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December 9, 2009

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this, but I think I will.

Recently, I experienced five days and a morning of very seriously contemplating the possibility that I was pregnant. I knew the exact day of the possible insemination, but it was on a day where it was highly unlikely that I was ovulating (as in, day 28), and my cervical mucus was not what I associate with fertility.

But I haven’t been sleeping. And the previous fitful night, I had a dream where I was at least six months pregnant.

I remember leaning over my swollen belly, being watched by the people around me, and saying, “This is… heavier… than I thought.”

And thus it occurred to me that a microscopic human might have implanted on the wall of my uterus.

I was headed to a shindig with several people, and I had my items rolled up into a sarong which I would tie around my waist like a fannypack. As I got out of the internal combustion engine conveyance, partner’s partner teased, “Hey, you got a baby in there?”

Which gave me a really nasty jolt through the stomach.

“Wow, that was kind of a shock because I was just contemplating that I might be pregnant.” And tears fell down my cheeks, because it felt so big.

That day, I felt the edges of angles of being pregnant I didn’t even know existed. I felt excitement, and fear, and mostly just intensity. And I realized, with a sense of strength and joy, that if I was pregnant, whether or not I chose to give birth, that this would be an amazing experience.

Me having a child outside of a tight knit community is out of the question. Human spawn are incredibly demanding, don’t reach any level of subsistence sufficiency for years, and are in general slow-developing. The idea that two parents is sufficient human-power raise a human child is ludicrous to me. Two-parent (not to mention one-parent) families burn out so frequently for a reason. Because they don’t have support to be able to get enough sleep, much less take time off from subsistence activities to nurture the spawn.

I have no expectation of partner performing the role of parent, and I am living in an intimate community where communal child-rearing is the norm, so for a few hours I dove into imagining what it would be like to experience pregnancy and give birth in that environment. And it was rather empowering to realize that I could be a young, ‘single’ mother and it wouldn’t be a disaster. Which led to other thoughts such as that I needed to make sure I didn’t choose to give birth for reasons such as: right of passage; making concrete my divorce from blood-kin in terms of my life decisions; using it as motivation to live healthier; using it as motivation to figure out my psycho-emotional shit. I need to do all those things for myself, not for someone else.

Then I contemplated what it would be like to welcome that life into the world, and then usher it back out because now was not the right time. And that was beautiful too.

The next day I forgot all about this due to participation in a medical emergency. And the next day I woke up feeling like shit.

I didn’t know why. I just felt like shit. I was unconsciously frowning the entire day. It was like my own personal metaphorical cloud hanging over me. I thought it might be related to the possibility of pregnancy, but it didn’t seem to fit. Nonetheless, I kept wondering, ‘What if an herbal abortion doesn’t work? What if I have to have a surgical abortion? Oh my god, I am young, without a child-rearing partner, pregnant from my first sexual partnership. Good fucking god what a stereotype.’

That night, serendipitously (a word which I do not use lightly), the story of the unintentional conception of one of the children I live with was retold. And the mother said something about her and her partner that stuck with me.

“And you know, our relationship was really young. Less than a year.”

And I realized that I am living in a community, but my relationship with that community is very young. Seven months old. These are the people who would be helping me raise a child. I’m happy to be where I am right now, but I don’t know if I’ll want to be here in another nine months, much less years.

I didn’t bring it up to everyone until the next day. And within ten minutes of describing all of this, I have in my hands a guide to herbal implantation inhibitors (prevents baby from implanting on uterine wall), emmenagogues (induces menstruation), and abortifacients (induces abortion).

It was too soon to take a test, and I had been planning to wait to see if I bled (I was imminently due), but someone suggested that if I even thought there was a possibility I was pregnant, to decide now whether or not I wanted to abort, and if I did to start taking things to induce my period like parsley and ginger, because aborting is easier sooner than later. I was at almost exactly four weeks since the insemination.

I realized that I already knew what I wanted. Now isn’t the time. I don’t have the psycho-emotional wholeness, or the community relationships to want to bear a child. There was parsley and ginger in the fridge, I had recipes.

