Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Ghost Child (shades of gray)

You would be 12 years old. You would be finished with elementary school, excited to begin junior high. You would be crushing on various boys/girls, dreading taking a shower in gym class. You would have a favorite band. A favorite pop star. A favorite television program. You would be here.

You would be a person. With a name. Whether or not you were raised by me, you would be here, on earth. You would know who Britney Spears is. You would maybe vote for the next American Idol on your cell phone. You would have an opinion on Paris Hilton. You would have a favorite color. A favorite movie. A favorite food. You would have a favorite t-shirt and a favorite pair of jeans.

I killed you. Didn't I? DID I? Is there a "you"?

That's what they say.
"One thing that comes to mind when I think of abortion--murder. What gives us the right to take another life? Maybe it's the lack of responsibility or just simply the lack of knowledge."

I'm a murderer?

I knew what I was doing. I was no innocent. Or was I? At 17, I knew what abortion meant, I think. But I wasn't fully capable of understanding the psychological consequences.

Experts say that at the end of 8 weeks "your baby will be about a third of an inch long. Bones are beginning to form and fingers, toes, ankles and wrists are developing. By now, you'll probably 'feel' pregnant and may be experiencing some of the early side effects, like morning sickness. Your weight may also have increased slightly and your breasts may be sore and tender. Until the end of week 8 your baby is known as an embryo."

I aborted you at week 8. They sucked you from my body using their specialized vacuums that didn't feel very specialized and then they tossed you in the trash like so much garbage. Now, I spend the rest of my life marking ghost anniversaries, reconciling choice vs. abortion. And wondering.

But I am older now. Wiser. And if I could go back, I would do the same thing. If they took away my right to govern my own body I would and will fight them tooth and nail. Because I believe in a woman's right to choose. I do. But I also know that each woman that makes the mother of all decisions is forever haunted by her choice. There is no black, no white... just shades of gray.

I found out I was pregnant on July 26, 1994. I had an abortion on August 9, 1994. They made me wait 2 weeks because they wouldn't permit me to "terminate the pregnancy" until I was at least 8 weeks along.
I wouldn't permit myself to think of the life growing inside of me as a human. Ever. Some people say you weren't human. That you were just a mass of tissue and cells. Me? I don't know what to think. Either way I talked to you during the long drives to nowhere. I drove and I listened to U2 and Soul Asylum (this song). I used to drive into the Wasatch mountains and talk to you. I would throw up, listen to music, throw up some more and attempt to explain myself. And apologize for what I was about to do.
"I am a mess. I can't be a mother. I can't even take care of myself." I would sob to the mass of cells multiplying inside of me. Secretly, I felt like I should put you up for adoption. After all, my best friend Natalie was adopted and she has the greatest parents ever. I successfully justified my decision to abort with very adult sounding talk of future and education and what's best for everyone but deep inside I just felt selfish and afraid.

So tired that I couldnt even sleep
So many secrets I couldnt keep
I promised myself I wouldnt weep
One more promise I couldnt keep

It seems no one can help me now,
Im in too deep; theres no way out
This time I have really led myself astray...

Is there a "you"?

"PRO-CHOICE!" is the bold rally cry for that side of the debate. No one should be able to impose their morals on my body. I do believe those sentiments but will always struggle with this; that's not why I did what I did. At 17 I wasn't a feminist. I didn't give politics any thought. I just wanted it all to go away. I didn't want to be gossiped about. I didn't want to be pregnant and prove the Mormon neighbors right. I wanted to show those fuckers that Monica Butler was going places. Now here this, you fat bitch Sister Okey and your asshole sons that call my Mom a slut and make fun of my family for being on welfare, I am going places!

I dreamt of colleges, bricks stitched with ivy and handsome young professors sporting argyle sweaters and tweed jackets with elbow patches, engaged in discussions about important events! I dreamt of getting away from welfare and judgement and sex-is-badbadbadbadBAD. And so I did it. I got rid of you. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to reconcile my decision with my heart.

For me, the right to choose is important but the blanket term "Pro-Choice" falls short of defining my stance. It's a fist pumper of a mantra for empowerment that is becoming inextricably linked with feminism. And I'm proud of the women who fought to allow me to make the choice I made... yet "Pro-Choice" does little to comfort me when I think about you, if you exist.

Shades of gray.

Abortion. Termination. It means the end of something. A conclusion. But my decision to terminate was the beginning. The beginning of thousands of what ifs. The beginning of being haunted.

Where are you? Are you in Heaven? Does Heaven exist? Were you allowed to be born to someone else? A good mother? A righteous mother who earned the honor to welcome you into her life? Are you on the planet somewhere, living the life that I denied you? Or are you tethered to Heaven, waiting to confront me when I die? Will I ever meet you? Are you even a person?

Where ARE you?

