A Part of Myself
by Fariha Roísín
I was eighteen and pregnant.
I remember reading only a few weeks before that day that women often know when they are. Which makes sense. I kind of knew, already. A week in, there was a phantom consciousness, a pulling rod of unearthly heaviness, like a tingly sensation at the base of my uterus. My cells were dancing, a flurry of aches, thudding with an immutable dullness full of pain. I felt bloated — more than usual — and there was a gnawing, an impenetrable nagging of fingers, strangling me inside out.
You know how kids are always captivated by things? I was always captivated by children, by motherhood, by that ball of existence lodged inside a woman’s body for nine months. I would always ask my mom how much it hurt when she had me, or what she craved to eat — how long was labor, Mom? I wanted to be ready.
I had not had my period. Overwhelmed by everything, on a whim, or even a dare with myself, I bought a pregnancy test. I was shaking as I put it in my pockets.
I did the test at my best friend’s place. He was half awake when I told him that I thought I might be pregnant. I took the test in his bathroom, laughing at the charade of it all. Suddenly, in his company — I was all bravado, the weak girl playing the part of “I’ve got it all figured out.” I peed into a cup, left the stick in there, and waited for it to turn any other color but pink. I wasn’t a girl who got pregnant. I was smart. I was responsible. I was appropriate. I was going to be a lawyer one day.
I always thought I’d be pregnant when I had a man to look after me. A real man with a job. We’d have a house together. We’d have bookshelves that reached the ceiling, and carpets from Afghanistan, a record player that played smooth jazz as we did the New York Times crossword together, cocooned, inseparable, drinking hot apple cider from a shared mug. I always thought I’d be pregnant when I was happy.
I was drifting off when I saw it. As I dreamt of swing sets a sinking feeling devoured me. A desperate unparalleled fever sickened through the crutches of my identity. I did not want this baby.
I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.
I came from a good family.
My best friend was in his bathrobe as he screamed, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?” He was being sarcastic. We were young. We were naive. These things didn’t happen to kids like us.
The strip turned pink, the little plus clearer now, and I suddenly thought it was funny. I thought this was Hollywood. I thought of the funny joke I would tell my boyfriend. “So, guess what?” I can’t remember what I even told him, I just said something like, “I’m pregnant.” He was in disbelief, too, but we were both actors — we were performing for each other. I was always such a good faker, an imposter of frankness, an interloper of intelligence. In truth, we were desperate for blood, desperate for life, for a story. This was our opportunity to feel raw. I had began to feel numb to it all, my mom, my life — her protectionism. I wanted to bleed.
Three days after I found out that I was pregnant, my boyfriend and I went to a Thai restaurant a few minutes away from my place. We sat on an elevated stage, our hearts above our chests. High school nobodies sat nearby as he told me he couldn’t be with me; he said he couldn’t “handle the stress” of the pregnancy. I remember feeling so ashamed. That was the second time I wanted to cut it out of me, right there, in the Thai restaurant. I wanted to string out the life and pound it out of my hollow self. I wanted to pour blood from all the wounds. I wanted him to see this corrosive thing inside of me and understand that my life stopped when I saw that little plus sign. That my position was impossible, I couldn’t walk away. He got up right after he said it, as if ushering in a disclaimer. He wanted to leave. All I wanted was for him to stay.
For the next month I lived in an emotionally repressed surreality. I knew I should mourn, but I felt too tired to do so. Too confused. Too unaware. How do you mourn for something you’ve never known before? The only time I really cried was when my best friend and I watched Rachel Getting Married. Rachel’s sister turns to her family and says these words: I’m pregnant. I cried for what would never be.
I had the abortion. My boyfriend didn’t come. I was naive and brushed it off, thinking he was the only other person in the world who could comprehend the pain that I was in. I was waiting for his acceptance of the situation — once that happened I would be allowed to break down. But he didn’t. Not ever.
There was high security as I walked in, turning to a surly individual who sat at the desk. She asked me to fill out the forms, though I was too numb to answer most of the questions. My name? Did I have one anymore? I waited in the waiting room for what felt like eons. A different nurse came by and asked me a series of questions, but my responses were muted, as if I was dubbed in a foreign language — the words that I knew had left me. I hated myself so profoundly. I remember her asking me if I was sure I wanted an abortion, I told her I didn’t know, but that I didn’t have any other choice. She wasn’t sympathetic. She’d seen this all too many times before.
I remember being sedated, and I remember waking up alone. A maxi pad stuck between my legs. The incongruent texture was supposed to support you but felt like an insult. As my body began to reject me, I walked out, steadfast, determined to live my life well, and be happy.
For two straight weeks, I bled. My body mourned, it cried, it suffered. It was ashamed. I was so ashamed. Even then, I went to work the next day feeling bruised, feeling subhuman, wanting to distract myself from the torment of my stupidity. As I walked into work I saw a baby in a stroller, the red veins pulsating across it’s eyelids. It was alive. It had life. I ran to the bathroom and cried properly for the first time. I hadn’t given my baby a chance. That’s what my baby was up against.
My boss, when I told her, told me that some people (her) can’t have babies, and I had gone and killed mine. I was eighteen. A Catholic friend of mine said that I had made a bad decision and I was risking going to hell. I was eighteen. My sister, years later, told me that my mother had had an abortion before me, and that I could have been aborted, too. But I was eighteen. When I told my ex about the reactions that I had gotten from “friends” he scoffed. He rationalized not our actions, but mine. He rationalized it as if it was his, too, but it wasn’t his to rationalize, it didn’t happen to him. He just fumbled and fucked his way into it, coming into me with his half-cocked eyes and deadweight body, claiming that he understood.
It took me years to know that he couldn’t understand. He couldn’t comprehend. That all he could really do was insult me with his arrogance and supposed learnings through his Wikipedia knowledge and Google searches — his “science,” as if he knew anything about pain and death. His restrained composure through it all was a constructed war of attrition. These things made him believe that he was the mature one, the one that had it sorted — but I was the one that was grieving. When I lost that baby, I lost a part of myself.
A//p//a//r//t// of myself.
In truth, the only reason I didn’t want the baby was necessity. I was young, yes, but it was also because I understood the responsibilities I was incapable of and I wanted nothing to do with them. In that time I comprehended suicide more than I ever had before. I wanted to cut everything away, I wanted to cut out my uterus, I wanted to cut out — my sticky clit, my pulpy pussy, everything. I didn’t want to be touched. I wanted to forget myself and everything that I was.
For years, I felt like I owed my baby something. For years I felt like I had opted out, that I was weak because I chose myself. But I loved my baby, for what’s it worth; I just loved my freedom more.
When we choose ourselves we’re seen as selfish, and everybody is there is to remind us of that, to emphasize that point more, just in case we’d momentarily forgotten. It took me years to appreciate that it was my right, and my body. I’d do it all again.
Every year around February I remember. I wonder what it’d be like — now they’d be almost five, or six. I think of how cruel this world is and how I did it a favor. I’ve begun to give myself something that I was waiting for everyone else to do — forgiveness — but like a deep and vast well, nobody could. These days I can look at myself, the scars, and the trauma, and inhale acceptance. These days, I can take a look in the mirror and like what I see. These days, I can acknowledge that being powerful is knowing what is right for you. But mostly, I think of how I finally realized my body is mine, and the choice was mine.
Fariha Roísín is a writer extraordinaire. Follow her rambunctious tweeting @fariharoisin.
Maegan Fidelino is a graphic designer living and working in Toronto.