This is Story #11, entitled No Exception, from my book, Go West or Go Weird.
I’ve never been in good health. Or so I imagine. It could be that I’m just a hypochondriac. Or maybe I’m imagining that, too. But if I am, I inherited this disease from my mother.
She’s the pill-popping type of hypochondriac. Me, I stay as far away from pharmaceuticals as I can. I eschew pills, due to their many side effects and unpredictable interactions with other pills. And I don’t like doctors. I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to kill me if I give them the chance.
No, I’m the researcher type of hypochondriac. I’ve burned through medical encyclopedias, cover-to-cover, trying to figure out what strange, rare disease it is that has plagued me all my life. So far I haven’t unriddled the mystery, but when I do I’ll be treating myself rather than visiting some quack in a white lab coat. Because I’m no fool.
My mother has often repeated her story of that time when I lived in her belly. She claims she had cancer, and that her doctor had advised her to have an abortion. And she claims that due to her opposition to abortion, she refused to end her pregnancy. Instead, she left her fate and mine to God’s will.
Thus, due to a miracle from God, and my mother’s love, I am here today breathing life. At least that’s the story my mother would have me believe. And I did believe it for many years.
But don’t go thinking this made me a faithful follower of my mother’s religion, or a guilt-ridden son who would do anything to make his poor, sick mother happy. Oh no. Her story did not inspire such gratitude.
Instead, I wondered if my strange and rare disease that I’ve always suspected I have, didn’t originate in the womb. After all, maybe the reason she was so sick was because there was something wrong with her fetus. And maybe that’s a good reason to have an abortion. Not for the protection of the mother, but for the protection of a child that might have to go through life in poor health.
And this thought inspired me to write this little piece of flash fiction.
But one caveat. One day I took my nose out of the family medical encyclopedia and asked my Munchausen mother if I had been born by C-Section, or natural childbirth. She hesitated, as if she was searching her memory. Finally she ponderously answered that it was “na-tur-al child-birth.” Strange, that answer. I could have sworn she had mentioned a C-Section on some prior occasion.
Over the years, I’ve asked her several more times. Each time the story changes. Sometimes it was C-Section, and other times it was natural childbirth. It occurs to me that my mother has taken so many pills, from all her imagined ailments, that it’s severely affected her memory.
And so that has put her whole abortion story in a questionable light. My father was asked about it once, and he said it was bullshit. And it probably is, knowing my father’s way of calling out bullshit, and my mother’s way of dishing it out.
But my father’s calling out of bullshit was too late. I had already written the following story, based upon the bullshit. I wrote it with a mission in mind to warn potential mothers of the perils of strict adherence to moral rules.
This didactic tale warns of the consequences that can occur, when a sick woman steadfastly and inflexibly refuses to have an abortion.
She couldn’t do it. She refused to have an abortion, despite her doctor’s wishes. Her doctor had warned her that if she didn’t have an abortion she would probably die.
She had never been so sick from a pregnancy before in her life. But to abort, well, it was unthinkable. The laws of God forbade it.
These laws of God had been instilled in her mind from youth. Carefully placed there by the stern teachings of her religious leaders. And from these laws there grew a fear in her of risking the wrath and vengeance of a God who sought to protect all of His children. Including the child of God now growing within her own body.
Her fear and her faith were unwavering. They stood as a powerful citadel, buttressing all efforts, all urgings, and all pleadings from those who wanted her to live. Her doctor, her family and her friends all counseled her that sometimes it’s wise to make exceptions to even the strictest of rules. And they were sure God, in all His love, would understand.
But she remained obdurate. She refused abortion. Her fear and faith in the teachings of her upbringing could not be overcome. And so she would risk her own life for the flesh and blood growing inside her.
She would make no exception.
The months passed and she became sicker. She was feeling gravely ill almost every moment of her waking days. It scared her to be so ill, and yet she stubbornly held to her firm resolution. She would not kill human life. She could not murder this child of God growing inside her. Even though it was slowly murdering her.
She would make no exception.
The time came. She was finally in her ninth month of pregnancy. She was in the delivery room in an advanced stage of labor. She was in pain, but at the same time she felt relieved. To her this was the lifting of a burden. It was the saving of her soul. It was the unfolding of a miracle. It was vindication.
And as she lay on the table, she had the exhilarating feeling of one who had just saved someone’s life. The life of a child of God.
And she had made no exception.
Her doctor told her to bear down. She thought of the baby. Soon she would be cuddling the pink infant in her arms. Breathe. She smiled as she wondered what to name it. Breathe. She thought of the beauty of giving birth to human life. Breathe.
Especially since this was such an exceptional birth.
It was coming out. The once condemned child was coming easily out, head first—a perfect birth. The doctor pulled the infant from the womb. He raised his eyebrows as he lifted this child of God up high for the mother to see.
It was alive, kicking and waving.
With all three legs and all four arms.