As Featured on News Cult: What Do You Wear to an Abortion?

You’re either pregnant or you’re not—there’s no “maybe,” despite how light the positive sign is on those four tests you took. But even your doctor seems hopeful. She says the urine test is “weakly positive.” She says she’ll do a blood test to get concrete results, and not to panic. But while you wait for your final truth, telling yourself that maybe, just maybe, those tests were “weakly positive” enough that they were actually negative, you’re pretty sure that you’re just fine tuning your skill at the delicate art of denial.

Afterwards, you remember back to seeing that first, faint plus sign, and feeling that it signified a sense of hope, despite all the dread. And now you’ve lost that hope—you’re without it. You are emptier. You will lie awake after and feel that something is missing. Your life is quieter, and while you keep standing still, the world keeps moving without you. You feel robbed, but you robbed yourself.

You wonder how long you can milk this “eating-for-two” thing. You think how thankful you are that you aren’t carrying this to term because of how much weight you’d gain. And you think how awful it is to think that. “What do you wear to an abortion?” you ask your boss. “Sweatpants?” you say, before he has a chance to answer, but also in the awkward pause left by your awkward question. “Probably,” he nods confidently. “And a giant pad. And they’ll give you pads to take home. And some to put in the freezer. Or, no, that’s for childbirth. I’m getting them all mixed up.” You think, what would I do without him. He’s far better equipped to deal with this than I am.

You’ve never wanted kids. You’ve always been afraid to have them. You actually kind of despise them. But, having life inside of you is, you think, weird. You’re embarrassed you can’t come up with a more sophisticated word to describe the feeling. But it’s just weird. You want to call it a baby, but that makes you sad. You feel weird calling it “a life,” because that sounds so new-agey, but you also hate the word “fetus.” Whatever you end up calling it, which varies each time, you feel that you should shield it. Protect it. Love it and nourish it. And instead, you’re killing it. You feel like it’s disrespectful to call it “it.”

You wonder if it’s a boy or a girl—and what it would look like. You feel bad drinking alcohol and coffee, and pushing on your stomach too hard, but you still do. You only have three days left with it. You want to talk to it, but wonder if it can hear you. You want to show it the world. But then you tell yourself, “Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not even really close to a person yet. It can’t feel anything.” You tell yourself not to get attached. No one else seems to be getting attached. They tell you, “only a few more days,” and, “it will be over soon.” They say, “We know what we have to do,” and “we have a game plan.” They tell you, “Get it taken care of ASAP.” “It’s really just a nothing thing.”

Someone you’re very close to will state, rhetorically, “I assume no one wants this pregnancy to proceed.” She’ll tell you, “Well you could have a miscarriage, which would be convenient.” She’ll mean well, or maybe she won’t, but it all comes out wrong. She won’t tell you that she, too, once went through the same thing, because she and her partner, people you trust, decide they don’t want that information to go public. She’ll tell you that withholding that information didn’t cause you any harm and it was born of an effort to not influence your decision. But it does harm you—because knowing it would’ve meant you weren’t alone. And knowledge is power. Especially when you’re going into a terrible mess blind. She insists that you “take care of this as soon as possible,” and that she is so relieved she doesn’t have to convince you how big a mistake it would be to have a baby. You wonder what twisted logic led to the conclusion that those statements weren’t influential, but telling you something relatable, and that would’ve lightened your burden, would’ve been. You feel betrayed.

You walk out of your room the day of, dressed in baggy sweatpants and a Red Sox shirt. You’ve really been trying to work on your underwear line lately, so you’re disappointed that even though the pants are loose, it’s still there. You consider changing into tighter spandex, but then you think, “It would be weird to wear a thong to an abortion, right? I could wear regular underwear, but the underwear line would be even worse then. They would judge me for wearing a thong. Plus, you can’t really wear pads with a thong. And I would just get it bloody and ruin it anyways. Thongs are meant for special occasions. For impressing people. Wear your worst underwear. It doesn’t matter if that gets wrecked.” You decide that he, and everyone else, yourself included, can deal with your underwear line today. He looks at you, sees your shirt, and smiles, but seriously, as he says, “don’t wear that.” He bleeds Dodger blue. And purple and gold. You laugh and say, “Are you serious? If anything, it’s symbolic to get this done in this shirt.” He asks, “Do you like the Red Sox?” You answer, “I don’t care, I just like Boston.” “Don’t wear that,” he laughs, but means it. You go to pick out a new shirt. You choose a forest green one. He says, semi-jokingly, “That is kind of Boston Celtics green.” You feign aggravation and say, “fine,” and then go back to your room to start over. He follows you as you start rummaging around your shirts, pulling them out onto the floor in a messy pile. You hold up one you got for free that says “Hooray for Boobies” on it: “Should I wear this one?” He laughs, “It would be really funny if you wore that.” You say, “Yeah, but I’m not sure I want to deal with the judgment or questions I’ll get.” “Yeah,” he says, “you probably shouldn’t wear that one.” You then move on to a plain white Hanes t-shirt that you once wore to a highlighter party—a party where everyone draws on each other’s white shirts in highlighter, and you’re all standing in black light so the highlighter looks neon. You hold that one up and say, laughing, “Maybe I should wear this one. It says, ‘You’re on my vagenda’ and ‘Born again virgin.’” He laughs and says, “Just wear the green one.” You look down at your dark blue toenails and, grasping at straws to please him, half-jokingly, say, “My toenails are Dodger blue, right?” He looks at them, smiles triumphantly, and says, “Yeah.” Crisis averted.

