I didn’t expect the news story about my abortion doula work to get as much attention as it did. I thought maybe I’d get a few emails (some good, some bad) and maybe a few more patients and a doula or two and just keep on doing what I’ve been doing. But the response has been overwhelming, to say the least.
The first story aired at 5PM last night and within minutes my phone was buzzing with notifications. At that moment, I was struggling with a four-year-old who wasn’t feeling well and the looming prospect of homework for my French class, not to mention wondering what I could make for dinner and whether I had time to clean the house properly before we leave on holiday in two weeks. I knew that it would be about midnight before I could even sit down to watch the segment. So, I dived head first into the rest of the evening while my phone continued to vibrate (I never have the sound on). It was probably about 6PM before I could even look to see what was happening. My phone glowed with social media and email alerts and I immediately felt panic. I’m someone who has to acknowledge each email, each mention. I don’t want someone to feel unheard. So, this was going to take awhile.
At one point in the evening I finally opened the first email and there was no way I could stop after that. The good thing is that most of the emails and comments were positive. Supporters emailed to ask if they could help, some people emailed simply to thank me. But I received the most email from women who saw my story and wanted to tell me their own and it usually began with, “I’ve never told anyone,” or, “please don’t share this with anybody”. Reading them, I felt a wall of pain slamming straight into my entire body. They wanted to tell me about having abortions alone, about family that would disown them and partners that would kill them. They wanted me to know that they weren’t “like that”, that they just couldn’t have a child at that point. One elderly lady even emailed me to say that she might like to call me at some point to tell me her story but that she wasn’t sure she could talk about it. It was like within minutes I had become a repository of pain for all the judgments, stereotypes, and abandonments that people had faced over the last forty years. It was intense. It was fucking visceral. Every abandonment hit me in my core and they wouldn’t stop coming, one after the other. I would just finish responding and another one would come sailing into my inbox. Waves of anger, love, hatred, compassion all washed over me repeatedly, all while my body continued to take hit after hit.
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m annoyed at this. I’m not. In fact, I’m incredibly honored that people who have kept a secret for sometimes decades have chosen me, some weird-ass strange woman they’ve never met, to confide in. I think it says just as much about our need for connection as it does about the absolutely fucked up state of our communities. In fact, I hope the emails keep coming because we NEED to bear witness to this pain. It sucks. It hurts physically. It makes you wonder how you’ll ever look anyone in the eye again but WE BROUGHT THIS ON OURSELVES and we need to see it laid bare. All of us in this world are responsible for the fact that there are people in our lives who don’t see us as safe, who think we may mock them, judge them, or even kill them if we knew what they knew. That all sounds rather masochistic, doesn’t it? Well, maybe it is. And it’s certainly not for everyone. But I know that I need to be a witness so that I can keep from being an accomplice. I need to open my eyes and my ears so that I never vote for piece of shit men who would push people back into closets or regressive health policies or higher taxes for people already struggling. I need to let people know that I will at least try to be a safe harbor and I don’t think it’s possible to be shelter to anyone if you haven’t been willing to suffer with them.
I’m not sure I have much more to say today. I’m exhausted. I’m stressed and overwhelmed. And honestly? I’m still a bit at sea, having not yet found my own safe harbor. I guess I’ll just leave you with my predictable old plea – to take care of yourself and each other. Your opinions, your moral high ground, your bullshit dogma – drop it. Drop ALL of it. Live for each other.
It is now 12:07PM. The emails are still coming. I am still treading water. I know that I won’t drown but I will probably go numb at some point until I can reach land.