My life is not your life

So, I’m looking at some of the comments and emails that are flooding my inbox demanding to know all the inner workings of my life when I had the abortion that saved my life. And I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but there seems to be an ongoing assumption that I had tons of family support, disposable income in abundance, and that my two kids were self sufficient. At the time my oldest was 8 and my youngest was 1 1/2. My friends are supportive, and one of them stepped in to take care of my kids that night but I’ve never had the kind of family of origin that will pitch in to help me (or each other) with more than the most basic things most of the time. It was better before my grandmother passed away, but she’s been gone a while now and without her we’re not a close family by any stretch of the imagination.

When I say my family will help, I’m mostly referring to my aunts or my husband’s family. My parents? They aren’t helpful. They got the phone call that I was in trouble while they were en route to St Louis for a televangelist’s convention. They suggested I call someone else to come get my kids, and then they continued their drive to St. Louis. I did get a phone call from my mother the night after the surgery. She was more concerned with me interrupting her weekend away than anything else as far as I could tell from the conversation. Admittedly I stopped listening after she launched into her latest version of ” This would be shocking, but this is the same woman that didn’t bother to name me and then got mad when I was 13 and filled out my own birth certificate with the name I’d been using at school instead of the moniker she’d always planned to saddle me with so I wasn’t shocked. It was the last straw for our already tenuous relationship, but that’s a story for another blog.

On the disposable income front…at that point we were a one income family and just barely getting by on that one income. It was cheaper for me to stay home with our two kids (childcare costs in Chicago are astronomical), but that also meant we had very little wiggle room financially. So, there was no question of my husband taking off work for weeks on end to allow me to stay in bed all day every day. And while his family will help to their best abilities, they have their own households to run and must go to their jobs too if they want to pay their bills. Same thing with our friends. I don’t know where people live that folks can just stop working and keep living, but I don’t live there.

Someone else asked why I didn’t take my kids with me to the hospital. Aside from not wanting to traumatize them, there was also the part where my oldest was at school. We lived close enough to his school that he could walk home, but having him come home to an empty house was not an option. Nor was waiting for him to get home since you know, I was bleeding profusely and all. My friend cleaned my blood off the walls and hid my sheets so that my son wouldn’t be scared. As for the demands that I have a c-section just in case a micro-preemie could have survived? You should go look at the survival rates for 20 week preemies again. Death wasn’t going to be averted, it was just a question of whether we both died. There seems to be this assumption that major surgery was a better idea than a less invasive procedure. The first thing discussed when I got to the hospital was the lack of viability for a child born at that point, then there was the part where I was in active labor & had no amniotic fluid when they did the ultrasound. But hey, go ahead and assume you know every detail of what was going on in my life so you can pass judgment on the decisions made by the person actually living it.

Lastly, no I wasn’t paid by Salon or anyone else to write that post. It’s not fiction, and the title of my blog isn’t an indication that my nonfiction should be taken with a grain of salt. It is an indication that I’m a published author of fiction and non fiction. The idea that this was a publicity stunt is laughable. I don’t know what planet some of the folks making that comment are on, but on no planet that I work on is having a blog post about a tragedy a way to boost attention for a closed company. Yes, I said closed. Verb Noire is defunct and has been for some time. My writing career has been developing for years and really, I know enough people to have a good chance at selling the book I’m working on.

Mind you, I wrote that post after an argument on Facebook with someone who insisted (as many people do) that abortion is not a medical procedure and that no one ever needs one. I posted it on my personal blogs & on a blog that I co write with several other angry black women. Most of my posts are made in a similar fashion. Most do not go particularly viral. This one has, and yes I did put myself out there when I agreed to let Salon re-post it. Not for an agenda, but simply to write what happened to me and talk about the fallacy in “No abortion is ever necessary” arguments. Did we file a lawsuit? No. I had a lot of other things to do (like mourn and heal) and the hospital staff that did eventually treat me encouraged me to go through internal channels so that patient care would be improved. I did that, and then for the sake of my sanity and my family I put away what happened to me and got on with the business of living my life.

Some say I should name and shame the doctor that refused to do the procedure. If I knew why he refused I might have done just that, but since I know that there are many possible reasons that he did not do it? I’ve left him to deal with the internal procedures in place. Same thing with the hospital where this happened. I could name it (funnily enough many people have correctly guessed and more than a few remember me naming it when it happened), but I didn’t write this post to shame the hospital any more than I wrote it to shame the doctor. Hard concept to grasp for some, but this post wasn’t about revenge or money. It was about me coming to terms with what happened and about my disdain for a particular pro-life argument. Believe it, don’t believe it. That’s up to you. My life will go on either way.


