A couple of months ago I went to a doctor's appointment. After checking in, the nurse took me to an exam room and began asking me the birthing history of my children: how many kids I had, if they were full-term, etc.
And then the nurse said, "When was your abortion?"
"I'm sorry," I said, thinking I hadn't heard her correctly. "What did you ask?"
"It says here you had an abortion between your first and second child, " the nurse said clarifying. "What year was that?"
"I didn't have an abortion," I said shocked that I was having to explain myself. "I miscarried and was hemorrhaging so badly that I had to have an emergency D and C."
"Okay," the nurse said nonchalantly and went on to ask some more questions.
I didn't hear what she asked or said next as my mind was stuck on the word "abortion."
But the nurse carried on unaware of the turmoil roiling inside my brain. Never before had I felt so utterly misrepresented. My insides were screaming to clear my identity.
"I'm sorry," I said stopping the nurse's words. "I don't mean to be rude, but I need to clarify something. Do you mean to tell me that my personal medical records say that I had an abortion?
"Yes," the nurse said as a matter of fact.
"Can you please change them so that it is explained why I had a D and C? I'm having a hard time concentrating on anything else your saying knowing that 'abortion' is on my records."
The nurse was very understanding and accommodating, and said she'd fix it. Then she continued with her standard questioning before leaving me to wait for the doctor.
By sharing this, I am by no means trying to condemn or shame other women for their personal choices concerning motherhood. I also hope that those who are not mothers, and perhaps deeply desire children, will understand that I share my experience being very much aware and sensitive to those desires. Despite my personal feelings and deep religious beliefs, I don't know the intent of other's hearts and thoughts. Nor do I know the circumstances to which influence/ed other's choices.
Buts as I waited for my doctor to come in, I couldn't help thinking about how I defined my personal identity, especially in relation to my role as a mother. To have my name and identity linked with having an abortion was very disturbing. I knew that there would be very few people who would ever see my personal medical records. But I just couldn't get over the fact that there was a physical record, with my name on it, stating I'd had an abortion. I couldn't help feeling personally violated somehow. And I wanted to make it very clear to myself and the world that I loved being a woman and mother.
A couple of weeks later I was studying Hamlet in my Shakespeare class. One line in particular stuck out to me. Hamlet says, "...I have that within which passeth show-" (1.2.85.) I love Hamlet's words. But I can't help noting that, even though there is so much more to who we are as individuals besides what the world sees, there's a huge part of me that identifies myself by what I "show" to the world.
So, I will end in saying that this small personal identity crisis mattered to me. Part of my "showing" what was truly inside myself was having my medical records changed, which I made sure had been done at my next Dr.'s appointment. It matters that we stand up for what we are and claim our identities. And I claim my identity as a mother and hope to do so even on the days when mothering is difficult.
P.S. Yeah, I know. Mothering wasn't too difficult when this picture was taken.