Something I was asked to write last year but never got published. I’m presenting it as is.
It’s June 15, 2018. It’s my birthday. I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Tucson Planned Parenthood. And I’m two weeks late. I count back on my fingers and tally the years and months. It’s been exactly 19 years and 11 months since I was last pregnant.
I was 19-years old in the summer of 1998. I’d been secretly living with my boyfriend for a year. Secretly because Mexican girls of good upbringing did not sleep with men before they got married. How was I supposed to stay a virgin in the 90’s when sex was an open discussion? It was the subject of a Broadway musical. It was fine as long as it was “safe.”
In my life, sex was safe. I was having sex with my boyfriend Danny, but only because my mother allowed me to get on the pill. I remember leaving the gynocologist’s office after he prescribed me birth control to manage my periods. “You can take the pill, but don’t even think about having sex.”
Oh, but I did think of sex. By God, I would have all the sex in the world with my punk, white boyfriend. That was, until, a scorching hot morning in August, when I threw up while brushing my teeth. Danny bought me a pregnancy test. It was positive. I sat on the corner of the bed with the test in my hand, trying not to believe it was true. Tests can be wrong, I thought. Danny hugged me and said he would ask his mother for the money, under some false pretenses. Neither of us had $300 lying around. We didn’t talk about our options: keeping the baby; adoption. We both knew that a baby meant the end of our bright futures. So an abortion it would be.
That afternoon I met my mother at the salon. She started in on the gossip immediately. “Your cousin Denise is pregnant. She’s ruined her family. Don’t ever do that to me.”
My mother, the witch. It was as if she could see right through me. “Is she going to keep it?” I asked.
“Of course she is. Why would she compound one sin with another?” She looked straight at me and I felt my stomach flip. If I ever had any notion of being honest with my mother, I knew now that it was not a possibility.
That night in bed, laying next to Danny, I thought about the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. I wasn’t particularly religious, but I was superstitious. When the Arc Angel Gabriel came to Mary, she didn’t believe that she could become pregnant, but God had made old and barren Elizabeth pregnant as a sign to Mary. Was God somehow trying to send me a message to keep this child?
It didn’t matter. Ending the pregnancy was a foregone conclusion. Two days later, Danny accompanied me past a protester into Planned Parenthood. Inside, we waited to be called. I’d taken the day off school to have the abortion and I couldn’t miss any more days. That meant that I would have to forego anesthesia and have the abortion with only a Valium to get me through.
In the waiting room, no one looked or talked to anyone else. We were all there for the same reason and nobody was particularly excited for what was to come. And then, out of nowhere, the door opened, and Denise, walked into the clinic with her mother. I know they saw me. They went directly to the counter and were whisked away to another room.
I panicked. What if they told my mom that they’d seen me here? And was this God’s way of telling me for the second time that I was doing the wrong thing? But before I had time to think, someone called my name and I was taken to the room…the room where it happens.
I undressed, I put on a hospital gown and laid on a table, legs in stirrups. The doctor performed an ultrasound. I wanted so badly for him to find nothing but when I said I didn’t even know if I was really pregnant, he turned the monitor around so I could see the fetal sac. Nothing in my life has ever felt so real as when that happened. Not my law school admissions letter, not my invitation to a White House gala, not my divorce decree from Danny.
You know what comes next. It hurt. The nurse held my hand as I cried out in pain. They kept telling me it would be over soon, but it felt like an eternity. Afterwards, the doctor told me to expect painful cramping for a couple of days. The nurse accompanied me down the hall to a recovery room filled with arm chairs. In there were two others girls who’d received intravenous anesthesia. We all made eye contact, bonded instantly by our mutual experience. Weak smiles dimly lit our faces.
I went home. For a week Danny waited on me hand and foot. And then, life went on. Danny and I dated through college and married in 2004. He became a software engineer, and me, an attorney. We had everything a couple could want. Our marriage crumbled though.
In 2012, after dealing with the stress of divorce, I lost my period altogether. After running tests, the doctor told me I’d never have biological children. My period came back eventually, but the infertility was permanent.
And then this past June, I skipped my period. I took a pregnancy test at home, but I went into Planned Parenthood just for sure. In the waiting room, I thought about what I wanted to do if I was pregnant. I knew now that having a child wasn’t something I wanted in my life.
The test confirmed that I wasn’t pregnant. I left the clinic, went home, and cried in bed. I finally let that 19-year old forgive herself. It was about time.