By Carol Austin
It was Mother’s Day. ‘So Carol, Are you a mother?”
‘No.’ I responded without elaboration. I am gratefully beyond child bearing years.
Months later he asked again as I navigated through a busy traffic intersection. My answer was the same but I added, ‘Better living through chemistry’.
‘I may use that ‘, he said.
My mind went back through the years. Two pregnancies, no live births was recorded on the official medical forms. A spontaneous abortion when I was too young to know what happened. Cramping then a discharge which I flushed down the toilet. My mother took me to the doctor. A cleanup and years later I became aware.
Later in my early thirties I had moved to a different city. I was one of a throng of young people living in a University town. I had stopped taking my birth control pills. My partner had moved to another State to be an assistant professor at a small religious affiliated college. I reasoned since I had not become pregnant during our three years together I was not at risk. I did not know this was used as a means of increasing the liability of conception.
I met a guy in a bar. I knew the moment it happened.
Wearing overalls I sat in the basement of a church in a community clinic awaiting the results of the official test. A neighbor asked, ‘What are you here for?’ The standard question when encountering another in some institution.
‘Who is it? Some guy with no job?’ It was. No possibility.
I listened to a public employee demonstrate how to rid our premises of insects by spraying a lethal solution around the perimeter of of the house.
I left with a piece of paper that had the contact information for a doctor to perform the surgery.
My partner had said he would support me in a pregnancy even if the child did not belong to him. I considered this. Our friend said she did not think it fair to ask him. I made the appointment at the clinic.
Somehow I found a book called, ‘End of Childhood’ discussing various scenarios of both women who had kept their child and ones who had not. I took it with me to the clinic where I sat in a waiting room with expectant mothers who were there for their routine checkups. My purpose was very different. Tears overflowed down my face as I tried to reconcile my intellectual decision with the surprising and strong sense of protection toward this unborn presence that was a part of me.
The kind of procedure I had was a time honored Japanese technique involving seaweed. When the moment approached the doctor arrived and introduced a young female medical student who was being trained. After the fetus was discharged he showed it to her saying, ‘This is a six week old male’. Then he threw it in a trash receptacle for medical waste.
I was left alone to recover in the cubicle. This time the tears emerging from the sadness at the center of my being rolled down the side of my face. I felt an existential loss.
For years I rarely passed the clinic. Then one week I was charged with transporting a Russian group from the airport. We drove past the building. Part of their itinerary was to visit Planned Parenthood, I had just read an article in the Village Voice about abortion conditions in Russia. I could not turn away. The universe had conspired.
It was years before I spoke of this event. On a road trip to Houston with a friend the story unfolded. It was the end of my childbearing years and I had a different view these twenty years later.