“An abortion?” she asks. “What’s that?’
“It’s when you don’t want the baby.”
“I didn’t either,” she says.
“You wanted an abortion?” I ask.
“I had you.”
This was at the end of my mother’s life, when moments of clarity were life-stopping and earth-shattering…literally. I could feel the earth give way under my feet. I wasn’t at all surprised. It made sense, perfect sense. I had always felt unwanted. Always. She would treat me with disdain and dissatisfaction, and there were many days and months and years while I was growing up that she would tell me – in a heat of red hot anger – that she loved me because I was her child, but she didn’t like me.
That always made me cower. Shrivel up.
I would shrink right in front of her eyes, and she would watch me shrink and my insides would crumble and my heart would crack and I would wait for her to say she didn’t mean it or that it was a lie or that she was sorry and hold me.
That didn’t happen.
I turned sixty-four yesterday, and as I was face-down getting a ‘Sixty-minute with
Aromatherapy sides’ massage, I had this sudden urge to flip over on the table, and sit upright and face this – being unwanted – this demon that I had been carrying and burying and carrying and burying and yes, trying to abort for sixty-four years.
I am a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose, pro-choice, across the board. I am what you would call a hardliner. I, myself, have had a few abortions. To say that they saved my life would be an understatement. To say that the boys I slept with were the bad choice in the equation would be the blatant hard-core reality. To take it one step further and say I would never had been a good mother at the ripe age of 18 or 19 would be the absolute irrefutable truth. I didn’t want children.
I suppose being secretly unwanted webbed itself into my entire body, and I didn’t quite get the whole picture.
But here, back in 2008, my mother was telling me that she didn’t want me. And the pieces fit; all the cracked and messy and edgy frayed pieces fit.
She, like millions of other women, had babies when what they really wanted was a different life path. My mom was an artist. She was creative and wild and gorgeous and sexy and emotional and vibrant and she wanted to have a Bohemian life, but her choices were limited and, so, she chose to be married and have two kids, ten years apart, and lived in the suburbs and it was there, on a street like every street in middle America, where the split levels all looked the same and the flower beds all had the same floral arrangements and the gardener would show up and mow the lawn and the mail would come at the same time everyday and everything was in its place…and it was there that she lost pieces of herself, fragments, while she sat in front of the television screen watching Gail Storm and Lucille Ball and Donna Reed and Father Knows Best, and Queen for a Day, and she played Mahjong, and made meals, and went bowling with the girls and chain smoked and coughed, and had bouts of depression that no one ever talked about, no one, and on occasion, I would find her sitting on the edge of her bed, the one that was perfectly made with a cream color chenille bedspread dotted with magenta and rose chenille balls, crying her eyes out. And I would tip-toe into her bedroom and I would sit down next to her, and I would put my skinny little arm around her and tell her that everything would be okay. But everything was not okay. Everything was far from okay, and if she didn’t like something I wore or said or did, she wouldn’t speak to me for days.
Which brings me to this:
Don’t pop babies out and then treat them with disdain.
Don’t pop babies out and ignore their needs, their wants.
Don’t pop babies out and discard their feelings, their pain, their sorrow.
Don’t pop babies out and then refuse to acknowledge their existence especially when they are standing right in front of you dying – dying – to be acknowledged.
No wonder so many women feel unsafe in this world.
We didn’t feel safe in the womb.
It has taken me years to understand that feeling unwanted has been a road map for me, a bumpy scary road map. The decisions I made, the choices I made, the roads I travelled, getting hugely lost; the mistakes that piled up, the bad boys and the awful drugs and bad, bad nights, and the rebellious acts and the need to be seen and loved and the deep desire to feel as if I belonged. To be accepted. Included. It all comes with a big neon sign: Unwanted.
That was the very foundation where I made most of my decisions: children who don’t feel wanted are always looking to fill that deep dark awful hole. And trust me, it is awful, it is dark, and it is unbearably deep. It is a deep hole that seems to go on forever.
Do not pop babies out if you can’t love them, or like them, or care for them, or nurture them. Do not pop babies out if you have no plan on putting your life on hold for them. Do not pop babies out and then destroy their confidence, or take their joy, or diminish their hearts and souls because you didn’t want them in the first place.
Do not pop babies out and then hurt them.
When I stopped needing my mother to want me, I was able to want my own life; accept myself; ignite my wild rebellious crazy sexy life and dream up and dream big. Epic, as I like to say. Permission and validation were no longer on the menu.
And the other truth, the hardest truth of all – my mother could have never told anyone, not a soul, sixty-four years ago that she didn’t want to have another child, that she didn’t want another baby, that she wanted an abortion, or even thought of an abortion – she would have never been able to admit that sacred truth, that deep desire, because she, herself, was unable to make choices that were for her own benefit, for her creativity, for her own wild dreams, for her own life.
If you don’t really want to bring a child into the world, if you’re doing it for some religious right fundamentalist reason – stop – seriously stop – and think about the burden you’re about to lay on an innocent child. The burden will trail her or him their whole life.
A pregnancy can very much be unwanted. It happens all of the time – it’s a powerful realization. It takes enormous courage and guts to know that no child deserves to be brought into this world feeling unwanted. The effect on that one life can be catastrophic; the ripple-effect enormous.
An unwanted child is far worse than an unwanted pregnancy.
author. writer. girl.
Women’s eNews weekly columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. She was also honored by Women’s eNews as one of our ‘21 Leaders for the 21st Century‘ for 2018. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism.