When I was 23 I discovered I was pregnant. The realization of that possibility was like getting hit in the head by a baseball bat. The first discernable thought was, “My life is now fucked.” I had a minimum wage job, no savings, was living in a rather marginal situation and certainly wasn’t going to get involved with the person who I knew would be the father. We were essentially only friends with benefits.
If I’d have thought there was a god I might have prayed, but even back then there was no such thought. After the panic came the question, “What to do?”
I knew 3 or 4 other women who had gotten abortions and they seemed fine after the fact. They carried on with their lives as if nothing had happened. Or maybe they were good actors. I knew another woman who had the child and gave it up for adoption. She too carried on as if nothing had happened. And I knew more than I could probably count who were single mothers, living on welfare or in minimum wage jobs just trying to survive.
Time is of the essence when that kind of decision must be made. And the pressure to decide something and prepare for that something is enormous. The number of if…then statements that loop through your brain are endless. You try to account for every variable, every possibility and make a dozen contingency plans for each one of those.
But you don’t know how anything will turn out.
And then there’s the blaming, of self and other, with more if…then statements. If I only wouldn’t have gone there…if he’d only not have been there when I arrived…if it were only raining that day…if I’d only worked the other shift…it’s endless.
Trying to wrangle the karmic past to try to get some clarity, even with a very specific situation and very limited variables is nigh impossible, so trying to navigate a future with all those as well as who knows how many unknowns is even moreso.
But I did make a decision. That was, “If this happened because of my actions, which it did, then it’s my responsibility.” If…Then. I decided I would accept being a mother. The decision brought some relief. And underneath something like excitement or happiness or one of those pleasant sensations that defies adequate description.
I had never been against abortion, at least not in the way some rabid ideologues had been and still are. But neither had I felt it to be a method of birth control which at least some radical feminists at the time did.
And then there was the Buddhist thing. I had been learning about Buddhism for about 5 or 6 years by then. Had read plenty of books and had even sat with a group to learn shikantaza which I continued to do on my own after the group moved on. [and I still do it]
So some temporary relief from the initial decision making process was had. Which started a whole new round of decision making. The first part of which was to deal with my drug and alcohol problems which had being going on for quite a few years. I realized I’d have to stop all that.
Vipaka or fruits of Karma as it is often translated, is a real mixed thing. Some fruits are fresh and some are spoiled. And many don’t manifest for decades to come. It is an unending process of feedback loops and tangles in overwhelming complexity. We can only trace a strand of it here and there as I am doing now.
I woke up one morning to find blood all over the bed sheets and my legs. I went into the bathroom to wash it away but it kept coming…heavy clots of dark purple blood tinged with streaks of bright red. I went to a doctor. He said it was a miscarriage.
I cried then. Like I’m crying now. Because the decision had been made.
I had never wanted children but when the possibility arose there was still something amazing about it. And I would have made the best of it, somehow.
Not long after that I underwent a tubal ligation procedure. Sterilization. This was not going to happen again. And I did not and do not regret that for a second. It had crossed my mind a number of times before this episode.
Then I started post-secondary education, got jobs, bought houses, got married and divorced, traveled around a lot, had affairs, wrote blogs…did a whole bunch of stuff. And never really looked back much.
In an ideal world there would be no need for abortions. There would be 100% effective and 100% safe methods of birth control freely available to all men and women. And every child would be welcomed into a loving home.
But we are far from an ideal world. There are far too many women having to make decisions that should not be necessary. But they are. That’s the reality. That’s what we all have to accept…about everything.
It’s rare that I think about that situation or the past all that much. I’m not generally the sentimental, nostalgic or maudlin type. Even history is not all that reliable. I don’t and nor does anyone else really know all that comprises any previous situation on any kind of scale.
But one thing I do know.
That maybe-child may have saved my life.
So I am grateful for that.
Here’s a video that says a little more. Sonya Renee in a poetry slam on the reality of the situation.