by Mia Hart-Allison
No one I know is
aware of the abortion. And my name isn’t Marie but
that’s what you can call me. I’ll never tell
my nearest and dearest but I feel there should be a record
of what happened somewhere.
I made the decision to remain childless early
on in life and with good reason: the housing estate I grew
up on was peopled with women and girls shackled to their
child-care duties. Brood mares, so many of life’s
doors summarily slammed in their resigned faces, little
more than domestic slaves. And since my mother was pregnant
with my baby sister I’ve had a creeping horror of
pregnancy, childbirth and babies. They make me shudder in
disgust. I have to turn my head when I see an impregnated
woman – I find them grotesque and animal, overtaken
by that lowly urge to breed. I think it was witnessing my
sister being born at home that did it – the blood,
the screaming, the pain and the awful sight of her forcing
her way out through my mother’s most tender parts.
I’d seen our cat purr as she kittened, now I saw the
atrocity that is child birth. It was the most violent thing
I’d ever seen; the extremes of her agony convinced
me she was dying. I was terrified. I don’t think I’ve
ever forgiven my sister for it – perhaps that’s
why we never got on. But it wasn’t long before my
mother was up and about, making the hard-earned pennies
stretch even further, thanking her picture of Christ for
the ‘blessing’ that had been inflicted upon
all of us.
I excommunicated myself aged eleven when I
realised that God is a psychological tumour that must be
excised. And despite my hard won education, my mother –
so good with children, so inept with adults – always
saw nothing in my future but Catholicism’s righteous
role for women: proud mother of a multitude of bouncing
babies, preferably boys.
So when I woke up
that morning, with cold sweat on my forehead and knew that
I was pregnant, my decision was already made. Cold and stony,
my mind is barren of parental feelings and desires. I didn’t
want a child, I couldn’t raise a child, I was repelled
by the whole situation. I had the counseling, read the leaflets
and scoured the web besides, my decision was informed by
all the information available. Before that I had no idea
that a quarter of all women undergo an abortion, even though
I’d supported two of my friends through it. I longed
to talk to them about it, but for reasons that will become
apparent, I was unable to.
It was very early in the pregnancy when I had
the termination and I was stunned by how little I felt.
After all, the foetus had been not much more than a slug
of jellied potential and had made no impact on my silhouette.
It’s probably better off in limbo along with all the
unbaptised babies and old testament prophets. Women and
lapsed Catholics can never escape guilt. It prevented me
from moving on. I’m hoping that writing this all down
will be cathartic, a sort of auto-psychoanalysis. A confession
if you will, though I do not ask for forgiveness; there
is nothing to forgive. I can imagine your blame worrying
at me like a pack of wild dogs. You might say: this is your
fault, you should have taken precautions. If only it were
This is where my story deviates from the tragic
tales of other desperate women all around the world. I am
a lesbian, I’ve never doubted that. Plenty of my Sapphic
sisters sleep with men, hell, some even have kids with them
but I am not one of them. Certainly I fooled around a little
with boys when I was in my teenaged experimental phase.
I didn’t like it and even they didn’t seem too
impressed, ‘Don’t just kiss it, suck it!’
(which, by the way, I never did). And that was the closest
I got to sexual intercourse with a man. Women were another
matter, they thrilled me. I was moved by the scented softness,
the tenderness, affection and romance of the wonderful women
I was with. I have a great fondness for men, it’s
just that they can’t get to me, can’t reach
me mentally and sensually like a beautiful woman can. So
by the strictest definition I am a virgin, a virgin invaded
by an unwanted child.
Immaculate conception is not without precedent
in the annals of scientific literature: during my investigations
I found an article describing just such a case. In November
1985 an ovum removed from a woman about to undergo IVF treatment,
spontaneously began to divide in the absence of any fertilizing
agent, though it died after the first division. The clinic’s
director, being a true man of science declared, ‘God
only knows how that happened!’ And though I refuse
to believe in God (or anything else for that matter), this
is where he enters my story.
I’d had a busy
day but in bed I was strangely restless, the moon peered
in like a nosy neighbour. It must have been some time after
four am when I eventually fell asleep and was plunged into
a bizarre and vivid world. Not since childhood have I experienced
such an intense dream, so realistic I felt as if I was wide
awake. I found myself in a stark, white room, utterly featureless:
no doors, windows, carpets or visible source of light though
the place was brightly lit. It filled me with a tense claustrophobia
and I longed to run, panic grasping me firmly. When I screamed
no sound emerged. And then suddenly I wasn’t alone.
He was tall and shining with a strange symbol inscribed
on his flawless forehead and terrible, terrible eyes –
it hurt to look into them. Carrying a lily like a sceptre,
he was horrifically beautiful and when he spoke it sounded
like a duel between angry violins.
‘I am Gabriel,’ he announced and I winced at
the unbearable sound, ‘You have been chosen,’
I tried to respond but I was still afflicted by silence.
‘The Lord has decreed that I get you with child. His
once begotten son will now be twice begotten as foretold.
You are honoured above all other women.’
