Multiple Choice for Expecting Parents

An expectant mother faces a life-and-death decisions

| September-October 2000

I was 20 years old. The space shuttle had just blown up, killing all its passengers on national TV, and I'd been bleeding for almost a month. I didn't feel well.

I got my mother to take me to a clinic in town. While she paged through old magazines in the waiting room, I went through the gamut of tests. The doctor told me that I'd tested positive for pregnancy. I started to cry.

"I don't know if you're happy, or sad," he said, almost as if he expected a reply.

I had a year and a half of college left. I'd just returned from a semester in Avignon, where I'd fallen in love with a Greek student. Dealing with birth control in a foreign country seemed daunting. With Mediterranean machismo, Dimitris had warned me about his particularly potent seed; he'd already impregnated his Greek girlfriend twice. But I was living my life like an art house movie, taking risks in Europe that I would have taken nowhere else. I was a fool. I wasn't ready to be a mother, and I couldn't imagine Dimitris as a parent, either.

Late at night, I sat on the porch steps, smoking cigarettes and imagining what that baby would look like. I hated the idea of abortion, but the other options were even more terrifying. If I ever got pregnant again, I decided, married or not, I would give birth.

My mother made an appointment for me with an obstetrician. He told me that if I lost much more blood, I would need a transfusion. He recommended a D&C. He never suggested the possibility of saving the life inside me, and thus the decision was taken out of my hands. He wouldn't verify that I was actually pregnant; the tests were inconclusive. Even so, the procedure went down on my medical records as a "partial abortion."

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