For 3 days I drank 2-6 cups/day of:

  • 2 oz of fresh parsley infused for 20 minutes in 2 cups of boiling water

For 2 days I drank 2-4/cups a day of:

  • 1 oz grated fresh ginger infused for 4 hours in 2 cups of boiling water

I spent some time talking to the possible baby within me, and visualizing shedding the blood lining in my uterus. I could feel my uterus responding after the first day. Sharp pangs and aching completely unlike my menstruation cramps. I did some research on effective combinations of herbal abortifacients, and I took the first opportunity to go and get a couple of pregnancy tests. I waited until the next morning to test so I could test with morning urine, which is supposed to have the highest concentration of pregnancy hormone.

I thought the herbs I would need would be semi-illegal, hard to get on short notice, or something I would have to gather and process myself. Turns out you can get almost everything you need at a health food store. I’ve heard stories from people who have watched women herbally abort, and that it can be incredibly hard on the body. But I still wanted to try that first rather than have a medical or clinical abortion. I found this site to be incredibly helpful in the breadth and detail of information. The person who compiled the information also made up a questionnaire to give out to women who have experienced herbal abortion. And I read several to get an idea of what I could be in for.

This was the combination I decided on, with a clinical abortion appointment for back-up in case of an incomplete abortion:

The next morning, I peed in a jar, and dipped the tests in. My hands were actually shaking, so that it was hard to put the caps on the tests. I set them down and walked away.

When I came back, they each showed one pink line.

Even though I knew that if I didn’t bleed soon I would need to test again to be sure, the release of that intensity was immense. Rushing out of me in one big gush. I cried, and went and sat down.

When a couple of people came in and I gave them the news, an older woman I live with hugged me.

“Eres una mujer.”

You are a woman.

I can imagine that being construed as patronizing, but it wasn’t. In a culture with no meaningful rites of passage, for me this was one.

Three days after I took the test and stopped taking parsley and ginger, I bled, dark and sticky. I woke up from the pain of the cramps, and I haven’t had severe menstrual pain for months. I ran into every object I could in the dark to get a hot pack, which I wore all the next day which eased the pain. I had decided to stop using my menstrual cup because the suction didn’t feel good to my cervix, and to make a consistent effort to return my blood to the land rather than pouring it down a drain, so I had a bunch of absorbent moss dried and ready to be packaged in a cloth pad. I rediscovered the joys of pubic hair matted with blood. I bled less than I usually do.

I posted the details of the abortion plan I was going to take here for a reason, even though I didn’t experience it. I can’t recommend what to use, or if it will work for anybody else, both because I’ve never done it and because everyone’s body is different. But I didn’t know just how easily available this option was to me, and it makes me wonder if other people don’t either. The materials are commonly available, comparatively inexpensive, and one has the opportunity to work with one’s own body rather than being dependent on a medical institution. One of the questionairres I read really hit me. One woman had had a clinical abortion previously, and couldn’t stand to do it again. The herbal abortion was incredibly hard on her. She repeatedly wrote that she felt like she was poisoning herself.

And she said it was still a better experience than a clinical abortion. She recovered in one week as opposed to seven.

I don’t think an herbal abortion, or any radical self-medication, is a decision to take lightly. I also think that for most people, just taking herbs isn’t going to do it. Most of the women who filled out questionnaires talked about how they only felt results when they were working with their body, with the child, rather than against them. For me it had to be working with the child. Considering how strongly my body reacted to parsley and ginger, two fairly common cooking ingredients, and my strong reaction to herbs in general (I have gotten stoned on chamomile tea) I’m pretty sure I would have been strongly affected by taking megadoses of these herbs.

It wasn’t a matter of not loving the hypothetical baby. For five days, I did love that baby, even thought it might not have been there at that particular intersection of time and space. I used to believe that from the moment of conception a baby was human and alive, and because of that, abortion was murder. After a while I came to realize that these were the thoughts of a culture obsessed with immortality, terrified of death despite its own self-destructiveness. I still believe that from the moment of conception a baby is human and alive, just like the sperm and the egg are human and alive. But death is integral to life. It is just as meaningful as life. And at this point, for me it is a more loving act to usher that life respectfully out than to bring it into unprepared, unstable circumstances.