And with that he made a fluid hand gesture
and some invisible force threw me to the floor which was
cold and shiny like marble. Another gesture and the blue
nightdress I was wearing melted away. In ordinary dreams
the surreal and impossible can be accepted with aplomb but
not this time, I struggled and raged like a storm though
I was unable to make any outward movement. And then he was
on top of me and inside me and pain possessed my being.
My soul was violated, there was nowhere for me to hide.
All of me was being plundered. I was absolutely helpless
to stop it. Agony is just a word, the reality goes far beyond
any verbal concept a human could devise, but even just his
mere touch tingled and stung like a jelly-fish’s kiss.
His thrustings were savage and hot, tearing me and if I
could have chosen death at that moment I would have welcomed
it gladly. Just beyond the sickening rhythm of his shoulder
I could see the frail lily on the cold floor, crushed and
bruised where he had trodden on it in his haste. There was
a perverse intimacy in the way he stroked my hair and I
struggled to bite his hand as it passed my face but to no
avail. Like the sensation of salt ground into a wound I
felt a stinging spurt inside me and then I was awake and
alone in bed, sobbing and sobbing like the world was ending,
which mine was. There was a sick feeling in my stomach,
like when I had taken communion wine without eating. His
stench of hygiene and absences clung to me; in the shower
my tears went unnoticed amongst the welter of scalding hot
water. In the mirror I told myself my body was clean though
I knew my soul never would be again after being desecrated.
A passing car caused light and shadow to scurry through
the room and my heart wrenched – I saw him standing
behind me in the mirror. I turned, scattering bottles and
tubes and saw there was nothing there. I sank to the floor
among the oozing shampoo and cried, cried until there was
nothing left but jerking gasps. That's when it struck me:
the impossible was true, I was pregnant.
Of course at first
I refused to accept it. I raged against the injustice and
although I felt terribly weak I smashed every picture and
mirror in the house. Victimhood held no satisfaction for
me. Defiantly, I held out hope that I was wrong. But horror
and disbelief crashed down on me when I stood there clutching
the little plastic stick, the vibrant blue line a stake
through my already broken heart. There was no going back.
Before I had lived in a state of grace and this was the
fall. According to the bible, women in this situation rejoice;
I was as far from rejoicing as it is possible to get. I
immediately made the appropriate preparations to dispose
of the parasite growing inside me, the rotten fruit of rape.
The dream and the pregnancy occupied my scattered
mind. There was no comfort - I couldn’t even pair
off both things as an evil coincidence as there is no such
thing, only subjective perspectives that our minds frantically
try to make a pattern from.
The actual act of feticide didn’t require
a hospital stay; the medical staff were curt and quietly
judgmental, blithely oblivious to the incredible circumstances
that had brought me there. On the table, while they carried
out their messy business, I tried not to think about the
dream by musing that surgeons must have to cultivate the
same moral detachment as serial killers. But as the ignominy
and invasion of the procedure intensified, the dream ordeal
returned and the tears flowed. I turned my face away and
was suddenly struck by the juxtaposition of the legs of
two trolleys contriving to make a bold silver cross, reflecting
the light and seeming to glow. The sight transfixed me and
slowly, creepingly, like twilight shadows darkening, the
operating room dissolved into a church. The sacred sterility,
ambient lighting, strangely intoxicating smells and the
doctor in his vestments, revered like a holy man, all fitted
into the hushed atmosphere of this chrome and tiled church.
I realised that I was on the altar, I was the centre of
the rite. It all made sense: the removal of the foetus was
a sacrament, a holy ritual, restoring me to a state of purity.
I was being made anew, purged of all earthly sin. But to
be truly shriven I had to bare my soul. With my legs still
in the stirrups, the blood tacky on my thighs, I confessed
the child had been conceived in a dream rape. I was shocked
back into the cool reality of the operating theatre by their
disbelief, immediately nullifying the feeling of sanctity
that had possessed me and alerting me to the mistake I’d
made. That’s how the Police and the psychiatrists
The Police talked
to me in a special room with pastel soft furnishings. I
felt pelted with questions, even though they were gentle
and well-meaning – at first. When they didn’t
like my replies, they asked the same questions all over
again and I gave the same non-answers, growing more frustrated
and upset as it continued. The investigating officer Doggart
was a bald, tall and spare man, with keen intelligence in
his eyes. His voice was no nonsense and his questions were
like rivets driven in.
‘Do you have a boyfriend? Do you take drink or drugs?
Had you been out drinking that night? Was anyone with you?
Can you describe your attacker? Were there physical injuries,
physical evidence? Have you washed the bedding, the clothes
you were wearing? What did you do immediately afterwards?
Who have you told? Why didn’t you report this?’
I didn’t even know which I was supposed
to be answering – not that I could have any way. I
felt like looking around for the person they were questioning,
the person that would have all the right answers - perhaps
that’s what I’m always looking for?
