A Letter to My Soul
| by Teal Cracraft, Co-Founder of SpeakYourStory |
Our mission at SpeakYourStory.org is to change the face of women’s most stigmatizing experiences. Each week, we ask women to vulnerably share the stories that are most difficult to tell because we believe that taking ownership over our stories diminishes the shaming power they hold over us. When we started this project, we had no idea if it would resonate with other women. But in the weeks that followed our launch, we’ve had the privilege of publishing the extraordinary work of ordinary women. Our brave contributors have inspired me to share a story that has been silenced for a very long time by shame and fear. I believe the debates surrounding this controversial topic would drastically change if more women felt empowered to discuss the emotional and physical impact it had on their lives.
On April 8, 2005, I had an abortion. It was a scary, shameful, devastating decision that I did not take lightly. At the time, I was in the most toxic relationship of my life. The man I was dating brought out the very worst part of me. I confused emotional warfare with passion and manipulation with love. I’d like to say that birth control failed, but that would be a lie. I paid for the consequences of this lapse in judgment by carrying the weight of this secret for more than a decade. Although I’ve told a select few family members and close friends, it’s not something I’m comfortable sharing. It brings me back to a place filled with pain and regret that I’d rather avoid.
In the spring of 2005, I was finishing law school and thinking about the next chapter in my life. I would take the bar exam, pass it and become a high profile Southern California attorney. This course was firmly charted in my mind and the map definitely did not include a baby. About two weeks after my missed period, I finally got the courage to buy a pregnancy test. My then boyfriend waited outside the bathroom while I took it. When I saw the positive result, I collapsed to the floor, sobbing hysterically. His reaction was to ask me if I was crying tears of joy. I assume it’s because he thought that any woman would be ecstatic to have his baby. But, I was in no way joyful. I cried tears of self-loathing, loss and desperation. How could I have been so incredibly stupid? What was I going to do? Could I actually go through the physical and mental trauma of having an abortion? I spent the next several days searching for answers.
My search turned up a counseling center that claimed to help women in my situation. I immediately contacted them and scheduled an appointment. When I arrived the next day, I was greeted by a very nice lady that led me to a room conspicuously occupied by an ultrasound machine. My sleep deprived, deeply troubled, brain hazily wondered why there was an ultrasound machine in a counseling center. Minutes later, I discovered that it was used to shame women like me into choosing adoption over abortion. I was instructed to lay down on the examining table while cool gel was applied to my abdomen. By my calculation, I was not more than 3 weeks pregnant, but I was shown a pea size object on a monitor and told it had a heartbeat. That moment devastated and broke me in ways that no words can describe. I returned to my apartment after my ‘counseling’ session and wrote a letter to this heartbeat. I explained all the reasons I was not ready to be a mom and asked for forgiveness. The next day, I scheduled my abortion.
My then boyfriend paid for the procedure and drove me to the clinic. With tears running down my face, I checked in and sat down. I cried until they knocked me out. I woke up on a hospital bed surrounded by other women that had just had abortions. We were kept in this room until the drugs wore off enough to allow us to walk out of the clinic on our own. I spent the recovery time talking to the girl in the bed on my right side. She was a bar tender and this was not her first abortion. I’m ashamed to admit that I judged her. I could not believe that any woman would put herself through this awful experience more than once. But, I also cared about her and wanted to know her story because we would always be connected through our short time together. She told me that she was planning on going to college and not ready to have a baby. She made me believe that I was not a monster and that, maybe, someday I would recover from this trauma.
I write this story because I’m a passionate advocate of women’s reproductive rights. I’ve stayed silent about my very personal connection to this issue because of shame and fear. I know that I will be judged for exposing this deeply buried secret and condemned by pro-life advocates. But, my silence does nothing to serve other women and may actually result in a future where my beautiful daughter is not afforded the same choices as me. What if she makes the same mistake I did or becomes the victim of sexual assault that results in an unwanted pregnancy? Will she be given the option to end that pregnancy? My terror that she will not trumps my shame and compels me to raise my voice.
As my dear friend and business partner Katie says, “The personal is political.” While this is a personal story it is also, absolutely, political. In my opinion, a person that has never been faced with this decision will never understand its emotional and physical implications. Politicians that stand on a pro-life platform will never have my vote. If you are a pro-life advocate, I urge you to consider whether your opinion would change if your daughter, mother, sister, friend confessed her abortion to you? Would you condemn her as a murderer or would you continue loving her and try to understand her desperation to end an unwanted pregnancy?
To hear my story, please visit The Abortion Diary.