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Guest Post: The Scream
by Sharon Eatel
I was sent this personal story by my friend Sharon Eatel (nom de plume) about an unwanted pregnancy 58 years ago. It is gut-wrenching to read, but crucial context for today. We all need to be reminded of the horror being brought back to America.
It is also exquisitely written. Honored to share it with you with her permission.
Please do everything in your power to make sure this past doesn’t become our future again.
by Sharon Eatel
I was a nerd, bullied and shunned by many of my peers. A Mormon with cooties. I had a fetish about grades and chastity. I fervently prayed away the unclean thoughts Satan whispered in my ear. I did not touch myself. I was neutered.
In 1966, I was a sophomore at LSU. It was the age of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I knew something was deeply wrong with me. Why was I different? Why had I never dated or had a boyfriend? That same year I blossomed into a Daisy Mae. A French-speaking sugar engineering student from Mauritius asked me out. He was my first boyfriend. I quickly learned to make out. I was eager to rid myself of my bothersome cherry, but he said, “Lady, I want for you to be a virgin when you get married.” He was a senior, rich, patrician, a viscount. I know now he wasn’t about to get a chick from Cajun Dogpatch knocked up.
My art professor picked up the scent. I babysat his kids, and he used the drives between my dorm and his house to feel me up. Yes. I was flattered. Suddenly I was a desirable woman. A woman with power.
I couldn’t take the pressure. I had a panic attack in my dorm late one night and got hauled off to the infirmary in a fetal position. The infirmary sent me to a shrink working for the state. He displayed me before student nurses as an novel example of late adolescent neurosis.
He wanted details. "Did you have an orgasm with your boyfriend?” he asked.
"I don't know," I said, "Maybe."
“There’s nothing more comical than two virgins,” he chuckled.
I got the message.
On summer break, I went to a beauty shop to have my hair done for a job hunt. The hairdresser was handsome in a dangerously decadent way and asked me out. He plied me with scotch, something new. Feeling bulletproof, I suggested we play strip poker. Five minutes later I was on my back, holding on with my legs wrapped around his waist. As he drove me home, I asked him to stop for birth control. He procured a spermicidal foam for me to use once I got home.
I had a couple of virginal girlfriends who were all atwitter at my daring adventure. Lydia was the alpha female of the pack. I regaled them with the hilarious mechanical details. They gleefully left for a road trip while I stayed home for the summer.
I’m the oldest of six, first to go to college, valedictorian of GHS, the pride of my Mormon community. The nausea started within weeks. I’d seen it in my mother many times. She was president of the LDS Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association. I was moping around contemplating the hermaneutics of suicide when she ordered me to get ready for YMMIA softball practice.
"If you make me do this," I said, "I'll kill myself."
"Kill yourself?" she laughed scornfully, "Don't be ridiculous! Get dressed!" She was a slapper, so I did.
Once I was dressed, she continued to stomp around haranguing me for my laziness and selfishness. I put a paper grocery bag over my head, then went to the bathroom and filled my palm with pills my shrink prescribed. I clutched those pills until my hand was stained purple. I gave up. I couldn't do that to Mama. She was a passionate, ferociously loving mother. She did not deserve that.
I went to the LSU library to do some research. I found a piece in a woman’s magazine suggesting abortion was certain death. If it was going to be between death and my fierce mother, it was an easy choice to make. But how?
I kept at the research until I discovered there was a franchise of sorts for pregnant girls. I perused the directory and settled on a Florence Crittenden Home in Missoula, Montana. As I left the library, a hippie friend hailed me.
"I'm going to Montana next semester," I told him.
"Big sky country," he said.
That appealed to me.
Early next morning, I told Mama I wanted to quit school and move to Montana. She took it evenly and said I should hitch a ride with a cousin leaving shortly for Salt Lake City. I started to pack.
Lydia called from her road trip. I told her I was pregnant and moving to Montana. “Sharon, you are not going to Montana,” she said sternly, “You are going to have an abortion.”
I was dirt poor, but Lydia was being reared by her grandfather who owned the only bank in the parish. We hopped in her Thunderbird and high-tailed it to Tiger Town looking for hippies. We found one who offered a name in exchange for weed. Lydia made the deal.
An hour away from LSU, deep in strawberry country, a doctor examined me. While my feet were in stirrups, he manipulated my genitals. This will stimulate contractions, he explained. As he labored, he laughed ruefully and showed me his erect penis and suggested I let him put it in — just to ease his discomfort. I demurred. He gave me a pill and instructed me to come back the next day after closing time.
Lydia had an 8 o'clock class, so she dropped me off at dawn and I curled up in the back seat of the doctor’s car to wait for opening time. I was wearing a maroon dress with little white flowers. I made it myself. I sat up when I heard nurse Betsy unlock the clinic door.
“Oh,” she said with a start, “I saw that dress. I thought it was Doc’s laundry.”
I waited in a back room for eight or ten hours. The doctor’s wife gave me a Dashiell Hammett novel. I read the same sentence over and over. I could make no sense of it. My brain would not work.
Finally, I lay on a table with my feet in the air and counted backwards.
I woke up. “I love you, Betsy,” I cried gratefully.
“I love you too,” she said and laughed.
I was euphoric. I was alive.
The pain between my legs was excruciating.
"Why does it hurt so much?" I asked.
“Well, you haven’t exactly gone unmolested down there,” the doctor's wife said.
I left with pills for bleeding. Lydia and I spent the night with another high school chum who lived in Tiger Town. He had no idea what we'd been up to. We were seized with terror. I flushed the pills down his toilet. They were evidence.
Back home next day, the cramps started. They got worse through the day. It was agony. I thought it was constipation. Mama gave me an enema.
That night, a bloody mass dropped into my Kotex. I hid it in the backyard. The pain stopped.
I left my body and began to talk to God. I became blind and deaf.
Mama called the missionaries who prayed and poured oil on my head.
I prophesied. I spoke in tongues.
Mama took me to the parish coroner, and he committed me to a state asylum.
“Should I take my hair dryer?" I asked myself. "Yes. I'll pack a notebook. Now that I’ve experienced everything a woman can experience, I shall write a great novel that will amaze everyone.”
I chirped to Lydia about my blissful, peaceful life to come.
“Snap out of it!” she commanded. “Do you know the first thing they will do when you get to that hospital?" she asked, "A. Complete. Physical. Examination.”
I listened like a first grader as she schooled me. "This is what you’re going to do," she said, "Tell your mother you went to a party in Tiger Town and someone slipped LSD into your drink.”
Mama took me back to the coroner.
“Are you on a trip?” he asked.
“I’m going to Montana,” I said, confused.
He gave me a shot and sent me home with a bottle of thorazine.
Next morning, I pulled off my pajama top and milk squirted from my breasts.
My little sister shrieked, “Sharon, what is that?”
“Don’t tell Mama,” I begged. “I don’t want her to worry."