BY DIANA FREID (she/her)
It’s 1967, I am 19 years-old, and I am pregnant. I don’t understand how this can be. I think it’s impossible to get pregnant the first time you sleep with someone. I cannot have a baby.
My boyfriend asks around and gets a name and a number. I have $100, and he borrows the rest. I meet his friend’s girlfriend, Mary, a nice Catholic girl. She tells me what to expect. I think, she is not the kind of girl who would have an abortion, and yet she did. If she can do it, so can I. As the date gets closer I think about a baby, our baby, growing inside me. I still don’t understand how this could happen. I cry. My boyfriend says he’s glad I feel this way. It means someday I will make a good mother. I cry harder. He borrows $400, and the date is set.
It’s in New Jersey. Nothing good ever takes place in New Jersey. It’s stinky and ugly, and we get lost. Eventually, we end up in one of the rundown working class neighborhoods. I’m scared and cold. I’m numb.
It’s all very cloak and dagger. The drop off is four blocks from the address. He lets me out of the car. I am supposed to arrive alone. I have the directions and $500 in cash in a plain white envelope. I walk down the streets. Time slows down. Suddenly my eyesight is incredible, my hearing superhuman, and I feel every footstep that takes me closer to the door. I spot it now — the shabby green two story house with the paint peeling off it, a sagging porch in the front. There are no signs of life. I walk up the three steps and ring the bell.
She answers the door in a short white nurse’s uniform, cap and all. Her mouth has thick red lipstick on it, and she has a heavy Jersey accent. She looks like she is straight out of a porn movie. I watch her lips move. She says, ”Go in the bathroom there. Take off all your clothes and leave the money on the back of the toilet.” I do as I am told.
I come out of the bathroom completely naked. I’m told to lie down on a metal table in the hall. I’m cold and exposed. I can see into the next room where the one before me is getting it done. I hear her breath, the gasping intake, the soft groan. Standing between her legs is this man — dark and hairy, unshaven. The doctor? I guess he is. He is wearing a large plastic butcher’s apron. It is splattered with blood.
Then it’s my turn. I walk in and climb on the table. Something happens. An interruption. The man walks out of the room leaving me there, legs in the stirrups. There is a muffled conversation in the hall. His wife called. He is angry. “I told her to never call here when I’m working.” There is more whispering. I guess the nurse is his lover. Then he’s back. He doesn’t say a word. I stare at the ceiling. It hurts a lot. I bite my lip and turn my head away. A few tears trickle down my cheek. He goes about his business. He doesn’t say a word.
Finally, I’m helped into another room and lie down on a narrow couch. The doctor sits next to me and massages my abdomen. He is looking in my eyes and smirks. He continues massaging me, a little lower. I am completely creeped out.
“Be a good girl, now,” he says and hands me a prescription for birth control pills. A few minutes later the porn nurse arrives and brusquely tells me to get dressed. Then I am ushered out the door. I feel disoriented. I’m shaking and bleeding and unsure of the way back to the car. I’m in shock, putting one foot in front of the other. But, I did it. I was brave. I survived. Some women die. I know I was one of the lucky ones. But, it didn’t feel that way at the time.
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Diana wrote and performed her story as part of TMI Project’s 2013 production, What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting: True Stories of Slips, Surprises, and Happy Accidents, a collection of true stories centered on the ways people exercise freedom of choice when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.