I stood in my room, surveying the damage. My closet had been ripped apart. Clothes were strewn all over the floor. My mattress was also across the floor. My makeup and hair tools swiped off my dresser, scattered across the carpet. It looked like I had been ransacked and robbed.
But it was just my father.
He stood in the doorway, still wearing his army flight suit, dark with anger. He’d gone through my closet while I was out and found birth control. It was just before my sixteenth birthday. He clutched the pills and condoms in his hand and demanded, “Where did you get this?”
Looking at the floor and muttered, “A clinic.” I was then informed me that I was grounded, indefinitely. Not just from TV, telephone and going out, but also from wearing makeup, doing my hair or wearing contacts. I’d be relegated to wearing my glasses and “being a kid again”.
I lived in Alabama with my father. While Mom and I had had talks about sex, Dad preferred to largely ignore it in regards to his kids and kept the household very strict. Meals were eaten with family at the same time each night. I made my bed with hospital corners and could bounce a quarter off of it. Curfew was 10 p.m. sharp on weekends and no socializing during the week. I called everyone “sir” or “ma’am” and always said please and thank you. And…I had floor-to-ceiling windows in my bedroom I’d sneak out of to see my boyfriend. I would describe him as a decent looking redneck football player. He introduced me to drag racing, Hank Williams Jr, four-wheeling and a few recreational drugs. I don’t think I even liked him that much. But he had a car, which got me out of my oppressive household of drinking, violent mood swings, early curfew and a strict military upbringing.
A few months later I was so tired, I could barely stand up. I had been granted the privilege of wearing makeup again, but began skipping it, because I barely had the energy to get to school. Normally a sugar fiend, I lost my craving for everything except protein. I’d scavenge our refrigerator for all the meat and cheese I could snack on between meals. I was nauseous all day long. I thought, “I don’t know what’s wrong, but maybe I should take a pregnancy test just to make sure.” I dragged myself down to the nurses office, and when she came back with a “you’re pregnant”, a flash of hot terror sliced through me. FUCK. Fuck, fuck, fuck. What the FUCK will I do? My dad will KILL ME. He thought nothing of completely trashing my room over just finding condoms. This would be my end.
I needed to think. The clock was ticking. Every day that passed, I was running out of time to make a decision, as I was already past the two month mark and hurtling towards last call. Twelve weeks was the cut off for termination. The sheer panic and stress over making this decision is unlike anything you can ever feel unless you yourself go through it. To this day, I’ve never experienced that same kind of gut twisting panic. The boy and I talked and were on the same page as far as deciding that neither of us was in the position to take care of a child at this point. Our only option for abortion underage was to get married or tell my parents. I was so afraid of my dad, we decided to get married, but we’d have to do that in Georgia, since Alabama didn’t get underage kids get married. We planned it and I felt even sicker and what a fucking mess my life had suddenly turned into. I had ten days left.
I knew I had to tell my Dad. It was the only way. I sat there, sick to my stomach with cold sweat for hours, trying to work up the courage. I casually walked by him sitting on the couch and said, “Dad…when you have a minute, can you come into my room? I need to talk to you.”
I sat on the bed and waited. My heart was pounding in my throat; my palms were slick with perspiration. He appeared in the doorway. I looked at him, took a breath and blurted, “I’m pregnant.” He stared and didn’t say anything. Then…he started to cry. I had NEVER seen my father cry. I was horrified. Through losing friends after Vietnam to a terrible divorce, he had never cried. Gutted, I realized how badly I was hurting and disappointing him. He turned his back to me and went into his room. I just sat there. He came back into my room and said, “Tomorrow. 8 am. Be ready.” He had called a black clinic in Montgomery, a distance from us. Clearly, he didn’t want anyone to know about the trouble I’d gotten myself into.
“I want more for you than this. You’re too young and too smart. You can go places. Not this way and not tied to this guy. You would be tied to him and tied down for life. And I am not raising another kid. I raised mine.”
We got into his car and made the near silent drive up. He paid the extra fee for a local anesthetic. A big Jamaican nurse sat down next to me, and patted my hand. “Look, chile…it’ll be ok. You’ll be fine. You have plenty of time for this later, after you live your life first.” I went in to a sterile, white room, got on the paper covered table and the doctor inserted a cold speculum. I heard the sound of suctioning. In less than 5 minutes, it was done. I got up; they put me in a cold recovery room with Cheezit crackers and a soda. I found out I had an extremely tipped uterus and was RH negative. The reason I was so damn sick is because my body was trying to get rid of the baby, which was likely RH positive. They gave me an injection to change the RH factor. I was told to wear a pad and how to avoid infection. I was given birth control pills and told this procedure would not affect any future pregnancies.
It was a surprisingly not unpleasant experience and the very first time I didn’t feel sick, stressed and wound up in weeks. It was in Dad’s hands now and my stomach finally stopped churning.
On the ride home, “I’m sorry.”
I felt better the next day. Human. The weight had been lifted. It was not a decision I’m either proud of or ashamed of. It just was.
Some of my friends have had children very young. They love them dearly and their kids add much to their lives. However, the story is usually the same. “I wish I could have waited longer.”
You wouldn’t be reading this blog if I’d chosen to have a baby. You’d have never seen me wrestle. You’d never see me model. I don’t know what I’d be doing, but it wouldn’t be this. No one has to live with either decision I could have made except me. I went on to go to college, travel and do things that ‘normal’ people pick my brains about (usually in awe) all the time. I wouldn’t have seen a lot of the world or experienced life as I’ve been able to. For me, it was the right choice. I wouldn’t change a thing. And I’m grateful that I had a choice to begin with.
This was a hard blog to write. I know some will be offended, but again…no one lives with my decisions except me. I later found out I am Level 1 Bi Polar (from Dad) and that it’s genetically passed on. I would never, ever want anyone else to have to live with this damaging disorder. Also known as Manic-Depressive, no good comes from it, aside from slight mania, as it enables you to work non-stop and be incredibly creative, all on less sleep. Full blown mania causes too many problems to even list. You can’t control any of these states, and it’s terribly destructive to you and to those who love you the most because it generally doesn’t rear its head in public. You can’t always remember what you said or did afterwards. It leads to an unbelievable list of apologies that start piling up. And soul crushing depression. To truly understand bi polar, one need not look any further than Kurt Cobain, who realized that the disorder was so destructive to him and his family; he chose to end his life rather than put loved ones through any more. You can’t walk away from this. It’s with you all the time. And, this may be why Cobain left a note that said his daughter would be better off without him….which is probably true. That’s how difficult and hurtful this to those who have it and the people around them.
The boyfriend emailed me last year. He said he was doing random construction in Mississippi and has had a “shitty life”. It made me think that despite what we think when we’re younger, that quite possibly; parents really do know what’s best for their children after all.
Photo – Chris Freeman Photography