She knew. She knew before she made the dreaded drive to the drug store. Before she walked down the aisle marked FEMININE HYGIENE. She knew before she grabbed the box, before she paid for her item and before she drove back home. Anxiety. Anticipation. Panic. Worry.
She knew as she walked into the house and into her room. She knew as she stared at the bag for a few moments. She knew as her trembling hands opened the box, pulled out the directions and began to read. She knew as she walked to the bathroom, hiding the contraband up her sleeve. She knew as she peed on the stick. She knew as she waited the long two minutes, as the oval shaped window revealed her fate. She knew what those two lines meant. She knew as tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She knew as she sat all alone in a bathroom that felt as big and cold as Antarctica.
She made the appointment.
She wasn’t proud of her choice. She wasn’t excited. She was full of shame and regret. She was angry that she had to do this alone. She was sad. She was stuck. She was exhausted.
She faked a smile and faked a laugh through the morning sickness. She worked through the breast tenderness. She bought pads and tampons that month and placed them, unopened, under the bathroom sink. She tried to disregard the fatigue. She carried her secret to her family barbecues and while hanging out with her friends. She ignored it when she was alone at night and during the day. She begged and pleaded for her period to come. She waited for some sign that this was all just stress related. She looked up reasons for a skipped menstrual cycle. Amenorrhea? Yes, that was it. Even as she considered this, she knew.
She decided to register with the receptionist. She placed her urine sample in the silver cabinet in the bathroom. She walked back out and sat in the waiting room. She noticed a couple walk in and wished she had someone with her, supporting her, telling her it would be ok. Telling her that she wasn’t a monster. Someone, please, tell her that this is the right choice. She was startled when the receptionist called her name. She followed, dazed, as the receptionist escorted her to an exam room. She watched as the receptionist placed a hospital gown on the table, listened as she was told to remove her clothes from the waist down and watched as the receptionist walked out of the room.
She quickly removed her shoes and put them under the chair next to the exam table. She took off her pants and underwear, rolled them in a ball and placed them on the chair with her other belongings. She put on the hospital gown and sat on the exam table and waited.
Two taps on the door and an entrance.
The nurse made small talk to try and ease the tension. She just smiled and nodded, still in a daze. She placed her feet in the stirrups, scooted her bottom to the edge of the table and watched as the nurse readied the ultrasound machine. Then a little pressure as the wand entered her. She was mortified and a tear escaped her eye, running down into her ear as she lay there unable to speak. The truth had been revealed, she was 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Yes, she was sure she was making the right choice, she told the nurse.
The nurse slipped out of the door.
The nurse came back and placed something inside of her to make her cervix dilate. She waited in a small room as she started cramping up, miserable with pain. She decided she deserved that pain, it was her punishment. Her penance. Her calm before the storm. The nurse checked her progress. It was time.
She lay down on the table, legs shaking as she placed them back in the stirrups. And the nurse turned on the machine.
As life was sucked out of her body she thought of all the things that got her to where she was at this very moment. She wondered if she would be forgiven. She thought of her future. She was writhing in pain. And still the machine sucked at her. She wondered if anyone knew where she was and if she would be found out. She worried about her alibi. She had to make sure to get it right. And still the machine sucked at her. She cried for herself and for the child she could not bring into the world. She wished she was anywhere else besides in that room, on that table, with that machine inside of her.
All at once, it was quiet. She was given a large pad to place in her underwear. She was escorted down the hall to a waiting room. She almost died when she saw that there were 4 other girls in there. They were all in different stages of recovery. As the girls came and went, she sat there and shared forced smiles of acknowledgement. Each girl, now a sister, in this shared dark secret they would surely remember for the rest of their lives.
She got dressed. “Yes” she had a ride home she told them. “Yes” she had someone to take care of her when she got home in case of an emergency. What emergency? In case she bled to death from her ordeal. Yes, she had all of that locked down.
She got in the car, put the key in the ignition and drove herself home. As she lay in bed, she could feel the draining of her pregnancy. She was relieved that it was over. She was sad that it had happened. She was delighted at the promise of a new beginning. She decided to hide that all away. She decided right then and there that she would never tell anyone her story. She would bury it somewhere deep inside the vastness of her mind. She would never own it. That wasn’t really her on that table. That wasn’t real pain. Those weren’t real tears.
Still, she was ashamed. She would always be ashamed. She was subconsciously shamed publicly. She would read about and hear horror stories of people, standing in protest, outside of clinics, condemning those who dared to enter. Signs with enlarged pictures of fetuses accompanied by quotes from the bible. When she saw them on the sidewalk she would shake her head and silently wonder how they dared judge another woman’s journey. She, alone, has the right to her own body. She has the right to peace of mind. It is her right to not be shoved into the throes of motherhood if she isn’t ready. She has the right to walk into that building and ask for clean, safe medical services instead of daring to do the damage herself. She has the right to be treated as a human. Compassionately. She has the right to cry and to be angry.
She has the courage to say she messed up. She decides to share her story and offers it as solace to any other girl that is feeling alone at this very moment. Who may also, at this very moment, be considering her options. Who may be faking smiles and conversations to the pass the time, knowing in the back of her head she is alone. The girl who needs to know there are services and people that can and will help. To know that there are people, just like her, that are compassionate and understanding of the emotional rollercoaster she is on. All women deserve that.
No matter where you are or what you do, your story has a ripple on the surface and it can and will reach others. Whether you choose to send out your ripple with hate, anger, fear and intolerance or whether you choose to send love, compassion, empathy and encouragement is up to you. Always know that that ripple will come back to you at some point.
I will always choose a Love ripple.
You are never alone. Not today and not tomorrow. There is always someone that can offer you an ear, a shoulder, and uplifting words of encouragement.
I am Christine, I love and accept myself.