When one day I woke up emotional, nauseous and foggy headed I thought I was sick. I thought I was exhausted, overextended. Because both of my prior pregnancies had been acts of intention, acts in which I was deeply in-tune with my body, I had known that I was pregnant and could prepare myself for the onslaught of what was to come. This third time was different. I was psychologically unprepared and of course we are unprepared for much of what happens in our lives, we can not control for all the wonder and all of the trauma, but in our most intimate spaces, that is where, in a chaotic world, we should be able to have a bit more control. And here I was vomiting and spinning and peeing on a stick. When that little plus sign revealed itself there was not a chance in the world that I could be the mother I am to my children to a third being. Not only could I not co-sleep and nurse and commit the time it takes to love and nurture a small creature, I could not endure the vomiting and complete dysfunction. How could I care for the children I already had that needed me then and there while I was splayed on a bed unable to perform basic daily acts of living? I called Planned Parenthood, but they couldn't see me for three weeks. I called my OBGYN who had once performed an abortion in our local university hospital and had been shunned for the act. I called my midwife who suggested a clinic on the west side of Chicago. They saw me the next day. We talked, they counseled me on my options, they did an ultra-sound and we set a date.
Surgery only happens at the clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was snowing and cold the Thursday my husband and I showed up. There were protestors outside the parking lot yelling at us as we drove in. After check-in my husband went out to engage in rational conversation with the protestors, but they had departed. I was fuming thinking about religious and personal freedom. Wondering if the picketers believed in universal healthcare and improving the quality of our public education system. But they were gone. I was led into a locker room with a group of other women and given a gown, told to change into it and take a seat in the waiting room. We were all silent and made similar by our condition and our dress. There was some awful daytime television show on with lovers quarreling and being instigated by the host. It felt surreal. It felt as if, by virtue of our choice, we had lost some of our humanity, our dignity. This was not in fact the case, but when we exchanged our clothes for these gowns, we became a part of a universal story and not an individual story. We were women who did not want to have children, at least at that time. This was a sisterhood of a sort, but instead of feeling a sense of empowered camaraderie, the space felt shrouded by shame and anxiety. I wanted to know the story of every single woman in there, to know what had happened in her life before today, what she dreamed would happen in the days and years to come, but nobody was feeling up to conversation and so we sat watching lovers attack each other, eager to get back to our lives as we knew them. To get back to being a teenager, a college student, a young woman ready to embrace the opportunity of the life before her.
While we sat there I looked around at the faces of these young women, some running to the bathroom to vomit, many clearly uncomfortable, and thought about how abortion gave all of us a second chance. A chance to be more intentional with our lives. To give life to an unwanted child feels like a trauma unto itself, both for the mother and the child for whatever reason. And there are many reasons not to have children. For me, given the trends of a warming climate, (it is 72 degrees today in Chicago, it is February 2017. My children wore shorts and t-shirts to school today.) the legacy we are leaving behind for future generations will likely be one of great suffering. We are seeing climate refugees all over the globe and this is merely a beginning of mass migrations. We will continue to see conflicts over increasingly limited resources. Wealthy nations, ahem, are closing their borders and devising schemes to keep out those who seek the possibility of a new life with access to clean water, food, healthcare. I fear that this is the trend for humanity, that wealthy nations that consume the majority of the world's resources and contribute most to the warming of the planet will become these protectionist spaces, exploiters safe havens. I do not want that for my children or my grand-children or any of the people of the world. By having children in a first world country I am contributing to global warming, despite my efforts to counter the impact. And so for me, one less child was a little less impact. Some would question why I had children at all then, the reasons, perhaps, are purely selfish.