When I was a graduate student, I had an affair with a professor and got pregnant. I was twenty-one, and I knew that he was not serious about me in any way.
My own biological mother tried to commit suicide in the last weeks of her pregnancy. I was placed in foster care at birth and was later adopted. I knew that I wasn't ready for a child and that I didn't want to chance having that legacy any closer at my heels.
I scheduled an abortion with the local Planned Parenthood in Ithaca, NY, and waited for the first available appointment. Abortions were performed just a few days a month. I remember feeling the pain of the procedure as punishing, as much as I knew I was doing the right thing for myself and the baby.
I remember sitting in the recovery room afterwards, and the woman behind me came in and occupied another chair. We sat together in silence. Then the door opened again. It was a student who was in the psychology class I was the teaching assistant for. It was a terrible moment for both of us. I felt like my choices and the affair had been terribly exposed. It was also a terrible equalizer: we had a common secret and a common grief.
But in the end, when a friend picked me up at Planned Parenthood, we ended up driving my student home, and I mothered her a bit on the way. Luckily, the semester was nearly over. I saw her two or three more times in the lecture hall but she missed our smaller conferences, and then we both faded from each other's view. I swallowed the grief with the other sadnesses about lost kin.