The entrance bell rang minutes to closing time and I confidently walked to the front office. Miles from where I had been six months ago, I no longer instinctively put the reference binder front and center on the desk. I had administered dozens of pregnancy tests, referred countless doctors and adoption agencies and had collected and distributed hundreds of dollars worth of baby goods and maternity clothing.
I had met girls who were looking for advice and I had met girls who wanted to shut me out. “I know what you’re about here, and I just want to tell you right now that if I’m pregnant I’m getting an abortion and you can’t talk me out of it.”
My mission was the same regardless: to love them like they were my own sister and know that I have not walked in their shoes. “I’m not here to tell you to do or do not do anything, I’m here to offer any assistance and information you would like, if you would like any... but first thing’s first, let me tell you a little bit about the test you’ll be taking.”
I felt trained, I felt ready, then I met Wendy.
She was walking slowly into the office at the same time I arrived from the other room. Clearly pregnant, I hoped she wasn’t here for a test and did a mental rundown of the baby furniture we had in stock.
After a brief introduction about myself and what we do, I waited in silence.
“I don’t need anything,” she said finally. “I’m pregnant, my baby’s doing fine.”
“That’s wonderful! Have you been to a doctor?”
“Yes. They did the ultrasound a while ago and they could already tell it was a baby boy. They said they usually can’t tell so early but my baby was movin’ around and givin’ a show.”
The sentiment was joyful, and I would’ve normally laughed, but her tone and her face kept me silent. Maybe there were issues with the father? her parents? money? these were all things I had covered in my short time here.
“I didn’t know it was really a baby in there. I swear I didn’t know.” She started to cry softly into her hands.
I walked around the desk and put my hand onto her shoulder. It was painfully evident to me that I was woefully unprepared for this particular session.
She proceeded to tell me how five years earlier, in the early stages of her relationship with her now husband, she had gotten pregnant unexpectedly. She didn’t even know until she was almost three months in and she went to the student center because she thought she had mono. The center gave her the news and immediately referred her to a woman’s center.
She said she went straight there without stopping or calling anyone. When she walked in, she was told she could have a procedure the same day.
She remembered asking if it would hurt while she was signing her name. She said a nurse reassured her and said it hurt less than childbirth. And when she asked if it would hurt the baby, it was the only time that it felt like the process had paused. The nurse asked kindly, “You sure you want to do this honey, ‘cause its not really a baby yet.”
“I told her ‘no way I could be a mom,’ and that was that.”
“It was awful,” was all she could muster to say about the procedure and she quickly moved on.
“I had nightmares but I pushed it down and kept telling myself that it wasn’t a baby, and I really started believing it. I was doing ok. It wasn’t until this ultrasound...”
She pulled out photos from her purse. The profile of the face was formed as was the bulk of the body. The legs kicked out awkwardly from the center mass a little bit like ET. “I know it sounds crazy but I swear he already looks like his daddy.”
I smiled weakly and said he was beautiful.
“But that’s not all,” she cried, “he moved while the lady was taking the pictures and she said that sometimes the baby reacts to the sound.” She stopped and looked directly at me, “If this baby can hear the sound... what did my other baby hear? or see? or feel?”
My heart sank. I didn’t know what to say. I was sad and ashamed at the same time. She came here for help and here I was this punk college kid that thought I was worth something because I could read a pee stick and hand out business cards. I was sure that someone else could have done a better job and was close to asking her to wait just a minute while I desperately dialed the numbers of everyone I could think of.... but, that tiny voice that pops up when you need it most reminded me, ‘she needs someone now, are you going to turn your back?’
So I helped her up, and we walked together into the more comfortable sitting area. She talked and I listened. I learned how her boyfriend had to take time to forgive her for not talking to him before the abortion. She told me about her Christian family and her fear of what they would say if they ever knew about her choice. She talked about the utter confusion she felt and how deep down she knew how much she had hoped that it really was ‘just cells.’ She said she wishes now that she taken more time or trusted her family enough to talk to them first.
I wish now that I had known about Project Rachel or any of the other many post-abortion counseling services. But I hope that God had put me there for a reason as all I could really do is listen... maybe that’s all she needed. At least when my guilt hits me that I couldn't be better... that's what I tell myself.
I gave her my phone number and encouraged her to keep in touch, but I was sure I’d never see Wendy again once the door shut at the clinic and of course, I never did.
Over the years, through my own ultrasounds and personal health struggles, I often think of her.
When my arm had the smallest hairline fracture and the doctor made sure to show me detailed pictures so I could understand as much as possible before we talked about treatment I thought about how little information she was given.
When the scheduling nurse asked if I wanted to have my husband there for a brain MRI, I thought about how Wendy wasn’t encouraged to have anyone by her side.
When the dentist gave me a detailed analysis of my options when I chipped a tooth and then suggested I take a couple days to weigh the options, I think of how Wendy was treated as though hers was a simple decision that could be made on the spot.
When my OB gave me the laundry list of feelings I may experience from physical to emotional after the birth of my child, I think of how Wendy was never told that depression is a possibility nor where she should turn should it become a reality.
And I think about her when I hear about another Wendy in Texas being called a hero for doing her best to stop a law that would improve medical safety for women having abortions and make elective abortions illegal after 20 weeks.. “It’s all a trick to take away all abortion rights!” claimed the protestors of Texas... but I can't help but wonder how informed those protestors allowed themselves to become on the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
I look at what the abortion debate has become in this country and I am at a complete loss. The same people who want the operation covered completely under medical plans, don’t want anyone to think that its a medical operation. The same people that scream that women deserve more respect don’t want women to be fully informed about a decision that could change their lives. The same political party that mocks the other side for not listening to science in cases of climate change and evolution, want Americans to turn a blind eye to biology.
I often hear, its been especially true in light of what happened recently in Texas, that this is a 'feminist issue.' With that in mind, I will end this with the words from one of the founders of the feminist movement.
“When we consider that women are treated as property it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton
and to Wendy, wherever you are... I'm sending prayers and hope that you and your family have been able to let go of pain and embrace joy.
thanks for reading.