Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Abortion, part 3

I'm a merciful blogger. I can't keep you in suspense for long. Here's where I left you hanging: I'd had a miscarriage, and I was grieving. On top of that, I was feeling all my unresolved guilt and confusion over the abortion I'd had as a teenager.

Basically, my primary activity at that time was wallowing in regret, and hoping desperately that I would get pregnant again, so that I could move on. But month after month, cycle after cycle, it just wasn't happening. (See for yourself, BBT chart enthusiasts, here are mine.) I was sinking.

Then, out of the blue, my very first boyfriend, father of my first pregnancy, called to catch up.

Last time I saw him, he had just purchased a house, moved in with his two sons (twins from a previous marriage) and his girlfriend and her two kids. "We're the Brady Bunch," he had said then, grinning. "It's great."

On the phone ten years later, E~ reported that he was in the same Brady Bunch house, married now, financially successful, and hap-hap-happy as ever. He said that he thought of me frequently, wondered what I was doing, how my life was going. "I want you to know, you will always have a place in my heart." Of course I burst into tears, hearing this. And told him about the miscarriage, and how it brought back feelings about you know what.

He knew what, and didn't hesitate to say so. "I always thought you made the right decision," he stated. "I would've been fine if you had decided to keep it. It's what I wanted. But I would have worried for your happiness. More than anything, I wanted you to be happy." I cried again, hearing this, feeling absolved but also sadder than ever, all the more convinced that E~ would've been a good father, that our child would've been well loved, and that I was living the wrong life. That teenaged me seemed like such a coward.

E~ called me several more times, expressing keen interest in resurrecting a friendship. Maybe it's the spirit of our unborn child bringing us back together, I mused. For healing.

Or else to give us another chance to bring her forth.
This thought caught me off guard.

Though E~ was never inappropriate, and though I wouldn't seriously consider cheating, there was a certain vibe between us that was hard to deny (though I did my best). It made my husband uncomfortable, that's for sure. But hadn't I promised that child that I'd give her another chance to come through? I don't make vows like that lightly.

But as I listened to E~ talk about himself, (on one occasion he went on for a solid ten minutes about his very long hair and how all the women at work admire it) I started thinking that the teenaged me wasn't so off base after all. Perhaps actually, she was brave, knowing I would have to slog through these regrets, but that the alternative would have been at least equally fraught. E~ was a good man, a perfect, doting, sensitive first boyfriend. But as a husband, or even a co-parent, he would've driven me up the wall. And besides, I didn't make wedding vows lightly either. (My husband, on the other hand, broke his vow without a thought of me, I later learned, but that's another story.)

The fact that E~ later got a divorce too is also a moot point. because I began to understand that I would never keep my promise to my unborn child. If I ever had a baby, it would be another being altogether, with another partner. My first pregnancy, my first child, was gone for ever.

I began to accept it.

That's when I had the dream where I found the dead baby. That's when I really started to grieve and heal from the abortion. And that's when I began to entertain the idea of becoming an abortion counselor.

To be continued, of course.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

My Abortion, part 2

When I was seventeen and staring at those two pink lines on my home pregnancy test, I already knew what I was going to do. "It's your decision," E~ had said, "I'll support whatever you decide."

I knew he wanted to marry me, that he fantasized about having children with me. I also knew that we loved each other, that he would be a decent provider and father. But I wanted desperately to get out of my small town, to go to college, to experience some independence. I didn't expect to be with him forever. And my decision was already made. "If I'm pregnant," I told him, "I'll have an abortion."

I never wavered from this, but in quiet moments alone, I marveled at the miracle happening inside me. I imagined a dark-eyed daughter I would never know. I knew I could continue the pregnancy if I really wanted to, but as far as I could tell, I didn't really want to. I felt sad, and guilty, and vowed to the spirit of that imagined girl that if she was willing and able, I would invite her back one day.

It wasn't until I'd lived another seventeen years, in December of 2004, that I saw two lines on a pregnancy test again. I was thrilled. My heart leapt at the thought of finally knowing the girl I had imagined and fallen in love with so many years before. But quickly, my heart sank again. I was with a different man now. Of course this would not be the same child.

