The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Overcoming The Trauma of An Abortion
Three and a half years ago, I was a total wreck. After six months of constant sex, fighting and heartbreak, my boyfriend ASL had finally broken up with me. I had been clinging onto a toxic relationship for three months too long because I had fallen deeply in love with someone who could not love me; he pushed away, I pulled closer. We were both unbelievably attracted to each other and had a sexual chemistry that I had never encountered with any previous lover. I now realize that a major component of that chemistry was the struggle of knowing that it was not sustainable, that my time with this young Adonis was finite and this experience would never be replicable.
That year was pivotal for me. ASL had helped me fall back in love with myself. I was aglow and everyone around me had noticed. I began getting modeling gigs again and became more involved in the fashion community, which I had withdrawn from during the previous icy, toxic relationship with my cold WASP ex-boyfriend. My relationship with ASL was all fire and smoke — the fire consumed and the smoke repelled. We drank, smoked and indulged in other party substances while further consummating our bad decisions with unprotected sex. I was on the pill, so I wasn’t worried. I had no intention of being a mother at that point in my life.
When we split up that September, I was destroyed. I do not handle breakups well. I spent the first week in bed sobbing — in between obsessively texting the man, begging him to come back. A week after that, I ended up in the ER due to an extreme allergic reaction to a freak chemical exposure. They popped me on steroids without testing me for pregnancy, since I was on the pill. I spent nearly two weeks on my back, covered in hives, every part of me swollen. My period did not show, but I just assumed it was related to the steroids and emotional trauma since I was on the pill.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I knew immediately that I had to have an abortion. I struggled with the idea and wrestled with my intense desire to be a mother. You see, there are few things that I know I am meant to do in life. I do know that I am meant to nurture and be a mother, regardless of whether or not it ends up being my biological child. When you pair that deep desire for motherhood with a desperate, toxic love for another person, things get really sad and intense. The only thing that I knew to do was self-destruct. I sabotaged any semblance of a healthy pregnancy by immediately going to the local dive and submerging myself in a bottle of whiskey.
Even though I knew what I had to do, it hurt. I thought of every birthday that I would not see. I wondered if they would have the nasolabial folds that were so prevalent on ASL’s paternal side, or my grandmother’s cheeks, which my cousins and I inherited. Would the child have been tall with a wide build like me, or short and lithe like their father? Would it have blonde curls like mine, or ASL’s thick, dark mane? Would he sing songs to them in German or Finnish? How would I split the time between his parents and my mom during holidays? Should I raise them without a designated religion, or as Jewish, like their father was raised?
I did the ultimate disservice to myself. I named and gendered my unborn baby: Vera Sparrow. “Vera” means “faith” in Russian and “truth” in Latin. If they chose to be masculine, their name would be “Vero” unless they chose otherwise.
The abortion had to happen, regardless of how much it pained me to say goodbye to my fantasy. I bounced back from it fairly well, considering how badly I wanted to have had that particular child. Months came and went, and my heart began to mend.
I wasn’t prepared for my first Mother’s Day. It’s one thing to have had an abortion when you have no desire to be a mother, but it was a weird experience for me. I mourned. I wailed and cried for all of the stupid things that I had done, for not having my shit together at 28, for not being able to make any relationship work, for drinking and partying before I knew I was pregnant and for willfully sabotaging the possibility of carrying it to term by continuing to drink and party while I was waiting for my abortion date.
It’s different for everyone, but it was fucked up and hurt like hell for me. I tried to kill myself. I felt like most of my friends who had gone through abortions had no regrets and were very comfortable with their decisions. I did not feel like I, a pro-choice feminist, could talk about the incredible pain that I was experiencing without undermining the work that brave doctors and activists do to make it possible. I felt like a traitor and an outcast for speaking about the pain that I was experiencing. To be honest, I still do at times.
Being human is tricky. We’re constantly contradicting ourselves and often exist within paradoxes of moral and intellectual dilemmas. We usually know what is “right,” or at least the right choice for us, but we do not always make the wise choice. If I were to go back in time, I would make that decision over and over again, no matter how many times you put me in that spot. Would it be any easier? Absolutely not. I loved ASL and I loved it, even if it was not a human yet.
Each year, it hurts less. As I was writing this, I actually had to think for a minute or two to remember what I had named it. That’s a first for me. Luckily, that means that the hurt has faded as well. This fall, a mere two weeks before the day that I had my abortion, I will be marrying the man who helped me through this healing process. It does get better.
It’s okay to have mixed feelings about your situation. It does not make you any less of a feminist to decide that it is not the right choice for you — or to express sadness over deciding not to bring a pregnancy to term. Similarly, it does not make you any less of a warm, nurturing person to have zero issue with terminating a pregnancy and not looking back. There is so much pressure to be strong and stand by our convictions that sometimes we forget how complex it is to be in this spots. No matter your choice, as long as you support others in their struggle, you are doing the right thing. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to just exist. If your experience is anything like mine, it’s the only way you are going to get through it.