“Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben.” (What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.)
~ German Poet
Sometimes as a writer we take our own experiences, our insides and put them on tables for others to observe, listen to, scoff at, marvel over, pass by uninterested or fall in love with.
This article is a wobbly, vulnerable piece of my soul—and since writing it I have had some moments of resistance to baring it all in the light of the world. Abortion is a word we say quietly, it’s something many women sweep under the rug hurriedly, harbored with heavy guilt and shame.
The hesitation I faced on publishing this article wasn’t because of shame or guilt—I am at peace with my choice. My chicken-shit U-turn was in knowing of the inevitable vulnerability involved in sharing. And not just because people may click on my story from some corner of the web, who I may never see—but because those who I do know will read—and will see this naked part of my soul. It’s because those who I run into at a coffee shop, while we add sugar to our coffees and make small talk, may have this funny look on their face as they fight internally with whether to pat my back and say, “Hey, I read your article—that’s really tough” or dodge it entirely.
I decided in the end to pull two U-turns, because vulnerability and relatability is what brings us together at the end of the day.
I am doing so in the hopes that these words will reach many women—woman who can relate, find comfort, support, clarity and strength. Or perhaps even just one woman—that one woman who still harbors shame, deep down unconsciously; she may see my nakedness and forgive her choice, finding the grace to gently let go.
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”
~ Brene Brown
Sitting in the B.C. Women’s Health Centre listening to the nurse tell me my support, my mother, isn’t allowed into the first step of my abortion and that only boyfriends are, blasts me in the face.
When I first peed on a stick (okay maybe three or six sticks), shell-shocked and disbelieving that a sea monkey had manifested in the least maternal, let alone domesticated person I know, I began the hardest month of my life.
The process brought me face to face with some beliefs I had, some answers and realizations that I had to reach deep within to find. First by feeling, second by analyzing and thinking, and third by tuning into my gut—the intuitive voice that lies within us.
I realized that I had a belief that people couldn’t have a baby and follow their dream career. I sat tear streaked with my blood results in hand outside a clinic, moving through this belief with a friend of mine.
I said, “I can’t have a baby. I have to write a book. I have to make a documentary—I have so much living left to do.”
She softly said to me, “Janne, you are strong enough, and brilliant enough to have this baby. You can write your book, film your documentary and have a child.” I couldn’t fathom raising a child and filming a documentary in India, sitting in a chicken bus in plus 40 degrees, juggling a baby and diapers. Bullshit. People do both; people raise children and run successful companies. I’ve met them. I let that belief die in the car that day.
I realized I was strong enough, supported enough and brilliant enough to have a child. But also that it didn’t mean I had to have a child.
I realized being someone who spends my life giving and royally sucking at receiving that I am supported enough to have a baby. People in my life who I shared my process with, all stood up to bat for me. People offered to move in with me, be godmothers or uncles—be available for constant support if I choose to keep the baby. My grandma came with me to the doctor’s office to get information on my choices.
All the people in my life took a stand for me and said, “I’ll be there.”
I knew I could bring this little sea monkey into the world and kick ass at being a mom. We would stomp in puddles, march against Monsanto, eat caterpillars and wonder at the world together. I would have a gorgeous child—I still will someday.
I found a love for motherhood, a realization of my strength, resilience and ability. I found a desire to someday feel little toes and fingers press against my belly. I discovered a different use for my belly, my breasts and my body.
I struggled with the fact that my choice was no baby and no abortion. My choice was fast forward into the future ten years from now and let’s do this together, then. Nothing wired in me thinks abortion is okay or normal. Vacuuming something from your uterus isn’t graceful or easy. It doesn’t feel right.
Part of my process was realizing if I choose to have the baby, I would need to move forward from that point and never carry an ounce of resentment in my heart. I knew if I chose adoption or abortion I would need to move forward and never look back in guilt, only curiosity.
There is great conflict and discussion on when the soul enters the body.
Does the soul enter the body at the point of conception? Two weeks in? Six months in? When the baby takes its first breath and screams?
I believe that each little soul decides, and that it varies.
Some may become present right at that first moment of conception. Some may show up and say Hell yeah! I am here! Some may wait a few months. Given there was a chance a little soul wandering the universe had chosen me already, had chosen to show up and exist in a relationship with me for its next life, I decided to have a conversation with it.
I sat in my cabin, in a sunny spot listening to my wood stove crackle, put my hands on my belly and spoke out loud to that little sea monkey.
