I counted again, more slowly, sounding the numbers out under my breath, tracing my finger over the boxes in the calendar.
I’d never thought to keep careful track of this, but I was becoming more and more sure by the second. Each breath I couldn’t inhale without pain crushing my ribs, each ticking heartbeat I could feel fluttering in my fingertips, each swallow I could barely get past my tightening throat told me the truth.
I was late.
Oh God, oh God oh God ohGodohGodohGodohGod.
No. This . . .
This wasn’t happening. This could not be happening.
I looked in the mirror, but the woman I saw sobbing, silently, wasn’t me. This wasn’t happening to me.
To this day, I have never felt terror like that. Not when John* was raping me for the second time, not when he hit me, not when he left me two months before the wedding heartbroken and destroyed. I’ve been frightened, scared, nervous, anxious. I’ve had numerous panic attacks, but nothing, nothing, compares to the absolute terror I felt when I thought I might be pregnant. I was late, and I’d been fairly regular for over a year. John had attacked me a few weeks before that, and I knew enough to know what that could biologically mean.
In that time, I felt like a ghost . . . or a shell. I had already become what I now describe as a “non-person” inside of my head– I had given up any rights I had to my identity; I had sacrificed my very being on the altar of my relationship with John. But that week . . . that week was hell on earth. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t even go get a pregnancy test to know for sure, because there was no way to hide that from my parents. I felt trapped in a too-small cage, with no way out. In brief snatches of clarity I knew that my parents wouldn’t disown me if they found out, but I also knew what they, and what I would be facing.
I’d be an outcast– forever. There would be no coming back from being the Unwed Mother– for me, or for my parents. My college had strict rules about “this sort of thing,” and I knew they wouldn’t let me come back and finish my degree. I’d have to start over, and starting over at a different college meant starting from scratch since my college wasn’t accredited. Plus, where was I supposed to get the money for that? No, any dreams I had for a college education would be over.
I knew there were Crisis Pregnancy Centers I could go to– I could decide to take the baby to term and then give him up for adoption . . . but that meant John would know.
That, more than any other thought scared me more than anything else. What if his crazy, insane parents got involved and decided they wanted it? What if he felt that he had to do the “honorable thing” and marry me, right away, in some Hodge-podge shotgun wedding? I’d be married, to him, and I had no concept of divorce, especially with a child involved. Having a baby would mean being attached to John for the rest of my life.
After I’d been late for another five days, I googled Planned Parenthood.
At that point, I knew what I would do. If I was pregnant, I knew I had about seven weeks to make it into a clinic and ask for the abortion pill. I would tell one friend just to make sure in case I got sick, and . . . that would be the end of it. No one else would ever have to know, except me. As for me . . . even knowing everything I did about abortion, even knowing that I would be a murderer, I would still do it.
For the first time the phrase “There is always a choice. You always have a choice,” was laughable. Ridiculous. And wholly untrue. Not for me.
Six days later, I rushed to the bathroom, breathless. Could it– I saw the bright crimson evidence, and felt everything drain out of my body, all at once. I sank to the floor, staring at the stain in my panties. I couldn’t breathe, because I knew if I started breathing I’d start sobbing, and I could not even begin to come up with a way to explain that to my parents. I stared at the spot, and the bloody tissue in my hand, until those two blotches of red were all I could see.
In that moment, I couldn’t even thank God, because God knew what I had been ready to do, and he would never forgive me for it.