an After abortion

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Monday, May 24, 2004

Annie Lamott writes about her abortion in her recent non-fiction book, Travelling Mercies. A reviewer describes how Lamott's abortion was part of her journey to faith:

It's not until she was in her early 30s, and in the very depths of an alcohol-and-drug dependency following an abortion, that Lamott wandered into a local church for the songs and ended up staying for the sermon. It was during this period that she literally felt the presence of Jesus Christ in her bedroom one night, huddled in a corner, offering her his love.

In her earlier novel, Rosie, Lamott writes about Elizabeth Ferguson's intended abortion:

She became pregnant at thirty--an accident of laziness--and planned to have an abortion. A child would postpone her finding her true calling. Other people's babies made her, at best, nervous, made her fingers twitch. She slept poorly enough as it was, a baby screaming at dawn to be fed or changed would...

Elizabeth keeps the baby, Rosie, after her husband goes to the library and checks out a book on human fetuses. He shows her pictures of embryos the same age as hers, "whose arms and legs were budding, whose mouth and eyes were appearing." Rosie's father dies when she is five in a car accident. Her mother--who is self-absorbed, damaged, alcoholic--eventually grows up because of Rosie. That seems to be the point of the book; the impact and meaning that one person has on and for those around them.

It surprised me a little to realize that Rosie was written prior to Lamott's own abortion. But maybe the views evident in Rosie are partly why her own abortion distressed her so much.

Lamott writes so well of feelings that are familiar to me.

"All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I’ve discovered is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief."--from Travelling Mercies.

She describes a bad acid trip in Rosie:

"A frenzy starts up inside her and she feels she will forevermore live at the far end of the wind tunnel, in hideous distortion, living on the dark side of her soul, living in hell."--
That's how I felt when waves of traumatized, sick grief over my abortion started to wash over me.

And also in Rosie:

"She had never fallen to pieces before in front of another person. She had held out for almost forty years. In the darkest moments of her soul she had always been alone, or the only person awake (near dawn, the hours of the wolf), and so much despair and disarry and need were welling up and spilling into the open that she would never recover--would only be faking whatever sense of equilibrium she could muster."
And that reminds me of the beginning stages of recovery after abortion when you are in a safe place, one or another of the healing groups out there.

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