As a black woman living in the United States, the idea of raising children on American soil triggers multi layered anxiety about building a future here. I’ve harbored these feeling for years now and have expressed it with regards to various areas of life pertaining to health, safety, education and race relations. I’m deeply fond of this country, for a lot of reasons, but despite my attachment to its natural beauty, as well as countless opportunities for growth and prosperity, I’ve always felt at odds with its politics, culture and values. The Supreme court’s position on women’s right demonstrates once again that the majority will of the people is of no relevancy to the powers that be. Taking away about half of the population’s rights to equal bodily freedom and autonomy is a bold divergence from established modern democratic principles that renders most of us fearful of what may come next. We get it. Despite the public opinion finding it infuriating, morally reprehensible and unconstitutional, SCOTUS will do what it wants to fulfill its minority agenda. Although mass shooting are reported daily and on the verge of being normalized. no significant actions regarding gun control is to be taken - in the name of personal freedom. Innocent black people are being murdered routinely and yet no drastic measure is to be implemented - in the name of policing and order. Our planet is dying, but no urgency there either. We get it: it’s divide and conquer and it works like a charm. Systematic fear, demoralization, alienation is the strategy. Countless battles to fight and, honestly, it’s exhausting. Life can be hard. Emotional fatigue is real. I am outraged but don’t have it in me to march, to call officials, to forward the petitions I signed, or even watch the news for longer than 10-15 minutes every once in a while. Many of those who brandish the argument of personal freedom to justify gun rights, vaccine mandates, etc, have made it apparent that freedom only counts on their terms. In my opinion, freedom, should apply to living, breathing, human beings. I am personally okay with others people having rights I don’t necessarily subscribe to so long as it doesn’t impede with mines; to press for the limitations of the freedom and privacy of others solely because I don’t share their beliefs is unacceptable. Wealthy women and men won’t be forced into parenthood due to the Supreme Court’s reversal of a 50 year precedent; they’ll the resources to seek safe alternatives that others won’t. However, most women, especially poverty stricken households, will face fatal consequences as medical providers won’t be allowed to provide life-saving abortions during for risky pregnancies. Women and families going through tragic miscarriages may be investigated and prosecuted for murder at their most vulnerable instead of being given space to grieve and recover. Women and young girls falling victims to rape and/or incest will be stripped of free will to decide on what to do about their pregnancy and further victimized. Healthcare providers will be helpless when it comes to assisting these women or do what is in the best interest of their patients. Out of desperation, women and young girls without options, are likely to attempt terminating unwanted pregnancies in unsafe and unregulated environments, or worst - end their own life. There is also cause for concern for families struggling to conceive as fertility treatment may also be restricted as a result of the result of legislative’s interpretation of when life begins. States that mandate government forced births will also suffer severe financial consequences from bringing troves of babies into the world whose parents don’t want them and/or aren’t prepared for them. The separation between church and state has been eroded and it a disaster of the highest magnitude for women’s rights. Government shouldn’t interfere but instead support viable options and women’s rights to choose. Make it make sense: we are free to privately hold a weapon in public but there is nothing private about women’s uteruses. America seems to have lost its compass and its republic is in trouble. The blatant religious zealotry of the conservative majority is setting this country back decades. This reversal is truly aggravating. It is shocking, maddening, outrageous. In a divided political ecosystem marked by heightened polarization, what else could go wrong? There is something I’d like to finally share and put to rest. It is something I held onto for many years, except I no longer feel that I have to. It isn’t solely about abortion, but about options, access to health care, emotional repression and pent up trauma. It has to do with my multiple experiences with abortion, without which my life would be vastly different today. The first one occurred fresh out of high school. I had been the target of a boy who attended the same establishment as I did and fell for him pretty hard. We started talking heavily in the weeks prior to taking the baccalaureat - the extensive high school examinations which determines whether or not a student can graduate. The baccalaureat exam is kind of a big deal. A robust preparatory period precedes it to ensure all students get to perform at their best. I was a literature student seeing who did really well. I wasn’t particularly concerned