 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I didn't know about this, but am pro-choice myself.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger KT said…

    like you, i could never choose abortion for myself, but i feel it should be a choice those less fortunate than me should have. less fortunate, for whatever reason..your essay says it all. your essay says it better than i ever could.

    i respect your views and opinions, and the fact that you receive opposing opinions with such grace shows just how open minded you really are.

    bravo.

     
  • At 11:05 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    Such an strong and emotional post. While I'm not for abortion for myself I do believe in the right for women to choose. I hope your friend has found peace after all these years.

     
  • At 11:28 AM, Blogger Lisa said…

    Thank you for voicing such strong and courageous words. I too believe the choice is only able to be made by the one it involves.

     
  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger Baroness von Bloggenschtern said…

    I thank you so much for sharing your experience with this. You can bet I'll be sharing this post with both of my teenaged sons and nieces - they really need a clear, beautifully written, REAL story, not something glib and cute like "Juno".

     
  • At 12:31 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    I've read this a few times and every time it speaks to me. Luckily I haven't ever been faced with that choice but I am so glad it is a choice that I am allowed to have. I have known many people who have gone through this process, it was easier for some than others. regardless, I think they made decisions that were vital to their futures and am glad they had the option.

     
  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    I am also pro choice, but I am unafraid of Roe v Wade being overturned. George Bush is pro-life and Roe V Wade still stands.

    Also, even if it did get overturned (which is a huge process)it does not mean the end to abortion rights, as Roe V Wade simply guaranteed abortion rights in that particular case.

    I carried the baby of my rapist at 17. I had no choice, I did what I had to do. I live with the guilt and the sorrow of that decision every day. But I am glad that I was able to make that choice....Roe V Wade, contrary to popular belief, doesn't guarantee me that right.

     
  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Rositta said…

    I too found your post quite moving. Like you I would never have had an abortion but would never deny the right of choice to anyone else. I don't think your law will be overturned any time soon and I don't believe your upcoming election will yield a President who would do so...ciao

     
  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger jen said…

    as i read all of these posts, and yours, so much so yours, i am reminded again of how brave women are, of how many choices we face, and how hard they are, and how protecting those rights is paramount.

     
  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger mrinz said…

    I personally could never have an abortion but I would never ever judge anyone who has.

    Until you have walked in another persons shoes you can never fully understand the pressures that lead to a decision to terminate.

    You were a wonderful friend to support her so lovingly.

     
  • At 4:29 PM, OpenID wheelsonthebus said…

    My thoughts on abortion have changed dramatically since having kids of my own, and one of the things I have come to realize is it is very wrong -- for me. But, like you, I have no right to speak for others.

    Thank you for reposting this terrific post.

    Emily

     
  • At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow. Well said. I also could never see myself having an abortion, but who am I to make a choice for someone else.

    I had a D & C after a miscarriage - and even after that horrible experience I still didn't change my point of view.

    It is true that this proves that women are strong - and it really pisses me off when men think they can tell us what to do with our bodies.

     
  • At 7:13 PM, OpenID pootandcubby said…

    What a powerful post. I've always been pro-choice - although after having kids, I'm not sure if I'd be able to have an abortion myself. That is an important point, though, isn't it? Pro-choice is not necessarily "pro-abortion" as some pro-lifers would have people believe.

    I just think it's important that all women have the right to choose and that it is impossible (and wrong) for any women to think she knows what is best for everyone else. Having the choice is also a safety issue - making abortion illegal certainly never stopped it from happening in the past and then it was so much more dangerous for the mothers involved.

    -andi

     
  • At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Barb said…

    But the baby has no choice. . .

    Isn't the baby mainly "the one it involves"? Isn't the right to live more important than freedom to choose? How can one person's freedom to choose be allowed to take precedence over the life of another?

    Do we think that it would have been OK for our mothers to have chosen to abort us?

    Every law is imposing of society's morality on others, not just laws outlawing or limiting abortion.

    As a society we need to define what our morality is. Shouldn't there be laws to protect those without a voice whose lives are endangered?

    I am sorry that your friend's Catholic parents made her feel that she would be damned for her pregnancy. As a Catholic myself, I know that what the Church can and should be is a source of forgiveness. I pray that she has or will find the peace that comes from that Divine Mercy.

    Thank you for allowing an opposing viewpoint on your comments.

     
  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    This was powerful then and it's just as powerful the second or third time I've read it.

     
  • At 11:24 PM, Blogger the end of motherhood said…

    Thanks for adding your voice to the chorus for choice.

     
  • At 11:38 PM, Blogger jess said…

    Thank you for such a thoughtful (and beautifully written) post. I have been struggling with this issue lately. My parents used to get arrested for picketing abortion clinics (no, really) so I grew up in the thick of the pro-life movement. It took me a long time to figure out what was wrong with it. That whole "love" thing the church is always talking about? It's totally absent from "the cause" with the exception of a few selfless individuals who are doing what they can to help women instead of condemning them.

    Maybe I should write a post of my own about it.

     

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