Each day I am supposed to be the answer to someone’s problems. Today might be the end of their world if they don’t handle this right now and if I can't help them then it won't happen. Each and every person I talk to wants me to help them solve this problem, they need money and they need to get this abortion, fast. I feel scared and alone, even when there really isn’t any reason to feel that way. For years now my life work have been spent listening to people who are sad, angry, alone, and thankful or some culmination of many feelings.
I become a sponge soaking up other people’s pain and holding in my own. At some point I am saturated and begin dripping the manifestations of so many people’s anger. When someone asks me where I work I reply, “a woman’s health center.” I do not want to risk being chastised by someone, who quite frankly I could not give a rat’s ass about what they think. I don’t want to have to defend abortion, women, or my own choices. I dont want to spend the little bit of energy I have fighting with the world about what I have already decided is right.
Today a patient’s mom called to let me know she needed to reschedule again because of money. I answered the phone with a, “Hello, this is the Women’s Health Center” the caller says, “oh honey you sound horrible, what’s wrong?”
Very rarely does any one ask me how I’m doing or what’s going on with me. Nothing was wrong, I was a little more tired than usual but that’s it. I quickly rescheduled the appointment and talked to her about what they had already tried to come up with money. She has someone who could mail her money but it cost too much to wire it so it would be there a day late and the clinic only performs abortions once a week so her daughter has to wait until she is another week later in her pregnancy.
In Alabama there are no local funds. Really across most of the American South there are not local funds to support women in need in these communities. National organizations like the National Abortion Federation and National Network of Abortion Funds are umbrella organizations that support women financially in places like most of the American south where there are no local funds women can reach to for help in situations like the 16 year old whose mother called me again today. These national funds are helpful but are not able to meet the need especially in place like the south where poor is a concept beyond many American's consciousness.
I took a second to consider her comment. As much as I would like to think its not true, my job affects my mental, spiritual, and emotional health. I felt normal when I answered the phone today but the fatigue was communicated in my tone of voice. My soul is filled to the max. I am completely saturated. I loose the ability to feel compassion for the women I work with. Each person’s story is so similar to the last one. Many are difficult and painful and many are triumphant and empowering. The triumphant stories can be so few and far between, and sometimes they are the hardest.
For some women abortion will be the best thing that ever happened to her. She will escape a molester after years of abuse because of the biology of fertility and the molestation might finally end when she has to have an abortion. Or she will leave a violent lover because this is the last straw and she knows she cannot raise a child with a man who treats her like this. She will learn a valuable lesson about safe sex without contracting a deadly disease. No matter what the reason or outcome I will touch these women's lives and help them maneuver through many obstacles and they will fill me with rage and love. Hopefully I can figure out how to make it the best thing that ever happened to me, rather than a tired, "terrible" voice on the phone rescheduling appointments because no one has any money.