EDITORS/NOTE: After soliciting on social media for stories, essays, or poems by women with a West Virginia connection that center abortion in these turbulent days after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed Roe v. Wade, WestVirginiaVille received the following account from a woman who lives and works in the state. She asked not to use her name to protect her privacy in her community.
By Anonymous | WestVirginiaViIlle.com | July 1, 2022
I never had one.
I was 14 and pregnant. On my 15th birthday, my parents took me to a home for unwed mothers. They barely said goodbye. In retrospect, I imagine their hearts were breaking, too. Now that I think about it, I don’t know that my mother was there. Interesting that I have blocked that memory out. I think it might have just been my dad and me. I cried all the way — all 400 miles or so.
I was considering the pros and cons, although no one seemed to have any real interest in my thoughts. We conceived gently and with love, but too young. Yes, I know that now. I had been asked, in passing, what I wanted to do. I said, “I don’t know.”
And was never asked again. But things were set in motion.
Not long after Roe v. Wade, the night before Thanksgiving, I went into labor. The housemother called a taxi. I don’t remember if anyone went with me. I had a medical card from the state. I was clutching it.
I only have brief glimpses of the memory of labor. I was alone and terrified. I may have PTSD. I think I was given anesthesia of some sort. I have no memory of the Thanksgiving birth when I was 15.
I never saw my daughter.
At 19, I had an abortion.
I suppose I did have one. But I didn’t feel like I did. There simply was no question. Broken condom. This time I was old enough to understand the ramifications. Old enough to understand that I didn’t want to marry the father. Old enough to know I couldn’t put my parents through that again. Old enough.
My boyfriend’s sister was a social worker. She arranged a medical card. We drove an hour to another city for the procedure. I clutched that card. I remember the scraping of my womb. The pain of it. But I didn’t cry. An ache in my heart at 19.
In my 25th year, I was living with the man who is now my ex-husband. His first wife had divorced him because he was unable to father children. I quit taking my birth control pills to save money. They were expensive. Fifteen dollars in the early 80s.
Less than four months later, I was pregnant. We had conceived on Thanksgiving Day. Life is funny like that. My daughter, born on Thanksgiving, would have been celebrating her 11th year. I had never seen her.
There was no choice. We married. I did love him. We were old enough to understand. But I needed the legal protection for my child. Women raising children alone in 1985 were usually destitute. And being an unwed mother still carried a stigma. Did I want to get married? Yes. I suppose I did. We had a wedding and celebrated. Both families were joyous at the thought of a grandchild. I was joyous. 25 and pregnant, old enough.
For our 20th anniversary, we divorced. Most of those years were good. We were good parents. My son is a fine man. He was born just shy of my 26th birthday. His birth was the best day of my life.
My first grandchild, a boy, was just born. He was a surprise. My son and daughter-in-law were not ready for a child. My grandson announced himself at a very stressful time. I believe my daughter-in-law felt she had no choice.
We all love him with a passion that is astounding in its intensity. The day I held him the first time is the best day of my life. I am in my 60s now. A grandmotherly age.
I still have never seen my daughter.
Tom Robbins wrote a novel about choice. In it he says: “A person’s looking for a simple truth to live by, there it is. CHOICE. To refuse to passively accept what we’ve been handed by nature or society, but to choose for ourselves. CHOICE.”
He also says: “’The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible. The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.”
Three pregnancies. No choice in any of them. I have never chosen to get pregnant. I was foolish, I was sucker-punched, I was surprised. I was naïve, I was savvy. I wasn’t ready, I was ready. Such a basic right that everyone deserves. CHOICE. My thoughts about abortion are complicated. But they are my thoughts. You and they have no business dictating what they should be.
SHORT/STORY: “Salena”: July 1, 2022: ‘Salena had never had anything beautiful, certainly never anything perfect. The nuns wrapped her in perfect clean blankets. She had a little cotton shirt, perfect. They asked for the name of the father. She said, “I don’t know.” They entered ‘Unknown’ into the blank box.’
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