Note: I am not interested in a debate on abortion. There is no comment you can make that hasn't already been made a million times either for or against.

Reader Comments (48)

I commend you for the strength it must take to speak about something so personal. Luckily, I never had to make that choice but I probably would have done the same thing. Personally I believe that the body may be growing inside of you but the soul comes later. I have nothing to base this on, just my own warped view of reality.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustified
For what it is worth, I support your decision. I've never been faced with your situation, but I will fight tooth and nail so that every woman will have the same choices available to her. I admire your strength to bring it in the open.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabethR
You just made me cry. Dammit.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCL
Awwww. You know, I feel nearly identical to you. I support a woman's right to choose yet I haven't reconciled when "life" begins. I just don't know either and I guess no one really knows. This is one of your best.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Monica, you are strong... and not for the obvious reasons.

I think you are strong because you will admit that you still wonder about that child. Wouldn't it be easier to just ignore everything that is associated with that time in your life? Uh huh.

Making the choice to have an abortion is such a hard decision for all women facing it.... I will protest in the streets when the politicos start to chip away at that important right.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
I truly believe that this soul will return to you. The amazing thing is that you won't know when or in what form. If you ever decide to have other children or adopt, this soul could be there. (It could be in Max for all you know!) But the thing is, you will know. This soul was destined to be in your life and your postponing of it will not keep it away. This soul is, and always will be, a part of you.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterspiritual reader
spiritual reader, your comment gave me chills. Monica I am crying for you and for the millions of women who made the same decision but will never rest easy. You're right. It's not as easy a black and white issue as pro lifers and pro choicers would have you believe. It's about a billion shades of gray.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
You expressed your feelings about something so personal in a way that doesn't invite argument or debate. Putting your heart in writing isn't easy, but you did it well.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
A really good friend of mine went through something similar when she was 20, and thought quite a bit about her decision and the ramifications of the same until recently, when she became a mother. I'm not sure if she just feels like life has come full-circle or what, but she told me that she feels very much at peace with it now.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersandra
THAT was fantastic!

I've nothing else to say.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
I really don't know what to say. I hope it is therapeutic to get all this off your chest. To tell people who won't judge you and who will understand and still care about you no matter what!
That is what we are! :)
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I am a woman who has not had one moment of feeling "haunted" by my decision to have an abortion. And having had three subsequent children with the same father confirms and affirms that I made the right decision. Pregnancy and parenting are the most difficult tasks I've ever undertaken, and it was important that I be in the right place and time for me in order to be successful at it. I have too much respect for human life to produce one without planning for it and wanting it, every step of the way.

July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Monica, I appreciate your courage in posting this.

Janet, i agree with what you say about parenting. This is why I have such admiration for women who were not perfect mothers, but did the best they could at the time.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
Mine would be 19.
This was so powerful, I don't even know how to respond. I'm still processing it.

Monica, please keep writing. When you do this it is like nothing I've ever read before.

Or don't, I just want you to know I am moved by it.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKDS
Mine would be 7
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous
Wow...I am definetely in awe right now! I dont know what to say. I'm not the best person with words. I would so just love to reach out and give you a hug! You seem like a beautiful person, and I commend you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us! You referenced on of my favorite songs (Runaway Train), when I was younger, I hit a rough spot in my life, and that song really meant a lot to me. Now that I've found you here, I plan on visiting often. Just remember there are people out here in this big world who WILL NOT JUDGE YOU. So, catch because I'm throwing you a great big hug :)
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha
mine would be 9. thank you so much for this.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGerilyn
I just have to comment that I am so impressed by the support from all your readers! What a lovely bunch.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
You are a truly amazing person and I am glad to know there are thoughtful people like you in this world. The world is truly better because someone of your courage and character exists. Your honesty is truly inspiring. Most people (including myself) have trouble being honest with themselves in private, so you ability to do so publicly is inspiring. Your compassion is easily visible in your writings and videos on this blog. Such an appreciation of one’s surroundings unfortunately seems rare, which is why I would like to thank you for offering your observations to us. Many of us need a push or a little inspiration to make us examine our own lives, which is what your stories (both written and visual) have done for me recently. The video of you drawing out Charlie was particularly moving, but also just the enjoyment you see in everyday happenings like Max or the birds in the square. They reminded me of the videos by the young man in the movie American Beauty who continually so beauty in the simplest thing even the plastic bag floating in the wind. The article about you and The Surge buying art from the street vendors makes me want to wander around and see what I have been missing. I would just like to thank you for being so open and forcing those of us in a stupor to stop and look around. Thank you. I’m only sorry I can not express myself as well as you to really explain what an impact you have on others.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterErinS
I am crying...and there is really nothing that I can say other than doesn't being to describe this post...

It is beautiful.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

You've described a difficult situation very well. I agree with you about the right to choose what to do about something or someone that is in your body, but even though Im pro choice I've thought about how hard it would be to actually make that choice for myself if I ever found myself in that situation. What a hard thing to go through--no matter what decision one ends up making.

