Friday, July 13th, 2012
Hmm, he was supposed to be here by now… I sigh to myself. It’s okay. Just take some more deep breaths. I’m waiting in the Meijer parking lot by my parents’ house, anxiously looking for an old, beaten-up red Toyota. I distract myself by watching early Friday morning grocery shoppers – an elderly couple pushing a shopping cart together, side-by-side; the young mother with the screaming toddler seated in the front of her cart. My eyes drift over to the nearby freeway as I begin to chew on my lower lip. Damn. The freeway seems to be really backed up. Maybe we could take local roads. That wasn’t the plan though…
I check my phone for the time again (the clock in my car is always a few minutes ahead), but this time I notice that it’s Friday the 13th. “That’s just great,” I can hear myself saying out loud. My phone lights up again as I set it down and his face appears on the screen. I pick up the call.
“Where are you?” I exclaimed.
“Hey, I have no idea…” He sounds hesitant.
“Umm. Okay, what do you see around you?”
“There’s a CHASE Bank here—“
“Turn into it. I’ll be there in a minute.” I wait for him to respond. After a couple seconds, I hear, “Wait, what?”
“Just stay there! You’re in the parking lot, right?”
“Okay, I’ll be there.”
Sure. I hate it when he says that. I turn on the ignition and feel the cool air breeze onto my face. Taking another steadying deep breath, I check the mirrors to orient myself and make my way across the street to the CHASE Bank parking lot. I collect my purse, sweatshirt, and water bottle from my car and climb into the passenger seat of the low-riding red Toyota. He puts his hand on my left knee and I return the gesture with a weak smile. He fiddles with his keys as he asks, “Ready?”
Earlier that summer, I woke up one morning feeling sick to my stomach. I had laid there for a bit, immediately placing blame on exhaustion from my summer classes and the June heat; but within seconds, my eyes widened and I quickly sat up, retching. I ran to the bathroom and vomited into the sink (I didn’t make it to the toilet), hoping that no one else in the house had heard me so early in the morning. I had been very sick as a child and so I had learned to read my body quite effectively by this point. Feeling independent enough at 19 years of age, I splashed cold water onto my face and sat on the bathroom countertop to think…
Two days before the sickness had started, he and I had called off our 6-month-long relationship. Still grieving from the break-up, I decided that I wasn’t thinking straight so I returned to bed to at least lie down. I ruled out headaches and migraines, and I realized that this nausea I was feeling was unlike anything that I had felt before. It was gut wrenching, the type that doesn’t let you fall back asleep. Hours passed, and I soon could hear my parents making their way around the house, the soft thuds of their footsteps echoing in the hollows of my skull. Suddenly, it struck me. When was my last period? Wait, no. I haven’t missed one; my period tracker app on my iPhone would’ve alerted me. I thought back to my last pregnancy scare from a few months ago. He had been nice enough to go to CVS and buy a 2-pack of home pregnancy tests. He had waited in the hallway and gave me a hug as soon as I opened the door, even before I had a chance to tell him the result. It was negative; we rejoiced, made love, and the event was soon forgotten.
I still have the second test, I thought. I wonder where it is. I started moving boxes around my room as I searched (I had moved back to my parents’ house for the summer) and finally found the box safely rolled up in one of my towels, stashed away from family. I rolled it back up in the towel and tucked it safely under my arm. “Good morning,” I said to my little sister, whose door across the hallway from mine was always kept wide open. She never had anything to hide from our family… I shut the bathroom door, pushing down lightly on the handle to ensure that it was locked.
I sat on the toilet as I waited, my basketball shorts still pooled on the tiled floor around my feet. I was waiting for the lines to appear when I suddenly had a heavy feeling develop in my chest. I thought back to the fictional books and TV shows where such things happen, but I realized that they must have some basis in reality. I knew that this was such an instance; I knew it was going to be positive. I bit my bottom lip and held my breath as the pink lines appeared.
We’re on the freeway now, stuck in traffic. I have the passenger seat reclined to its maximum, my seat belt no longer performing its function. Snuggled in my hoodie and sunglasses, I politely ask him to turn off the radio. I watch as he leans slightly forward to press the power button and returns his hand to the steering wheel. His fingers grip tightly around the wheel, the skin stretched taught across his knuckles, an aura of uncertainty growing around him exponentially. He’s nervous. Well, he should be! This still all seems surreal to me, so it makes sense for at least one of us to realize the gravity of the situation. I know he wants to talk – to ask me if I’m okay – but he respects my need for silence and space for my thoughts.
