What does the word “nursery” evoke for you? Maybe it’s plants, but I’m willing to bet it’s more likely images of a crib, a rocker, cute stuffed animals, a baby monitor and neutral pastels.
When I think of nurseries today, images of plants, flowers and garden tools come to mind. If I could build one room into my current house, it would be a sunroom, filled with plants. A place for relaxation, reflection, inspiration and continued growth. I can’ build a real sunroom, but this place is my interior retreat.
At one time in my life, the nursery “nursery” was a charged place. Back then, I could only have imagined all of those baby related images. At 26, I became unexpectedly pregnant. It was NOT an idyllic situation by any means despite my best efforts to turn it into one. Is any unexpected pregnancy idyllic?
Up to that point in my life, I felt like I had made some questionable choices. Or rather, my choices were judged by others as questionable which, of course, I internalized. The black man I had chosen to have a relationship with was well outside the comfort zone of my familial cultural norms. Moving to New York City without a job, on a whim, for the sheer sake of the thrill of it was not considered a “smart career move”. And then, pregnancy. My boyfriend begged me not to even think about telling my parents. That “we” would figure it out, together.
I didn’t know I was pregnant until I passed out in the train on the way to work one morning in late March. After all, I was on the pill! I can’t recall how I found my way back home, to call the doctor for an appointment to see what the matter was. I certainly was not expecting the diagnosis for fainting to be “you’re pregnant”! And she told me that since I had continued to take the pill since inception, there was possibilities of abnormalities. Of course, the internet wasn’t even a thing back then, so I had no idea how to confirm whether that was true or not.
For the first time in my life, I was plunged onto the knife’s edge. I wish I had known then what I know now about self coaching, decision making and self care. But I didn’t and all I thought/felt for weeks was that any decision I could make would be terrible and life altering. Did I want to lose the then “love of my life” OR bring shame to my family and lose my parents?
My boyfriend was thrilled. I was too….for the few minutes each hour of every day that I could block out images of being disowned by my family.
He didn’t have a steady job. I did, but it was never meant to be permanent. His solution was going to be to enlist in the military to provide some security. And I had just been accepted to a graduate program for an MeD in Student Development at the University of Maine. I was excited to be earning a degree that would allow me to help college students figure how not be as “career-clueless” as I was! The program would start in September….and it was late March and I was pregnant.
As I deliberated, the stress consumed me for far too long. Tell my parents? If so, how? Tell them I was having a baby or an abortion? Take my boyfriend with me to their home? Go alone? He kept assuring me, everything will be ok, you are strong, we can do this, just take care of yourself and our child. I desperately wanted to believe him but my brain would not allow that. Plus, the clock was ticking…..I was already 12 weeks along.
Ultimately, we both went to share the news that I was pregnant with my parents. During our trip, he did everything he could to bolster my confidence about moving forward with our being a family. But, our return trip to NYC was quite different. We did not talk about baby names, his enlisting and my becoming a mom of a biracial child. We drove in silence as the likelihood of me having an abortion seeped into our reality. In the hours after that trip and through my final decision, the knife cut deeper as my brain reeled with fear. Fear of the unknown regarding the procedure, fear that my relationship with my boyfriend and my parents would be over and fear that I might never recover emotionally.
By the time I had my abortion, I was close to 18 weeks. Yes, I know what that means….beyond the first trimester. The procedure itself was a routine but required pre-procedure dilation with laminaria, a natural seaweed substance, to soften the cervix. It’s application caused a great deal of discomfort and made the impending event just that more visceral. In the days that followed, as I connected with friends, I learned that I had just joined a community of others who had gone through their own abortions.
In the years after my abortion, while I never forgot, I was able to come to peace with my decision. More recently, I have learned of support for women who have experienced miscarriage. And each time a blog or podcast brings this to my attention I wonder, “Is there a similar community for those of us who have had an abortion?” Abortion is such a common occurrence with 1 in 4 U.S. women ending pregnancies, but it remains a taboo topic.
30 years of distance allows me perspective and gives me the courage to put this in writing. Telling my story for the first time is liberating as is recently finding community for women who have had abortions. Deep work with skilled counseling professionals and coaches have been woven into the chrysalis that transformed me. I didn’t need to have actual babies to have an impact on the world and have an opportunity to leave a legacy. My interior nursery has nurtured me so that I can nurture others.
I know now that for many of the 25% of women who will make this choice, relief will be the strongest emotion afterwards. My relief allowed me to move forward with my graduate degree and eventually land in a 20+ year career in higher education that I love. Over time, nurturing my evolution in the nursery has been a messy and joyful labor that has birthed stores of courage to bring the “next level” of me into existence as a Life Coach. And, it’s AMAZING. It’s truly “my baby“.
Thanks to Margaret Katch, creator of http://www.ctrlaltdeleteshow.com/, a comedy about an abortion clinic, and chapter leader of Virtually Empowered, a Women’s Business League group, for her encouragement.