Published on July 2nd, 2021 | by Carla Rachel Sameth1
This is What I Want You to Know
Thirty years later you won’t remember the room. You’ll remember the protesters outside and how your sister growled at them, holding onto you, hustling you into the clinic. You’ll remember how she tried to distract you by showing you how she organized her wallet (you still have to organize your own, over and over again, what is that phenomenon—the second law of thermodynamics—where things revert to disorder). For a moment you’ll feel ordered. Then your gut swirls and your thoughts return to disarray.
You will be asked again, “Are you sure you want to do this?” by the nurse or doctor. You really won’t remember, you had to shut your feelings down and the moments before you are put under are a blur. Did they tell you to count down as the cloud of anesthesia transported you? Did you think to change your mind just before? No, you shut your eyes as if jumping off a building.
You are so sure that you can’t have this baby. It doesn’t feel like just a bunch of cells, a tiny fetus, it feels like a real child to you. When you used to do pregnancy counseling, you might have carefully parsed the words, “potential for life,” as you went over the options with the teenagers and adult women you counseled: continue the pregnancy, terminate the pregnancy, give the baby up for adoption. You were so conscientious then about birth control because you knew you’d never want to have an abortion, even while you believed vehemently in the right to choose. You aren’t sure even now what changed, when you started taking chances, but it seemed to begin with leaving your rock-solid, kind-hearted hometown boyfriend and meeting the crazy one in LA. It was like you were possessed and pausing to consider real life events like birth control had no place in the middle of obliterating sex.
You won’t know in that moment, sitting in that clinic, how much you’ll want to go back after you go forward. In that moment you say yes, take this thing, this possible life, out. The after, endless regrets and reimagining a different decision, that will come later. At that moment, in the clinic, all you’ll think about is the fearful future that this I-know-what-the-baby-would-look-like would face tethered to the father—we’ll call him Ramiro—who leads you into such insanity. Later you’ll learn the words. Addictive, alcoholic, narcissistic, sociopathic with his lies. All you knew then was chaos theory: drunken sex in the area between Montebello and Monterey Park, near the Venice Room where the two of you drank overloaded margaritas and grilled your own steak, listening to the hopeless love canciones, and later wailing by yourself listening to the same. José Luis Perales, José José, Roberto Carlos. Chaos theory was a man that could be standing with his dick in someone else’s papaya saying, Oye Carlita, mira no es lo que tú piensas. Tú sabes cuanto te quiero. Or maybe he’d just stand and grin uncomfortably watching you, like when you showed up at the house belonging to the mother of two of his children (he’d claimed he lived with his mom). He stood back inside the house with an awkward half-smile while you spoke with her. Ramiro had six children from two different women and lived with one of them, the one who told you then, Aquí es donde tiene su ropa planchada, su comida. Puede casarse contigo, pero aquí es donde siempre regresará. She didn’t care if you married him or whatever. She’d always be there waiting for him, his shirts ironed, his life carefully arranged.
His children with her looked Middle Eastern, like you, but with his blue-violet eyes and he told you that your child with him could look like that. You saw them peeking around their mother that day you went to her house.
It will take two visits, but you’ll get the deed done. One visit where the doctor tells you that you aren’t far enough along yet to do it. Ramiro shows up and seems to want to stand by you, whatever your choice, but on the way home tells you, yes, get the abortion. It’s for the best, as if to wash his hands of you and The Problem. Another visit a week later when you go back to the clinic with your sister. Afterwards, you won’t really sleep for months. You’ll go nuts with wanting to turn the clock back as you watch that same sister and a good friend get more and more pregnant. For years, you’ll think about how old your baby would be, imagine your children playing together. For six months after the abortion, you’ll wear down the song “Baby, Can I Hold You” by Tracy Chapman, thinking about the futility of flowery apologies.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have done it, or you will regret it all your life. I’m not saying you won’t. Remember the flash of anger you felt, the flares of regret that burned your entire body. Remember the flash of motherhood, of fierce protective mama bear. And today, thirty years later, know this: It was your first real act as a mother.