I like that your post puts a human face on an issue that, like you said, is often reduced to two very black and white extremes. The conflicted emotions you describe are often not mentioned at all in discussions about abortion.

I hope you have the support you need to help you around this aspect of your life. Though maybe the pain will always be there in some form I hope you also are not beating yourself up about the choice you made that you felt was right for you. First, you were very young, and second, you did what you thought was best. Regret is only useful if it helps you avoid future problems; otherwise, it only makes you feel bad without serving any other real purpose. At least that's how I see it. Thanks for sharing your experience.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm
Thank you so much for your words. I have often wondered what it must feel like. You have touched my heart and have showed me the very emotionnal side of abortion. Your writing in magical. Don't ever stop.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNancy
The first two paragraphs of this post really hit me hard - I've had that conversation annually for the past 24 years. My ghost child would be nearly 25 years old now. I have no regrets, would do it all over again... I don't obsess on it, but I still think about it. I'm not as brave as you, so I'll just sign this.... Anonymous
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous
and mine would be just 3. it is something no-one who hasn't been in that situation or will never be in that situation can possibly make a judgement about. i never thought i would have an abortion - although i completely believe in a womans right to make that choice. i have just always wanted kids so badly. however, when i found myself pregnant, i knew i couldn't go through with it, at that time, with that person. i don't regret it but i will always be sad about it.
i think it is great to talk about this stuff. there has been similar conversations on another blog recently, and it is striking me how many people have had abortions but never talk about it. when i had mine, i told a lot of people, i was determined to try and not feel shame ('try' being the operative word). it was amazing how many women shared their own stories with me - some of them were women i had known for ages but had no idea they had been through the same thing. i think sharing these stories can be really healing.
it is a strange kind of grief, grieving for something that might have been, grieving for being put in the situation where the decision had to be made. i know it is a grief that will be with me forever, and that feels ok.
i call myself pro-choice - but what a choice it is. when you are pregnant and you don't want to be, it doesn't feel like freedom to have to make such a choice.
thanks for talking about this monica.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy dee
Thank you. And thanks to the other readers as well. My position on this issue was so much more simple before I went through it with the woman who became my wife. The psychological and emotional fall-out poisoned our marriage, accumulating over the years to toxic levels of guilt, recrimination, doubt, blame, anger, and resentment. Ours would have been 23.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCraig
Eloquently written without hammering some sort of point or belief into our heads - and that's tough to do when abortion is the subject matter.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
Just the thought of someone telling me what to do with my body makes me livid. Today, I would've had a 13 year old sibling, but I know that my mom made the decision based on what was right for her then. If she had told me about her decision 13 years ago, I still wouldn't have tried to stop her. It's a personal choice. Even as her daughter, I don't think it's my right to tell her what to do with her body, let alone a perfect stranger.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarina Grace
Ours would be 8 yrs old. I still feel sick when I think about it. I've hardly told anybody I had an abortion because it hurts so much and I feel ashamed. I thought the pain and guilt had gone away until I read your post today.

We'd been married for 3 years, were definately not ready to become parents yet and I had a concert tour coming up. All selfish reasons. Had my husband wanted the baby, I would have definately not gone through with it. I wasn't strong enough by myself though and that's why my guilt is so extreme. The whole process was appalling and I remember wishing that my husband would miraculously burst in and save me and our baby. Pathetic really. Waking up, the pain and emptiness was shocking and I couldn't speak for hours. Didn't want to. I mourned that baby for years, until our first child was born. That pregnancy was also ridden with guilt because I just felt so terrible that this child was wanted and loved but the other one not.

I still can't hear Pachelbel's Canon without feeling a deep sadness because this is the piece I played over and over to our baby to say goodbye.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
Niedlchen, here's a hug. I know it won't help, but it's all I have. It seems time does not always heal our deepest wounds.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCL
"I still can't hear Pachelbel's Canon without feeling a deep sadness because this is the piece I played over and over to our baby to say goodbye."

THAT, Neidlchen, is amazing. After my abortion I played Pachelbel's Canon over and over again. I don't even know how I came upon it... But I had it on a CD and put it on repeat when I went to sleep, when I got ready for work.. ALL the time. Wow.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Thanks CL.

I got goosebumps reading what you just wrote Monica. Really very strange.

