Issue 18 / Summer 2019 / Abortion Ban Protest Special Issue
I have given birth to three sons—two living and one dead.
The one who died was my first, when I was 22; he lived for an hour.
He was a breech birth, so I needed a Caesarean—I never held him or saw him.
I was offered the chance to hold him, with the caveat that he would die soon. At that age and feeling emotionally fragile and drugged, I declined.
I knew that if I held him, I may have had problems letting him go when it was time for some nurse to take his lifeless body away from me. I didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to deal with any of that, so my mother rocked him in a chair in the hospital nursery until his last breath.
I share that part of my story to simply indicate that there are lives meant to be and others that are never meant to be. I grieve the loss of my first born and always will.
What I will never grieve, and have just in the last few years gained the confidence to share, is the fact that between the ages of 35 and 43, I had three abortions.
Two of them were my choice, the first and the second. They were failures in birth control measures.
The third was suggested by my physician when I was 43, due to my health at the time.
For years, I felt like I was somehow lacking in emotional depth because I didn’t grieve the two I made the choice about, nor the third, when the choice was between my own life and the life of the cells inside of me just beginning the cycle of life.
I vaguely recall tears with the first one, but to be honest, it was more the sight of all the young girls in the waiting room with tears of their own flowing down their cheeks and the looks of fear in their eyes, while waiting for their procedures.
The way all of us kept our heads down, no eye contact.
Was that a shared shame?
Was it a remembering of the hateful words that had been directed our way by partners, or mothers, or friends when we tried to share our thoughts on why an abortion was the only way we could see out of the mess we were in?
The procedures themselves were not traumatic at all. Very clinical and performed in rooms with low lighting and the quiet soothing voice of the female physician as she walked me through what she was doing to my body.
Very simple and yet powerful words that stayed with me for a long time and enabled me to make the choices that needed to be made at those times in my life.
I had two sons and was a single mother.
Money was always a worry—having enough to feed my growing sons and to keep us all safe in the event of emergencies.
I had no desire or wish for another child—not then and not ever, and I have not once felt guilty about the decisions I made, nor the fact that I needed to have that procedure done three times within a few years.
My partner at the time of those abortions has coldly thrown them in my face during arguments over the years, and has also in the opposite vein, brought them up emotionally during times of depression for him. I suspect that it was almost a pride issue for him, that I made the choice to not have his children, but that I did his predecessor’s.
I never reacted in anger to his barbs over my decisions; they were his feelings but most certainly not mine, and at the end of the relationship, I finally voiced that those hurtful words were not working as he intended them to. They only reinforced my belief that I had done what was best for me and for my children already in need of whatever resources I had to give.
I have volunteered as an escort at the abortion clinic in my city.
I meet women and walk with them from the time they arrive at the clinic right through the door and into the safety of the clinic.
I do my best to shield them from the evangelists screaming at them from the public sidewalk that runs in front of the nondescript building where the abortions take place.
I talk to them to drown out the cries of “slut” and “baby-killer” and “whore” that echo in my ears for days following.
The braying hypocritical cries of those who would force us to give birth but would disappear like smoke once the child was born and we had no resources to provide for it.
There are lives that are meant to happen and there are lives that never were, but those decisions belong to the bodies incubating the cells within them.
I will drive, escort, and support any woman who decides that termination is the best thing to do with her unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
I will fight until my last breath for women to have the right to autonomy over their own bodies and their own futures.
It simply cannot be any other way.
Shannon Lange is an emerging writer who has worked in health care for 25 years in Canada. She is the proud mother of two creative and hilarious grown sons, the grateful bonus mom to a feisty feminist daughter, and slave to a neurotic cat who likes no one but her. She dreams of retirement and the time that will allow her to write full time.