After I miscarried, there were many empty months, and many negative pregnancy tests. My husband was often away on business, and ambivalent about having children in the first place. I felt very alone. I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake as a teenager, if my entire pathetic-seeming life from that point was an illustration of that fact.

It was at this time, while wallowing in confusion and isolation, that the phone rang and it was E~. We hadn't spoken in well over a decade. Through several conversations over the course of the month, something subtle and significant shifted for me.

I'll tell you all about it, I promise.

Tune in next time for My Abortion, part 3.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My Abortion, part 1

Someone asked me recently (in a comment on this blog) if I ever thought that the abortion I had when I was seventeen had anything to do with my subsequent pregnancy difficulties.

I never worried about this.

Statistics are clear that one's ability to get or stay pregnant isn't adversely affected by abortion until you've had more than three. Even at that point, the chance of problems is very slim and basically confined to that of a weakened cervix, which can cause premature birth but otherwise doesn't effect conception or the health of the fetus at all.

On the other hand, statistics are also clear that it gets harder and harder to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy with age. This seems a completely separate issue, but for me, it might not be so cut and dried.

At seventeen, I knew I wanted to be a mother -- some day -- but that clarity changed rather quickly, what with disillusionment with my community (if they only knew, then I would be shamed), and disillusionment with myself (how could I do such a thing, when my heart told me otherwise?) plus a burgeoning attraction to a non-traditional life path: that of an independent, itinerant artist, musician, and writer. It was a lonely idea, but not unromantic.

I can't say for sure if the abortion had anything to do with my acquired reticence -- the sense that maybe motherhood and family life wasn't for me after all -- but I believe it was at least part of it. Still, the urge to mother, and to grieve that life I let go from my body so long ago, remained with me over all the years, underground, surfacing only in my sleep.

Ever since the abortion, I've had recurring nightmares in which I happened upon forgotten babies tucked into dresser drawers, inside pianos, under sinks. Every time I found one, it would be thin and weak and unconscious. Inevitably, I would feel desperate to revive it, but whether or not I could do so remained to be seen.

More recently, perhaps six months ago, I had the last (so far, anyway) in this years-long series. In this dream, for the first time, the baby I found in my sock drawer was already dead, its limp, frail little body cold to the touch.

There is so much more I could say about my reproductive journey. And I will. And contrary to the suggested interpretation of this most recent dream, it ain't over yet.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Taking advantage of his son's absence (spring break visit with Mom), J~ planned to leave work early yesterday, drive two hours, spend the night with me, then turn around again early this morning to drive back. I tried to discourage him from coming. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I queried, more than once. "You need the down time. You need the sleep." His answer was monosyllabic and unequivocal: "Yes."

Truth be told, as much as I doubted it was a good idea for him, I also worried that it wasn't a good idea for me. Between divorce chores and household chores and work for a new and demanding client (by the way, dear readers, I am also a freelance designer and illustrator), I've been struggling to keep up with all the items on my own "To Do" list. In fact, I've been getting downright cranky.

But the anticipation of a visit was not unpleasant, and perhaps also useful, because I raced around and got a lot done yesterday. By the time J~ arrived, I was in good spirits and ready to receive him with open arms. Speaking of which, damn if me and that man don't have some mighty fine chemistry going on. But I digress.

So, on the heels of that surprisingly pleasing tryst (which also included a good talk, a long walk, and a sushi dinner), I found myself planning a reciprocal visit tonight. I had my bags half packed and my dinner half eaten when I realized I felt overwhelmed and panicky and needed to lay down on the floor and practice deep breathing. When I get frantic like that, I forget to breathe at all.

J~ called while I was lying there. We talked for a long time, mostly about recent dramas with our exes, concluding that it made sense for me to stay at home tonight. He needs the sleep. I need the oxygen.

It's a first for us, this mature display of restraint. It feels good, but also sad, acknowledging our limits. These limits are flexible, however, and we'll keep pushing forward into a time when we're more together than apart. But for now this is where we're at. Bittersweet.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I'm asking myself if the state I'm in is like the caterpillar becoming the butterfly: have I crawled into a cocoon? I haven't been writing much lately, that's for sure.

