Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister is making a lot of sense here, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s fine to be pro-life, but if you are, then for God’s sake, care about the children who don’t get to choose whether they are born or not, and all too often are abused because their parents lack the emotional and financial resources to be able to care for them properly.
Although I’m becoming Catholic in less than two weeks, my views on abortion are still more or less pro-choice, depending on the situation (such as rape or incest), but this post isn’t about my political or moral stance on abortion. It’s about something much closer to my heart than my views on political/religious issues.
It’s about the abortion I had in July of 1998, right at the 12th week, which is the deadline for first trimester, uncomplicated abortions.
I made my first confession tonight in preparation for receiving the sacraments of Communion and Confirmation at the Easter mass. A few days ago, Father C. told me to think about what I wanted to talk about in confession. Even though my abortion and infidelity while I was still married to my narcissist are in the distant past now, those were the things I wanted most to confess, because lately both have been weighing on my mind heavily, especially the abortion.
I won’t get into the whole sordid and sad story of my marriage to Michael, as it’s already been written about under “My Story” (links to that are in the header), but the short version is he was a terrible malignant narcissist in every way imaginable–abusive mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically (when he was drinking). I was miserable during the last years of our marriage and wasn’t in the best of mental health, having been hospitalized twice during the late 1990s for major depression and PTSD.
Michael had his own sins to contend with (but he probably never will because of his narcissism), but I was no saint either. As a Borderline–and at that time not yet knowing how to monitor and control my borderline tendencies (I learned those tools during my first psychiatric hospitalization in 1996)–I tended to act out in impulsive, dramatic and inadvertently selfish ways.
As my husband’s primary source of narcissistic supply and his #1 victim, I was frantic, scared, frustrated, depressed and lonely, and longed for love, tenderness and physical affection. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but simply didn’t think of the needs of others, even my own two children, when there was something I wanted to do, like get together with a new lover. In a person with BPD, this self-centeredness is due more to obliviousness to the feelings of others rather than not caring how they feel. Borderlines also have abandonment issues–that is their greatest fear. I was already emotionally abandoned by my narc husband and had always felt abandoned by my parents, and I longed for connection and affection.
I never made a conscious decision to have an affair, but it happened because I didn’t resist the temptation and once underway, I felt that this illicit relationship was something I needed.
At the hotel where I worked as a banquet server, I met a maintenance man there I’ll call Ryan. He was about 8 years younger than me. We got to be friends and talked a lot during our breaks. I felt very comfortable with him. I found out he was also a deejay at the hotel where we both worked. At many of the events and parties I served, Ryan spun discs when it was time for the guests to dance. At those times I’d go up and join him at the booth where he sat, and we’d talk while the guests danced and the music played.
Soon our friendship developed a sexual element. We realized we were both attracted to each other, though love was never part of the equation.
Michael and I had not had sex (after the love-bombing honeymoon phase of our relationship was over, I would not say what we did together in bed was making love) for several months by the time I met Ryan. About a month after we first met, in April 1998, he invited me to his house and we spent the entire night with our bodies wrapped around each other in his bed. We made love several times that night.
I called my kids and Michael but I didn’t go home that night. I made up some lie about staying with a girlfriend whose mother was ill. I was getting almost as good as Michael with the lying.
Ryan and I continued to see each other when we could. I was already neglecting my children who needed their mother, not to mention leaving them alone with their narc father. I still feel bad about that to this day and try to make it up by being overprotective now when they’re in their 20s and over-protectiveness is the last thing they need or want.
In August or September of that year I realized I’d missed my period and took a home pregnancy test one afternoon when I was home alone. It was positive.
I panicked. It wasn’t my husband’s child because the last time we’d had sex was months before I became pregnant. There was no way I could tell him I was carrying another man’s child–I couldn’t even imagine the abuse that would be inflicted on him or her. He was already abusive to his flesh and blood son, and he had told me he didn’t want any more children. I knew that if I went through with the pregnancy and had the child, both the child and I would be punished and I couldn’t allow that to happen.
