30 Days Sober and Knocked Up Already
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30 Days Sober and Knocked Up Already


Pregnancy tests are pretty freaky. You piss on the stick, cross your fingers and wait to see if your entire life is about to go down the tubes or bounce up into the heavens, depending on your family planning preference. I hovered over the toilet in a rundown halfway house up in Van Nuys, a place crawling with black widows that hung up in the eves and hid inside the cupboards below the kitchen sink. I had been sober a month. I waited for that stick to read “not pregnant.”

But inside that plastic square a pink + started to emerge. I blinked. Maybe I was misreading it? Unfortunately, the color deepened from baby pink into crimson red.


Despite having just been released from a week-long 5150 hold at the Kaiser psych ward downtown, despite having no money, no job and no car, despite my former desire to remain childfree forever, despite having been knocked up by a scuzzy 50-year-old menthol smoker who preyed on me when I had three days of sobriety and fresh stitches in my wrists, despite all this, a warm gust of euphoria rushed through my veins.

Maybe I can have this baby, I thought. It was insane, I knew. But still…

The next day, I phoned a free prenatal clinic, got on the bus and rode over to a strip mall in Panorama City where I waited inside a small clinic full of pregnant mothers, screaming babies and whining toddlers. Watching these disheveled mothers run after their kids, yank their clothes, stuff pacifiers in their mouths and push strollers back and forth to lull their little darlings to sleep terrified me.

No way I can have this baby.

I ran out the door fast, immediately dragging myself to the Family Planning (abortion) clinic where I hoped they took walk-ins so I could get the fetus sucked out of me by 3 pm before I changed my mind.

“You can’t get an abortion until the fetus has gotten bigger and implanted itself in your uterus,” the nurse said after I arrived. Blugh. The image of this grossed me out. Or maybe that was the tides of nausea rising and crashing hard in my stomach.

“How much longer do I have to wait?” I asked.

“Three weeks,” she said. “But after that you can take the abortion pill if you want.” The idea of bleeding out that embryo in the privacy of my lovely sober living bathroom sounded much better than having a vacuum shoved up inside me.

So for three weeks I shuffled around the halfway house sustaining myself on saltine crackers and 7-Up, every moment on the verge of puking. As one week turned into two, my energy dropped so low I couldn’t leave the house. My neck bloated up, my tits bulged like taut helium balloons and my belly got this ungodly pooch.

How do women do this? I thought.

Finally the day arrived for me to get the whole thing over with. When I walked up to the clinic a pack of protesters greeted me in front of the building.

They told me nice things like ABORTION IS MURDER.

Now I’m a raging feminist with no tolerance for religious fundamentalism. But I was too tired and sick to say anything. I just walked past them with an expressionless face.

Inside the clinic, a cold-blooded nurse with the bedside manner of a DMV representative shoved a probe inside me and then turned the sonogram screen toward my face, offering me a picture of my budding baby, which I had not expected. She held out a large white pill, along with a tiny cup of water, and told me to swallow it.

“This will stop the development of the fetus,” she said, which I knew actually meant “kill the fetus.”

It’s not easy to kill something, even if it’s a spider, let alone something growing in your own body. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but what options did I have? And wasn’t that little fetus without sentience, like a shrimp or a lobster or a crab? Were those pro-lifers vegans too?

She offered me Vicodin for the pain that comes after you induce bleeding to get rid of the embryo.

“It’s not too bad, just like some bad menstrual cramps,” she said. Because I was trying to stay sober and off drugs, I opted out of the narcotic and took a triple-strength prescription ibuprofen instead.

On my way home I tried to push the image of that fetus out of my head, but I could not. Instead, I started weeping, right in front of everyone on the bus, tears clogging my vision.

What kind of feminist am I? I lamented. Why am I weeping? 

It really didn’t matter, because what awaited was worse than the existential dilemma on the sentience—or lack thereof—of a fetus.

I sat on that sagging twin bed in that dismal sober living sucking on these super tiny white pills. They told me to stick them between my gums and my cheeks and wait. Later I would discover these are the same pills used to induce actual labor for women giving birth.

I waited. I waited to bleed the poor little fetus out. I waited five minutes, but nothing happened. I waited 10 minutes, but still nothing. Finally, after 15 minutes had passed, the most vicious searing pain stabbed the inside of my womb so bad I started retching all over the floor.

This is labor.

But there was no husband holding my hand, no nurse to pump me full of pain meds and none of my housemates were home to tell me it would soon pass. I was alone, curled up on that shitty blue-grey carpet of that bleak halfway house dry heaving in an agony I never even knew existed.

I need that Vicodin.

I thought I had done the right thing to refuse the hydrocodone, I thought my sponsor would be proud—but no one at that clinic said I’d undergo hellacious contractions like a soon-to-be mom. “Bad menstrual cramps” was all the nurse said. But these bad menstrual cramps hurt worse than the time my shoulder hung out of socket for three hours after someone jammed me hard on the JV basketball team.

After an hour of this misery, after curling up on the floor unable to walk, I finally started to bleed. Once all that tissue released, the pain subsided slightly and after another half hour I could finally hobble around on foot.

I will never get pregnant again, ever. I absolutely refuse. From start to finish, this was the most harrowing experience of my life—bloody, gnarly, raw and disgusting. To the women who actually survive a full-on pregnancy, push through a 40-hour labor and then nurture and care for a small human—I salute you.

But for me, it seems like the most masochistic proposition in the world.

I don’t regret my decision, I don’t harp on it, I don’t lament it when I see little newborns around and about me. Bringing a life into the world when I was newly sober and trying to build my life up from rock bottom would have been not only completely insane but also obscenely selfish. I got sober to save my life, not to destroy two.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.