I certainly have applied this analogy to my life at times in the past. But when I did, it was because I had difficult feelings I needed to sit with, to probe, to dig into, pull up by their roots. I had to take a good hard look at myself, and the promise of transformative change gave me the courage to do so.

But these days, I'm not feeling bad. And I'm not retreating into isolation. It's not like that. I'm not depressed and struggling. I'm just busy, and inspired to get things done.

One thing that is caterpillar-in-cocoon-like, though, is the sense that I'm embracing major change in how I interact with everything and everyone I face over the course of a day, including myself. Rather than acting out of habit, behaving as I have in the past in order to feel the safety of the familiar, or acting in preemptive defensive worry about the future with all its great unknowns, I want to move strictly from my center, from the sense that this moment that I'm occupying right now is IT. This is where my life actually IS. Right here. No, right here.

It seems like the longer I live, the more precious and fleeting the experience of living becomes.

Perhaps I am the butterfly after all, short-lived and glorious, just beginning to find my wings.

Here are some things that no longer fit into my life:
• Doing or saying anything that isn't true and genuine in order to spare someone's feelings.
• Hiding out in distraction, engaged in boring, habitual behaviors in order to spare my own feelings.
• Saying yes when I want to say no. (Or continuing to say yes when I realize I wish I'd said no.)
• Rushing (except when it's fun. Sometimes it is fun to move at a quick pace.)
• Being alone when I don't want to be alone. (Turning on the television does not cure this!)
• Seeking approval and striving to please others with my choices, my actions, my life.
• Denying myself physical and emotional care when I need it, out of fear of spending money or losing time.
• Procrastinating.
• Dwelling on or nursing resentments about unresolved relationship issues rather than opening dialogue and working toward resolution.
• Feeling unhappy and trying to ignore it, rather than paying attention to the truth of the moment.
• Measuring the quality of a day in terms of how much was accomplished rather than how much fun was had in the process.

It's all a work in progress, and will be to the end.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hesitation Blues

It's an old blues standard, with a two-line chorus:

Tell me how long do I have to wait
Can I get you now baby or must I hesitate?

On the heels of another twenty-day menstrual cycle, I'm trying not to worry. I've read that this could be the beginning of menopause, or simply a sign of stress, or, scarier, thyroid or pituitary disorder, or then again, a result of increased blood flow from all the fabulous sex I've been having. In any case, it feels like last call for baby making, and though I've bellied up to the bar, I'm not ready to place that final order, not quite yet.

Neither J~ nor I want to begin a pregnancy living apart. Nor do we want to rush the timeline of combining our lives. There is still some ground to cover, and pleasure to take in the work. It doesn't feel like a lot of ground, but if it takes too long, then so be it. At the risk of over-stretching the bar analogy, I'll say this: I'm determined to enjoy the drink in front of me before ordering another.

But once I do, better make mine a double.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mexico Loco

When J~ and I booked tickets to Mexico, it was a leap of faith that we'd still be together when the date of departure arrived. But instead of breaking up, we only got closer. Still, I found myself bracing for what seemed inevitably difficult: a whole week together without pause, negotiating unfamiliar landscape and foreign language, food, water, sleep. Certainly the romance would begin to wear thin. Hidden demons would rear their ugly heads.

We flew into Cancun with a vague plan to move south, away from the big resorts to quieter towns along the coast. No hotels booked. No agenda. No itinerary. No plan carved in stone except to be back to the airport by the appointed hour. Were we a couple of fools? I couldn't help but wonder.

Over the course of our stay in Playa del Carmen and Tulum, we slept under three thatched roofs, visited Mayan ruins, walked for miles on the beach and through the towns, napped in the sand, swam and danced and ate our share of chips and guacamole, and fell more and more madly in love.

And decided on our next adventure.

Come fall, I'll be moving into the house J~ shares with his son. ("Woo hoo!" B~ said yesterday, when J~ told him the news). In the meantime, I have work to do, the house needs work too, and there is plenty of thought and considering ahead of us on how it's all going to come together. The summer will be a great adventure in it's own right, as all three of us prepare for major change. We expect to need every minute of it.

We may be fools, but we're not entirely crazy.

Bottom line for you, dear and loyal BorN readers: Down the road in the not-so-distant future, there might be babies after all.