I thought about adoption, but again, I would be subject to Michael’s abuse during the pregnancy especially once I started to show, as it would be a constant reminder to him I was pregnant with another man’s child. Then there was the matter of giving up the baby when it was born. I had no idea how I would explain to people how I could give up mine and Michael’s third child (I wouldn’t have dared tell anyone the child was not his).
I couldn’t decide what to do. But I had to make a decision quick–because I was closing in on 11 weeks and after the 12th week, you enter the second trimester and abortion becomes far more dangerous and medically complicated, not to mention more emotionally harrowing.
I have always been iffy about abortion, but at the time, I really didn’t see any other option. So I picked up the phone and called the local abortion clinic. They didn’t have an appointment for a week, which meant I would be right at 12 weeks–almost three months pregnant. I thought my belly was already showing a hint of a bump.
When the day came, I sat down with a nurse who was very friendly and sympathetic. She told me they had to take an ultrasound so they would know the location of the fetus in my womb before going in to remove it.
After the ultrasound, I surprised myself by asking the nurse if I could see it. She looked at me oddly, then shrugged and turned the screen facing me. I saw my baby there, glowing blue-white and floating in what looked like the darkness of space. I could see the little spine through the thin fetal skin, and it was perfect–it looked like a string of tiny seed pearls. I felt hot tears burn behind my eyelids but I didn’t cry. I swallowed hard and asked if she could tell the sex.
She looked at me sympathetically and then looked back at the screen to study it. She told me it was early, but she believed it was male. I just nodded and thought about that. My third child would have been a boy.
“Are you sure you still want to go through with this?” she asked, placing a soft motherly hand on my forearm.
“Yes,” I said.
The procedure itself wasn’t that awful. I was put in a twilight sleep and could barely tell what was going on. It wasn’t until afterwards, when Ryan was driving me home, that I suddenly began to feel sick. I ordered Ryan to pull over, stumbled out of the car, and threw up into the weeds by the side of the road. Even after my stomach emptied itself, I kept dry heaving. I was bleeding (which is normal) and crying from the pain. Ryan was concerned and came over to me (we were still friends after all this). I screamed at him to go away and leave me alone. Total borderline on my part.
At the time, even though I felt guilty about what I did, it didn’t bother me too much. I thought I had done the only thing I could have done. It wasn’t that I didn’t want this child, but that I couldn’t. The only future I could see for him was a childhood filled with abuse and pain meted out by his stepfather, my husband. He would punish me by punishing my child.
I didn’t think terminating that pregnancy bothered me that much, but on some level it must have, because every May, the month he would have been born, I find myself wishing him a happy birthday and telling him how sorry I am. I have done this every year since May of 2000.
In my dreams, I have watched him grow up into the almost 16 year old he would be right now. I always see him at the age he would have been at the time of the dream and he is always running away, fading into dream-space. I keep losing track of him. He always ignores my presence. I’m just some strange woman to him.
Even though this boy grew inside my body for three months, it weighs heavily on my heart that I don’t know him either. I don’t know one thing about him. I don’t know what he likes or dislikes, or what his interests or hobbies are. I don’t know what his personality is like. In my dreams he never talks to me, even if I try to talk to him. He always runs or turns away or dissolves into the dream space. One thing I can tell is that he is hurt and angry. He doesn’t know I’m his mother, but he does know he was inflicted with the ultimate betrayal–not having been allowed to have a life. I know instinctively his hurt and anger is because of this.
There is a metaphysical wall I can never get past. I cannot know his spirit. I know what he looks like, or would have looked like because he always looks like the same person in my dreams. He changes because he’s growing up in dream-time but his face is always the same. He looks like a male version of me when I was young but his hair is much darker than mine.
I never gave him a name. Although I know God has forgiven me, I still regret never having been a mother to this boy, this third child who would have been my two older children’s little brother.
He lives on in my dreams. Maybe one day I will see him in heaven and he will have forgiven me.