1973–I don’t remember hearing about it. I was 11, and my mind was on my father’s recent election loss and wondering what would happen to our family. Would I stay at my school? Would I lose my friends?
1981–She was a sorority sister, a friend, a girl I adored, and she needed my help. I had a car on campus, and her boyfriend had a midterm, and she did not want to tell her parents (though I remember thinking they would have understood, but how did I know such a thing?). We woke early; but had she slept at all? We drove an hour to the biggest city around and I dropped her at the clinic. I am short and she is tall, but I had an impression of her tininess as she disappeared through the door. I drove back to school alone; the boyfriend would pick her up later. I wish I had gone in to wait with her.
1985–I am talking to my father, the first time we have ever discussed a woman’s right to choose. I feel some discomfort, my own. I imagine my own birth mother, wondering in late 1960 and early 1961 what to do about my inevitable arrival. I feel protected by the illegality of 1961 and threatened by the legality of 1985. My father is reasonable, a lawyer, and he talks not about the sentimental or the personal but about the court and trimesters.
1992–How am I making this choice? How has my life come to this place? I have been full of judgments, sure that only people who lived wrongly would make such a choice. What a rotten, limited, "nice" person I was! As if bad things, difficult things, happened only to "bad" people, as if! The kind doctors told me the terrible news; my own doctor used the words, "If you were my wife," and I understood. He had children. I had children. It was permissible to think of them, to put them first. It was permissible to think of myself, too.
Today–I’m not the same person. First I changed toward others, and then toward myself, and then toward God and then toward others and myself and God again. One choice, and I’m not sure it felt like a choice, more an eventuality of the medical situation, but that one choice moved me into understanding what others knew already. Where our bodies are concerned, where our lives are concerned, only an individual can decide what is right for her own life. I’m a mother, I grieved the son who did not live, but grief is no more a marker of "wrong" than good behavior is a predictor of safe and happy. I made a choice based in my context, a difficult and painful choice, a right choice.
Other women deserve that possibility, too.