The venue, with house lights barely that could be considered dim, was buzzing with energy as the performance got underway. The floor was lined with row upon row of assigned seating, with space near the stage for standing room. We were all standing anyway, despite having seats assigned to us. The seating was for jackets or purses. This sort of event comes with the expectation that once the act comes out, everyone is standing and remains on foot through the concert. I love these shows; the ones where nothing can keep you from swaying or moving your hips a little, because who sits idly through Gotye?
The first time I heard “Somebody That I Used to Know” I loved it. I romanticized it, listening to it on repeat. I’ve since listened a lot harder to the lyrics and taken a different perspective. This song is about entitlement, and not respecting a person making their own choices about their participation in the life of another person. This is precisely what I was grappling with as I stood in that concert hall, listening to a live rendition of that song. I had left my autonomy in the hands of someone else, and as a result I had a small collection of cells growing inside my uterus, and within a few days they would be removed.
The subject of abortion is a controversial one. Is it killing a human being, or is it simply removing some cells that are the precursor to that person’s existence? Is it murder, or is it allowing a woman to choose whether her body becomes an incubator for 9 months? That last question isn’t even taking into consideration the impact that having a child has on her life, let alone her body. If she chooses to raise it herself, that is a life-changing trajectory that will mutate everything that happens to her onward. If she gives it up for adoption, she is still subject to the person she gave to other parents showing up in her life at one point or another, wanting to know who she is and why she made the decision she did. That could happen at any time, forever. The option that erases it having ever having happened is terminating the pregnancy, if the woman happens to live in a country where it is legal to have one. If they have access to medical care and resources to pay for such a procedure, should it not be covered. If they are able to access said medical care in clean and safe conditions and the procedure can be done without lasting harm to her. If it can occur without any blowback from family, social network, or society. If.
I am very lucky.
I live in Canada, where medical care is partially, if not fully, covered. I was able to sit in a clean, safe doctor’s office and wait for a nurse to come back from testing my urine sample and say to me “your test has come back positive”, neutrally, waiting for my reaction. I was able, as a result of my own upbringing, politics, and privilege, to stare her right in the eye, deadpan, and respond, “I am going to need the phone number of an abortion clinic, please” because those are available here. I think she then asked if I had not planned this, and I said that no, I had not. In fact, two contraception methods had failed in the process of this conception. Two. Contraception methods of which I had easy access to. Also, my self reliance had failed, but that was tertiary. When you are in an abusive power dynamic with another person, and he says, “we don’t have to use protection until you get your period, because you took the morning after pill”, you just say, “oh, okay” instead of checking into it yourself.
I check into it after.
My brain does a backflip. My heart sinks when I realize how far gone I was to just believe him when he said it was fine. You should have protected yourself from him, from all of it, I scold myself after; I still do. I didn’t protect myself. I did that thing I do where you let someone take the reins from me so I can just relax for a minute and someone else can drive.
I always do that with the wrong people.
My singular moment of reservation and self-doubt about my decision to terminate my pregnancy happened at that concert.
I was standing with my girlfriend and her other partner, listening to a wonderful performance by a set of talented musicians, and I caught some light from behind me out of the corner of my eye. I turned in time to see two smaller children run down the aisle, and a man following them, asking them in a loud whisper to please slow to a walk. Neither of them looked older than six or seven, and they were both adorable. They rushed up to the front of the hall, excited for the music and the show, practically tripping over their own tiny, padding feet in an attempt to get closer, faster. I thought to myself, isn’t it great that father decided to bring his kids to such an amazing show. Not a lot of parents would think Gotye to be a good or appropriate experience for small children, but the talent and the experience might inspire their own creativity around music. I think any sort of exposure to art is great for kids at any age, so i silently, mentally high-fived that dad as he breezed by after the two little ones. All I saw was a flurry of flapping jackets, excited voices, maybe some blonde hair.
Maybe I am imagining the blonde hair since mine is strawberry blonde, and his had been an ashy lighter shade. Our child would probably have blonde hair and blue eyes, based on his and my appearance. I wonder what gender they would be. Would they exist in the world around them or inside of their head, most of the time? I wonder if they would want to paint, or learn piano, or play soccer. Would they be more interested in boys or girls, or boys, girls and anything in between, like me? I wonder what sort of heart they would have. I wonder if they would be happy with the name I gave them, or if, like me, they would alter the spelling when they hit a certain teenage place that promotes arbitrary rejection of things assigned. I wonder if they would be a good friend to their peers, or a good partner. I wonder if they would grow to resent me, as I do my own mother, for something I did that I could never have foreseen affecting them in the way it did, and if they would be able to find a way to forgive me. I am only human, after all.
This thought stream lasted for about fifteen seconds, I figure.
I blinked and the children were lost in the crowd near the stage, the father gone as well. I rubbed the tears standing in my eyes out of them with the heels of my hands, wishing them away and to not give me away. I was not going to cry over some cells that had infiltrated my body, unsolicited. I was going to take another sip of my gin and tonic, enjoy the music, and get through the next few days. I was tougher than this, than tears over an invasion in my body, and I knew I was doing the right thing. To have a child right now was preposterous. To have HIS child, abhorrent.
I was 6 weeks along. My lower back started to hurt a bit the day before the procedure, reminding me with its dull ache that my body was starting to adjust to its inhabitant.
I had found out there was a set of cells clinging on for dear life to the inside of me, trying to grow, four days prior.
That set of cells was going to be removed from me in three days time.
The last four days, and the following three, would be an alcohol and marijuana induced haze. I drank myself into a stupor each night, and spent most of the days stoned if I wasn’t working.
I did this to make sure I went through with it.
I knew that if I intoxicated myself to the point of memory loss, I would not back out because of the damage I was doing to those cells, as well as myself. I would be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other until I found myself at that appointment in three days. I would tell the on-site counsellor that yes, I have thought this through, and yes, I am sound of mind. No, this was not planned. Yes, I am sure.
Yes, I am sure.
A friend drove me to the clinic. I sat across a desk from a counsellor that had to ask me if I had thought through my decision, and how I was feeling about it. I gave her short answers. Yes, I am sure. No, this was not intentional. Yes, I would like to take this pamphlet about support services. No, I don’t need anything. Yes, I’ll happily put on that gown and put my feet in these stirrups while this nurse hooks me up to some pain medication. Yes, I can feel that. No, I don’t want… oh. Okay, I guess i’ll take another hit of the pain meds. The more, the merrier. Yes, I can hear you. No, I can’t feel that.
It was over in an hour or so.
I was high as a kite when I was guided back out of the clinic and to the car. We went to my house and watched “The Last Unicorn” and ate french toast.
I have not for a moment regretted my decision. I didn’t even think about it when the month I would have given birth passed. It wasn’t until more than a year after that I thought to myself, wow, I could have had a baby right now. Every so often I have reflected on how old they would be, briefly.
The reflections last no more than 15 seconds.