about passing the exam as I felt that I would. However, the pressure was on me to pass it with flying colors and secure the greatest honors. Since it was the culminating point of all of our efforts, you can imagine that there wasn’t many opportunities to see each other. We got together here and there but mostly stuck to talking / texting and boy, did he talk a good talk. We got intimate a few times, only for me to find out that he had lied to me all along. The boy had a girlfriend who lived overseas. I put an end to it after discovering the truth but was shaken by it. Feelings had developed on my end but he lied some more so I held it together and maintained no contact. I tried switching my attention to our final exam and the excitement of going to college afterwards but I was hurting in silence. My focus was off and my performance took a hit. I had been a brilliant student with moderate efforts but graduated in the end without honors. Due to my parents and professors banking on me to deliver them the prize, although I had passed, I felt like a failure. Soon after that, I missed my period and started to worry. We had been reckless once and used no protection. I had brought it up to him that I was concerned about that but by the time I caught on to the fact that something may indeed be off, I had already cut him off. I waited a few days in sheer terror of the potentiality of being pregnant. I was too afraid to take a test. I opened up to my sister about it, not sure what to do. We got a test and the results were in; I was pregnant. My world fell apart that day. What’s interesting is that so long as I didn’t have confirmation, I experienced no symptoms whatsoever, but the very minute that I sat on the toilet and peed on the stick. I began throwing up uncontrollably. At that moment, before the lines appeared - I knew. What followed was absolute misery. I had terrible “morning” sickness. I say “morning” because truly, for me, it was all day long. I couldn’t keep food or liquids down. Everything I smelled made me gag. I was truly unwell. I had no clue what to do. I just knew that I couldn’t have a baby. I wasn’t in speaking terms with the boy and decided to keep him out of it; my decision was made; I had to rid my body of this fetus. Abortion wasn’t legal in the Ivory Coast therefore options were very limited. After three days of regurgitating all foods and liquid that was going down my throat, I was so weak that I cried for help. No one but my sister knew what was going and she was trying to find a solution. While others were celebrating their graduation, I retreated in complete isolation. I spoke to no one and never left the house. I barely ate and was losing weight rapidly. While sitting in the darkness, asking God to help me through this, I remembered my mother telling us how her pregnancies were so difficult that her clothes and shoes were too big by the time she made it to the second trimester. She too, was constantly feeling sick and fatigued - each pregnancy was a marathon. I pretended to have malaria. I don’t know that my parents or the house staff believed it, since the symptoms are different, but that’s all I could come up with. I hid for a week, in despair and agony. Was I going to be able to terminate my pregnancy if no accredited health provider was able to intervene? What was my future going to look like? I had just turned 18 and was about to move away for college. Was I going to be forced to put that on hold? What would my father do? What would he think of me? Eventually, my sister came bearing great news. A friend of her was able to located an under the radar abortion clinic outside of the city. Her boyfriend and her would take me there to have the procedure done. I agreed. I was so sick, I could barely wait a day. We headed there the following day. It was a long drive to nowhere. Nothing seemed familiar to me. We made our way to a shanty town, drove down a dirt road and pulled in front of a nameless barrack. I was terrified but didn’t dare ask any question or express my concerns for safety. It had been made very clear that this was my only option. My sister walked in there, paid, and in the blink of an eye I was separated from her and rushed into an austere room packed with other women and girls. No one addressed no one. It all happened very fast. The “nurses” led me into an “operating” room with four or five other beds, all of which were occupied. They had all the patients undressed fully and lay down flat on metal bed. The only reason I remember this is because it was so cold. We wore nothing. We were naked like worms. A rather large number of nurses and unidentified individuals were storming the room, going in and out, giving instructions to each other. No one looked at us or talked to us, except for ordering us to do something or reposition ourselves. No rapport was established. No explanation was provided. No question was asked. No privacy of any kind was offered. We were all looking around, like deers in headlights, avoiding eye contact with one another. If there was ever room labeled shamed; that was it. I can tell you that I’ve been in there. It was a conveyor belt of naked women bodies. There was no curtains or makeshift separations between patients. Although most of the staff were female, the abortion clinic was led by male “doctors”. One man came in and quickly began performing an abortion on the woman or girl at the end of the room after putting her to sleep. I couldn’t look her way for long. I couldn’t look anywhere to be frank as the more I scanned the room, the more I was shocked to notice the lack of hygienic measures. Besides, I was so nauseous that I couldn’t think straight. I closed my eyes and prayed for all to go well. I didn’t want to see more of it. I just hoped to get through it quickly and put it all behind me. The doctor was working his way to me. The speed at which he moved was fucking terrifying. He was going in there with his device, forcefully sucking everything out as fast as he could. I was the closest to the door and therefore was the last one in that “batch” of patients”. I think I was put to sleep as he got to the second or third bed. All I know is that I woke up some time later to a bunch of strange faces. Some ladies were cleaning things up around us. The bed next to me was empty but the other ones had new patients on it. They were preparing for another batch and wanted me out quickly. They just said to me that it was over, I could put my clothes on and walk out to the front. I was still dazed and confused. I scrambled to grab my stuff, got dressed and walked out. I still had no clue where the hell I was. I didn’t know what had happened but assumed it went well. My sister pulled me out and got me into the backseat of the car. When she got in and asked if I was okay; I just started weeping. Her and her boyfriend looked at each other, no really knowing what to do. I was just crying and couldn’t name my feelings. I couldn’t look at them. My sister was in the passenger seat and I was behind her. I wanted to disappear. Almost immediately after her boyfriend C started driving, I opened the door and vomited what felt like everything I had left in me. I cried silently the rest of the ride. We got back home and I became once again a recluse. I found out later on that my mother knew where we had gone and even financed the procedure, but I suppose she wasn’t mentally and emotionally equipped to help me work through it. She did her job from a distance, pretending quite well to believe in my story, checking on my recovery from “malaria” and asking no further questions about what was going with me. I spent that summer in hibernation, avoiding everyone I knew. I tried my very best not to think about it, despite the malaise surrounding the procedure itself. Being able to carry on with my life and academic career was my only solace. My second abortion occurred during my sophomore year in college. I was involved with a junior. I kid you not when I tell you that patterns are real and govern our existence. Unless we learn from our past, we are bound to repeat it. Just like with G, I met K on campus and was uninterested at first but he courted me really hard. He was a sweet talker with lots of charm. As I got to know him a little better, I warmed up to my suitor and got involved with him. We talked a lot but weren’t able to see each other all that often. It wasn’t unnatural to me for he worked and studied full time. That left us little time to hang out leaving me to want more, which worked in his favor. With him, I had some of the best sex I had ever had. He aimed to please and was really passionate - I got addicted to that. He would also maintain communication, checking in often, bringing me flowers, little trinkets and cute creative offerings whenever we’d meet. I was sprung, labelling his gestures as thoughtful and sweet. For personal reasons, I wasn’t on birth control so we relied on the typical method of contraception - aka condoms. However, here and there, we got too comfortable and ditched it, relying on intuitive monitoring of my ovulation phase, pull outs and “good sense”, or lack thereof. In my mind, I wrongly assumed that we were mutually exclusive. That doesn’t excuse the recklessness but it serves to explain the comfort level I thought I could have. We saw each other for months before I started picking up on lies and questioning his whereabouts. When I brought it to his attention he came clean. K had a girlfriend. To make matter worse, they were in a serious committed relationship and had been together for years. She also lived in Northridge. Upon finding that out, I didn’t feel bad for myself. I was relieved that he didn’t try to cover it up any longer than he had. I felt bad for the other girl who was left in the dark. I had a chance to walk away sooner than later. Thankfully for me, we were in a lust based relationship which had not yet blossomed into love. I thought K was a charming prick and thought of myself as an idiot for falling for his schemes. I had witnessed my brother cheat and con every single girl he had claimed to be madly in love with from his high school years to adulthood so I truly thought I was more discerning than that. All in all though, I felt superficial enough that I could painlessly extract myself from the situation. I was wrong. History was about to repeat itself. Soon after I ended things with K, I missed my periods. I was freaking out. My heart was pounding out of my chest. This time though, I decided to open up to him rather than attempting to deal with it on my own. I had no idea what to do. Thankfully we had caught on to