Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Catherine Frederick’s Story told on May 19, 2016 at Mabel Wadsworth Center's Annual Dinner Celebration


We have bad days, long weeks, and difficult years. For me, February 2015 was the endpoint of a disparaging brutish year. It was early in the month and I was staring at a positive pregnancy test. It was the fourth test I had taken that day with the same daunting result. I was baffled, confused, angry, and scared. Initially, my brain refused to accept the outcome. I made every attempt to reconstruct the previous months. I tried to imagine and capture my monthly flow. There was a two-month gap of uncertainty and my mind worked like a Rolodex as I attempted to retrace my contraceptive prescriptions. I had been on the pill at the time. I had been responsible. Or so I thought. For several hours I laid on the cold floor of my bathroom, internally processing the potential of a skipped day. I was tired and confused and vague memories were my only clues. Time passed but everything felt so still. My body was limp but my brain was racing in a frantic state. I had somehow convinced myself that if I could solve an imagined equation of events my pregnancy test would be invalid.  Of course I understood false positives were impossible, yet my psyche remained unconvinced. I eventually contacted a close and dear friend and shared my uncertainty, my choice to abort, and my overflowing anxiety.

An added complication: I was in an abusive relationship with a man who frequently expressed that abortion was not an option he was willing to accept. In the course of 10 years, 3 women he had dated became pregnant, all of whom had sought abortions without his counsel. Already abusive and controlling, the concept that a woman would, in his words, refuse to acknowledge his choice in the matter, infuriated him. Naturally, I feared his retaliation should he discover my predicament. Another fact:  I lacked necessary funds for an abortion. Graduate students are not renowned for their overly generous stipends. If I had been single I might have managed to pull together the funds. However, I was solely responsible for the financial care and support of myself and my abuser. You could imagine that severe depression, anxiety, and fear were a constant state of mind. Intuitively I knew there were options but my mind lacked the clarity or emotional capacity to construct a rational and sound approach. It was my conviction, however, that I could not, under any circumstance, subject a child to my financial and emotional constraints. 

In the context of our conversation, my friend assured me that i was not alone and that I needed to not worry. A plan was manageable and options were available. I am confident she said more, but I was exhausted and the finer details are difficult to recall. I do know that she encouraged contact with Spruce Run regarding my situation. I did as she asked and fell asleep. I woke up the next day fretting over my situation. I trusted my friend, but it was easy to anticipate the pieces that could fall apart. Within 24 hours of our initial conversation my phone rang and Private Number flashed across my telephone screen. In Maine, there is only one place I associate with a Private Number: Mabel Wadsworth. I held my breath and answered as my beating heart slowed to a still. I was introduced to a founder and immediately noted her gentle yet firm and reassuring voice. It was revealed funding was available for the cost of my treatment, if I wished to pursue my decision. I wish I could express the emotions that proceeded, but there was nothing eloquent in my reception of such news. I had quite literally turned into a messy ball of tears and a barrage of thank yous. With good news in hand and encouragement from Spruce Run, I also managed to contact my abuser and explain that I was seeking an abortion, he was no longer welcome in my home, and that when he found his own space,  his personal effects would find their way in boxes. With financial support and the reclamation of my life I knew I could proceed. In that moment, I felt strong, capable, and incredibly vulnerable. I met with the health practitioners at the center and discovered that I was early in pregnancy. At a time when most doctors would ask a patient to wait before proceeding, Dr. Savidge was willing to remove the material from my uterus.  Although Dr. Savidge was not privy to the entirety of my story, I think it’s safe to say that his years of service molded natural intuition that an early stage abortion was critical for my emotional recovery.

I truly believe that if access to a safe abortion was restricted:
·       I could be a welfare mother
·       I may have not earned my PhD candidacy, an achievement as of January this year.
·       My decision may have not been my own or my abuser may have had final say. 
·       I may still be with a domestically abusive male.
·       And an early, safe, and legal termination in the first trimester may have been impossible, hindering my recovery.


At this time, I’d like to thank Mabel Wadsworth Center for the assistance and access to abortion care that they provide through their facility.  With their continued advocacy, my reality is not any one of the circumstances I’ve described. I’m also grateful that their staff provided a safe space for my procedure and access to guidance and counseling during recovery. I also need to thank Dr. Savidge. With complete sincerity, Dr. Savidge is one of the kindest and most empathetic individuals I’ve been under the care of and I am glad to have been his patient. I’d also like to take this time to say thanks for the support and empathy of dear friends and informed colleagues. With their care I was able to recover from the procedure with greater ease. And lastly, I’d like to thank the audience for listening to my story. I hope it shares with you the good work and deeds that Mabel’s does for the women in our community and for the health of our state.

(Note from Mabel's: Thank you, Catherine for sharing your story at our Annual Dinner Celebration.)

No comments:

Post a Comment