Despite all of the tears and tension this past month, I know I could always depend on him. He is genuinely one of the kindest people I have ever met and this is what had drawn me to him instantly. I think back to the numerous hours of phone calls and video chatting as he continued to be my metaphysical punching bag and a physical shoulder to lean on during the times he had visited me at my university’s satellite campus, where I was taking my summer term classes. I tried time and time again to express how awful my morning sickness was – how it really was an all-day sickness – and how my appetite was never stable; my cravings were strange, random, and uncontrollable. Despaired by my discomfort, he would bring me tea and curly fries from Bubble Island each time he would visit. I had complained about having to drive into the sunlight (bright lighting multiplies my nausea) as I travelled East to my classes in the morning and back West in the evening. I am suddenly aware that we are driving away from the sun and feel a brief moment of gratitude.
I remember Ma telling me that her nausea during her pregnancy with me had taken a toll on her body and that her mother had braved aerial transportation and Immigration & Customs for the first time in her life as she flew in from India to watch after her oldest daughter, the first pregnancy of the generation. And now, I’m aching for my own mother’s attention. Unfortunately, that was the one thing that I couldn’t have. My parents and my younger sister and my extended family can never, ever know about this experience. It would founder my “role model” image that I have maintained for my younger cousins. It would destroy my grandparents. During my rebel phase in high school, my parents had found out that I was dating an older boy and my father felt the need to tell me that he would hang himself if I became pregnant. Dramatic? Yeah. But he had meant it.
We take the ramp off the freeway and by now, he has looked over as if he had something to say at least seven times (yes, I’ve been counting). I ask him if he’s sure of where he’s going – “we have a 10:00AM appointment” – and he assures me that he looked up the directions multiple times throughout the week. We pull into the driveway of Planned Parenthood. There are two protestors, an older white man and an older white woman, sitting in collapsible lawn chairs and holding homemade signs that say phrases like, “Abortion is Murder,” and, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” I quickly avert my eyes, but it’s too late. Am I doing the right thing? What if removing this mass of functional cells really does make me a murderer?
We arrive ten minutes early and we still haven’t spoken a word. The energy in the car is noticeably different from when we were on the freeway. He breaks the silence and finally asks, “Hey, are you okay?” I burst out into tears. “The signs… I didn’t expect them! How was I supposed to know?” The look in his eyes tells me that he has no idea how to respond. “There’s no turning back though, right? This needs to happen?” He nods and patiently waits until I finish crying. I sit with my head hung as he gathers his keys, wallet, and a bag of food that he had put together in the morning. I notice that he is having trouble fitting his wallet into his pocket, as the wallet now contained many more $20 bills than the usual. For the second time in 15 minutes, I zip my eyes away from the source of guilt. I watch as he manually locks the car and runs to the door of the building to open it for me, his hand gently touching my back as he guides me inside.
We sign in – which was a surprisingly quick process (probably to keep it humane) – and wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. He gets up at one point to ask the front desk staff if they’re sure we’ve been signed in. They assure him that “it won’t be much longer.” I look around the waiting room and see an unexpected assortment of groups dispersed around the room: another couple, European, perhaps a few years older than him and me; a young white girl and a woman who looks like her mother; a few African American women, maybe in their 30s; and one Asian girl in the corner, by herself, hidden behind a magazine.
They call my name and I ask the nurse if I can bring him inside the room with me. This is the private information session. The specialist tell us that I will have an ultrasound done to backtrack the exact date of conception to see how far along I am. She tell us that they will give me a safe amount of anesthesia and an ample amount of time to make sure I am fully sedated. Then she explains the procedure in an impressively concise manner. “Any questions? Please feel free to ask anything at all,” she requests. He and I hesitate. We both have a brief sampling of medical knowledge as we both wish to pursue medicine as careers. The inquiries start up like wildfire and 30 minutes later, we finally have exhausted all doubts. We return to the waiting room and begin the Waiting Game once again. By this time in the day, my morning sickness is usually at its peak; so today, combined with the anxiety, my nausea is worse than ever. I shift positions in my chair every few minutes, putting my head on his shoulder, then transferring my head to his lap as I stretch out my legs, curl in my legs just seconds later – this discomfort never did end. The same nurse calls my name, and again, I ask if I can bring him with me, but this time, she politely told me no, “It’s because of confidentiality.”
