I have had two abortions.
I am now 44 years old, with three children, and I do not regret my decisions.
The first time, I was 16, a sophomore in high school, and “in love” with a guy I’d been seeing for about 9 months. However, when I got pregnant after condom failure and told him, his response was the disappointingly typical “How do I know it’s even mine?”, which clued me in to the fact that if I went forward with the pregnancy, he was not going to be of any help.
This was in 1987. It may not seem like that was so long ago, but there was still a great stigma surrounding teen pregnancy at that time, at least that’s how it was in my middle class suburban area. Sure, there were girls who got pregnant, but it was very rare for them to stay in school. Those who did finish often they went to “alternative school” (where the troublemakers were sent) or suddenly went to live with a relative and never came back. A few dropped out and got married. It was a pretty big deal and it was assumed that your life was “over”. People did not associate with you, and your reputation was “ruined”. It didn’t matter if it was your first and only time having sex, people assumed you were “easy”.
I wanted to finish school, and go to college. Continuing the pregnancy was just not an option in my mind. I knew I could never go through with an adoption plan and I knew that having a child and choosing to parent would be a sure path to poverty for us both. My mother was single and in no financial shape to help me raise a baby. She was married young and had my older brother as a teen and never finished high school, and her life was always a struggle. My father would have literally disowned me.
I did not turn to my mother though. I knew she was naive about the fact that I was sexually active and I knew the news would break her heart. In addition, my mother was very vocally anti-abortion. What is interesting about that is that she’d often told me a story about my Grandmother, her mother, having had an illegal abortion in the 1940s, when she discovered she was pregnant at the same time her husband asked her for a divorce. She had two small children just 14 months apart and was about to be divorced. This story always made me grateful that I lived in a different time, where abortion was safe and legal, and I’d never have to face the choice while also having to break the law and risk my life. Apparently the story didn’t affect my mother’s thinking in the same way. She and I still sit on opposing “sides” on this issue, to this day.
My mother would have convinced me to carry the pregnancy to term and give the child up for adoption. My mother had told me many times that she felt no particular bond or affection for either of her kids while she was pregnant and that the love for them came later, after we were born.. so for her, adoption would be “no big deal” but I knew in my heart that I would not feel that way and it would be something I’d be unable to follow through with.
So, I chose to have an abortion. I do not regret that decision. My only regret is that I wish I’d had more money to afford a little bit more dignity and comfort. The actual procedure was very painful but it was made worse by a rather uncaring bunch of clinic workers who herded many young women through all day like cattle.
I was sixteen with just a part time job after school. The father helped out a little financially with money for the procedure, but not much. I went to the cheapest place in town. I was very panicked because it took me a while to come up with the money and I felt like I was racing against the clock. I had the abortion when I was 12 weeks along.
I was unable to afford the “twilight sleep” option the clinic offered, which was a combo of meds that lessened pain and sedated you so that you remembered little and were not really fully present during the procedure.
I was not told what was going on or what to expect during the procedure.
I remember being yelled at by the doctor because I didn’t scoot down far enough or fast enough on the operating table for his liking, and at some point everyone left the room and also left the container with the contents of my uterus in it for me to stare at while they were gone. I felt very weak and ill afterwards but I was rushed out of the “recovery area” once my time was up. The entire process was rushed like that and I felt totally disregarded, like all that mattered was my ability to hand over the cash.
My experience was eased, thankfully, by the care and concern of a slightly older female friend who drove me to the clinic and allowed me to spend the weekend at her apartment so that I didn’t arouse any suspicions or explain why I wasn’t up to doing chores. I slept most of the day afterwards, and my friend made me food and gave me lots of TLC. I never have forgotten how she helped me.. pretty remarkable for a girl who was just 18 herself!
I knew enough to have heard from others who had abortions via their private physicians and it they’d had a completely different experience. I wish that money didn’t matter in this instance, but it did.
I got pregnant again when I was 18. I look back at that time now and it seems incredible to me that I was so stupid, but I forgive my younger self because I was an emotional wreck. I had battled depression and undiagnosed bi-polar disorder for most of my life and when I became pregnant the second time I was in a chaos filled period of my life full of drugs and drinking and promiscuous behavior that was really about self-loathing more than anything else. I had moved out of my mother’s home at age 17, but I was still nowhere near capable of parenting a child. There is no way of knowing what my lifestyle at the time could have resulted in in terms of the health of that child as well, considering my life as a “party girl” at that point.
This time, I told my mother. I knew she would not be able to push me to do one thing or the other, and I’d gained a lot of independence in that regard in terms of her influence over me. I was living on my own and working full time. She was predictably disappointed and sad, and she did try to push me towards adoption, but in the end she supported my decision and actually accompanied me to the clinic. This time around, I had the money to afford the “twilight sleep” option and can honestly say I don’t remember much at all about that day after arriving at the clinic.
In the end, I did have my first child at a younger age than most, and I was not married when I had him, but I was mature enough to accept the responsibilities of motherhood and it was the right choice at that time. A few years’ can make a huge difference in terms of maturity. My first born son is now 23 and the way things worked out is how I believe it was meant to happen. I did have some “what if” thoughts about the abortions, that flooded me when my son was born, but I don’t have regrets, aside from wishing I’d had better health care options and an ability to turn to an adult in my life when I needed to.
I would never try and convince someone one way or another when faced with this decision but I would do my best to support any friend faced with the same choice, and I am forever grateful to have had that same choice when it was necessary.