Thank you for giving me a place to tell this story. 25 years ago, when my oldest daughter was 8 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. I was slowly recovering from what had been a medically difficult pregnancy and dangerous postpartum depression.
My husband and I were pretty poor, the medical bills nearly broke us, but we were starting to move forward again, now that I could work. I was finally able to bond with my beautiful child, be a partner to my husband again, and it was as if the sun were starting to come out after a year of pain and darkness. We used birth control, condoms AND diaphragm. I remember reading the little test strip and falling to the bathroom floor screaming. My parents are deeply religious, and I was terrified to ask them for advice. My best friend just shrugged it off, “Just don’t have it then,” she said. My husband was scared. “We’ll do whatever you decide,” he said, but I knew how scared he was. I asked him to take the baby for a walk. I lit candles and prayed. I put candles in front of the picture of my Grandmother, who had died a year earlier, who I knew had been homeless with 3 children during the Depression. I felt like a crazy woman from the Middle Ages, but I prayed to my grandmother “You know these things.” I begged. “I want to make a place for this child, but I cannot do it here and now. Am I weak? Am I a coward? What do I do?” I fell asleep on the couch. When my husband came back I jumped up in a fright, because, destroyed as I was, I knew that you are NOT supposed to fall asleep in a wooden house with 4 lit candles. “What candles?” he said. All the little votive candles were gone. The plates I had put them on were hot, but the candles had all burned away with no drips, no leftover wax, no scorch marks, or little bits of wick, nothing. We went to the Planned Parenthood clinic in the next town over. The people there were like angels. They were kind, and serious and careful and gentle. They listened to you, and believed what you said. I remember saying to them, “You are saving my family.” I went home from the procedure and slept for 16 hours. My daughter still had health issues, but I had love and strength to give to her. When we had our second child years later, there was strength and love for her too. There are two other things I need to say, though. Months later, I found a letter in my great-aunts papers, It was from my grandmother, written during the time the family was separated, living in what we would now call shelters. “Don’t worry now,” she told her sister-in-law. She had used all her courage, she said, and gone to the doctor who was treating her toddler son for pneumonia. It would be alright now, because the doctor had “helped” her, and she wasn’t going to have a baby. She had a job cleaning stores for a little money, they were all together again and hoped to be able to find a way home by spring. “You don’t need to tell anybody about anything,'” she said, “I was lucky and these are good people.” About a year after my abortion a man walked into the clinic that I had gone to and shot the kind and serious receptionist, and the elderly security guard who had held the door for me.