I said, “Hi little soul. If you are there, I need to tell you that right now is not the time. I want a relationship with you, a connection with you. I love you and want to experience this with you someday. I’m just not ready right now. Can you come back, and walk into life with me in the future? Maybe in five years, maybe seven? Because I want to do this with you, I really do. Just not at this exact point in my life.”
All of this brought me to this moment in the clinic right now. Of realizing I was going into this procedure alone. That my boyfriend, the father of sea monkey didn’t show up.
Now I watch as the boyfriends trickle into the waiting room. All different ages, races, levels of calm. Some hold hands; some sit anxiously, some sit in solemn silence. They showed up.
I inhale and exhale deeply, registering what the nurse has said. In this moment of resistance I go to that sweet spot—the space of surrender—and adjust with as much ease and grace as I can muster. I reassure my mom who looks ready to bulldoze the nurse over, grab me and bust out of there so she can protect me from whatever I’m about to experience.
We step forward, entering the counseling room and the first five minutes of the next four hours begin.
I put on the medical skirt, removing my underwear and walk to my bed with the letter “4” above it and get under the covers. It makes me feel eerie to be sitting in a room with numerous beds and women. Some of them are waiting like me to begin, some are resting after the procedure—all of them have a story.
Most of them avoid my eye contact. I take some antibiotics and ibuprofens and talk to the nurse. As she inserts an IV in my arm I pull into the library of stored support I have received and recall all the incredible things people in my life have said to me the past month. I pull them out, one by one.
“You’ve taken care of the world Janne, it will take care of you.”
“You will have a gorgeous child someday and be an incredible mom. I don’t need to tell you that, you know that- we all know that.”
“Trust the universe and mother nature will support you.”
“You are always in my heart and on my mind but today I am there with you.”
“We often call you the nicest woman in the world—nothing will have changed tomorrow morning.”
I feel a web of hands reaching out and supporting me. I feel strength and love as the drugs enter my body and it all gets a little hazy, but my heart is warm and sustained and I am without fear.
I am put in a wheelchair and taken into the room to receive the surgery in private. It’s more fuzzy than clear, and I am grateful for the kindness of the women surrounding me. The doctor performs an ultrasound, turning away the photograph on the screen and tells the nurse to mark down to the day how pregnant I am.
For a moment I travel back in time and revisit the night—I remember.
Unplanned babies and abortions are part of life, many people feel black and white.
I dealt with doctors and friends who were unable to be neutral. I saw a doctor who refused to give me any information on abortion clinics, telling me that I shouldn’t proceed to abort and that many of his clients regretted doing so. I looked that doctor in the eye, thanked him for his time and requested in the future he be careful with differentiating between giving medical advice vs. projecting his beliefs on his clients.
If I was a fifteen-year old girl, frightened and afraid—maybe I would have listened to his own personal opinions and not made my own choice.
I am writing this and sharing this experience for any women out there who had to make this choice. Any women out there who sat in that waiting room, and any women out there whose bellies began to swell and who brought a beautiful child into this world.
I am writing this for any women who had to show up alone, to that appointment or who were alone in raising a child. I am writing this for any women who sat in that bed and cried before going into surgery. I am writing this for any women who chose to have a child and struggled with diapers, baby formulas, building cribs and raising a child unaccompanied in the journey.
I am writing this for any women whose partner was unwilling to support their choice.
I am writing this for any women who made the choice to have little toes and Mother Nature decided otherwise. I am writing this for any women who weren’t given a choice—to be fertile, and who choose to adopt a child after trying many years unsuccessfully to fill their bellies.
I am writing this for anyone who chose to have a child and give it up for adoption, to be loved by someone who was at a space in their life where it was the right time. I am writing this for any women who still harbor guilt deep, deep down, in the hope that I can lift some weight from their hearts.
I am writing this for the women who choose to raise a baby at twenty-three, broke, single, unsupported, and living in a cabin in the Yukon. The women who raised a child with a car seat in her pickup truck as she pumped gas to make ends meet.
I am writing this for me.
I am writing to tell the women who have been here how resilient, brave and strong you all are. I am writing you to tell you that I have no shame. I am writing to tell you that I encompass no guilt.
“Empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse is with empathy—it can’t survive.”
~ Brene Brown
There is no “right” choice, there is simply a choice. We must simply make peace with the choice we make and move forward with ease and grace.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s own, elephant journal archives