“You’re selfish.”

I was the administrator/ director of the first abortion clinic in Austin, Texas. No woman who ever came to us wanted to be there. So often their situations were the result of their having been trained to deny their sexuality, leaving them ill-prepared in matters of birth control when their natural instincts took over. In my clinic, I assisted Catholic women, Asian women, rich women, Ph.D. students, ministers’ wives, and women from smaller towns nearby. Teenagers, in most cases, came alone. Men were almost as rare as parents.

The relief I saw in the eyes of women leaving the clinic made that job the most gratifying I ever had. They were so grateful for our kindness and support and lack of judgment. It was easy for me to provide compassion, empathy, respect, support, and education to these women. The most painful to see were the many incest victims, ten to fifteen years old. I never got used to that, and could hardly believe how frequently it happened. If I’d been raising children, would I have had the energy to serve those women with the attention and care they needed? Was that a selfish choice on my part?

Parents who did come to the clinic could be irrational, angry, and unstable. The result of years of frustration with their children, as well as themselves, played out in horrific scenes. Some of those parents abandoned their children. Over my years there, I took into my home three different troubled teens with the hope of providing a safe space for them to recover before they made their next move.

Although I enjoyed them, I found extended contact with kids to be draining. I did not understand then, nor do I now, how parents maintain themselves under such constant demands. I admire them for it; I also admire birds for flying, but I’m in no hurry to jump off a roof and flap my wings.