I don’t remember the words I said before going under anesthesia, but I remember waking up in a dinky old surgery room with dim lighting and a woman in the bed closest to mine. She appeared to be a little confused but calm. She looked like she had done this before. If I could imagine what I looked like to her, I would have looked like a terrified teenage girl who had just had an abortion.
When I told my Mother I was pregnant; I felt so much shame. I felt like I had failed her. I was supposed to be the “good” child. The child who made the family proud. The child who brought home good grades, who was on the cheerleading squad, who was on the honor roll, who was gifted, and who was preparing to take the SAT. I was supposed to be the child who went to college and brought my family out of poverty and into the American middle class. My Mom was single and working two jobs for 60 hours a week. I couldn’t bring another child into her home and complicate her already stressful life.
My Mom is a Chicana. Her soul is split between Southern California and Mexico. She grew up on both sides of the border, seen her parents sacrifice everything for her to grow up with food in her belly, clothes on her back and a roof over her head. But she was still expected to be on her own at 16 years old. And she was. However, by the time she was 18, she was pregnant with my older sister, and my Mom and Dad were slanging dope to keep the bills paid. My Mom has been hustlin’ since she was 16 years old and has never had a break.
My Mom taught me how to use a knife to defend myself, to speak up when things weren’t right and to rebel against everything that was imposed onto me. She taught me to be my authentic self and to succeed while others are plotting my downfall. She taught me to prevail in the face of evil, laugh in the face of imposters and to be brown in a room full of whiteness. She was raising a fierce feminist who, at 16 years old was learning how to advocate for her current and future self.
So, when I told my Mom I was pregnant, she didn’t ask me if I wanted to keep it, and she didn’t ask me if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She and I both knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t have this baby. For the first time in a long time, I cried in my Mom’s arms because I was scared. I really fucked up. I cried like I was a child again, crying for her Mother’s forgiveness. She held me and told me everything was going to be okay.
She helped me make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy at a Women’s Clinic, and she took me when it was time.
Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the youngest one in that clinic. I had just turned 16 years old 2 months before getting knocked up. I felt like I was in my prime. I thought I was hot shit! But I didn’t really know shit. If I had any common sense at the time, I would not have cleaned my very fertile flower with the same towel my ex-boyfriend used to clean his pollinator. Who knew that semen could survive for seven days outside of a host? I sure didn’t. I also didn’t have a great sex education. Most of what I learned about sex was through my friends at school, and most of them weren’t using condoms, either. #ThatPullOutGameStrong
A nurse came over and handed me a giant maxi pad. She said it would help with the bleeding. My tears stopped immediately. There was no more time to feel sorry for me. I could not show an ounce of weakness to anyone anymore. I wasn’t just a 16-year-old girl anymore; I had something to prove. I had to pass my 11th grade AP classes and be the first in my family to apply to universities. But first, I had to get this giant maxi pad on.
The nurse took me into a changing room where there were other women, young and old, who had just had abortions, too. As we walked into the room, we were given crackers and juice. I felt like I was part of a cowherd being shepherd from one meadow to the next. It all looked the same to me. We went from hospital gowns to the clothes we came in within a matter of minutes. We went from being pregnant to not being pregnant in just a matter of minutes, too. Between the initial shock of an unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted pregnancy and the choice to remove that pregnancy from our bodies, we were all pretty reticent in that changing room.
As I was leaving that changing room – I noticed a familiar face. Ana, my friend Rosie’s older sister, was here, too. I felt comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t wait to connect with her on this shared experience. No one at school would understand what I was going through. Earlier that month, I told Rosie my period was late and that I felt something different with my body. She offered to push me down some stairs as a favor. I laughed. I almost took her up on that offer. I wonder if Rosie said the same thing to her sister when, or if she knew Ana was pregnant, too.
It turns out, I wasn’t the only 16-year-old who was knocked up during that Winter Break in 2007. My friend Janet was also pregnant. However, she didn’t have a choice like I did. From the moment she found out she was pregnant, she was keeping that baby no matter what. It didn’t matter if her partner didn’t want to be a Dad, yet. It didn’t matter if it would set her behind in school. As a first-generation Christian Latina from the projects, this baby would be her salvation and her biggest blessing. My friend Brenda was also pregnant when I was pregnant. She wanted to keep the baby, and her partner wanted to keep the baby, too. Her Mom was reluctant to accept the truth, but eventually, she supported Brenda and the pregnancy. Unfortunately, Brenda had a miscarriage. As a middle-class white girl from a broken home, she wanted this baby to be her salvation.
MTV produced a whole ass reality show around the pregnancies of my peers and called it “16 and Pregnant.” I was a sucker for reality shows so of course, I tuned in. But little was relatable to me. The only thing I could relate to was the title…16 and Pregnant. There those girls were – white Americans whose parents had homes and whose communities were almost 100% White Americans, too. And there I was, just another 16-year-old Mexican girl from a ‘hood in Los Angeles who got knocked up by her cholo ex-boyfriend. As much as we wanted to be loved and whole, the Universe had different plans for the 3 of us.
It was a Tuesday morning. Mami told me to wear something comfortable, so I wore my baggiest sweats and a UCLA pullover hoodie. It was the middle of February, so this outfit was right for the weather. I read a book and snuggled my Mom while I waited for the nurse to call my name. “Ms. L Hernandez? We’re ready for you now.”
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