Keep Telling the Difficult Stories

I had dinner with some friends about a week ago, and I retold (part of) a story that I’d been told of a painful in vitro experience that included the selective culling of some of the fertilized eggs. I hadn’t thought twice about it–if you go shopping for one kid and end up with four (!!) fertilized eggs and the doctor offers to cull the herd in a standard (albeit risky) procedure, there’s little issue with taking said option.

My nurse friend didn’t say anything, but she got a look on her face. Oops? The word “abortion” never even crossed my mind as a label for that until I saw her face.

We didn’t have a discussion about it, alas, but I mentioned the situation to a woman I work with, and we had this exchange:

Her: I probably wouldn’t have shared that story.

Me: Why not?

Her: That’s too personal.

The more I thought about it, the more I was bothered by that response. How can we learn about these experiences if we don’t hear them? I’ve been strongly impacted over the years by stories I’ve read on blogs and heard in person of (later-term than the above) abortion experiences, IUD insertion procedures, growing out of broken homes, rising out of financial ruin, etc. The original teller (a single mom, no less) wasn’t keeping it secret; it was her body that had suffered, and she told it in a fairly public forum. It was very brave of her. I was standing there listening, fighting severe light-headedness at her descriptions of the medical procedures and pain. I didn’t retell those details.

It’s these personal stories that change our perspectives and let us give proper informed consent to things. I’d probably think abortion of a fetus was only as simple as painlessly taking a pill if not for the personal stories women were strong enough to tell. I’d never once thought in vitro would be an unpleasant experience. I’d never have thought getting an IUD would be so painful until I got my own. Thinking in retrospect, of course, I can say, “Yes, you have to cramp the baby out. Yes, they’re inducing a lot of ovulation. Yes, they’re stretching your cervix wider than a non-mother has likely ever had it stretched.”

I’m a little sorry for making a friend uncomfortable, although I wish we could have had a discussion about her discomfort and figured out the source of it.

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