I find comforting the statistic that 61% of abortions obtained are women who have 1 or more children. It makes me feel less alone.
My story is that I have always been Pro-Choice, but figured that I personally would never use that choice to terminate a pregnancy. Somehow never thought I’d be in that position.
There is so much stress about contraception when you are young, when you are not ready for kids. When you’re married and planning on having kids, you begin to relax. I’ve been pregnant 5 times in my life and have carried two babies to term. My first pregnancy was oh! so wanted. I made the mistake of announcing early to a particular aunt who spread the news far and wide to family. Which made the re-announcing of the miscarriage that much more complicated about 12 weeks later (after the D&C procedures because the miscarriage was incomplete). Then there were months of doubting my fertility. I was in my 30’s. Maybe I’d have problems. In the fall of 2006 I became pregnant again. I knew all the signs, even before the positive pregnancy test gave me reason to celebrate. Then 7 weeks in I began to bleed heavily and thought to myself “Oh, no! Here it goes again!” The magical relief I felt when an ultra-sound showed a beating heart and a sub-chorionic (near the placenta) bleed that healed on its own. My wonderful son was born 9 months later (following all the usual tests plus being manually turned from being breech and then the 2 weeks past my due date drama).
My third pregnancy was not entirely unintended (I was nursing and not on the pill and we were a bit lax with condoms). We found out in August and I put my plans to get my teacher’s certificate on hold and got ready for what I thought would be baby #2. 10 weeks in I began to bleed again. And this time the ultra-sound showed no beating heart. I went to a local abortion clinic for the D&C and it felt so weird to be sharing the waiting room with a bunch of women who wanted to terminate unwanted pregnancies when I really wanted mine. I became pregnant a fourth time about 6 months later. This time there were no bleeding episodes, and no funniness at all. Given my past experiences I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. But it never did. The labor and delivery was entirely at my daughter’s own pace (stop and start), but otherwise absolutely wonderful and we were really excited to have “one of each.”
And then comes the part that no one really seems to talk about: birth control when you’re basically done having kids. I was nursing and didn’t want the extra hormones in my milk (didn’t feel together enough to take the pill that’s safe while nursing at the right time every day). So we did what we’d done before – a combo of rhythm and condoms. Silly us.
When I became pregnant a 5th time, I was stunned. Part of me wanted to play it out – hey! Maybe I’d miscarry again. Mostly I knew that I just wanted my body back. We had a single-salary middle class family. A third child would require new vehicles to hold everyone. It would mean a significant increase in the cost of taking the family to see relatives on the other coast (a really important yearly tradition), it would mean figuring out how to split two bedrooms amongst three kids, it would mean our new sailboat with two kids’ berths wouldn’t work for those planned family cruises, it would seriously delay my reentry into the workforce and with it our ability to save and put our two kids through college. I was 39 years old and not in a position to earn enough to pay for childcare for 3. None of these reasons are huge in and of themselves. No abusive spouse. No life yet unlived. No life-threatening medical conditions. No fetus with birth defects. And yet I realized that I REALLY did not want to be pregnant again, to do an infant again, to split my mothering energy three ways. I was worried that I’d be come so harried in looking after everyone that I’d be unpleasant to all, that our family as a whole would suffer. And I just wanted my body back.
Going in for that 3rd D&C was traumatic. I was was wracked with guilt for being “selfish” in my decision. It had taken some scheduling to find a place for my kids to be while my husband took me in for the procedures. When the counselor, seeing my distress, suggested that maybe I go away and think about it some more, but I knew that it was now or never. It was just too tricky to arrange and somehow mentally I couldn’t go beyond 7 weeks. Not sure why, just something about that date seemed significant. So I had my 3rd D&C done with a certain sense of deja vu, just a somewhat more emotionally and morally clouded situation.
The friend who had been taking care of my kids while I had it done was incredibly supportive. (Thanks, Kim!) And she also told me about the abortion that she’d had. In fact 2 out of the 3 women friends I’ve told about my abortion, ended up telling me about theirs in return. I’ve spent this evening reading through all of the stories and didn’t see many quite like mine (61% notwithstanding) so it seemed worth sharing.
Since the abortion I have gone through the whole range of emotions: relief in small part, regret in large part, sadness that I couldn’t find it in me to welcome a third child like I’d welcomed my first two. But I find that I don’t mark how old the baby would have been nor do I speculate as to personality or gender. I don’t regret not having a 3rd child, but I do regret having gotten pregnant in the first place. It’s a refrain I hear about in many of these stories and it rings true for me as well.
My one lingering thought is that I wonder when and if my children will ever hear this life detail about me and will they judge? It’s a thought that kicks around in the back of my mind every once in awhile. I worry about all of the secrecy and stigma that surround abortion. I feel that if we felt freer to share this information with our friends and family that we’d come to discover there are more of us out there with nuanced stories to tell. And that there would be comfort in that.
And I expect that in a year or so when I am (hopefully) free from any lingering ambivalence with regards to my decision (and have a bit more money stashed away) that I will be happily headed off for a tubal ligation. And the whole issue of BC after you are done having kids will be taken care of at last! It’s been a long strange trip!