I want to talk about the concept of the “pregnancy scare.” Everyone around me was incredibly supportive, giving me information, their time, and their herbs. And they all used the term “pregnancy scare.” This concept seems to pervade our culture: The terror of an unintentional pregnancy and the ordeal of bearing a child unprepared, or getting an abortion. Not being able to get an abortion legally, or going through the stigma of having one in this culture.

I don’t like this term. It is based in fear. I experienced fear. Totally. But fear was not the defining factor of my experience. I also experienced excitement, joy, sadness, growth, knowing. I am incredibly grateful I experienced this. I know more about my body, I am inspired to keep more systematic track of my ovulation, I know how I will react inducing my period. And as glad as I am that I did not have to abort, I also think that would have been just as valuable and –cherishable, I can’t think of a better word– an experience.

Reading over this as I edit it, I keep thinking that this is too serious, that I am putting too much of myself into this, too much of what I actually feel and believe compared to the isolated, fragmentary parts of me I usually write here. But death is serious, and so is life, and I know no other way to share this.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendy Blackheart permalink
    December 10, 2009 3:18 am

    When I was in college, I was researched herbal abortion methods as well. Thanks for posting these links – I lost all the information I had gathered, (though I do seem to remember something about megadosing on Vitamin C can induce miscarriage, and that taking a sprig of parsley and putting it in your vagina, up against your cervix, can help stimulate your period. I haven’t tried that one yet.)

    There are also points we are learning in Shiatsu which are contraindicated during pregnancy/possibly pregnancy because they can induce miscarriage. Large Intestine 4, which you can find located in the center of the flesh between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones, is called the great eliminator. I use it to induce my period, as well as for headaches, diareah, and pretty much anything else I want to eliminate.

    Stomach points are all contraindicated during pregnancy as well, since it Stomach rules downward transformation. I work some of those on myself to speed along my period and relieve cramps as well.

    Have any of these been used to naturally end a pregnancy? Not that I know of personally, but I’m sure its been done. It can’t hurt to try, along with herbal methods and a back up surgical option, especially if you want to avoid the unpleasant and invasive surgery.

  2. willpeat permalink
    December 10, 2009 6:28 pm

    That must have been very scary. I am very glad to see written the important truth that two are insufficient for child-rearing.

  3. December 17, 2009 11:14 pm

    thanks for sharing. my partner recently got pregnant and the herbal medicines didn’t work, though they did make her feel shitty for a week, and then she decided to use medical pill. it was an intense, awful experience, but ultimately relieving. it was a great idea to start getting ready before you knew you were pregnant, everything can get so chaotic once that ball is rolling it’s nice to already know how things will work.

  4. ranat permalink*
    December 18, 2009 2:28 am

    @Wendy – I haven’t found any written references to using points as abortifacients, but someone did massage the points around my achilles tendons (don’t know which ones they’d be) and said they were good for bringing on menstruation.

    I did the parsley up the vagina, which is supposed to help soften the cervix. And boy did it. Freaked me out, because I had read that cervix softening is an early sign of pregnancy.

    That’s really interesting about the intestine 4 point. I’ll have to look more into this. Man, it’s fascinating all the stuff that’s out there where we can work with our own bodies, but gets so casually dismissed.

    @willpeat – There was definitely fear, but like I said, it wasn’t the defining factor of the experience. It was incredibly valuable, and I’m glad I had it.

    The myth of the nuclear family may be one of the single most destructive ideas ever conceived of. So many parents in nuclear-family cultures need a lot more support than is offered. I’ve seen a lot of parents who ask for that support get treated like they’re using other people, or not good enough parents, and it’s really sad.

    @ c – I definitely feel now that it’s a really good idea to have all this information, and at least enough materials to start yourself off, well before any unwanted pregnancy. The research will have been done, the herbs are there, and I think for me it would then be easier to focus on working with my body and the child to make the process work. It still kind of boggles my mind that I have a home abortion sitting beside my pencils. I think I also want to get some kind of implantation inhibitor, which would be less hard on the body.

  5. December 19, 2009 10:02 pm

    The myth of the nuclear family may be one of the single most destructive ideas ever conceived of. So many parents in nuclear-family cultures need a lot more support than is offered. I’ve seen a lot of parents who ask for that support get treated like they’re using other people, or not good enough parents, and it’s really sad.

    Yes yes yes yes yes fucking yes.

    I actually blogged about this like three days ago.

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