I’m Just Sayin’
Another hot, muggy day in the City of Angels; smog so thick my eyes burned. I wiped away another streak of black eyeliner, catching it as it ran down towards my cheek, and I kept walking, keeping time with the jingle bells that hung from the end of the two leather strands I had fashioned into a makeshift belt.
Hitching rides had become routine long ago. On this particular morning, I had been hitchhiking for over an hour already, and I was tired of it, so I walked along the side of the four-lane highway. I had stopped feigning interest at the cars that whizzed by. The heat rose off of the asphalt, making waves I could actually see. I put my hand on my belly and shook my head, wanting to be sick right there in the street. I imagined each passerby guessing at my dilemma and worrying about the the lone young woman on the side of the road. Unlikely.
A pink Volkswagen bus with hand painted peace signs all over it drove by and honked. “Sorry! We’re full!” someone shouted from the passenger window, giving me a quick peace sign as they flew on by. Gee, thanks. I saw this was getting me nowhere so I crossed over to the other side of the freeway off-ramp, turned to face traffic and stopped, sticking my thumb out in the traditional hitchhiker’s stance.
The year was 1971 and I was on my way to the Los Angeles Free Clinic. I was hoping against hope that my fears were unfounded; that it was some mysterious flu bug and that I was not really pregnant. Again. Two children while you were still a child yourself? Not a great idea.
There must have been twenty-five to thirty of us in the waiting room. There were few chairs, so most of us sat in varying positions on the dirty tile floor. I made myself small against the dingy walls, gray with the exhaled smoke from the cartons of cigarettes smoked on a hourly basis. I wanted to be sick again. I lay down on the floor and the dirty, cool tile felt good on my face.
The doctor was young, and seemed caring enough. After informing me that I was approximately 2 1/2 months pregnant, he told me that if I was going to “do something about it,” it had better be soon. I did want to do something about it. I was only eighteen-years-old and my son was only a year and a half. The father of this baby had finally sold enough drugs to fulfill his fantasy of life halfway across the world to live in the Caribbean. Who was I to ruin his plans?
Roe vs. Wade was going through the courts so the doctor told me I could have a legal abortion. He asked me if I had any suicidal thoughts. “No, not really,” I said, wanting to be honest.
“Well, you need to say you are having suicidal thoughts,”he prompted.
“Oh, ok, well, yeah, I’ve had some thoughts the last few days.” I offered.
The next couple of weeks were a blur of appointments. I had to see a social worker and two other doctors. The day finally arrived and I took a taxi alone to the hospital for a quick D&C. Nothing to it. In and out. All alone.
A week went by uneventfully, and I tried not to think about what I had done. One night I woke up from the sound of someone screaming. I felt a white-hot pain centered in my abdomen and realized the screaming was coming from me. I clutched at my belly and began to rock myself furiously, afraid of waking up my Dad. My mom heard me and came in to see what was wrong. She ran back into their bedroom to get me a couple of my father’s prescription Percodan pills. Ah…bliss for about 3 1/2 hours. When my Dad woke up he gave me a few more with the promise that I would replace them when I got my own prescription.
The next morning, I took another cab to the gynecologist’s office. At first he acted like I was overreacting to normal pain. After an examination, he discovered he had left a piece of the baby inside of me. I had a terrible infection.I told him I want a prescription for Percodan.
“Isn’t that a little potent?” he charged.
“It takes away the pain,” I answered, sighing. Moron. He seemed resigned as he scribbled on his prescription pad.
I took another taxi home, too tired to try to hitch. I took two Percodan and sat in the orange Naugahyde chair in my parent’s apartment for the rest of the afternoon, experiencing what it felt like to seem to be underwater, and yet still able to breathe. I kind of liked it, especially the fact that it made me quit thinking about what I had done. I felt no pain. At last not the physical kind. When I had lied to the doctor that day about the suicidal thoughts, it had never occurred to me that in a few shorts years they would become my constant companions.
It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
I have never forgotten those few weeks and the decision that I made back then, forty-seven years ago. The other day I was with my grown daughter. I looked at her and in a flash I saw her as a baby, then a toddler, then a young girl, a pre-teen, an adolescent, and the the beautiful young woman she has become, full of promise, so inspiring to me and others. I stood a little taller as I watched her.
I thought of her two brothers, my sons. My children are the deepest, most profound blessings of my life. They give me my greatest joy. They are each different and unique, yet we share blood, genetics, and a sense of humor that just won’t quit. I thought of that one person that is missing from our family. I often do. That baby from long ago, who would now be a man. I wondered about him, who he would have been, what he would have looked like, what his voice would have sounded like, and all the missed kisses and hugs between us. Yes, it would have been hard at the time. But who ever said life was supposed to be easy? I’m just sayin’.