WLGTDW/it: 'She would have been 15 this year'
by Patricia Martinez
Posted on May 29, 2009
I've gotten a lot of feedback about last week's column. Women have stopped me in the grocery store to tell me their stories. There have been emails and phone calls, whispered admissions of long ago trips to clinics where this life altering procedure was performed. I'm not trying to be ironic when I use the phrase 'life altering' -- just trying to give you an idea of the feelings these women, and one very good friend, have shared with me since last week.
I got the phone call on Friday night from Angie, not her real name. There was the usual small talk about how glad we were that the week was over and a three day weekend stretched before us. Work, her kids' excitement about the end of the school year, vacation plans - it seemed like a normal phone call until she told me that she had read my column. I asked what she thought of it. There was a silence on the other end of the line and then she said in a very small voice, "She would have been 15 this year." I knew what she was talking about, I just didn't realize that it had been that long.
Angie came to me about 15 years ago and told me that she was pregnant. She was a single mother who was busy finishing up her masters degree so she could move up the school district ladder. Her son, James, was eight and she was on the cusp of taking her life to a different level. Then she met a guy. They dated and things were fine, just not, as they both soon realized, permanent. They went to movies, dinner, that kind of thing. She didn't introduce him to James because he wouldn't be in his life, so what was the point? Just as they closed in on eight months together, Angie's friend took another job in Seattle. A month after he left, a month after the last time they spoke, Angie found out she was pregnant. She tried to hold it together as she told me in Bennigan's.
"Tricia, I can't do this. James is finally in school. I'm almost finished with school. I can't keep my job as a single pregnant woman, for God's sake, I work at a middle school."
I had no idea she would even consider an abortion. We were Catholic girls, and the thought of terminating a pregnancy wasn't something we had ever even talked about. Abortions conjured up images of back alleys and slutty women who had one abortion after another, the detritus of their trashy affairs.
Angie had always been the 'good daughter' - college, big church wedding, beautiful son. It was hard enough on her parents when her marriage fell apart, but now she was pregnant by a man whom she would probably never see again, a man her family didn't even know that she was seeing. She cried and paced my apartment as she came up with reason after reason -- I'm single, how would I explain this to James and my family, how could I walk the halls at school as a single, pregnant teacher -- to terminate the pregnancy. A week went by, then two. And then the phone call.
"I need you to go with me to the clinic." She didn't have to tell me why. We drove in silence, Angie staring straight ahead. Her hair was pulled back, she had no makeup on, and she carried only a small wallet that was stuffed with the cash needed for the abortion. We sat in a silent waiting room with seven other women and two men who sat next to two of them, heads bowed, hands clasped in front of them. I found it odd that they didn't hold the hands of the women they were with, but mostly, I was struck by the lengths we were all going to to avoid eye contact. After it was over, I took Angie home with me. We cried, she threw up, we tried to forget what had just happened. Angie went home the next day. We never spoke of it again. Until last week's column.
"I thought I'd stop going to church every year on what would have been her birthday. I never go a day without thinking of her, wondering every time I talk to a student her age what she would have been like. I read every article about abortions causing cancer, post traumatic stress syndrome in women who've had abortions, suicide rates in women who've had abortions. I've never even told my sister that I've had one. She said you were evil for not saying abortion is wrong. It is evil, Tricia. The noise of that machine, the look on that doctor's face. He probably thought I was evil. I was evil, Tricia -- I was evil."
I asked her if she would have the baby if she could go back. Without hesitation, she said no. Then why are you doing this to yourself, I asked. I asked her if she was heartfully sorry. She said yes. I asked her if she had had another abortion. She said no, and then she said none of that mattered. I asked why.
"Because I don't think this is something that I will be forgiven for. You don't get to take a life, Tricia, without there being some pretty big consequences. Even now, all the reasons for the abortion are justifications, nothing more. I could have done figured out a way to have that poor baby, I'm sure I could've. And now I can't fix it."
So What's Love Got To Do With 15 Years Later?
We spoke for another two hours. I tried to ease Angie's mind, but in the end I realized that she had done the best she could. She had made a soul crushing decision and continued on with her life, which is why she had the abortion in the first place. But in her heart, she has given her lost child a gender, a name, and the love of her mother that, hopefully, she will be able to give her when they meet again. Is what Angie did right or moral, or even something she should be forgiven for? I don't know. I'm not God. Are you?
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