“Men suck, huh?” said the woman next to me in the abortion clinic recovery room.
No, I thought. I suck –for getting myself in this position in the first place.
I was sitting alone in an abortion clinic waiting my turn. I remember waking up at 5am or so to get to the clinic by 6:30am for a 7am appointment. That turned into a 9am appointment. Let me tell you something. I’ve had very few humbling experiences like that one. I looked around the waiting room and recognized the look on so many of the women’s faces. Most of them were there alone, like me. They had this expression on their face that I will never forget.
Their eyes all looked empty. Their mouths were tight. They avoided any and all eye contact. But I still could read their minds. They, and I, were thinking, “What wrong turn did I make to end up here? How did it get that bad?”
I made the decision to terminate my pregnancy quite easily. In fact, looking back on it, I’m alarmed at how easy that decision was. It was never a question. I was completely detached. The father did what a lot of men in his situation do and denied it was his, claiming I was lying and making it up. I can remember him coming over my apartment and giving me $150 dollars, not saying a word, turning and walking away. He wouldn’t even look at me. I went in for my first appointment and was told to come back because I wasn’t far enough along. Yes, I went through the first part, the blood tests, the waiting, the watching women walk in and out of the waiting room with this vacant look in their eyes not once, but twice.
I had two weeks before they could do the procedure. In that time, I did everything I could to avoid thinking that their was a small, peanut sized person growing inside me. It wasn’t until the day before I went in for the second appointment that I found myself talking to him. Yes, I had this gut feeling it was a boy. I asked him to understand why I was doing what I was doing. That I wasn’t ready, couldn’t provide for him, blah blah blah. I gave him a few pat excuses. The real reason, at least this is what I told myself, was that I just didn’t want him. It’s quite easy to convince yourself of certainly realities and truths isn’t it?
The morning before I went in, I remember looking at this picture of my Mother I have hung on my wall over my bed. That’s when it really hit me. Here I was acknowledging a connection that I never really experienced or acknowledged as I was about to terminate another one. I said one final prayer to my Mom and asked her to take care of William for me. That was his name. It came to me so easily as I prayed, too. As if it had been there all along. The only person, other than Karen and the father, who knew was my uncle, a Franciscan priest. He wanted so badly to come with me that day, but for obvious reasons couldn’t.
I remember waking up from the procedure and being walked into a really cold, sterile room. next to me was a woman who looked to be in her mid thirties. She was crying. Fucking great, that’s what I need, I thought. My detachment process was once again kicking into place. Then the cramps came on. Then I vomited. As I sat in that chair with my head in my hands, I felt someone brush my arm. It was the woman next to me.
“Men suck, huh?” she said.
No, I thought. I suck. I suck for getting myself in this position in the first place. This was my fault (well, his, too but you know what I mean.) If I had only been strong enough to just be alone. If only I had been able to give to myself what I thought a man could give me. If only I could have owned up to my flaws and mistakes and tried to fix them, then I would have never been there in the first place.
Instead I allowed my loneliness to rule me. One night changed the direction of my life. The guy was nobody special or someone I was in an exclusive relationship with, but certainly someone I knew was not right for me. But he gave me attention. Back then that was all I needed to feel pretty and special. It last all of an hour and he left immediately after.
When I called him to tell him I was pregnant, he seemed incredulous. He listed a number of reasons why it couldn’t be his. We used a condom, he said. Not the whole time, I said. I didn’t even come inside you, he said. What are you, twelve? I said. I wasn’t about to give him a crash course in baby making or remind him that condoms aren’t 100% effective. It was clear not only did he not care for me (something I knew going in to that night) but he also didn’t care for himself because he willingly had sex with me for part of the time without a condom. Years later I learned that he was in AA. I’m still waiting for my amends phone call, but I’m not holding my breath. Not only did I get knocked up by some guy who couldn’t even pronounce my last name, and not only did he barely remember it, but he was an alcoholic to boot. Yeah, I sure knew how to pick ’em.
The lyrics to a song ran through my head as I sat there alone. You never could get it unless you were fed it. Now you’re here and you don’t know why.March 16th, 2002 at an Upper West Side Women’s Health Clinic. That was the day I was finally fed it.
Accountability is a really powerful thing once you acknowledge how crucial it is to personal growth. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s downright ugly. But you have to face up to it eventually if you ever wish to break the patterns. Nobody likes to look in that mirror or hear where they went wrong. Which is why there are so many people out there at 30, 40, 50 still single, still making the same mistakes, growing more and more battered and broken down and shut off to the idea of being with someone else. They keep trying to assign blame when the person they should be pointing the finger at is themselves.
Until you’re willing to do that, you will continue to make the same mistakes. You will stay stuck, just like I did, causing you to pass up or making you blind to other opportunities. The longer you stay focused on the past or on the what ifs and if only’s, the harder you try to make someone else pay for another person’s mistake, the more you avoid truly getting to the heart of your issues, you’re going to lose out. You will continue to seek out and attract the wrong person and you will completely overlook the right one. A relationship can not fix you. Another person can not heal you. Only you can do that. There comes a time when you have to own your choices, forgive yourself and let go of the past.