My choice to have an abortion almost a year ago was right for me. But the decision was less straightforward than I expected.
By Isabella Lola
Two tiny pills. That’s all.
One missed contraceptive pill to let me down and another to wash it all away. It’s what they left in between that wasn’t as easy: a slippery, greasy mess, a residue I might never totally scrub away. A lot can change in six weeks.
I go to a small clinic on the fifth floor of a colonial building draped in faded beauty. It overlooks East Melbourne: a suburb with chic residents and homes that glint with glossy magazine perfection. The situation inside the clinic is markedly less so.
I am surrounded by eight women. Or, I guess, we surround each other. Across from me, a young woman in a headscarf sits quietly as tears stream from her eyes. Two seats from her is a young couple. They might be students. Next to me is a blonde woman in a tracksuit and thongs, toying with a brochure. I’m dressed in black jeans and a white knit: the easiest outfit I can find to get through the misery of winter’s final weeks. I have slapped makeup on my face, in an ironic attempt to inject life back into my complexion. The terracotta tones form a slimy film over my skin. My boyfriend sits next to me. He stays quiet unless I talk to him, but would later on the way home tell me how beautiful I am. In a moment like this the title “boyfriend” doesn’t quite seem to cover it.
We’re all here in this space because of a choice we are about to make. We all sit under the standard fluorescent lights on powder-blue, vinyl chairs. The TV mounted on the wall remains switched off, our warped reflections are the only things visible in its glossy surface. There’s the mandatory stack of old magazines, but no one is pretending to flip through them. The silence of our collective thoughts is deafening and consuming enough.
Did I betray my body? Or did it betray me?
I was 25 years old, textbook healthy, and in the prime of my child-bearing years. If I allow myself to entertain the thought, we would be celebrating a first birthday this month. Except I will never know the life that I chose not to accept.
What I consider now is the idea that our human sense of self-awareness is our greatest achievement, but maybe also our greatest downfall. We can intellectualise our lives and thoughts as much as we like, but there are some moments when our bodies override everything we know. Despite our reliance on technology, our virtual reality goggles, plastic surgery or self-driving cars — our bodies are still (animal) bodies: the adrenaline that courses through your veins on a turbulent flight; endorphins that permeate through you after a workout; a kiss from the person that makes your heart flutter within its butterfly enclosure. All of these situations bring you back to a place where your body is doing what it is programmed to do. It brings you back to yourself.
When I was pregnant, test after test kept showing up negative results. Even so, an overwhelming instinct inside me signaled that something was different. I was tired and emotional to a level no PMS had ever been and my boobs were so sore it felt like they were trying to escape my body. I have since found out that the test I was using had been recalled.
I made a choice, and that choice is something to be championed, celebrated and fought for, but I did not make it lightly, and it should not be taken for granted. I feel a weight of sadness for the women who have to hide in shame; for the women who aren’t afforded the right to make a decision over their own bodies; and for my best friend whose body might not ever give her the chance to have children.
But sometimes, I also feel a sort of melancholy too, when I think about the choice I made. Most of us have experienced the sadness of someone close passing away. You have memories, photos and items from that person that you can cherish. There was none of the somber ceremony, none of the memorabilia, none of the societal rituals of loss to mark my experience, nor that of any other woman who’s made the same decision.
I know the choice I made was right for me and me only at that time, I do not regret it. But I always thought abortion would be a relatively straightforward decision for me, and in reality those two pills led me down a road more emotionally nuanced than I could have imagined.
A lot can change in six weeks.
(Original image: Unsplash. Digital design: Grace Jennings-Edquist)
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