The Cannula

The moment when the doctor inserted the cannula into my cervix is frozen in time. The cervix was violated against its will to keep out all else. Until the moment of delivery, it decides to efface, dilate, and offer up contents. The doctor and I were in cahoots, in collusion, and acted against the body.  That moment of not turning back remains the most vivid. I asked the doctor and she agreed to perform this abortion. I cried after.  “What’s wrong?”  “She’s crying.” This upset the staff as if I had insulted them after they only done what I asked by terminating this pregnancy.

I was torn between good and bad, between wondering what kind of life or temperament I would offer. Afraid I would be short-tempered, frazzled, and unhappy, that I would take I out on the child  After all, Hadn’t I been overwhelmed with the children I’d raised alone. Their father was so angry with me for divorcing him when they were young that he withheld any help for the satisfaction and smirk of seeing me slip.   The burden was hell.  At one point the only thing in the house to eat was a box of pudding in the cupboard without the milk to make it.

I did not know this man enough. Go ahead.  Ask.  Then How can you have sex when don’t even agree on something so basic –and crucial as corporal punishment. The prophylactic slipped.

I saw a woman scold her child at the bus stop for spilling the can of Sport Shake when he/she tipped it up to drink like a baby. The world seems a cruel and hostile place to raise a biracial one.  I couldn’t teach a baby girl how to be an African-American woman.  I know nothing, nothing about it. I couldn’t bear to bring a child into cruelty, but I have regrets.  It isn’t as if I didn’t discuss it gathering opinions on the feasibility—at my age. 

Daycare. Kindergarten, PTA, fourth-grade books. Middle of the night exhaustion.   What if it were unloved, unwanted. Who would this person have been having I not interfered, interrupted? My ambiguity ran rampant.

There is no greater pain than the look in a child’s eyes that asked Why do you hate me so. What have I done commensurate with your contempt, your dislike, and hatred of me?  I didn’t ask to be born.

What greater shame for a woman than to admit “I’m not capable. Don’t feel up to another twenty-year project.  I just completed three alone. Inexorably alone. ” Were I not to go through my dilemma would be no better, but I came out of it hysterical.  Abortion was not better, it was different.  Once she inserted the cannula there was no turning back. Anger subsided to sorrow.


About the Author

Elizabeth Wadsworth Ellis’s work is published in literary journals: Antonym, Barzakh, Bluntly, Bell, Denver Quarterly, O:JA&L, Oregon State’s “45th Parallel,” Poached Hare, Underwood, Vermillion, and Wingless Dreamer.

Supporting Reproductive Rights

This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.

  1. Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
  2. Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
  3. Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Planned Parenthood for the work they are doing to ensure access.

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