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My Body, My Rules

It runs in my family: fertility. Therefore, we have some abortion legends that are still alive. My great-grandmother, who passed when she was 97-year-old, told me she had 17 abortions back in old Russia – all performed with some kind of tea. Three kids, one of them my grandfather. Total of twenty pregnancies! I cannot imagine all the pain associated with all this. And I feel deeply sorry that she could not experience the benefits of contraception.

My wonderful great-grandmothers who had to endure the lack of contraception in the early 1900s.

On my mother’s side of the family, rumor has it that my great-grandmother passed during an abortion. She left four kids, a husband and a career as a dentist (one of the first female to graduate dentistry in Brazil in the early 1900s). It breaks my heart to think about this.

The Storm

In April 1993, it was my turn. Only four months after I started dating my boyfriend, I found out that I was pregnant. It started with me missing my period and feeling nauseated. I know, shocker! We were using a diaphragm as contraception that, of course, was not working out for us.

It was a gloomy morning when I had a blood test that came back positive. I sat on my bed, waiting for my mother to come home from Brasília, crying, lost and in shock. I heard the tropical rain finally hitting hard on my windowsill, regardless I opened it and let my hardwood floors get soaked. Staring at the fury of that tempest calmed me down.

I was faced with a big decision. Photo by Luisa Malin Melo.

I had not told my boyfriend about the pregnancy. Just that I was suspicious. Somehow, I wanted to tell my mom first, since she had always been my best friend. I really needed her advice, guidance and affection. Couple of hours later, I heard her high heels coming from the front door. She looked tired after a long week of work.

“Finally, home! The airplane was delayed because of the storm,” she grinned, taking her shoes off. She was wearing a black pencil skirt, and a silk blouse that had rain drops all over it. The outfit was very flattering on her body type, slim and tall, just with enough curves to make it classy and feminine. Her hair was up, but she looked beautiful, like a movie star.

The Talk

Once our gaze met, she sat on the bed, holding my hands, asking me with her eyes what the problem was.

“Mom, I am pregnant,” I exploded, unable to assess the damage of the bombastic content of that sentence, probably one of the most dreading things a parent can hear from a single teenage daughter pursuing a career.

“Wait, what?” she asked, as if I had said something very irrelevant like “the gas price went up.”

“Pregnant,” I repeated, holding my bed quilt as firmly as I could.

She sighted. Then she stood up, left the room, came back with a lit cigarette.

“How did this happen?”

“I had sex?” I replied. It wasn’t funny, I just didn’t know what to say.

“How about the diaphragm we’ve got you? Why aren’t you using it?”

Couple of months before, when my relationship became serious, she took me to the OBGYN for birth control. I tried the pill for a week and pretty quickly it was stablished that I am allergic to it. I got horrible migraines that lasted for weeks after I stopped taking it. My doctor then prescribed the diaphragm and condoms. We started alternating the two, with withdrawal also, just to be safe. And we obviously failed it.

“I swear to God that I was. It got misplaced or something. Mom, I don’t think this diaphragm is really safe.”

She sighted, stared at me, at the open window and wet sill, and back at me.

“Do you feel like you are ready to become a mother?”

I shook my head no. I was a freshman at university.

“Do you want to think better?”

“Mom, I am not ready for this, really, it is freaking me out. Can I have an abortion?”, I asked.

Could I have both at 18 years old? The studies and the baby? Was I ready to become a mother?

The Decision

My mother was not the grandmother-raising-a-grandchild type. She was a busy working mother and would carry on being a working grandmother. I am sure she would joyfully have helped me raise the baby, but I would have to drop out of college, and that was not even an option right that moment in my mind. Every woman in my family had a college degree and I was eager to start my studies. But having an abortion would also go against my nature. I can’t kill a fly or a cockroach – could I get rid of my little invisible seed?

*To Be Continued Next Week


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