SOMETIMES I REGRET MY ABORTION, BUT IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION
SELFISHNESS CAN SET US FREE.
Don’t ask me about the abortion. Or if you do, ask it in a way that sounds subtle. Make reference to the scars you can smell on my skin as I walk past. You can smell it, right? The way the regret wraps around my wrists, seeping into the air of every room I walk in.
I can smell it even when I’m not breathing. When my head is underwater and the waves are rolling over me. It’s all quiet. It’s all still. It’s so loud in my ears that I rush to the water’s surface and take in a deep inhale.
I haven’t sat in a café for a long time, but when I used to, when I could, I’d take my books and a notepad and order a chai latte. Then a juice. Then some hot chips for lunch. I had so much time to sit and ruminate. I wonder what I used to think about then, before I thought about the abortion.
I was never worried about God’s condemnation until the sharp November day when I visited a clinic and swallowed the tablet that would empty my womb.
If you do ask me about it–the abortion–will it be because you’re also considering one yourself? If that’s the case, please pull up a seat. Let me tell you a secret that I keep buried in the darkest crevice of my heart: selfish things can set us free.
Of course, don’t expect me to explain to you what free is, exactly. In the days after the river of blood swept me away, I had many moments of freedom. Utterances from the other side that I thought meant I had made the right decision. (I did make the right decision. And what is a “wrong” decision in anyway?)
It was around that time that I met a beautiful boy who held my aching bones, and I danced under sparkling lights until the sun rose. One morning, I woke to a peach fuzz sunrise while the waves threw themselves onto the shore. There was no bulging belly during these days. Just fleeting love and loud music and a cacophony of activities I could never have done with a newborn.
I’m getting off topic on purpose. If you ask me about the abortion, and I tell you my secret, will you stifle a cringe? It’s OK. Some moments I still do. In some moments, I would trade my bruise-free skin for another chance to be her mother.
* * *
One night, moons ago, I laid in the backyard at midnight sobbing into the Earth. It was then that I had negated the opportunity to be a mother a few months prior and I felt certain, all the way through my bones, that the gods would not grant me another opportunity to bring life into this world.
Now, the sun is splintering across his father’s cheeks. I notice the shape of his teeth, the colour of his eyes. The Canadian Club sits between us, and his grip rests idly along the condensation of the glass. I wonder if our baby will look more like him or me, if his blonde hair is more inheritable than my pointed nose. I have never studied his face so intently before; between his words I sneak glances at the way his lips move and how often his eyebrows furrow.
Pregnancy is fragile, you know. The women of the world are told motherhood is the divine path to womanhood. Some women want to hold their healthy newborn more than they want to exist. Many women ache to understand what it feels like to have a tiny human kicking the inside of your uterus (like a wet fluttering, a butterfly that’s taken a dip in a lake and is brushing past you—in case you’re wondering) and are never gifted the shimmering opportunity. My regret stinks profusely when I consider how ungrateful I must seem to these women—while they prayed and begged until their knees bled for a chance at motherhood, I rejected the responsibility.
Please do not think of me as a woman who has not prayed to be a mother. Every exhale since the abortion has been a personal prayer to any gods who would listen. To the wind and the rain and the almighty Bastet. On my knees on the winter grass. Over the toilet bowl. While hearing a baby laugh in the grocery line.
That is why I could never define the word free to you. Most nights of dancing ended in ugly wails.
Medea, the glittering and infamous goddess of illusion who shines with a blood-like horror, once decided that a befitting punishment for her husband leaving her was to commit filicide. She inflicted pain upon her beloved at the cost of her children’s lives. I always wonder what she felt like, in the exact moment after her children stopped breathing. Is it the same for all mothers?
There are times I ponder, in my brave and tender moments, whether or not my decision to abort my first pregnancy was an attack on my ego’s behalf. I had spent years shivering under the boulder of my ex-partner’s aggression—shrivelled, tired, hurt—and choosing not to have his baby seemed like a small choice, a small win: a way to take myself out of his clutches.
If you are here because you also sit on the precipice of a gargantuan decision, I do not want you to hold my regret as your mantel. I found it hard to exist for a long stretch of time, but here I am, writing these words: a woman gilded and ghastly and full of the exquisite horrors of existence. A woman who wondered if she deserved children, who never wanted children in the first place, who wondered how she could ever sit with herself and not retch. I sit with myself and my womb in this moment, and I do not retch.
Some of us are not always ready to be mothers, some men are not fit for the role of father, and the world will keep spinning no matter your decision.
Maybe you are only asking because you are curious. I should never assume, I’ve learned. These days, and the days that have passed, and the minutes that I prayed, I found many interesting ways to distract myself. I twisted myself in sheets and read about the ways that trauma wedges itself into our bodies. Did you know anxiety lives in the stomach?
I healed my stomach. I laughed with friends. I moved to a new city.
Fast forward and I took one last inhale of my vape before I peed on the stick. The night before, I’d eaten half a weed cookie and seen a golden light gifted from a goddess shimmer from my womb as I drifted to sleep.
Let me tell you another secret: I survived the regret because I kept alcohol fizzling in my veins quite regularly. Now I haven’t had a sip of vodka in over 4 months.
I’ll tell you now, sometimes getting exactly what you want is terrifying. Some nights, I wake to find my hand resting on my belly. I have been terrified of losing him since I found out he existed.
Medea’s hands are my hands. Her children’s blood is my children’s blood. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out how to turn the blood into red paint. It seemed important to me and my fragile mind that I find a way to do that: turn the blood into something useful. Something beautiful. But the blood will always be on my hands, I just keep using them anyway. Even when my hands are washed, even while I have been blessed with another baby in my womb, the echo of what was never leaves my chest; the stain of the past never washes itself off in the rain.
When I wake in the night, and I wait for him to punch me in the guts with his little hands, I wonder if the terror of losing him is the plight of the mother, or if it is borne from my own personal concept of karma.
If you ask me about the abortion, I will probably start with this moment. This moment in its bold simplicity. I look in the mirror and I do not see an obvious mound of flesh, but rather a bloated and uneven abdomen. I never forget the godlike force that is swelling right under my belly button, but I do not feel the wonder of each moment the way I assumed I would. My days are not glinted in total awe. I still empty the dishwasher and curse at the growing stack of work I’m yet to complete. I am aware that something new and strange is unfolding within my own body, but in this moment I am caught somewhere in a surreal landscape of disbelief and stunted hope.
It seems easy to forget that my body is making another body. Tiny toes and speckled irises. A fulfilled promise from the gods. He has not yet inhaled a single speck of air outside of my womb. He can hear my voice, my heartbeat and its thrum, but he has not yet sat on the grass or drank the milk from my breast. He simply floats around in amniotic fluid, keeping me company throughout my daily chores, unaware that he is already the most remarkable thing about me.
Listen to me softly. Open your ears and your heart and your eyes. I am not the woman I was three summers ago. I have held the right hands and I have learned many new recipes. I have sat with grace, thrown fury to the wind, and welcomed any invitation to be humbled. I have broken, and ached, and wondered what kind of good life was waiting for me. Wondered if there was a good life waiting for me. I am swelling with hushed wisdom and dad jokes. I have stretched my skin and grown from the girl who was not ready,who was mangled and naive, to a mother who just knows.
I made a decision that can never be undone, no matter how many times I see two lines on a stick, no matter how much gratitude bursts from my heart directly into my womb. No matter how precious this new life inside of me is.
I sit with the irony. I think about how the most selfish act I have ever committed was the one filled with the most love. I lean into the whispers. I take regret’s hand, I dance with her and I forgive myself.