When I was in my 30s, I met a man with the most amazing sea-green eyes I’ve ever seen. We had almost nothing in common, but boy, did we have chemistry; so we rode that wave.
We were always careful. We had the means. We had the technology. We were confident in our coverage against STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
But one night, that technology failed; and the next morning, I knew I was pregnant. A visit to my physician a few days later confirmed it.
For a couple of weeks, I embraced the idea of having a second child. I even broke the cardinal rule and started telling people right away, because I wanted to be happy about it. My green-eyed lover stepped up and offered to “make an honest woman” of me, although we both knew it could never last.
My folks flew to California to provide whatever support I needed. And a long heart-to-heart with Mom convinced me of what I already knew: I could not in good conscience bear this man’s child.
Adoption was out of the question for me; I knew myself well enough to know that if I carried this child to term, I couldn’t possibly let it go. I was already a single mom with a full-time professional career; two young children would be more than I could provide a good life for. And the father was in no position to take on a major role.
So I met with him alone and told him what I needed to do, and why. I’m pretty sure he was more relieved than anything else. He handed me the money to cover half the expense, gave me one last hug and left. I haven’t seen him since that day, and I don’t regret it one bit.
By the time I got in for the procedure on an early Monday morning, I was about 5 weeks along. The cluster of cells that might have become a baby was about the size of an orange seed by then. I felt confident in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing.
As the anesthesia began to take effect, the doctor casually asked me what I did for a living. I said I was a journalist. As I sank into oblivion, unable to respond any further, he condemned me as a hypocrite for being part of an industry that (in his words) glorified attacks on women’s health clinics.
I had no way of telling him I worked for a business newspaper that took no such stance. I had no way of telling him I had always been a vocal supporter of a woman’s right to choose what happened to her body. I had no way of telling him exactly what I thought of his vitriolic comment. I lost consciousness knowing that the doctor standing over me held nothing but contempt for me based on an incorrect assumption. That was the worst moment of the whole thing.
When I woke up, it felt like no time had passed. The doctor’s words were still fresh in my mind, I was in a bit of pain, and I felt physically and emotionally empty.
After Mom took me back to my apartment, I sobbed for most of the day. I avoided several calls from the office — I had failed to call in sick that morning, and the editor had no idea why I hadn’t shown up. Finally, the one local friend in whom I had confided called me and said our boss was about to call the police to request a welfare check, so I needed to let him know I was among the living.
I gathered myself enough to call him. I told him I’d lost the baby, and that I couldn’t face the world just yet. He was very sweet and told me to take the time I needed. I took one more sick day after that and went back to work.
I never told him — or anyone else, other than a couple of very close friends — the full story before now.
I’m not apologizing for hiding the truth from most of my friends and co-workers. It wasn’t their business. It’s not yours, either, to be honest. But I am choosing to tell my story now so others in similar situations will know they aren’t alone.
My partner and I took every precaution, and the sex was consensual. Still, sperm met egg at a time when circumstances did not favor a child. I am grateful to this day that I was able to safely and legally terminate the pregnancy. Others with far more traumatic stories may not have that choice available to them soon, and I find that prospect horrifying.
I know telling this particular story could have dangerous repercussions. But I also know that it would be more dangerous for my sisters out there if I — and others who’ve walked this path — remain silent.
It’s our life, our body, our choice. We need to speak up.
Kat Bryant is lifestyle editor of The Daily World and editor of Washington Coast Magazine. Her one regret is not going back to set that snotty doctor straight. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Kat Bryant-DailyWorld.