“Count backwards from ten,” the doctor’s mint green mouthpiece moved as she spoke. “Ten, nine, eight,” I echoed, convinced I would never fall asleep and imagining a handful of strangers probing metal objects into my vagina if I did. “Seven…” I trailed off. Then nothing; a black tube. I woke up in a hallway, the walls lined with drowsy girls in matching hospital robes. Some were still sleeping, others shifted awkwardly on their beds, glancing around the room with eyes like slits and tousled hair. A nurse approached me, smiled, and asked how I was doing. “Fine,” I replied, although I wasn’t sure. The procedure was over and I felt just like before.
There’s a fair chance that you, reader, have been through this and that you, too, drifted through it like one drifts through mist or a tunnel, emerging oddly alike on the other side. An abortion leaves no scars to tell the story for you. It doesn’t give you stretch marks or pictures of an alien-like blob to glue to the fridge. There were tears and morning sickness. A blood sample that made my eyes blur. In the dead of night, when the January blackness weighed thick like oil against my skin, I imagined babies and what mine might look like. Tiny fingers and toes. For a few hours afterwards, cramps came and went. All along, my mum’s soft, humming voice promised that everything would be okay.
On Richard Hell’s punk anthem Blank Generation, a song that meant a lot to me at the time, there’s a lyric that goes: “I belong to the blank generation / and I can take it or leave it each time”. In the next breath, Hell swaps blank for pause: “I belong to the… generation,” like the punk era is most tellingly described by being cancelled out, ignored. Scanning my diaries for clues of my thoughts at the time, one line seemed to echo this feeling: “It feels unreal, like it hasn’t happened at all.”
The abortion slipped past silently. Like a drawn out pause, a blank space, it changed my life without changing a thing. Instead, it allowed me to move in a pace that was my own. At a time when I wasn’t ready to have a child, it gave me the choice not to and I reached for it with eyes heavy with tears as well as determination.
You’re not supposed to share your abortion in the same way as you flaunt your engagement or college degree. You’re not even meant to talk about it in a regular tone of voice, lest not write about it for the world to see. It’s too personal, uncomfortable, a taboo subject whispered by those who have gone through it, yet loudly and enthusiastically loathed by some who haven’t.
So now I’m raising my voice, too. This is my body, my choice, and my story. What’s yours?
This essay was originally published in issue 29 of Oh Comely.