it early and were able to take action. As I result, I didn’t suffer greatly from pregnancy symptoms - everything happened really fast. K was involved every step of the way. He clearly was in no position to father a child but he did not pressure me in any way. He simply listened and supported my decision. He helped me to find a facility. He took me there and back. He regularly checked on my wellbeing and visited me after the procedure. I was living in a one bedroom apartment and also had health insurance therefore I had the space and tools to privately care for myself. Although he was decent, that was the nail in the coffin for our romance. I appreciated his involvement and thanked him for showing up for me the way that he did but it didn’t erase the fact that he was still in a relationship with a girl who knew nothing of this gross betrayal. I felt soiled maintaining contact with him and left it at that as soon as I felt better - I desired to move on. I think I might have briefly ran into K once or twice afterwards, prior to him graduating from college, but I went on about my business. I sought to avoid him. A couple of years after we had lost touch, he found me on Facebook and reached out. I accepted his friend request and replied to his initial message but not of the subsequent ones. We remained Facebook “friends” for a bit but I eventually removed him - I didn’t see the point in maintaining a virtual bond. Fast forward to several years later. That nightmare came back to aunt me in the form of A. I accidentally got pregnant again and it was one of the events in my life I really wish I could erase. The lessons it delivered weren’t worth the anguish it triggered. It was awful. I won’t try and describe it all over again. I’ve done it once before and I think it should suffice. Just to provide you with some context: I’ve dedicated myself to the practice of journaling for about two to three years now and my notes are packed with random streams of consciousness, poems, letters, answered and unanswered prompts. It’s full of words flushed out amidst various states of consciousness. In some of them, I was asleep, disconnected, profoundly confused. In others, I had awakened and was deeply aware of all that was taking shape around me. I periodically go through my notes, traveling to what seems far back in time, to sort of gauge what my mindstate was like in a particular season. My journal is the truest, most accurate and untempered with reflection any mirror could deliver to me. As most know, it is my favorite self development tool. I advocate for it all the time as I have found that it supports self reflective efforts and meta cognition at the highest level. Two nights ago, I was exploring old notes when I landed on a particular entry which was rather bothersome. It was a redacted response to a pen-pal friend who had just opened up to me about having an abortion. She was trying her best to recover from it without the emotional support of her partner, ultimately leading to her decision to end the relationship. I barely knew the girl at the time but her vulnerability prompted me to share my most recent experience with terminating a pregnancy and simultaneously running away from a karmic / highly toxic relationship. Here is what I said to her:
The entry closes with a message I wrote to another girl I had connected with through the same application during the pandemic - Bumble BFF. The last two screenshot weren’t a reply to E but a reflective note I sent to S right after replying to E. I included them because I thought it provided more insight into how I was feeling then. I had copied and pasted E’s message into my notes in order to respond to it during my journaling session. As you can see, I was eager to seize the opportunity to clear these thoughts out of my system as I went into great details in sharing my experience. I’ve come to learn that over explaining is a trauma response. I have and still heavily do this when presenting my story to someone. i even do this when I work it out for myself. If I’m going to revisit a past event in my life, in a conscious or subconscious effort to seek resolution from within, I’m going to be as thorough and faithful to the memories I hold of that event so that I can intellectualize it. With A, the condom had broke during the act. I was so terrified of getting pregnant by the time he had entered my life that we never got intimate without protection. I was so anxious about the potentiality for anything like to happen to me again that I was extra paranoid and careful while being with A. For reasons that had not budged over time, I was rather apprehensive about getting on birth control so condoms presented themselves as our default options. Based our estimations, I was in the safe zone according to menstrual cycle’s phases. I took a chance on not purchasing plan B right away because I didn’t wish to cause another hormonal disruption that would perturb my cycle. I was in my early to mid twenties then, 23 - 24. A thought there was no matter for concern. I thought so too but couldn’t rest. On day 3, I hit the pharmacy and swallowed plan B - up to 72 hours they said. The success rate was diminished I felt better having some back up. In my case, I had taken action too late - it wasn’t going to work. I would have been better off taking