20 thoughts on “My life is not your life

  1. Thank you for being strong enough to share your story and deal with all those who feel the need to second-guess and criticize you. I appreciate you putting yourself out there. Your experience has reminded me why I am so committed to the reproductive justice movement. I am so sorry that you and your family had to go through this. I will keep fighting so that one day soon we will live in a world where this doesn’t happen and every woman’s decisions are respected.

  2. Sadly, there will always be people out there that need to judge, condemn and try to decide what’s best for everyone else. This was no one’s story but yours to tell, and I thank you for having the courage to stand out there and tell it, despite the inevitable flak from small minds and smaller hearts. I look forward to buying your book, and in a small way, supporting such a brave soul.

  3. I thank you, too, for your post. And you aren’t required to explain yourself to those people. They’re not amenable to logic, anyway. Haters gunna hate. Just delete their worthless emails.

  4. Wow, I can’t believe you’ve had to go through what you’ve gone through. On top of such a tragedy of losing your child the crazies have come out and attacked you for a decision you made to save your life… I don’t know what to say, but I’m giving you major internet hugs.

  5. I understand why you aren’t naming anyone. Hospitals have deep pockets, and you open up yourself to some serious legal nastiness when you name names. However, your story highlighted some egregious ethical violations that, as a medical professional (and a human being)

    I find *appalling*. You say you’ve left it up to the internal systems the hospital has in place…I’ve worked in them, and that system only works when there is serious political, legal or media pressure on it. Please follow up with it, and don’t accept some bullshit written apology from the MD who almost killed you (I don’t *care* what his reasons were – and neither should you).

    I am mostly commenting here because I have been thinking of going to medical school, but I had not chosen an area of focus. Your story and the current climate on this issue have inspired me. There need to be more physicians who are willing to provide *needed* women’s health care. So, thank you.

  6. I think the biggest problem with the anti-choice side is that they refuse to acknowledge pregnancy can be something other than rainbows and sunshine, and that it’s something more than a “temporary” inconvenience.

    Women have a right to health care. Period. They have a right to expect that doctors will act in their best interests rather than treating them like animals waiting to be put down at a pet shelter. Pregnant women have the same rights to health care and medical treatment as any other woman. Denying them that care essentially denies them their humanity. This is the 21st century…are we really still hung up on this bullshit?

    If you know someone who thinks pregnant women become 2nd-class citizens by virtue of carrying a fetus, I encourage you to speak out strongly and often. The only way to combat this attitude is to drive it back into their faces…sitting back allows them to keep nibbling away at the laws granting us equal rights, and we’re all getting screwed together.

    1. Mikki,
      again congratulations for your courage and I wanted to tell you that even if it was not intended this story has earned you publicity: I discovered your blog and think you are a good writer. You’ve just won yourself a fan from the other side of the Atlantic ;)
      “I think the biggest problem with the anti-choice side is that they refuse to acknowledge pregnancy can be something other than rainbows and sunshine, and that it’s something more than a “temporary” inconvenience.”
      So true. Society globally is at fault for putting these ideas into people’s mind that pregnancy is a “long way paved with roses” (for me it was more like an endless gastroenteritis) and that a woman is never complete if she’s not a mother. Try and ask for your reproductive rights when you are told: “what? you do not want to be a mother, how is it even possible? What human being are you?”

  7. I have learned so much from your experience.
    I have lived with incapacitating menstrual cramps for about 15 years now. I can’t imagine how physically painful this was for you. And on top having someone dispute your life saving decision. I think instead of being pro-life they are masochists. “bleed to death, have a baby that could lead you to well-fare, leave two kids behind BUT SAVE THAT BABY!” It is like praising suffering and a false humility. All this hard life style praising is SO Romantic and far fetched. Woman have the right to do whats best, financially, emotionally and over the long haul for everyone.

  8. I reached your blog via a forum post discussing your article. Just wanted to express my support. You have been extremely courageous in telling your story. You don’t owe these trolls any explanation…but at the same time, kudos to you for standing up for yourself.

  9. To clarify, what’s far fetched is Jill Staneks logic on that you’re lying, and saying you’re lying, not your original article.

    1. I’m honestly a wee bit boggled right now. She seems to have decided the actual meaning of the words on the screen does not apply if she doesn’t like them.

  10. She (Jill Stenek) appears to be poking simply for the sake of causing hurtful feelings. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. I have a sincere question for anyone that could give a serious answer. Considering the fact that there are more than 15 forms of birth control available, why is our country still having the same argument about abortion that we’ve had for over 35 years now? Shouldn’t the birth control options make abortion unnecessary except in very rare cases like the one written about here? I would like to reiterate that I’m not taking one side or the other in the abortion debate, I’m just trying to figure out why there is still a debate. Thanks for any thoughtful responses in advance.


  12. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Its easy for folk to pass judgement rather then build an analysis as to why we have to make decisions that can affect the well being of our families,our communities, and our own beings. Lots of peace, love, y strength! You have a community of women of color warriors behind you!

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