Rainy Days and Abortions Don’t Always Get Me Down
I am certain that anyone who’s had an abortion has an interesting story attached to it. I’m no exception. But my story has become the best memory I have of my mother. In 2000, on the eve of my 40th birthday I discovered I was pregnant. I was separated from my husband for about 4 years, not yet divorced and had two children, a daughter – 14 years old and a son – 7 years old. I was working full time, constantly worried about money and the impact of the separation on my kids. They were going back and forth to their Dad’s house (“like ping pong balls!” by mother used to say). My daughter had just started high school and my son was having issues at school. Even with so much happening in my life, I had started a relationship with someone two months prior and about the time the stick turned pink, I knew the romance was over. So there I was, looking at this positive result and thinking there was nothing positive about it. I wasn’t a 30 year old woman with a romantic notion of having a baby – I was a single mother trying to keep it all together. I’d been to the show. I knew I didn’t have what it took to have this baby. I didn’t have the emotional, physical or financial resources. I didn’t want the father of this child in my life. Because I knew he would be. So I made the appointment to see my gynecologist. She confirmed the pregnancy and I told her my thoughts. She stressed to me that I was 40 years old and this was probably my last chance at having another child. I shook my head no. She referred me to another doctor who would perform the procedure. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas. My head was spinning. I just wanted to get it over with. The only sad thing about this decision was that I was so sure of it. I wish I could have weighed the pros and cons and given it a fighting chance, but I knew I was doing the right thing for me. I thought a couple of friends of mine that went through grueling infertility procedures that wiped out their hope and money. It seemed so unfair that here I was pregnant and they weren’t. I closed my eyes and talked to this fetus, I said I was sorry I couldn’t bring them into this world. A few days before the procedure I confessed to my sister what was going on. She mentioned that my mother knew something was upsetting me. We all lived in close proximity. My parents lived across the street and my sister, her husband and child lived upstairs. Later that day, at my mother’s house, she confronted me and guessed what was wrong. I was shocked that she knew I was pregnant. And also shamed. I had been carrying a lot of shame about the end of my marriage. My mother didn’t understand that I wasn’t happy. She eventually got used to our separation, but I think she wanted me to dress in black like an Italian widow and sit on the couch for the rest of my life. Dating wasn’t well received. And now this proof of my wantonness, I expected her to raise her eyebrow and make me feel bad. But she didn’t. I cried telling her of my impending appointment and she took charge. She said “We’ll take care of this and we won’t tell your father.” She said we’d (me, my sister and her) would go together to the procedure and everything was going to be ok. Here I was, a 40 year old mother and I needed my mommy to make it better. And she did. The day arrived and we went into action. It was the rainiest day imaginable. We frantically drove in my beat up car on the Long Island Expressway in a torrential downpour to the appointment. It was like we were on a mission. I was scared out of my mind, but having my mother on my side gave me strength. I believe I was able to handle it because of her. I didn’t fall apart. And the deed was done. I came home, relieved and sad, and spent the next couple of days taking it easy. Then it was Christmas time. On New Year’s Day my mother didn’t feel well. She was jaundice and went to the doctor the next day and he admitted her to the hospital. The next two weeks were a battery of tests to determine if it was liver cancer or something else. It was bile duct cancer. Inoperable. They started chemo and my once vibrant, strong, opinionated mother was weakened to an expressionless, lifeless body. Her eyes looked haunted and I told her she needed to be strong. Those weeks of her in the hospital were a whirlwind. Going to work, coming home early, picking up my son from second grade, going to the hospital. One of those days, I was home, getting ready to go to the hospital and it was around 4:00 PM, I got a phone call. It was someone I worked with 4 years earlier. We were co-workers who went our separate ways. When we worked together she went through months of infertility and invitros that didn’t work, then the emotional roller coaster of private adoption. She ultimately adopted a baby girl born to a 17 year old high schooler in Iowa and that was the last I heard of her. But here she was, on the phone. It was surreal. She said “Theresa, I’m sitting here in my kitchen writing out announcement cards and I can’t go through the rest of my life without you knowing this. I had a baby. A boy.” I said “Oh my God, Shari, that’s wonderful!! How? “ She explained that without even trying, she found herself pregnant. She said she remembered all those mornings at the office talking about invitro, adoption, private adoption and lawyers with me and how she appreciated having me to talk to. I quickly caught her up on my life and children and told her about my mother in the hospital. We were about to hang up when I asked when the baby was born. December 14th she replied. The day of my abortion. I felt a chill. And a comfort knowing her baby was born on that day. I felt a connection somehow. My mother died 4 weeks later on Valentine’s Day. It was so fast. And unexpected. It was like the Lucinda Williams’ song lyric, “I feel like I’ve been shot, and didn’t fall down.” I was numb. I couldn’t help thinking of those last days with her before she got sick, our last Christmas and the abortion day. As crazy as it sounds, I smile at the thought of that day. The rain, speeding on the Expressway my mother in commando mode. I felt her love that day and I hold that in my heart.
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