August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
This is what I believe. What I aborted did not scream and cry and suffer. It was a mass of cells and tissue, and, while living, had none of the emotional make-up that so many ascribe to it. Yes, it's a difficult decision for many. But it's yours to make, everyone who has shared their story here was strong enough to make the right decision at the time, you chose what you believed in your heart and soul would be the best for that zygote. Let the pain go!


p.s. I hate the semantics of this issue -- I think those who believe that abortion should be outlawed are not pro-life, but the women who choose to have a child they can love and nurture and provide for -- they are the pro-life, pro-lives people.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Yeah Janet. Even though I still feel very sad and guilty about having an abortion, I can't honestly say I've ever really regretted it. For my husband and I it was definately for the best, we'd never have made it this far otherwise. Good parenting is damn hardwork especially when one is sleep deprived....our babies never slept. My "artistic temperament"(as my mother kindly puts it) had not yet mellowed and to be really honest with myself, I would have been one of those young mothers who viciously shake their baby and scream at them to shut the fuck up. Charming.

Still, I was almost 12 weeks at the time and to see my second child on the ultrasound at this same time, so perfect in every way, see him moving and feel him moving just 4 weeks later....this type of guilt will not leave me.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
Niedlchen...squeezes for you..CL and I can trade off on hugs...
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
I was not expecting to read that in your blog today. You see I find these thoughts creeping into my head at least twice a month... I was 15 and my child would have been 18 this year. I can only say I know how you feel. Thanks for sharing.

August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
I cannot imagine how hard it is to have an abortion. I had my baby, and no matter how much I love her, it crosses my mind how much easier things would be. Peace to you Monica.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHales
I am a longtime lurker who simply must post today. Not only did Monica's post blow my mind - but your comments are simply astounding. Seems to me, a majority of the women who comment here have gone through the same thing (mine would be 4). I feel so close to you all. You just never know. The lady in the grocery store, your professor in college. Thank you so much for the beautiful comments about such a heartwrenching issue. I am so touched.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTammy
I'm so touched too, in Poland this subject is like evil and taboo and probably becaouse of this there are a lot of unwanted children here and it's really sad because they live are poor of love. I agree that we woman should alway have decision it's our rights. I'm not aloud to speak about such a feeling because I've never been in this situation, I can image how hard it is for all of you and though I think you are strong and you need to be, just for you future child or children...and that feelings are part of your life and it will be always...I'm impress Monica and all of you, you are so frank with yourself about it and I think that's the first step to get peace of mind, your mind... best regards!
August 2, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
I'm very sorry for your loss. It doesn't matter that you chose it yourself, i'm still sorry. So many women feel just like you. It's wonderful that through this post of yours, their feelings are properly expressed.
August 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGoldielox
Mine would be 12. You describe the situation perfectly.
August 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
When I was 21, I too had an abortion. I am thankful that it was available to me, and have always felt that it was the right thing to do. Twenty-eight years later, 2 beautiful grown daughters, I almost never think about it. It will get better. I do occasionally think that , Oh god, I could have had a 28 year old child! That freaks me out. If my daughters came to me today, and told me that they were pregnant, I would offer them to take them to get an abortion too. If your not ready for it, then it's a good option. When I see the Right for Lifers at the corner with their disgusting posters, and men holding them (which pisses me off) We all scream "FUCK YOU"! and it feels so good!
August 2, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
I was 21 and discovered I was pregnant while visiting my parents in Europe. My plane ticket to come back to the states was already bought for 3 weeks later. Then I had to wait another 2 weeks after my first consulatation before I could have the abortion. Those were the longest 5 weeks of my life. It's been 8 years. I think about it from time to time -- the way you described -- but I don't regret my decision even for a second, and I hope the power of choice is never taken away from women.
Mine would be 7.
August 3, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous
All of your stories are heartwrenching. I have nothing but the greatest sympathy for all of you. I now realize many of the women I am in contact with (friends, work and my neighbors etc) probably have these same stories. It's really made me think.
August 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloop
I applaud you for being brave enough to share.
August 4, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMaria (another regular)
Mine would be 29. The two children I have are the light of my life, but they wouldn't be here if I had chosen that child (I might not even be here -- suicide was one of my options if I couldn't have had an abortion).

I am not sad about my choice, but I do wonder about the path I didn't take and the child I didn't have.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterallison

Mine would be 6

January 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I followed the link on Blogher's weekly 100 to this post.

I think a lot of anti-abortion folks just assume that people who have abortions don't agonize over what they are doing. I wish those people could read this post. I have never been in the position where I had to make this choice, and I hope I never have to. Thank you.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary P (Barnmaven)

This is so sad. I have two kids and before them I leaned toward pro-choice. But after having them I can't think of abortion as anything but murder. I saw both of their ultrasounds at 8 weeks, they were tiny beans swimming inside me. They had a little head, you could hear their heartbeat. I can't understand now thinking of them as alive, as people. I can only imagine how hard being a teen mother would have been, I was 31 when I had my first, but at the same time, it could have been easier then dealing with the heartbreak the author describes. I don't know anyone who has kids and regrets them, they may regret timing, but never having kids. I don't really know why I'm putting all of this out there, just that I can feel the author's pain and I feel how scared she was.

October 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermariana

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