I had an abortion because I didn’t have a sexual education.
Sex was a taboo topic, something for married couples, dark bedrooms, whore houses. It was definitely not for young ladies or girls, upon whose innocence and willingness the world’s ignorant march towards endless procreation depended. Sweet females who birthed generation after generation, without knowledge or choice or both.
Sex was a sinful act, and even God was born by miracle, not sex. Sex was our animal nature, our shame, and all guys wanted only one thing: to stick their penis inside you and to suck on your boobs, afterward leaving you desiccated, a used up woman: a mother.
Sex was sinful with one exception: if performed under the auspices of holy matrimony. An unmarried woman’s highest currency was her virginity. And so I pretended that I was a virgin, and would remain one until I married.
It was 1994, I was twenty one, recently engaged to be married, studying political science at college. To what end I wasn’t sure, except that I wanted to be a thinker. I wanted to know everything there was to know in the world and in the empty space that held it.
He was brown like me, which is why I chose him and introduced him to my mother, so she could stop worrying about my future, the uncertainty of some man raping me and impregnating me as long as I remained single, spouse-less, vulnerable. Or worse, me falling prey to my own overactive libido, and getting pregnant outside of wedlock.
“I want you to have fun!” she said. Which meant, I think, that she wanted me to have sex, permissible only with a husband. She didn’t know I’d been having sex since I was 17. But suddenly I had that ancient urge: to make mother happy. To get mother off my back.
He was brown and Muslim, which is how I knew he was an acceptable spouse. He didn’t think we should have premarital sex because that would be haram. As a work-around he pleasured me with his tongue. If I wanted more, I would tell him to take a “nap” for all limbs except one. He’d close his eyes, taking his mind to the garden beyond good and evil, while his dick remained alert and erect in my hand. I mounted him like a mechanical bull, grinding my clitoris on his mound and pushing my nipples into his gently parted lips. As I reached the final edge of an ecstatic bliss state he uncorked me abruptly, hissing: “what are you doing.” The dream was over. The pull-out method does not work, even in pretend play sex.
A small group of picketers were gathered outside the unmarked abortion clinic, raising placards with images of bloody fetuses.
Cannibals! I thought disdainfully. What did these Catholics know about the weight of my sinner’s shame? My utter debasement. There was no way I could have a baby. If I had the baby everyone would know I had sex outside marriage. That I was a slut destined for hell.
I did not want a baby. Hell, I didn’t even want to get married. Not really. I was just trying to satisfy the parents, the rules of conduct and the decorum with which we must conduct ourselves until we can be free. Was it in death that I’d be free? When I finally went to heaven? Until then did I have to live in conformity to all the sentiments and superstitions of humankind, all the conceits of anthropocentricism?
No. The unborn inside me would be free. I couldn’t bring a soul into a world so insufferably ignorant that it would not even let its mother take a full breath, all the way down to her clit.
We rushed past the picketers. I was delivered into the cold white medical hands of a kindly nurse and doctor, both grey and serene. They were doing God’s work. They didn’t ask me any questions. They simply took care of me as one takes care of a beloved, giving me exactly what I wanted, without judgement, without even a smile of false cheer. Rather, a simple understanding that my life and my choice were sacred, a self-evident truth.
“I just want the nausea to go away,” I said, explaining myself to these angels, to their pearly skin and tender eyebrows.
“It will,” the nurse patted my hand.
It was a procedural abortion done with suction. I listened to the whoosh of the vacuum as the contents of my uterus emptied.
It wasn’t even a baby, just a collection of cells, a tongue, a beating heart. The soul doesn’t descend into the body until day eighty-four. The soles of the feet arrive at week eleven.
I couldn’t have a child. I myself was a child. My mother still paid for everything. Except the abortion. He paid for that. I didn’t even understand how to have sex without getting pregnant. I was waiting for my life to begin. My real life, away from all the religious, cultural, and political bindings. I couldn’t mother another.
I needed to re-mother myself because lying there with my feet in the stirrups I knew that everything I’d learned thus far was bullshit. The truest thing I knew, as the heart of my unborn took flight into the ether, was that I had become a mother and a slayer, a person who had power to make life and to take it away.
Your hormones will plunge, the angel said in the recovery room as she handed me a glass of water, two extra-large pads. The doctor, male, pale and slim, gave me sage advice: the bleeding should subside within a few days but if I drank alcohol or smoked pot it would get heavier.
My fiancé drove me home and I went to bed. I was still sick. My breasts were leaking tiny drops of golden fluid, unaware that they were not to be maternal. Into my room walked my aunt who was visiting from Pakistan. She sat on the edge of my bed, oblivious that I was post procedure. With a most compassionate voice, she wanted to let me know that recently I was getting fat, that I should try to eat a bit less.
I started crying, and she soothed me, stroked my head, offered to bring me ice cream, the non-fat kind she’d found in the freezer section.
My hormones were in disarray. When my fiancé visited, I met him at the door, threw the diamond ring in his face, watched as he scrambled around the concrete front steps looking for it. It’s as if he had died with my unborn. Or the idea of him, as good Muslim husband, willing to go through any deceits to preserve my honor and reputation. Suddenly I was empty. I had no space for him and such ideals, such performances made by mom, dad, husband, religious people everywhere in the desperate hopes of doing good, of populating the earth with pious bodies or securing a spot in heaven while perpetrating evil against their fellow humans, shaming them for sexual desire, shackling their sexual expression to random religious preferences.
Why anyone would want to bring a baby into such a perverted world was beyond me. There was a case to be made for the right to be unborn.
My unborn was freed from human greed, ignorance and suffering. I was not. I called my ex, begging him to come over and fuck me one last time.