I don’t remember them killing my baby because they put an IV in my arm and told me to count backwards from ten. And by the time I’d hit seven, I was asleep on the good stuff. But I knew from the soreness between my legs when I woke up that they’d done it. Been there. Up my vagina with speculums and nozzle headed vacuums. Sucking out the foetus that would have ruined my life.
It was only later, as I lay in the recovery ward wondering how I would get home, that it occurred to me to ask.
“Was is a boy or a girl?” I said to the youngest nurse. The same one who’d held my hand. She who mistakenly believed I needed comfort as I counted down, whilst the male doctor had stayed stiffly over the other side of the operating room, waiting for my unconsciousness so he could get on with the messy job of parting my labia with his white rubber hands.
The nurse laughed and said. “Your baby was a blob, a mess of blood. You can’t tell anything at this stage.”
That was peculiarly honest, I thought. Weren’t they supposed to say things like ‘Oh you mustn’t think of it as a person. It was a merely a clump of cells.‘ But from that moment on my baby was a person. Not that it could have or would have made any difference to my decision. Because destroying a clump of cells was not the same as destroying someone’s life emotionally and psychologically, as I surely would have done if I had become a mother at that age.
In my head, Blob was female. Partly because I couldn’t imagine that I would have had a boy. How on earth would I go about constructing a penis? They weren’t my favourite organs at the best of times and I didn’t know what baby boys looked like. At least not under their nappies. It’s not like you go around looking at a baby’s genitals unless of course that baby was yours. And even then…
“Are ye sure?” the doctor had asked, three months before. She was Scottish and vehemently catholic. Her accent annoyed me, even when she wasn’t doubting my decision.
“Yes.” I said. “I’m nineteen. My mother doesn’t know. And I’m going to university in four weeks.”
She sucked in her breath, looked down and shuffled her papers again.
“Hae ye considered adoption?”
Yes, I thought. I would never inflict that on a child.
“That’s not an option,” I said and cold steel hardened my vocal chords.
“Okay. Weel ah can’t prevent ye fae huvin an abortion. Bit ah cannae recommend ye tae a doctor masell. I’m a practising Cathlolic ‘n’ we dinnae murdurr unborn bairns. We believe they hae a sool.”
“Well I’m not and I do.” I said bluntly understanding only the gist of what she said, but not willing to give her the satisfaction of asking for clarification. By the time I had found a doctor who was willing to help me with my ‘situation’ I had travelled to the South of England, and started university life. Blob was quickening. I could feel my breasts getting heavier in preparation to suckle her and her life unfurling inside my belly. She had a ‘sool’.
“Who’s coming to get you?” said the peculiarly honest nurse a few hours later. Hours that I’d spent in a druggy haze imagining Blob. Her tiny fingers and her perfect eyelashes. Wondering how it was that my body had known how to produce an entire miniature person. How clever it was to create it. And then wondering why women got so sad about the perfect solution to an unwanted baby. That was the point. We didn’t want the babies. But still they put us, the post abortion women, in the maternity wards. Amid the howls of new born babies, you could hear the stifled sniffles of the women who killed them.
But I wasn’t crying. I was happy you see, happy that tiny Blob was now presumably sitting in a kidney shaped sterile aluminum bowl waiting to be incinerated along with the empty plastic wrappers that had once enclosed invasive instruments. It was over and I could get on with my life as if nothing had ever happened. I could continue my path of self-destruction knowing that if I died, my child would never be abandoned as I had once been.
“Uh, no-one,” I said. “No-one knows I’m here, I thought I told you that.” The nurse became agitated but in a superior sort of way. If I hadn’t have been utterly blissful on morphine I would have got annoyed at her too.
“Well that’ll never do, love. We can’t let you out of the hospital alone.”
Because I would commit suicide? Because I’d had too many drugs to drive a car?
“I won’t drive,” I said, amicably from my post operation high. “Just call a cab or I’ll get on a bus.”
“Sorry love. I can’t let you out without someone to accompany you. Just in case you start haemorrhaging. It’s against hospital policy. Boyfriend?”
“We’ve just broken up.” I said, evading the real truth of the matter. That the father was abroad. And didn’t know. “I have no friends here, I just arrived.”
It would be a bit rude to launch something like this on my new university classmates none of whom had a car and just because I needed a lift. Besides, abortion was something you admitted after the fifth glass of wine in person, not over the phone of a Tuesday morning. The nurse looked sympathetic.
“Never mind, she said making the assumption I’d intended. “You’ll find someone better than him. But you still can’t go alone. You don’t have to tell them it was an abortion. You can just say it was a sweep of your uterus and you’re feeling a bit whoozy.” The nurse came out with the solution as if it were rehearsed because I was obviously not the first woman to be in this predicament.
“Okay. I could call Jo I suppose,” I said. Jo was my new flatmate who although the palest of red-haired white, had braided and beaded hair which to my mind made her ‘alternative’ and therefore non-judgemental. By that time I was sitting up in my hospital bed admiring the crimson redness of the single perfectly circular spot of blood which stained my otherwise pristine white sheets. My blood. Or was it Blob’s blood.
Part of me would like to be able to tell you that the pregnancy was a hideous mistake. That I hold the sanctity of life dear. But that wouldn’t be true. Back then, the only life I held dear was mine and anyway, I was more comfortable lying. It was ingrained from my youth as a matter of protection. Because if you’d grown up with a mother like mine, you really wouldn’t want to risk her anger by telling the truth.
So I was not born a liar. But I chose to be one out of a desire to grow up and see adulthood. As you can see, I made it. But being a liar hasn’t been without it’s problems. One of them was the secret conception of my unborn child that I’ve hidden to the world until now, over twenty years later. I had no guilt, no regret. Still don’t. I tried my best to avoid children. I didn’t play with children. I didn’t want children. And as an adoptee, it’s still my opinion that there’s far worse things in life than aborting a foetus. Like giving birth to a child you don’t want. Giving away a child you don’t want. And raising a child you would really prefer was biologically your own.