I was 18 when I had an abortion. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever made.

It was my freshman year of college. My boyfriend at the time was… Well, he wasn’t very nice. It was a toxic relationship that was absolutely not made to last. A fact that I managed to ignore right up until I saw double lines on a pregnancy test in the dorm bathrooms. All I could think was “NO. NOT WITH HIM”

I knew I did not want to be tethered to this man for the rest of my life. I knew it was unfair to bring a child into the world with two parents who were incapable of being kind to one another. There was no grace in my relationship.

When I told my boyfriend the news he replied that I could either get an abortion or we could get married. Those were my choices. His proposal sounded an awful lot like a threat…

He told me not to even consider adoption — strangers were not going to raise his child. I felt cornered. And alone. I was not ready to be a mom. But I was not ready to hand a baby over to this mean man and his screwed up family either.

I remember crying the night before on the top bunk in my dorm room. I rubbed my stomach and apologized to my baby. I promised that someday I’d be the BEST mom, when I was ready. I begged for forgiveness. It was a long and terrible night.

The appointment itself was easy and relatively painless. I was 7 weeks along. Afterward my sister sat with me on the steps of my dorm and hugged me while I cried.

I don’t regret my choice. But I regret my actions very much.

I let myself be with a mean man. I was not practicing safe sex, skipping pills, forgoing condoms… I was playing with fire, and my unborn child paid the price. If I had known then how much emotional pain an abortion would cause me, I would never have been so cavalier. I think about that baby all the time.

I’m 31 now, married to a wonderful man, and we have two beautiful children. We have a good life, the dream-come-true-white-picket-fence kind of life. None of that would have been possible if I had chosen a different path 13 years ago. I’m grateful that I had a choice, grateful that I am not hostage to a toxic and volatile relationship.

And true to my word, I give my job as a mother all I’ve got. I love my kids so much and I plan to be open with them when they’re old enough to understand. I need them to know that their choices MATTER. That there are very real consequences and that sex is a big responsibility.

Years ago I finally found the courage to confide in my mother about my abortion. She began to sob, and she told me that before she had me she also had an abortion. I could see the pain it caused her, even after all those years, and I couldn’t help but think that if I had seen this scene years earlier my story might’ve been different.

If writing this helps young girls understand how important it is to practice safe sex, then I’m willing to share. Don’t put yourself through this if you can help it! You will carry the burden of your choice for the rest of your life.