7 years a prisoner: An abortion story

it is time to gather the courage to go and embrace the cliché I have chosen to become

This is my confession.  It is a true account of the events that transpired on the 25th of December 2016, Christmas day.

It is a Sunday. The day is warm with expectations and celebrations. I remembered to text a few acquaintances on my phonebook to let them know that this season brought a passing thought of them to my mind and because of that, I wish them a Merry Christmas. One person even responded and wished me a Merry Xmas. I do not know what that is; a lazy man’s travesty, perhaps. I wonder how much time he saved by not typing those 6 letters.

The mood without does not reflect the mood within. They say that joy is contagious. In my mind, I imagine people bubbling with so much of it you catch it by thinking about them. If this were true, there would be no better season to catch it than now. A time when all people, Christians and not, celebrate something.

I am supposed to go to church. That church is supposed to be in Kitui. I would be surrounded by my family. That is, my brother, sister, mother and father. We would exchange ‘Merry Christmas’ wishes in the morning, send each other texts on WhatsApp, one of us would probably update on Facebook how blessed they are and tag us all. On the Facebook post, we would exchange platitudes and likes like the fake smiles plastered across our faces facing each other in the sitting room of our big house, saying nothing. Each of us would be alone. At least, we would be alone, together.

As it turns out, I am alone, alone.  I am not going to church and I am not with my family.

I am about to have my first abortion. Sorry. I am about to have an abortion. I do not want to give you the wrong impression of me. It is not a thing I plan to be doing every once in a while. It is not on my ‘to do’ list or anything. Become the best programmer ever, Climb Mt. Kenya, Kill a fetus… that’s not how it is supposed to be, but, here we are nonetheless.

His name was Larry; a boring, ordinary name for an equally boring boy. We had met at a swimming pool and ended up tangled in his sheets a week later. What happened that night was strange and remarkable in many ways, though you don’t often know what is remarkable about what you are doing while you are doing it, only after, when it hits you smack in the face and you have missed your period.

I still cannot believe how unlucky I was. I mean, I have always been ‘that girl’. The village deity that you’d get dressed up for hoping one day she’d smile at you or respond to your hello; the campus ‘holy-jo’ that did not miss a CU meeting; the outgoing example of what Christianity is like; the smart graduate who had just landed her first well paying job, but as it turned out, just smart enough to get pregnant moments after my first act of willful disobedience.

I learned to add the phrase ‘I am saved’ after my introductions in class six. I learned to behave like it. I learned that it was the center of all I was and the most interesting thing about me.  I learned to say No and mean it, to abstain till marriage. Or did I?

In my room, in Ngara, where I am now, there are other faceless girls. None of us looks particularly healthy. None of us looks like they want to be here. These, I have to create because I cannot stalk my own hallways for the meaning of life alone- sort of like the dolls we played with as little girls, only, these, have life. As expected, I have been thinking a lot. I have the impression that this tends to happen when it is a matter of life and death, even when the death is not necessarily yours.

I have thought of what life means. I have read about it from as many resources as I could find. In the internet, I found resources on Planned Parenthood. I remember thinking that it is such a stupid name.  For one, my pregnancy was not planned and secondly, I wanted to avoid parenthood.

These thoughts continue to haunt my mind. Even as I type this on my laptop, I am aware that these may be my last moments with it or if I am lucky to live, my last moments as a free person. I am aware that the Kenyan constitution (2010), article 26 (4), concerning the right to life forbids abortion.

Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.

I am aware that any woman, who, under any circumstances purports to procure her own miscarriage, is liable to imprisonment for seven years.

I am aware of all these things, and this is not just in my mind.  There is a bitter, acidic taste of bile in my mouth. Every few minutes, I swallow back my own vomit. Maybe it is morning sickness. Or maybe, more likely, it is my body, trying to communicate with my conscience, to plead with me to stop me from going any further into the place where you can’t feel God, only guilt.

On the table in front of me is a pair of scissors. The pair of scissors. There is also next to it a bottle of whiskey for sterilizing the scissors and a whole lot of dread. At the edge of the table, is a small brown envelop inside of which are two tablets of what a woman I met in the market called Miso. The internet calls it misoprostol in full.  The room is anti-glamour. My three sofa-sets that I have always been proud of look cold. Judge-y.  The books on my library look disarrayed. Everything looks grim. It is as if all my belongings held a meeting and decided that they could not afford to be part of this.

