I long to be a mother. I am a mother. I had an abortion.
I experienced my abortion as an urgent, terrifying, and often beautiful initiation into the power of the feminine. As a woman free and whole unto myself, I saw I was responsible for this sword I carried: the choice to give life or take it away.
I long to be a mother.
I imagine daily the place of readiness, rootedness, and the wide-open arms into which the daughter of my longing can be born.
I do not want a compulsory motherhood, or one of sacrificial love, a motherhood that will turn me bitter or dry me out or bar me from my own self.
I am a mother.
In choosing to lose you, I affirm my way of being a mother in the world right now, through writing, practicing bodywork, caring for children, and other creative joy. This work calls in community, collaboration, and a sense of fully being at home. This work conjures the beauty into which I could someday bear a child in confidence and abundant support.
I had an abortion.
Since my abortion, I’ve noticed I’m skittish, even fearful, in ways I never used to be. Loud noises, objects that clatter and fall, they rattle me. Abortion—for me—was a trauma to my nervous system and psyche. Also, it was a blessing. To be so vulnerable to the grief of losing a child is to open secret channels within the self: where that grief flows now, I know that one day your laughter will ring out. My child, my heart, my wild roar of love. I praise the loss and longing that softens the ground of my being and makes a home for you.
Recognition of my movement through this feminine initiation has come in the form of poetry. This poem feels the sensations, both emotional and physical, that arose during the moments of my abortion. The multi-layered reality of this is still one I struggle to capture or transmit, but here I share what rises to be witnessed.
I must write this time on the table
I must tell
how we spoke of TV shows fantastic heat famished for
the coming spring how the dr. held up three gloved fingers 1,2,3 you
on the third finger would be removed from my body
her first finger was three needle pricks local anesthetic her second finger
the cervix dilating I felt no cramping no promised pain only—
I must tell you how I smiled through it for whose sake
yours oh my hopeful golden boy but I was never yours—
a soft and rosy woman rubbed my hand through all three fingers helped me
breathe through my house through all the doors flung open
through the instant you were mine and the instant you were tissue
pumped through a hose picked over by gloved hands my child
I have held your death my breath in my own trembling hands my house
that would not
Opal performs more of her own writing about this experience in "The Abortion Chronicles" at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, with two more performances this weekend at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. As a follow-up to the show, Opal and her beloved, Matt Carlson, will host Womb Speak (Aug. 18), a healing and listening circle open to a full spectrum of reproductive experiences: abortion, birth, miscarriage, infertility, and any choice about whether/how to become a parent. Womb Speak will be a safe space for reflecting, listening, feeling, grieving, and celebrating, united across our various outcomes in making loving, responsible decisions about parenthood.
Illustration by Elena Ray