The Tiny Doll Inside My Matryoshka Doll

Birthing and burying my guilt and grief went on for over a decade

"If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone?" Gregory Stock asked in "The Book of Questions."

"Forgive me for killing you," shot up from a place buried deep within me.

And then I remembered: There was blood on the doctor's shoes when he came to see me in the recovery room. Was it a boy or a girl? Did I even ask the question? Did he answer?

It never fully registered in my psyche what had taken place. That the abortion had to happen was never an issue. I was rebuilding my life after two years of dealing with a serious health challenge. The right partner had not appeared. Finances and professional life were not solid. Even though a deep desire for a child previously had me considering adoption or donation of a friend's sperm, the circumstances were not right.

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Birthing and burying my guilt and grief went on for over a decade. I never even allowed myself to feel the gestating life inside of me. Only once or twice in the years since, did I strain to figure out how old my child would be. Even now, I turn my head from any picture of a fetus on television, in the gynecologist's office or in books, not wanting to face my guilt.

I do not believe in the taking of life, whether it is capital punishment, euthanasia, suicide or killing animals to eat their meat. I believe a soul exists at conception. I have no doubt that I am a moral hypocrite; I have no doubt that I took a life.

Just as I could not face pictures of a fetus in a womb or my moral hypocrisy, something else haunted me: What do they do with aborted fetuses? Finally, years later, I suddenly inquired of someone in the hospital where I then worked.

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"They throw them away with all of the hospital waste," I heard. Was he telling me the truth? I never checked it out.

I had been averting my eyes and ears from the debates about abortion on television and in the press, while my psyche's awareness has been gestating.

A few years after the phrase "Forgive me for killing you" entered my consciousness, and disappeared, it returned when in Sedona, Arizona. I had hired a therapist-guide for a healing experience up those mountains famous for their special energy, believing I still needed healing from the health challenge before the abortion. I climbed to the top of the mountain with my gentle, intuitive guide. Clear blue sky, red rocks surrounded me.

Suddenly, "Forgive me for killing you, Ray," poured out of my barely opened mouth.

I didn't know if my child was a boy or girl. I had decided a long time ago that any child of mine would be named Ray because a ray brought light and hope. It could also be either a girl's or boy's name. I liked the idea of raising a child with a neutral name.

I sobbed on that mountain for Ray and me—a woman now in her 40s, no longer able to bear a child due to a hysterectomy. It finally registered that Ray would then be about 12 years old.

I wanted to call the doctor who performed the abortion immediately to ask him whether it had been a boy or a girl. I wanted to place a little plaque in the beautiful memorial garden where we were staying. The plaque would face the mountain in memory of Ray. I did neither.

But I was finally able to cry for the aborted child called Ray and for myself. The way I had uncovered my grief reminded me of those Russian Matryoshka dolls. It opens in half, right in the middle of the abdomen. Inside her is another doll that opens in half. Inside that one, another. There are many dolls that open in half until there are no more but the innermost one that remains whole. Matryoshka—birthing my true grief.

Tags: memoirs