I am in a black t-shirt and have a lesso tied around my waist. There is nothing pretty about me. Not my tear-stained cheeks gnawed fingernails or my crusty nose and ruddy face.  I wonder what Larry would say if he saw me now.

Then again, why would he be seeing me now? Has he not made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with me? I was, after all, a mistake; a lapse of judgment on his part and a whole lot of loneliness on mine.

The memory made me cringe.

I have always been alone.  I never mastered the art of making friends even when I was little and when someone took pity on me, they did not last. I blame my parents. Heck, I blame my whole family. But when I met Larry, I wanted to open up; I wanted to let him in. I wanted to break down all the walls around my heart and finally belong to someone. The five days before ‘the mistake’ were probably the best I have ever had. No experience came close to being as fulfilling as those. Not even when I decided to become a Christian, which I had confessed before then, to have been the best decision of my life.

Now, in this moment, my biggest quarrel is with Christianity. It is with this age-old religion that has tied around me a yoke so heavy only death can ease. On the one hand, abortion is the only way out of my quagmire. On the other hand, feelings of guilt plunge my already tired mind, almost pushing me to insanity. I know this to be because I was exposed to God.

I have always been an intellectual and as such, I looked for reasons for and against abortion. I desired very much to be pro-life. I succeeded.

They say that I have rights over my own body; that I can decide what to do with it and what not to do and I should be free to do just that, without stigmatization. But is it a part of my body like my hand, this thing in my womb or is it someone else? Of course, they argued that this thing growing inside me lacks personhood. They said that it is not a separate entity, as it was not independent. They asked why fertilized eggs used for in-vitro fertilization are often thrown away if life begins at conception. I began to doubt.

They further argued for instances where rape or incest is the cause of pregnancy. I was not raped, at least not this time! When I said that I could give up the baby for adoption they said that adoption is no substitute for abortion. I argued how it is no form of contraception either but they beat me, the voices inside my head. They compared abortion to war, arguing that they, babies should be in the class of dangerous epidemics because, look at the grim prospects of your future, they said. Just see how stressed you are.

In the moments of clarity, just before I went to bed on some days, I knew that they were wrong… I knew that I had to join them because they were the only ones that truly understood me.

I am writing now because I have always loved words. They are what I have always reached for when the world would not stop crumbling under my fingers. When I measured my fellow Christians and found them lacking in the grace they so aggressively preached and ferociously defended.

When I was waiting tables at Java, the worst tippers were always those who bent down to pray before the meal. They were the most demanding, and the least courteous. Some of them would leave fake “money” as part of their tip — pieces of paper designed to look like high-value bills until you picked them up and realized they were tracts telling you about giving your life to Jesus. Why would anyone think that tricking and disappointing a broke food-service employee would be a good way of spreading the Christian good news?

As soon as I am done writing, I will decide which advice to follow. A girl I know from the village is said to have inserted the scissors into her cervix and torn at whatever part of the baby she caught until she started to bleed. This seems to be too cruel, too traumatic, but who is to say that I don’t deserve it?

The woman who gave me Miso said that I was to swallow and go to the hospital as soon as bleeding starts.

The doctor-in-charge will probably report the case to the police and as soon as I am well enough, I will be taken into custody. This letter will be read in court and the judge will distort his face and wonder how someone could be so cruel. He will be tempted to sentence me for life but the law will tie his hands. Those in attendance will be equally shocked; my family especially. I will wonder why, seeing as they have not been much of a family.  I will plead guilty.  I will proceed to serve my sentence, being an exemplary prisoner. Not a day will pass that I will not think about my crime. Not a day will pass that I will not regret.

I will hope that abortion is not a long shadow that colors the rest of my life, but one thread in the tapestry that is the whole of it, but I will know it to be merely a wish. I will know that I chose this life.

If I am unlucky, I will die. I will go to a place where I will suffer eternally.

I must quit now. I can hear the noise emanating from a nearby church. It is indeed time to celebrate the most important birth in the history of humanity. For them. For me, it is time to gather the courage to go and embrace the cliché I have chosen to become. To begin my seven years, maybe a lifetime of imprisonment. Many years later, I will die. I will fade from memory and be forsaken by history. Hopefully, though, I will have started something revolutionary.

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