No one wants this baby. Except you. Kind of. But you know you can’t have it. You ask him how he feels about it and you tell him you’re sad, but you see in his eyes that he doesn’t feel the same. You’ll hear him say, “It’s the right decision” over and over again. He’s trying to feel what you feel, but it isn’t there. He won’t touch your stomach. Until one night he does. You ask him if you’re supposed to say bye. Are you supposed to say sorry? You want to ask him if he wants to spend time with it, but they’d think you’re crazy. You want it over with so your attachment doesn’t have time to keep growing. But you also don’t want to let go.

It only takes less than 10 minutes. You wish there was a heartbeat that you could hear. And then think you’re cruel for wishing that. You wonder if there is a heartbeat, but the doctor doesn’t offer any information. You don’t get to know your baby. She assumes you don’t want to. When you see the ultrasound after, you see the image that always has a baby in it. But yours doesn’t have a baby. Afterwards, you have a dream that there’s a baby in the picture. You wake up hopeful, but it’s too late.

You’re surrounded by signs. Multiple times every day, you see pregnant women, or babies, or something pops up on TV that’s about your situation. Before, you dismissed these as silly superstitions. After, you wonder about them. You’ll have a conference call with a writer and he will bring up a book about abortions. Your stomach will sink. He’ll ask you if you’ve had any personal experience with abortions. He’ll spend 10 minutes talking about them. He’ll tell you about a documentary he worked on that included footage of a real abortion. He’ll say, “After they suck the baby out, it goes into a vacuum chamber, and then they sort through the baby parts. So in the documentary, you see a close-up of a fetus hand while they sort through it.” You sit there, listening, shocked. You are speechless. You gulp and force yourself to play along—you say, “Wow, that’s really interesting.” You feel sick. You were already wondering about your baby—when they took it out, did it die right away? Did it feel any pain? But now, the image of it being sucked out and thrown away, but not big enough to have any parts to sort through, will be vividly in your mind. Your doctor will tell you that she’s pregnant, afterwards. You will start crying as you say, “congratulations.” A young mother and her young daughter will sit next to you on the bus, afterwards. The daughter will point at the butterflies on your bag and say “spider?” You’ll say, “Butterfly.” She will point at each of them, one by one, and each time, you’ll say, “butterfly.” You will underestimate how hard this will be for you. Maybe it’s supposed to be this hard. Maybe these signs are the universe’s way of punishing you. In the waiting room, you’re surrounded by visibly pregnant women and their babies. You wonder who, if anyone else there, is one of you. You are bombarded with life and reminders of what you’re doing. It haunts you.

You resent everything you’ve given up because of him. You resent everything you’ve put on hold for him. You resent that you’ve put yourself on the backburner because of him. This is his fault. You blame him for this. Nothing he does is quite right. Nothing he does is enough. Even when he brings you flowers, and makes you tea. You bite your tongue when he’s always late—don’t push him away. You did that already once—you were too needy. He won’t call you “babe” anymore. He’ll grow tired of you. He won’t touch you. When you cry, he will eventually limply throw his arm against you in a weak attempt at what he thinks he’s supposed to do—you think, it would be better if he didn’t touch me at all. You ask him if he will talk to you about it at some point. He asks, annoyed, “why is it so?–” and then stops himself, but you know the rest: “Why is it so hard for you to move on?” You can tell he just wants to go to sleep. He’s a simple man. You think to yourself, over and over, “I killed my own baby.” Then, you think, “I killed my baby for you. It was ours but I should’ve been looking out for the part that was me. And the part that was you that you didn’t want.” You think, I can’t do this—I can’t lose him, but even more, I can’t struggle every day, trying to stay in his good graces, trying to stay acceptable and desirable to him. You think, I am destroying myself. You feel that you’re about to break. He will break your heart. It will be your fault.

You think, it’s too late—I will never have this baby. This baby is gone. Yet I cannot let it go. You think, you’d rather go through this alone, because now, you’ve never been so lonely. You think, you can’t share a bed with someone you feel so utterly distant from. You think, you feel more alone in bed with him than sleeping by yourself on the couch. You spend the whole day envisioning saying that to him when he calls, but he doesn’t call. You hate him. Don’t complain that he’s shoving you aside to wait in the wings, because he’ll walk away again. Just give him the benefit of the doubt. Convince yourself it’s not settling. You’re not good enough for him, so tread lightly. This situation is delicate. You want to yell at him, and say, “You’re doing it all wrong.” You think he may think he’s doing it all right.

You are alone in this, whether you like it or not. You are isolated. This cross is yours alone to bear. People can try, but can’t fully break in from the outside. And some of them won’t try—they will abandon you. This has happened in your body, and therefore even more so in your mind than anyone else’s. It only gets worse with each passing day. How are you supposed to move on? Everyone else is moving. How do they do it? How do you move like them? They expect you to keep moving. They don’t understand. Yet, you’ve hardly cried this entire time. You feel fine and then wonder if you are. You feel fine and then wonder if that’s ok. You wonder if you’ll carry this heavy weight your whole life. You wonder if it will get lighter. You wonder if it should. You wonder if your regret will pass. You wonder if you’ll forgive yourself.

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14 thoughts on “As Featured on News Cult: What Do You Wear to an Abortion?

  1. Mindy says:

    This post is great. I think it’s amazing that you took something most people find difficult to talk about and made it something most people can relate to in some way. Whether that was abortion, the feelings of loneliness, self-doubt, regret or trying to please someone else over yourself, anyone could make a connection. I can’t tell you enough how well written this was. Great job, Alex!

    Liked by 2 people

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