This is the ultrasound session. Basically, a device that, unfortunately, resembles a penis is lubricated, with the sensor at the very tip. The sensation takes me to a level of discomfort that I don’t realize can even exist. I think back to the last time I had sex, the intercourse that led to the conception of this fetus. As I pull my yoga pants back on, the nurse prints out the ultrasound (strangely the size of a postcard) and tells me that I am 7 weeks and 3 days in. Yup, definitely conceived that last time we had sex, I confirmed to myself. I nod curtly and ask, “What do I do next?” She walks me over to sign the consent forms, sending him to the private desk in the back of the center with the $340 we were told to bring with us.
“You’re actually only paying $300 today,” the clerk tells us, “Because you had told us you were an unemployed independent when you made your appointment, our supporters have sponsored over half the cost of the treatment.” We thank the clerk, and he is sent back to the waiting room as I am led to the recovery room, where I will first be receiving my medications. I notice the girl of the European couple covered in a blanket, a heating pad placed over her abdomen. She looks so weak… She smiles at me feebly, telling me not to worry. “You barely feel a thing,” she tries to assure me.
I return to the waiting room, staggering slightly while I walked, but feeling relieved of the nausea. He holds my hand as we wait out the last twenty minutes before I was to be called into the procedure room. This time, the wait seems like no more than a moment. I am called in greeted by my doctor and nurse and nursing assistants and the medical resident that I give permission to be in the room during the procedure. I am handed a hospital gown and left alone. I change and climb back onto the patient bed, but I am quickly unnerved once again. I rush out to the waiting room; he is surprised to see me back so quickly. “Quick, give me a pep talk.” And he says exactly what I needed to hear.
I turn to leave but double back when I see the man of the European couple. “I saw the lady you were with earlier in here,” I tell him. “She’s doing well and shouldn’t be much longer.” I know I probably violated so many levels of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), but I don’t even care. I watch as the creases on his forehead smoothed over and he thanks me graciously.
The medical personnel are already in the room when I finally get back. “We almost called a code on you!” the doctor joked. Great. Look what you almost did. I tried my best to muster up a smile and laugh. They explain the procedure again, this time in full detail upon realization that I was pre-med. They instruct me to lie down and shift around until I find a comfortable position, placing my feet up on the stirrups. I finally feel the emotions that I have been lacking all along: not the nervousness, not the anxiety, but the feeling of “this needs to happen” and there is now no turning back.
“Alright, sweetie. Here we go.”
I clench my fists and grind my teeth together, crying silently as tears stream into my hair. I feel the life literally being sucked out of me…
In Sanskrit, my name means, “mother”, and in Punjabi, my name means “woman”; and honestly, between these two meanings, I can’t think of a better name to be blessed with. The name perfectly defines my maternal, natural-caretaker, feminist self. Being the oldest of my cousins in the US, I have often been sought out to help raise the younger ones, whether it be teaching them how to swim and ride a bike, or advising my aunts and uncles on which classes they should have their children enrolled in at school. My friends have teased me as I update them regularly with pictures and stories of my “babies,” saying that I could practically be their mother. I don’t mind that at all, and I never have. Growing up, I have always known I want to become two things in this lifetime: a pediatrician and a mom. I have had my struggles and successes with pursuing my career in medicine, and now I feel that I can say the same about my latter goal. I consider myself unconventional, and when little girls would pick out hypothetical names for their future children, I would ponder about which of my children I would want to have adopted. Would it be best to adopt my first child, so that he could know that he is most definitely loved? Or should I adopt my last child, so that I could pick a little boy or a little girl depending on the dynamic of my future family? Since the events of last summer, I have come to realize that children are children and there really isn’t anything more to it. I will love my children unconditionally; I will raise my children equally whether or not they share my lineage. My name means, “mother,” and now I am assured that I can live up to my name.
2012 United States
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How did you do the abortion?
What was your situation at this time?
What is your religion?
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