My boyfriend brings his tablet to bed. “Did you hear the latest on Trump?” he asks. “No,” I say. I don’t want to hear it. “Get that thing out of our bed.”
I have a good man. It’s what you’d call a reciprocal relationship. I do my share of the laundry, cook dinner half the week. He doesn’t think that changing diapers is a favor and likes to give and receive oral sex. But this whole thing with Trump right now, it doesn’t affect him the way it affects me. Why? Because he’s a white straight man and Trump’s America is a white straight man’s America. And the fragility of our little domestic utopia is clearer to me now than it has ever been before
The headlines are all saying the same thing: women are under attack. Yesterday, Trump defunded Planned Parenthood. He wants to control women’s bodies, their wombs, and this gesture is far more threatening than a quick grab of the pussy (although the two, I insist, exist on a continuum). (Mother earth is also under threat; as is PBS and the Council for the Arts. Not to mention black people and muslims. It occurs to me that here he is: the Antichrist.)
Am I safe here in Canada? Will my daughters be safe? Will they have access to the same—not better, the same!—choices that I had? (It’s hard not to feel hysterical when this shit that you thought was so done comes back. )
In my life, I’ve had five pregnancies: two births, one miscarriage and two abortions. My first abortion was a medical abortion which I had when I was twenty-one. It was April 11. I marked it in my journal, and it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. You see, being prochoice doesn’t mean you’re proabortion. I was raised in a family that frowned on abortion, although saw it as sometimes necessary. My mom was raised Catholic, and she had chosen not to have an abortion with her final child despite my dad’s desire that she have one.
Despite this, I told my mother right away. Both my parents said they would help us if we wanted to keep it, but we decided that we didn’t. We made an appointment at the clinic for a medical abortion, the kind where you drink a glass of orange juice with something in it and then a suppository that starts your contractions. It’s supposed to be more natural, and I guess it was, because it was excruciating.
At the clinic, there were two girls in the waiting room. We sat beside each other in identical teal chairs. They were speaking in Spanish. It wasn’t a clinic that offered any services other than abortions, so I knew why they were there. I wanted to test out my Spanish so I asked them where they were from. They hesitated but then I guess they figured I was safe.
“Mexico,” one girl said.
Now, just like those Mexican girls, America’s daughters will be looking for their abortions in Canada. The ones who can afford to anyway.
After I drank the juice, I went home to wait. A few hours later I started to get these horrible cramps. I bled and howled and screamed for a day, my boyfriend smoking and reading paperbacks on my back porch because I wouldn’t let him in the house. Eventually the pain passed. My breasts stayed tender and swollen for about a week and the bleeding stopped at around the same time. There were tulips in the garden.
For a few years I held a tiny vigil on the date. I imagined this little soul that was back out there, waiting for me to be ready again. I remember thinking, you can come back when I’m ready little soul. And exactly eight years later it happened again. This time I wasn’t in a relationship and the dad wasn’t sticking around. But I was 29 now and ready, so I kept the baby to raise on my own. If I didn’t have the abortion at 21, I’m certain that I would have had one this time.
Nothing can prepare you for the challenge of being a single parent. Few divorced people can really understand what it is like to actually be a single parent, completely on your own, with no support from your child’s father. Even fewer men can understand what it is like to give birth to an infant and be its sole provider in a world that is by and large hostile to women and children. That some rich white men are now making this decision for countless women makes me physically sick. It makes me have truly murderous thoughts.
Because of the difficulty of raising a child on my own, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to handle that kind of stress again. My second abortion was a few years ago with my current partner, before I was certain about the relationship and where it would go. I wanted to keep the pregnancy, but he didn’t. And I knew that having a baby on my own again was not an option. I remember clearly the moment I knew I was going to abort. It was 10 pm and the kids were in bed and we were arguing. Ever since the pregnancy test, he had become recalcitrant and cold. Our arguments had a blunted, circular rhythm and I was so frustrated I could feel the moons of my fingernails pulse. At that moment, the road was clear. I picked up a glass of water and hurled it at the wall. Its arch was so clean and true that it became emblematic. I left the shards of glass on the floor and walked to the depanneur to buy a beer, knowing that I’d made my decision.
We went to a feminist clinic near his apartment. The streets were icy that morning, and I was nervous. The last time I’d let someone perform a vaginal exam was during the birth of my daughter, an experience that was so traumatizing that I had nightmares about it for over a year and refused to take her or myself to the doctor. But now I was going to the doctor for the first time in years, and it was to get an abortion no less.
And to my surprise, everything about the procedure itself was positive. The nurses were respectful and casual. They calmly told me about the procedure and what my options were for sedatives. The doctor was a woman, like me, who was funny and engaging and didn’t talk down to me. I decided that I didn’t want to go through the agony of my first abortion. A natural birth experience was something I wanted, but a natural abortion I could live without. The medication made me drowsy, I went to sleep, and when I woke up, I was on a small couch in the recovery room. There was no bleeding. I had a follow-up appointment at the clinic a week later, and I still go there every time I need a pap smear. This clinic, run entirely by women, provided me with the best medical care I have ever had at a time in my life when I was so raw and emotional that a trip to the supermarket required a herculean effort.
A couple years ago, still with the same man, I found out I was pregnant again. Our relationship, more stable now than it was before, was ready for a child. Because I wanted a natural birth this time, I had a homebirth with an unregistered midwife. Blue eyes, curly light hair, our daughter looks like something out of a Dick and Jane Primer. She’s the poster child for Trump’s new fascist era, and if I hadn’t had that abortion before, she probably wouldn’t exist.
After my daughters are both asleep, I head to bed without my phone. I leave my laptop on the kitchen table. The nightstand is now a place for Lydia Davis and Thomas King. I don’t want Trump’s face in my bedroom any more than I want a hologram of a tiger. It’s not relaxing. It gives me nightmares. My boyfriend, understanding this, leaves, because he loves me, because he respects me, because he knows that this affects me more. He takes the tablet to the study where I can’t see it, but I still hear it growling softly behind the door.