A look of friendly disbelief eventually suffused
Doggart’s firm features, ‘Think about what you’re
asking us to accept, Marie. An angel attacked you in a dream
and got you pregnant? You have to admit if someone else
told you this story you would be disinclined to believe
it, wouldn’t you? We want to help you. Don’t
you want your attacker caught and punished? Now is there
anything you can tell us about this man that might help
us locate him?’
With these words the terrible eyes of Gabriel
seemed to burn in front of me. I so wanted to explain those
eyes to them, how they contained some terrible weight of
sadness like a caged ape’s eyes, but also a horrifying
lifelessness like a sharks. It all rushed over me once more,
the pain, the acute longing for death. Doggart terminated
the interview as I sat with my head in my hands, tears gaining
colour on the lino, a libation for plastic Persephone. As
he left the room I saw him glance back, and I was startled
by the blatant pity in his eyes. To him I was a lost cause
and it was with clear dissatisfaction that he abandoned
me to my fate.
I heard him ‘handing me over’ to the psychiatrist.
They stood just outside the door in a cramped little hall-way,
voices lowered but still audible to my sharp ears.
‘So what do we have here then?’, the psychiatrist’s
years of academia and medical practice told in his manicured
voice, making it distinct from the frank eloquence of Doggart’s
soft northern accent.
‘Well,’ Doggart paused as if puzzled, ‘she
thinks she was raped by the angel Gabriel in a dream, she
terminated a pregnancy that she says resulted.’
The doctor snorted, ‘So it’s fair
to say she’s presenting with delusions then?’
‘I suppose, but she seems otherwise perfectly rational.
I mean, clearly she has some sort of mental health issue
but she spoke as if she was telling the truth. I think she
probably was attacked, I just wish I could find out what
‘I wonder if she has a file?’ the doctor said.
‘A history?” Doggart replied, ‘I wouldn’t
be surprised. Surprise is a luxury I gave up long ago.’
The doctor laughed and the door opened. Dr
Studley was pink and blond and round and wore a look of
insincere attentiveness as he pretended to listen. His tentative
questions and gentle suggestions turned to a hardened face
and gravely shaken head when I refused his ‘logic’.
‘Have you experienced mental illness before? Depression?
Psychosis? Insomnia? Loss of appetite? Have you ever attempted
suicide? Have you ever been committed? Do you hear voices?
Do your appliances talk to you?’
I was wearied by his quest for answers when
it was clear to me that reality allows no definites apart
from death, everything else inhabits various gray areas,
most of which are distinctly uncomfortable. But he was confident
of his monopoly on rationality. I could see his plump hands
twitching to seize up his expensive pen and prescribe it
all away. He obviously felt assured that he was superior
to me, better than anyone like me, it oozed out of him and
formed a smug miasma that he wore like a stole. I was nothing
to him, simply next in the faceless production line of humanity’s
He took me to a different room, sat me down
and gave me his version. He explained it all with something
like mock patience. He said it was date-rape, that a man
must have slipped a drug – I forget its name –
into my drink and then subjected me to that ordeal. I don’t
remember anything like that. The details, he said, must
have been wiped out by the action of the drug, which of
course is no longer in my system. He said the drug conspired
with my subconscious to create the fantasy of Gabriel as
a mental protection. Fantasy! Protection! Truly he knows
nothing – an educated idiot, a phrenologist with a
prescription pad. After talking to me for all of seven minutes
he declared I was suffering from a mental illness. How can
he possibly know when he’s not in here with me, when
he didn’t know me before all this happened? Do you
know what it’s like to be told you can’t trust
your own mind, that the inescapable inner voice is whispering
lies, counseling evil? And surely I would be the first to
know if I were mad? He almost begged me to remember something
that never happened or at least acquiesce to his version
I was left alone there with a little paper
cup of bitter coffee and a packet of cigarettes as my only
Questions, mine and theirs, swooped like birds. I shook
as if someone had slapped my face with an open hand. No
one believed me, only I knew the truth. They had questioned
my sanity, my very consciousness. As he’d left, there’d
been a smug little smile on Dr Studley’s face as if
he enjoyed puncturing a soul, enforcing his reality on all
who turned to him for help. Hatred blossomed in my gut and
I slammed my hand against the table. Energy never dissipates,
it only reforms and my rage morphed into desperate claustrophobia.
I was trapped in that tiny, windowless room. It seemed to
be getting smaller and for a brief, hysterical moment I
thought it was shrinking, the air growing increasingly scarce.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. When I opened them
the room was normal. But questions still rattled in my head.
I questioned everything, even the apparent reality of being
shut in a stuffy room. Perhaps I was really somewhere else,
wandering along a beach or doing the shopping? How could
I really know? Could it all be less true than I thought?
I brought my hand down on the table again but this time
gently, caressingly, to check it was really there. By the
time they came back the room was hazy and stale with the
smoke of every last cigarette in the packet.
I will admit that
I am plagued with confusion. But some things, especially
the dream, remain complete and ineluctable, down to the
colour of the pollen clinging to the lily’s stigma.
I am still me, but that is different to what it was before.
The event is erected in my unconsciousness
like a standing stone, the mist of all other thought helplessly
eddying around it.