In the most vulnerable, the most heart-wrenching circumstances, lives the potential to make new, compassionate connections to yourself and those around you.
The day before I turned 37, I scheduled my abortion.
We were at a family wedding. As I was getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, I called Planned Parenthood from the bathroom of our hotel room to make my appointment. My two children were watching cartoons in the bedroom while my husband paced outside the bathroom door. The pregnancy symptoms came on really quick this time — sore breasts, extreme fatigue — but when I tasted the metal mouth, that’s when I knew. The pregnancy felt like it was progressing. I had blood drawn twice to check and see if my hormone levels were doubling. They were.
Before we conceived my now eight-year-old son, I had two miscarriages. Each one was different. I had my first miscarriage naturally, in the middle of the night, on the cream-colored tiled floor of our apartment. I’ve heard that some people feel nothing, that some miscarriages are so easy women assume they’ve just started their period.
For me, miscarrying on the cold floor was physically and emotionally traumatic. I thought I was going to die. I really did.
I thought this is it. I called my doctor’s emergency line, and like a trained birthing coach, the nurse calmly told me that I could do this, that I could get through the night, that I would be okay. I did, and I was.
Because of how my first loss unfolded, when we couldn’t hear the heartbeat of the second pregnancy, it seemed more pragmatic to just schedule a D&C. As I woke up from the surgery in that dreamy state, I remember feeling like I was skiing on a wide-open trail, gliding down the mountain, coasting with angels. I also remember thanking my doctor over and over again.
I remember repeating in whispers, “Thank you, thank you for taking care of me.”
As I clenched the hand of the beautiful volunteer who sat next to me during my roughly fifteen-minute abortion procedure, she looked deep into my eyes and with meaningful intention, she mouthed, “Laura, you are very brave.” As she saw me, as she really saw me, and as the tears rolled from my eyes, I looked at her with the same knowing. And just as I had done years earlier, I whispered back “Thank you for taking care of me.”
It is routine to have an ultrasound before an abortion procedure. With clarity, the nurse essentially told me that the pregnancy was actually not developing normally, and that ultimately, this pregnancy would end in miscarriage. “Pregnancy debris” she said, “you have pregnancy debris that isn’t developing.” This news felt like a gift, like the angels were there with me again, guiding me down the mountain.
Shame is funny like that, isn’t it?
In each of these experiences, shame seeps into the memories like water on the sand. It pierces and then permeates each of these events of my life. Shame is there, and I carry it with me. I know I can let it go, that I could probably work hard and eventually toss it back out into the water, but…
These experiences are mine. I own them, and so I shift my story. I connect my moments with a thread of compassion.
You see, in all these experiences, I’ve never felt so close to people I don’t know and will never see again. To my unborn children, to the nurse on the phone, to the doctor, to the volunteer sitting at my bedside, to the angels whose spirit I felt so intensely when I wasn’t even fully awake yet. Each of my experiences with loss and shame gifted me with profound connection, something I choose to cherish forever.
You may also enjoy reading Living into Enoughness: How Our Hard Stories Become a Gift by Justine Froelker