“This is how fashion helped me regain my identity after an abortion”

Written by Anonymous

One writer reflects on how they found salvation in the darkest of times in the most unexpected of places – their wardrobe. 

It was just after dusk on a hot summer’s day, the sort that sticks to your skin, heavy and humid. I was 17 and I leaned my head against the cool of the bathroom tiles and waited for something inanimate to reroute the journey that fate had preordained for me. The wait was arduous and long, the sort that makes you restless, stomach knotted like a rope with nerves. Thoughts preoccupied my brain, the sort that hadn’t existed before; thoughts of what if, what could be, what can never be.

As the pregnancy test cast its verdict, the plunge in my stomach felt akin to somebody grabbing hold of my organs and squeezing, contorting and tugging them. I felt sick, scared, shaken; the prospects I’d laid down for my future were like lily pads on a pond, floating further and further into the dimness.

I was one of the lucky teenagers, though. There were services available to me, and others like me, that employed women with soft hands and voices to look after me and tend to me as my body expelled a child I didn’t know had been growing. The woman at the hospital on the day of my abortion had crystal blue eyes that were surrounded by a constellation of shallow lines; in her, I saw hope, I saw a way out.  

I lost my first child that day in secret, away from the prying eyes of my family and friends. I watched an embryo that had called my body home leave it in a mass exodus of blood. The weeks after seemed slow, as I tried to heal the body that I called home. Rocking on my bed in the foetal position, a mere child myself, I tried to remember a time before through the fog of my mind. All memories of my pre-abortion body had escaped me as quickly as the lining of my uterus had, and I could find nothing.

Years have passed now, years that have been child-free and care-free, the sort of 20s I dreamed of when those two lines appeared on that stick. I’ve fallen in and out of love, I’ve laughed as though my life depended on it and I’ve lived my life for me, wholly and unapologetically. I haven’t revisited the string of endless months I spent bleeding and crying because, similarly to how the body processes physical pain, I seemed to have blocked access to those memories from my mind. The feelings of my body not being my home any more, but the home of another, have dissipated with time. I am finally home and settled.

It was only when the news of the potential abolition of America’s right to abortion reached me that I was taken back to 17-year-old me, who neither wanted a child nor could provide for one. All I have been able to think about in the weeks since the conversations about Roe v Wade resurfaced are the 17-year-old bodies in Oklahoma who find themselves carrying a child they’re not ready for, or don’t want, in a state that now prohibits abortions with the only exceptions being to save the life of a woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. My heart breaks for any woman whose reproductive rights are subject to a statute formulated and issued by a man. 

To have an abortion is not to be anti-life – if anything, quite the opposite. It is to be pro-life, pro your own life, which is worth its weight in gold. Once I emerged from the cocoon I spent the weeks in after my abortion, I found that the world looked different. I felt at once both lighter, but heavier. The friends who were then and still are my family held my hand but in a way that felt directionless. The aspects of my life I had always loved – losing myself in a book, poring over a recipe in the kitchen, talking until my jaw felt slack – looked different; the words looked the same, the food smelled off.

Until one day, on a bitterly cold evening in January, I rummaged in the dust-lined corners of my wardrobe and happened upon a form-fitting raspberry pink dress, which was decorated with specks of orange glitter. Somehow, somewhere in my body, a rush of appreciation flooded my senses and I cried, buckled over in front of my wardrobe, cradling this pink dress that I had once worn as if it was an essential part of my body. I slipped it over my head and stepped out of the black I’d been stationed in. It reminded me of the body I’d lost but the life I’d gained. I turned on music I hadn’t played in months, I painted my eyelids in glitter and in the mirror, I saw a glimmer of the person I’d once known so well.  

Unlike the months prior to it, that night is as clear in my mind as if it had happened last week because it was the turning point. That evening was lost to me diving into my wardrobe, into the colourful stable of clothes I had so painstakingly bought and collected and tended to, and I was reminded of who I was before the loss.

I shimmied in blue dresses covered in tassels, I glided around my childhood bedroom in purple sequins, I danced in shades of leopard print I once hadn’t been seen without and, as I did so, I wrapped my arms around my body and allowed the tears to fall. Tears of happiness, of joy and of relief. There was light, finally, at the end of the tunnel, and I had stumbled upon it in the inner sanctums of my wardrobe. I’d always known fashion was good, but never this good. And somewhere, somehow, I took the first step to becoming myself again.  

BPAS, the British Pregnancy Advice Service, provides abortion support and advice online, or call MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes) on 0345 300 8090, 365 days a year, 7am to 8pm.

Image: Getty

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