it immediately. My fear became reality as I started getting sick. I instinctively knew what was to come. Getting the procedure done under those circumstances wasn’t ideal. The aftermath was worse. It changed something in me. Reading this entry was cringe at times, but it was very honest. I could really feel myself back then. I noticed two things while revising it. On one hand, it was evident that I was always striving to investigate and better understand myself. On the other hand, although I was able to self reflect, it seemed I was very critical of myself. Other than with my ex-spouse, I had never openly discussed it with anyone. My way of dealing with it and moving on was achieved by actively repressing my feelings surrounding that episode. That day though, for whatever reason, my subconscious mind jumped on the opportunity to unpack and possibly seek a resolution to a traumatic chapter in my life - one which expediently contributed to my descent into hell. While I seemed to believe that the worst was behind me, I was utterly blind to the fact that I was nearing rock bottom. It’s not the first time that something like this happens and it probably won’t be the last but coming across this entry sent chills up my spine. In it, I presented my ex-spouse as my savior and hero. From where I stood, there was an implied hierarchy to my relationship dynamic. My ex spouse was my teacher and I was his devoted student. I trusted him fully. In my head, I was all bad and he was all good. I was looking for redemption for I felt I was damage good like he had told me I was. I had fully internalized that notion and felt indebted to me for showing me the “light”. I was so dedicated to building him up and I was so invested in protecting him that I rearranged, diminished and omitted facts in an attempt to create a false narrative. One in which I was safe, secured and satisfied. Back then, I believed in our potential so much. I thought I had married the future father of my children. My wish was to start a family of our own one day, when we’d feel ready. Little did I know that my worst experience with terminating a pregnancy would occur during my marriage. Little did I know that my most ominous and destructive relationship was my marriage. I don’t have the words or fuel to explain it right now therefore I’ll have to come back to this after I take a break. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy to talk about. It is the one time in my life when I thought to myself that I might as well be dead. The loneliness, gaslighting, neglect, physical and emotional pain I experience during that life crisis is one I never want to feel again - ever. I won’t allow it to happen to me. It is what has been motivating me to do his work - my power is mine to keep. Love had nothing to do with any of it. Love was nowhere to be found. I had relinquished my power for a mirage. On the outside looking in, I had all the comfort I could ask for under such circumstances. After spending hours looking at affordable abortion service providers online and calling around, I had landed on a reputable health provider and felt very comfortable moving forward with that particular clinic based on the reviews I had read and the attention I had received while scheduling the procedure. The one I had been to with A wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either - it was strictly business. I felt I would be in better hands this time around. In reality though, I had never seen someone as cruel, detached and cold as my husband was towards me throughout that ordeal. The procedure itself went really well. The clinic I chose provided excellent care and was humanistic in its approach. The staff there was truly kind and respectful of women’s freedom to choose for themselves. The nurses were motherly and took time their time to make patient feel at ease. They walked me through every step, demonstrated compassion throughout the entire process, gave me a follow up appointment and a prescription straight from the clinic’s pharmacy. I didn’t have to have it filled and pick it up somewhere else. Through and through, they were absolutely stellar. The nurse even called to check on me after sending me home. I had gone there alone and had broken down in tears when the nurse asked where my husband was. I couldn’t say. I made excuses, claimed that he was busy and would be picking me up. That wasn’t really a false claim: I believed that he would. She sensed my turmoil, handed me tissues and held my hand. She asked no further question and focused solely on me, and what I was experiencing in that moment, emotionally and physically. Symptom wise, my fourth pregnancy was the absolute worst. It solidified my fears about carrying a child in the future. I was sick like a dog and was throwing up constantly. I couldn’t stand up for long or I’d faint. I experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, dizziness, severe nausea, headaches and extreme fatigue. We had been to urgent care. We had gotten my father in law to diagnose and prescribed medicine. Nothing worked. I was so violently sick that we thought of anything but. My ex husband and I were rarely sexually active. We even got blood work done but the pregnancy was not revealed to us. I was lost. It went on and on to the point where I thought I had a