Pro-Choice Resources helped me in 2015
Pregnant. I never thought I could get pregnant, having irregular periods — gaps of 6 months to a year. But one day I was not feeling well, so I took two pregnancy tests. Both were positive. The next day, I went to my local clinic where they confirmed the pregnancy. After reviewing my options, I decided abortion was the best choice for me. I made an appointment for the next day. I was able to gather $600 by cashing my entire paycheck in addition to a loan from a friend. Unfortunately, I found out I was 19 weeks along. I needed to come up with an additional $1,100 and have the abortion immediately before it was too late. The clinic gave me a resource sheet listing Pro-Choice Resources. I called PCR and they offered to cover the entire cost of the abortion procedure through their MA Gap Fund. I had my procedure the next day. Since then, I have continued my education, preparing me for a good job and giving me time to support my community.
“This was the best thing that could happen. I feel for all the people in my situation. It was hard and PCR helped me so much. No one should have to parent because they don’t have the money for an abortion. I will donate to PCR and I ask you to donate too. I know firsthand that it helps a person so much.” – Monse
Pro-Choice Resources helped me in 1969
Prior to Roe vs. Wade, in 1969 when abortion was still illegal, Pro-Choice Resources helped me when I was 20 years old and pregnant. Supporting myself on student loans while going to the University of Minnesota, I knew I wanted to end the pregnancy, but my boyfriend would not support my decision. A friend of mine referred me to a doctor, who referred me to Abortion Counseling Services – now Pro-Choice Resources. I received all-options counseling, but I knew I wanted to end the pregnancy. They called me back and referred me to a clinic in Rapid City, South Dakota where the next day I had the procedure. I graduated from college the following year. 23 years later, I volunteered to be the Legislative Coordinator for Pro-Choice Resources. After five months, I realized that this was the same organization that helped me access a safe abortion so many years earlier; “I’d come full circle.” I wear this button (right), and when someone asks me who’s pictured with me, I say, “It’s the doctor who did my illegal abortion.” It makes me feel good to tell my truth.”
“If you do not have control over your body, you cannot control anything else in your life. Money does make a difference. I made my first donation of $100 to PCR in 1991. I was able to make the right choice for me and now I can help others. Please join me.” – Kat
Before reading my story, please note that although it is a story filled with hope, is also talks about sexual abuse and my abortion. Parts of this story were difficult to write and those parts may be difficult to read. If you chose to read my story please take care of yourself and do whatever makes you feel most grounded and safe before, during and after your read my words.
Four Down and Five Across
Although I didn’t know it as a child, every knitter, quilter or needle worker knows that through the contemplative process of their handwork, world conflicts are managed, personal problems are solved and a sense of peace pervades the crafter, gently prodding them to keep on living through the hard times. For knitters, this is done through continuous stitch patterns: “knit one, purl two.” Quilters pull the thread “up and down.” For Hardanger needlework, it’s the repetitive count, “four down and five across.”
My Grandmother Ledell first introduced me to needlework. She was born in 1900 and by the time my family had moved to Wisconsin to live closer to her she was 72 years old. I loved watching my grandmother sew. Really though, I loved watching her do anything. She was incredible.
My grandma taught me, with great patience, how to thread the needle, insert it into the fabric and pull at different angles to create stitches. Embroidery came naturally to me, god only knows how, because I was such a gender non-conforming kid.
While sewing, my grandma would purse her lips, gently breathing in and out of her rounded mouth. It was as if she was in a Vinyasa yoga pose with its deep, meditative breathing. I always wondered what she was thinking, as she spent hour upon hour pulling the thread “up and down” over and over again.
That’s me holding a piece of my Hardanger. This one says, “Choice.” I would like to thank you in advance for supporting Pro-Choice Resouces by making a gift today. Your support ensures access to safe abortion care for women throughout the Midwest and beyond.
During our lessons she would iron embroidery patterns on a white dishtowel, and teach me how to stitch over the lines. The images were little girl bears with bows in their hair, engaging in domestic chores with a day of the week printed underneath. Monday laundry, Tuesday mending, Wednesday ironing, and so on. I was proud of the work that I did. I tried to purse my lips and breathe in and out as she did, thinking the breathing was an integral part of the sewing lesson.
My mother was a great knitter, and later on in life, a great quilter. She spent hour upon hour “knitting one and purling two.” My mom knitted sweaters for everybody: me, my father, my siblings and their spouses, and then grandchildren. If you had a torso, she would cover it with a sweater.
When I was in junior high school my mother taught me to knit. But at that time, I was more interested in riding my bike around the neighborhood, and the knitting never took hold. When I was 13, knitting needles were for twirling around your fingers while watching TV in the family room, or transforming into drum sticks and beating them on an array of carefully placed couch pillows as if they were a massive drum set.
As I entered high school, life for my parents and for I began to get… complicated. The distance between my parents and I had become greater and greater. I found myself entering the family room, where my mother knitted, less and less. Sometimes, I would go down there, not knowing that they were having a fight, and my father would simply look up at me as I entered the room, and say, “good-bye.” I felt humiliated and shamed by such a greeting, and I would immediately leave the room. After awhile, I wouldn’t even enter the family room any more, I’d just walk out the door. Out the door, and into the wilderness.
A significant correlation exists between childhood sexual abuse and teen pregnancy. An estimated 60 percent of teen girls’ first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape, or attempted rape. Pro-Choice Resources’ abortion fund serves these young people every day.
