New York, 2007
Unlike many Latinos, we’re not religious. My parents are progressive and always said I needed an education. It was my senior year of high school. My boyfriend was homeless. I bought a pregnancy test at Duane Reade and went to the bathroom in the middle of class. I sort of panicked but also thought, Let me get back to this tomorrow. On the train going home, I saw a sign. In my daze, all I saw was abortion. It was one of those places where they convince you to keep the baby. They showed me the ultrasound, but I wasn’t falling for that. Later, I went to see a counselor, and she made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. I had it on a Friday so I could recover for school. On Monday, I found a note on my bed—my boyfriend had left for California. When I got pregnant later that year, I was in Argentina. Abortion’s illegal there. I drove around with a doctor looking for someone who would do it. I can’t even say why I decided to keep the baby. I didn’t want an illegal abortion. And I was in love, I guess. I didn’t think I could go to college with a kid, but Im graduating this year.
New York, 2007
I come from a family of sick people—my mother had multiple sclerosis—so I grew up doing everything I could to keep the people around me happy, at the risk of my own sanity. I don’t want to put another human being through what I went through. Money, babysitting, housing is conquerable, but I’m terrified that I’ll end up like my mom, and I don’t want to call the school nurse to ask her to drive my child home because I fell out of my wheelchair. Losing my mom later that year convinced me that I shouldn’t have a family, even though I really, really want one. That morning, my boyfriend fasted in solidarity. For a month after, I’d weep at anything, even a toothpaste commercial. I Googled it—my hormones were wonky. Even when I felt I made the right choice, I regretted having anything to regret.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. After the twenty-week ultrasound, a doctor came in and said our baby had a kidney disease and wouldn’t be able to breathe. When the diagnosis was confirmed, my husband and I looked at each other and knew immediately abortion was the only thing to do. Why give birth to a baby who will die? In Wisconsin, you need to sign a form that says you’re aware that the fetus has a heartbeat, fingers, and toes. After I signed, my husband took the pen. They said, “No, only the patient needs to sign,” but he said, “I want to.” The public university where we teach offers insurance affiliated with a Catholic hospital. We had to submit our case before an ethics committee of priests who would decide if insurance would pay. Otherwise, the procedure would cost us $25,000. The priests decided I had to deliver the baby. I was so upset I couldn’t talk. Later it turned out the state would cover it. They induced labor and offered me a Valium. It doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t want drugs. For weeks, I’d been holding my breath when trucks drove by, for my baby. The next night, my son was born into one of those hats that catch urine. It’s not how your baby is supposed to be born. My husband sang him “Thunder Road” and told him that Achilles was the greatest hero ever to live, which is ridiculous. We held him until he got cold. We named him Isaac. We didn’t tell anyone what happened, even my parents. We just said we lost the baby.