I had an abortion. It’s not something I am proud of, but it’s not something I am ashamed of either. At the time, it was the correct choice for me given the circumstances and the options available. I think about my choice quite often and wonder what my life would be like if I had made a different decision.
The year was 1988. I was 13. About 5 years earlier, my mother had remarried a man I did not really like. Gerald never really paid much attention to me those first 5 years. As I grew up, though, he started teaching me things like how to do mechanical work on our 1965 Ford, how to shoot a .22, and how to play various card games like Canasta.
Then my mom went back to work and things changed.
I lay beside him, tears silently rolling across my face onto the pillow. I knew this wasn’t right. Thoughts ran through my head. What was I to do? I was 3 months pregnant by my mother’s second husband.
My mother could not have any more children. She had lost that ability shortly after I was born when ovarian cancer had forced her to give up her uterus and one ovary. Gerald knew this when he married her but something told me he wanted biological kids of his own. If I told him I was pregnant, he would find a way to make me keep the baby. Just like he found a way to keep me from telling anyone what ‘we’ were doing.
With my mother working up north waitressing at a remote restaurant, she had no inkling of what was happening at home. During these 6 weeks stints, I was taking her place as Gerald’s wife. My mom and I were never close. Even when she was home, she paid little attention to what I was doing. We did not talk. There was no way in hell I could talk to her about this. No doubt, she would blame me for seducing her husband.
The kids at school never really liked me. I was the white kid who lived on the Rez. Even the native kids who rode the bus with me never accepted me. I spent my days at school with my head in a text book.
At home, there were no other kids. My brother, whom I hadn’t seen in 2 years, lived with our biological dad in another city. Adult companionship in the form of my mother’s husband and the few friends he had was all I had when I was not at school.
With no one else to talk to, the choice was left to me. I did not want to be a mom at 13, I knew that much. When the doctor confirmed why I was getting sick all the time, I sat in shock, frozen, staring at him. “Will you tell my parents?” was the first question I had asked. When he asked if I knew who the father was, I shook my head despite the fact that I knew perfectly well who it was.
Assuring me that he would not mention anything to my parents, he had outlined my options: keep the baby, adoption and abortion. He handed me a small white pamphlet on the way out the door, informing me that I could have some time to think about it before I made my decision.
And so I came to this point, lying beside the father of my baby, who I did not love, crying silently, and contemplating killing the baby I was carrying.
Sitting at the kitchen table early the next morning, eating a bowl of cereal while trying to keep the nausea under control, I stared at his chair. The same chair that he sat in 10 months ago while I looked in horror at the blood that ran down my mother’s face from the punches he had inflicted. The same chair that I lost my virginity on that same night when he promised me he wouldn’t hit her again as long as I didn’t tell anyone what ‘we’ were doing. Ions ago it seemed and yet the memory was still vivid. I remembered every kiss and caress even though I was frozen and could not move of my own free will.
Resigned to the fact that this was the way it was going to be, I never refused him. Over time, what hurt so much in the beginning became less painful, even enjoyable. Physically at least.
Mentally, it was a nightmare. I couldn’t focus on my school work. Home was no longer my safe haven from school. Despite my efforts to steer clear of him, Gerald always found a way to lure me into his bed. He was relentless in his pursuit of me. Rarely did I seek him out except when I needed a ride into the city to shop or for medical appointments.
“So why do you need to go see the doctor again? We were just there on Monday.” The question startled me as I realized that Gerald was now standing in the entrance to the kitchen.
“He wants me to have a physical done at the hospital so a woman nurse can see me.” I lied to him without flinching. It came easy to me. I guess because I was sure I was on the right course for me.
“How far along are you?” He asked casually.
My head snapped toward him, eyes locking with his. “What?” I whispered.
“You don’t think I’m stupid do you? Sick every morning for the past few months, withdrawn and moody, all symptoms of pregnancy.” I stared at him, jaw agape. “Just because I don’t have any kids doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about them. Plus, I found this in your room.” Tossing the pamphlet the doctor had given me onto the table, he asked, “What are you really seeing the doctor for?”
Trying to calm my racing mind, I grasped at what to tell him. The truth? A lie? The shock of his knowing left me dumbfounded.
“Don’t lie to me,” he continued as he slowly crossed the room and sat down in his chair. “I want to know what you intend to do. I’ll find out anyway.” Reading his face was impossible. What did he want me to say? What was he expecting me to say? We sat in silence staring at each other. When it was obvious that I wasn’t going to reply, he stated, “I think you should terminate the pregnancy.”
The sigh of relief that left my thinly parted lips was nearly inaudible and yet it shouted liberation.
“That was your choice too?” He confirmed as I nodded slightly. “As your guardian, I will sign all the necessary papers. There is no reason to get your mother involved in this.” I nodded slightly again. “And while you’re there, you should ask the doctor what kind of birth control you are able to go on so this doesn’t happen again.” He stated this matter-of-factly, as though I was a car engine that just required a little fine tuning.
His motivations were significantly different than mine, and yet, in that moment, it didn’t matter. Forging a signature was no longer required as I now had parental approval for the procedure. I wouldn’t be a mom at 14 and he wouldn’t get caught. Win-win on both sides.
The 45 minute drive to the city didn’t seem to take very long even though it was done in complete silence. As we walked into the hospital together, neither of us showed any regret about what we were about to do. He held my hand through the entire procedure and when it was done, we went back home and continued living like we had been.
Life kept going past this minor bump like it had never been there at all.