I was 15 years old. I had been bouncing from relative to relative between Ohio and the East Coast for the past few years since our mother had been rendered incapable of caring for us. She was battling her opiate addiction. My father, whom she had signed my custody over to, was not stable either. When I learned that I was pregnant, I had no idea how I was going to deal with the situation. I hadn’t heard from my mother in quite some time and had no way to reach her. I did not feel safe enough to confide in my father. I hadn’t seen him in weeks anyhow. I lived with eight people at the time, in a cramped three bedroom flat. We all shared one bathroom, the living room became a bedroom at night, and I slept on a pallet on the floor at the foot of my auntie’s bed.
I decided to share my news with a friend who, akin to my story, had moved to the area in hopes of getting away from the instability that characterized his home life. I was very grateful that he responded with enough concern to secure the funds and set up an appointment and transportation so that I may terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible. We went on a Saturday. It was my responsibility to get up every morning and prepare breakfast for the elders who lived with us. I was flustered and aloof trying to provide care for my folks even though I could not tell them about the care that I needed. It had been made quite clear that as a part of our Southern Baptist identities, we did not condone any type of sex that was not between a married man and woman. I did not want to be deemed even less lovable than I felt I already had been; I did not want to be abandoned again. So I tried to hold my truth behind my teeth until I was able to be among friends.
My grandfather, auntie, and a couple of uncles sipped on their coffee while I nervously scrambled their eggs and American melted cheese onto 6 slices of Wonder bread. Auntie was aware that I was in a bit of a rush, as I told her my friends and I were going to the mall. As soon as I served them, I splashed some water on my face and was on my way out the door.
At the clinic, I learned that I was further along than they had expected. I began to panic, concerned that this meant I would be stuck carrying to term a pregnancy that no one could afford and that no one desired. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. In the calm pause in the waiting room, I began to see into my future. With all of the changes happening–my mother struggling, my father faltering, and my siblings being spread across the country–I hadn’t given much thought about anything but surviving each moment. Suddenly, I could see college in my future. Maybe I would become a teacher, one who would be better apt to support students like me who had so much happening at home. I knew I wanted to be a mother one day and was saddened to have to go through this procedure the way I did. But I was ultimately relieved.
Upon returning, I found my cousin rushing through the kitchen impatiently handing me the wooden spoon and a box of macaroni. I arrived a little later than expected. She had dinner started, and I was glad that at least some of the work had been done. As I watched the macaroni fall into the boiling water, I thought about mothers. I wondered where mine was. I wondered whether she would have fallen ill if it weren’t for us. I wondered what motherhood would be like. I wished that someone in my family understood what I was going through, so that I could just sit down. So that I could be held. I was tired. It was hot in that kitchen. We weren’t the type of family that was especially tender toward one another anyway. I resolved to hold myself together.
I’m 32 now. In retrospect, I am so grateful that I did not have to secure parental consent for the procedure because I don’t believe that I would have been able to. I am also thankful that a 24-hour waiting period had not been instituted because it was a true challenge to get away just for a half of a day. If the trap laws that I see in Ohio and across the nation now had been enacted then, there is no doubt that I would have been blocked from having an abortion. It is a shame that girls, women, and uterus-bearing people have to combat so much stigma to simply access the reproductive healthcare we need. I know firsthand how heavy the implications can be when we are denied.