A painful choice, but at least it was still MY choice

When my mother died, I was there to hold her hand, singing the United Methodist hymns she loved so much. Indeed, all of us were there — dad, sisters, hospice nurse.

We prayed for her to be released, finally, from the pain she endured for far too long.

And God listened to our prayers.

Flashback to just a few years before, my mom was there for me during my own life-changing moment, realizing I was never going to be a mom myself. I needed a hysterectomy.  

She held my hand.

For years, my quality of life, well, sucked. I had debilitating menstrual periods caused by an overgrowth of uterine fibroids. Mom told me to wear adult diapers to ward off the embarrassment that I often experienced working in my second career as an educator. Forced to delay classes or hide out in the bathroom to clean my bloody underwear was my existence.

When I finally made the decision to remove all remnants of being a woman — a mother — my mother was there, resting on her cane, feeble, sick, weak with Parkinson’s.

About 33 years prior to that, she was also there for my abortion.

I was young, dumb, 23 years old.

After getting my degree in journalism, I had no job. Mom, persisted, that I get a graduate degree in law. Living at home with my folks, with no employment prospects or awareness of where my life was going, I enrolled in law school. I wasn’t serious about it, only interested in getting my Juris Doctorate in Husband JD.

There was one student I had a crush on, a handsome Ethiopian who was smart, funny.

And married with two children.

Wife and kids decided to live on the East Coast while he got his JD in the South.

When he passed the bar, we danced. We partied. And I got pregnant. And then he moved back to the East Coast with his wife and two children.

Making the decision to have an abortion was not easy. I was so young and had no idea where my life’s journey would take me. While the father of my child moved away to begin his wonderful law career, I was pregnant and living with mom and dad. And because of the emotional toil, I flunked out of law school. I decided to end the pregnancy. And I don’t regret it. Was it easy? Hell no!

As a black woman, I didn’t want to be another statistic. But more importantly, I wasn’t ready to be a mother.

Following the pain-sucking vacuum that rendered my womb tender, spongy and mush-like, mom and I had lunch at Olive Garden, silently nibbling on our obligatory “all you can eat salad and pasta bar.”

Years later, when I was 40-something, mom told me, “I hated to see my grandchild thrown away like trash.” I would have kept my son or daughter had I known she would be there to support me.

What my mom didn’t know was that shortly after my abortion, I sought two United Methodist female pastors who counseled me in my own grief. Because I had truly wanted my son. But at the same time, I knew I was not strong enough to raise a child alone, as a single black woman. I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted in life.

This is not a woe-is-me tale. I wasn’t raped. I wasn’t a forced child bride. I didn’t have an incest pregnancy. I didn’t have a pregnancy that could have ended my life.

This is an appeal for abortion rights and it’s not in black and white.

I appeal to Congress to rectify what our Supreme Court did not get right; we need to allow women the right to control our own bodies. And speaking of bodies, there’s something horribly hypocritical about a country that will allow military-style assault weapons to be used by crazed lunatics to murder innocents, while denying women the choice to control our own bodies.

As a Christian, my decision was not easy and it’s still not. I hope to see my child in heaven one day.

My only comfort is the memory of my mother being there for me in her last years, holding my hand as a full-fledged woman for the very last time. One hand on her cane, her other hand on mine, steadying me before the surgeon removed my womb.

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