Out in the wilderness, I met a man who was filled with darkness and violence. He was a teacher of mine. The sexual abuse that he inflicted upon me began slowly during my sophomore year of high school. It progressed in severity until after I graduated in 1983. During those two and a half years of rape, molestation and psychological torment that place in the wilderness became my own sort of “family room.” I was manipulated, coerced and threatened into hanging out there all the time. I was lucky to get out alive.
In the fall of my senior year, while the rapes and abuse accelerated, my period was late. After two weeks of a late period, I knew I was pregnant. I had absolutely no clue what to do. Roe v. Wade had been in effect for almost a decade, but in my situation, a safe abortion in a doctor’s office was completely inaccessible. I was young, surviving horrendous rapes, had no money of my own, and no transportation.
I was home in the family room with my mother, nervously twirling one of her knitting needles through my fingers while she was watching TV. I left the room and called him in a panic. He was sly and manipulative. He said that he would take care of it, we would make the 45 minute drive to the state capital, and go to a clinic. He would say that he was my father and sign the papers for me to have an abortion.
It seemed like a good idea; what else was I supposed to do? But when I got off the phone, still twirling the knitting needle through my fingers, a voice came from within, “Drive in a car with him for 45 minutes on a highway? No way!” By that time, driving in his car was like driving in an automotive torture chamber.
Sometimes when I talk about the abuse I don’t like to get specific. Truthfully though, it’s hard for me to form the words. Most of the time, when I think of the abuse and the rapes, I tend think and then speak in one word sentences. “60 mph”, “torture”, “trapped” seems like adequate communication to me.
Knowing that a 45-minute ride in a car with him meant “trapped” I turned my eyes to the problem at hand, and then to the twirling knitting needle. I hung up the phone and went straight to the bathroom.
Behind the toilet was a wall, and on the other side of the wall sat my mother in the family room. I have racked my brain for years, again and again, to figure out how far she was from me. Was the wall 6 inches deep or wider? Abuse and violence tend to separate people. In reality, my mother was miles away from me. I knew that I had to do this alone. “Poke, pain, blood.”
I don’t do much knitting these days. It’s not that I am terrified of knitting needles and the awful association that I have with them. I am not triggered every time I see a knitting needle, although sometimes I am. What upsets me most though, in recalling the abortion that I gave myself, was the dangerous and isolated desperation that I was in. A dangerous desperation that many women and girls all over the world experience today, even in the U.S. I was lucky to have survived: many who give themselves abortions do not.
In reality, I don’t do too much knitting because it is expensive, and I still can’t understand a basic knitting pattern. Instead, I do Hardanger needlework, and lots of it.
Hardanger is a form of needlework brought over with the Norwegians as they immigrated to America. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas are filled with the descendants of those immigrants, and I am one of them. Hardanger is traditionally sewn on white linen cloth with white colored floss. The patterns are geometrical and have “open work,” which involves cutting and removing threads to create a lacy design. It incorporates different stitches that have been handed down over generations, like the “Norwegian Star” or the “Ship Motif.” The basic building block of a piece is called the “Kloister Block.” It involves sewing 4 down and 5 across over and over in a geometrical circle that is the frame of the piece. It is one of the easiest stitches to do, and also the hardest. If you do not check your work and are not continuously counting 4 down and 5 across as you stitch around your piece, then you may arrive at the end of your circle one stitch off. And this, of course, will not do. One missed stitch has the ability to throw off an entire piece. And it is at this moment, that most Norwegian women say, “Uff Da.” I tend to say things a bit more… colorful.
Many who have seen my Hardanger know that I add or subtract things from the original pattern to make it my own. Usually the center of a piece will be plain or will have “Norwegian Star” sewn in. I use this space to sew in words or images that might seem a bit…well… unconventional. The first piece that I completed, I sewed the words “fuck you” in the center panel. Another piece has a skull and cross bones. One has the word “choice” sewn into it. Lately, I have wanted to sew in something like, “stop limiting women’s access to safe and legal abortions, women’s bodies do not spontaneously prevent pregnancy due to a rape, driving 400 miles to the nearest abortion clinic is not my idea of accessibility, abortion care is health care, and even if abortion becomes outlawed, women will (and already do) resort to “back alley” procedures.” But that seems a bit wordy, and certainly too lengthy for a table runner. But who knows, I’m crazy enough to do it. Perhaps, a tablecloth?
I think upon the generations of Norwegian women or women of other cultures who might have wanted to sew in the same words as I do in their own handwork. If I were to design my own set of dish towels, they would be something more along the lines of Monday: get the hell out of here, Tuesday: file for a restraining order, Wednesday: donate to Pro-Choice Resources.
This past summer I was fortunate to attend PCR’s after-abortion support and discussion group, Emerge. Here, I was finally able to share my story. Each week I was met with competent and caring facilitators as they helped me and the other participants navigate our experiences.
Now that I’m older, I understand the contemplative process that is intrinsic to needle work. It is my daily meditation as I continue to heal from the sexual torture that I endured, the abortion that I gave myself, and the difficult management of the complex and multifaceted PTSD that I live with daily.
I purse my lips and slowly breathe in and out through my rounded mouth, “four down and five across” over and over again. When I complete my piece of Hardanger, tears pour from my eyes, a gentle peace falls upon me and I feel a little bit more whole. I smile and grin. I roll it up and store it in a box, and then I start a new piece.
I am honored to share my story. It is a basic human right for all people to have access to safe abortion care in a doctor’s office, and to know they live in a world that supports and embraces their decisions. I hope that you will join me in ensuring this human right by making a donation to Pro-Choice Resources today.
– Kelly Waterman, PCR Supporter and Program Participant