I’ve had two abortions in my life, both with the same partner, my now-husband. Sometimes that feels ironic, and strangely lucky at the same time.
I was in grad school. Chris and I had been seeing each other for just three months. I went into the doctor and left with a prescription for antibiotics. I received an unexpected call a few hours later informing me that I was pregnant and not to take the medications they gave me as they cause birth defects. Birth defects? Pregnant? On a voicemail. I was stunned. I’d never been pregnant before. “Oh no,” I remember saying to myself over and over, alone, with my dog.
I immediately called Chris and arranged to see him that evening after he got off of work. He was clueless, talking about random things as if it were an ordinary evening hang-out. I got his attention, and we sat on his bed. I looked him in his eyes and I told him. I was so afraid. I was so in love with him, but our relationship was brand new. I didn’t want to ruin this new beautiful magic we had. I felt to blame. Without a flinch, his eyes filled with love and kindness. He showed me his soul. “Whatever you decide is right, love.” he said. I decided that I was not ready or willing to have a child in the middle of graduate school, without any income, and with someone I’d only known for a few months, regardless of how much I loved him. He agreed fully. We arranged for the abortion, and Chris was with me every step of the way. Moving through that experience with him proved to be the most empowering and validating aspect. He had my back. He believed in my right to choose what would be best for me and for us. It strengthened our relationship in ways I can hardly express. I used the abortive medication and experienced the termination at home, with my love by my side, supporting me. The process was painful, and it took weeks to recover fully. But I felt the right path was taken, and I remain grateful to have had the choice to respond to the unexpected and potentially life-changing situation on our own terms.
About a year later, I was late, which was very strange. We were not on hormonal contraception, but were being very careful to avoid fertile days and such. But I had been sick, and my cycle had apparently changed. I was pregnant. Neither of us felt ready. This time, the experience was much more frustrating. I elected to have the in-office procedure, and though the staff was compassionate, there was some kind of mix-up and we waited for over 7 excruciating hours for my turn. We were both emotionally exhausted and furious, but relieved all the same.
Spiritually, both experiences were difficult. I hadn’t ever had to make such a sensitive decision before. As much as it empowered me to make the choice that worked for both of us, there was still an experience of loss, of guilt, and shame. My mother and older sister have always been extremely vocal about their views regarding abortion. I felt isolated from family support and understanding. When I told my sister, managing her emotional reaction was quite a task. On the other hand, my grandmother and aunt shared their abortion experiences with me for the first time through this process, and our relationship deepened. Abortion for me was experienced very much as a victory and a loss, as complex, as life-affirming and a loss of life, as empowering and vulnerable. Perhaps I’m not the only one to experience these seemingly dichotomous emotions. And yet, I know in my deepest heart that I made the right choice, and that all is well.
Now, both Chris and I are pursuing higher degrees. I’m in a doctoral program, and Chris is in an MBA program. When Chris and I do choose to have kids, it will be on purpose and when we decide it is right. Not a moment before. And that’s empowering.