serious illness. I thought of autoimmune diseases and even cancer. Something felt terribly wrong with me. It’s not until I ended up in the ER of the USC hospital that the verdict came in: I was pregnant. When I’m willing and able, I’ll dive deeper into what that experience was like for me for I know that I have to process and fully release it in order to heal from it. In the end, I took a Uber back alone and returned to my abuser who crushed me mentally. My marriage had been in shambles for years; I had been the only one holding to it but lacked the awareness to see it. Despite being in the best of conditions, it was my most horrid experience with abortion. The scars are invisible but run deep. It was the darkest time of my life; the peak of my depression. I almost lost the will to live. When I think of the things that were said or done to me at my lowest point, I just want to hug myself. It was hell, but in hindsight, I am so glad my ex husband wanted nothing to do with it and cared not. It was the beginning of me awakening to all that was happening in my life. Anyhow, four abortions under 30, that’s a lot of trauma to the body. I had to write it out, dance it out, cry it out and sincerely apologize to mine for putting it through all of those distressing experiences. I had to reconnect my mind, body and spirit and cared for each in a profound way. I had to learn about womb health and the many holistic practices that support it. I rarely spoke out loud about any of these events. Back then, it seemed easier to repress those memories. Back then, I had also built up a resistance to the idea of ever getting pregnant again, but that has changed. Having gone through what I went through during my twenties, I know just how resilient my body is and how capable it is to heal itself. I also know in my heart that I will be a loving, caring, supportive, patient mother and a more than decent guide for the lives I get to bring into this world. That said, what I can tell you with absolute certitude now and would have been able to tell you then is that having the right to choose has saved my life more than once. I can’t imagine what would have became of me had I been forced into parenthood within the framework of such detrimental relationships. I can’t imagine what it would have been like for my seeds, their wellbeing, their future, etc. We all are aware that banning abortions will not stop them; it only takes away the option of safe and secured pregnancy terminations. For all I know, I could have hemorrhaged on that cold metal bed in that nameless clinic at 18 years old. A sepsis could have wiped me out. A bad infection could rendered me sterile. So many things could have gone wrong. I had four procedure done to this day but only that first one required that I be put to sleep via generalized anesthesia. I can only speculate on what may or may not have happened in that room, or which of these women and girl’s right - including myself - might have been violated while we were all unconscious. I can only speculate or refrain from thinking about it. I will never know. I learned that 1 in 4 women will experience at least 1 abortion in her lifetime - a staggering figure. Although common, there is still judgement and discomfort surrounding this procedure. The bottom line is that women and girls deserve access to safe and regulated abortion services. This is a slippery slope with severe implications. Of all the industrialized nations, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality with black women being most drastically impacted. If the government truly cares about preserving the dignity of life, why not start by tackling the issue of quality affordable health care. Another thing I learned is that 1 in 4 women will We cannot afford to succumb to fear, apathy and emotional fatigue, but boy are we tired. Speaking only for myself; I’m tired. I’m tired and overwhelmed by what has been happening around me lately, in this country and elsewhere. I struggle to imagine what the future is going to hold if this position isn’t reevaluated. Between this, the state sanctioned killings of innocent black people, the impact of the war in Ukraine and the global environmental crises, I feel quite helpless and defeated at times. The suffering and distress that this Supreme court ruling will engender is difficult to measure. The women in this country, more specifically black women, are constantly under attack and, truly, black women in this country can hardly catch a break. We can never get too comfortable. Here is a gentle reminder that may help you and me navigate these very strange times:
And as I was wrapping up this entry, I checked my instagram feed and came across a post by my friend Z I’d like to insert here, as well as this powerful thread I’d like to share with those who may read these words and relate on some levels. This message was for me - perhaps it is for you too:
If you have one, what is your abortion story? What was the quality of the services you were able to receive and what were the main challenges for you? Did you experience relief, regrets, both? How does this reversal make you feel? Have you been able to express those feelings to the people around you? Let me know! Would love to hear your thoughts. Stay well.
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